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Framework of Organisational Development (OD) From Specialists' Lens

​Organizational development is a science-backed strategic function that involves aligning multiple administrative processes and systems and directing their focus to achieve a particular goal or overcome a specific problem.

Jithesh Anand, OD practitioner and currently CXO of Abra VMSD in Dubai, recounted his experience leading the OD intervention as an external consultant for a major cement manufacturer in Mumbai, India. The business acquired a smaller player, one of its former competitors in the industry. The acquiring company aimed to achieve both businesses' seamless cultural and operational integration. He informed that "the seemingly difficult integration was made possible by bringing alignment across various factors relevant to organizational development, such as strategy, processes, performance matrices, and reward systems crucial for OD operation's success." 

Cross-Functional Cooperation and Team Dynamics

Proficiency in optimizing operational efficiency and productivity is an essential indicator of a successful business. Organizations indifferent or complacent in directing efforts toward achieving cross-functional cooperation and team cohesion often fail to achieve operational efficiency and are susceptible to disruption. "Dilution of information in interdepartmental cross-communications is quite typical. This can be prevented early on if people contributing to a project are not alienated from the goal and are involved in strategic stages," remarked Anand.

To emphasize the significance of matching the right teams with the right roles, Sangramsinh Pawar, Global HR Head at Atos, narrated a real-time business case managing OD intervention in one of the major automotive original equipment manufacturers (OEM). The concerned OEM had to commence the production of a new line of products. However, the sample products did not meet the required quality parameters, PPM (parts per million), and six-sigma standards, resulting in huge losses. This was when HR was required to partner with functions to design and deploy OD interventions to address root-level challenges. As a part of the diagnosis result, it was found that the issue never lied at the machine level but was more inclined toward people-related concerns.

The OD intervention started with an initial system diagnostic to understand the undercurrents leading to the issue. Carrying out the 'Why, Why, Why' analysis, discovered that the primary bone of contention was related to group (social) dynamics, polarization, lack of trust and empowerment, and disconnect between blue-collar and white-collar employees. Strikingly most of the issues were related to 'Human' areas. It was also found that the team structures were formed overlooking behavioral dissimilarities, thinking patterns, and lack of taking buy-in from the employees working on the line for decades. This was an excellent business case for implementing OD and change management intervention combined with gestalt orientation. There was a communication vacuum. Due to a lack of buy-in, workers on the machines did not agree with the directives or choices made by the relatively recent recruits from the premier technology institutes in the country.

The intervention resulted in the concept of self-directed teams or SDTs. The design principle applied to this case was to empower individuals at the root level, instill confidence, and institutionalize trust to generate a sense of belonging and ownership through total involvement. As a solution, supervisory-level employees' theoretical knowledge and strategic approach were repurposed to the research-based domains to add value to futuristic engineering designs and trends. The workers on machines had the necessary experience and skills. Therefore, they were mentored and granted a supervision-free environment and authority over shop-floor operations; they were referred to as SDTs or self-directed teams. Consequently, the organization could achieve near-zero defects and required PPM levels by deploying empowered teams. The structural change in teams enhanced synergy, interdepartmental cooperation, and cohesion, eliminating obstacles to the desired high-quality output.

Timeline and Milestones

The organizational development journey must start with making the workgroups visualize a pre-designed timeline with anticipated milestones, underlying performance expectations, and resulting outcomes, thus leading to a more significant positive change. This understanding drives self-motivation and gives people a sense of purpose.

"It is crucial to keep an eye on the goal while analyzing the progress against each milestone," Anand emphasized. According to him, "it is not the individual function or person but the organization as a total unit that serves as the unit of analysis while examining the impact of OD intervention." "Siloed teams or people increase the probability of unsuccessful outcomes with the multiplier and cascading effect down each milestone, sabotaging the whole operation with a negative return on investment."   

Review Progress Against Milestones

The performance continuum has a domino effect across an organization. Therefore, performance matrices for various functions in a system must be interlinked in relation to the real-time project tracks within an organization. "While each vertical excels at what it does," Anand added, "they also need to cooperate and collaborate genuinely."

At each milestone, there are signals indicating performance hits and misses that call for remedial action. "OD interventions are a bunch of recursive loops; revisiting milestones lets you decide whether remedial interventions are required at each milestone as a part of the larger journey," suggested Anand. In his words, "gauging performance at the end while being complacent about reviewing progress against each milestone is like performing a post-mortem on a dead body." "Too late to infuse life!"

When resources are invested for a specific need, stakeholders need to measure the return on investment (ROI) to examine the financial outcome of the investment. Cost and desired outcomes are the two key components of the ROI that Anand highlighted. He advised that "the principle of 'review at every milestone' delivers an early warning in case costs go overboard, thereby aiding in cost control at each early stage." The cost must be seen in the context of the desired returns. Saving costs will not help if the anticipated results do not materialize.

The Challenging Aspect of OD

The most complex aspect of OD is shifting human behavior. Pawar stated, "People come with their own 'Belief Baggage' stemming out of their own past experiences, hearsay, and what they sense around them." "Therefore, the most important part of OD intervention is acceptance of change by understanding human behavior, group dynamics, and change-valley of despair as an acceptance towards change."  Pawar extends his explanation on the process of 'paradigm shifts' and managing change using Kurt Lewin's & Kotter's model of 'unfreeze, change, and freeze frameworks.' The "The Valley of Despair1" model shows human's natural reaction to a shift in business models or systems. The valley of despair1 curve demonstrates the process of transition with the help of a valley-like large-scale learning curve formed by a steep decline in performance at first, followed by a rise to previously defined performance levels, which then gradually exceed previous performance levels as people start adapting to change.

According to Anand, "the primary trait of an OD practitioner is the ability to comprehend and influence human behavior when necessary, while being humble to accept people's resistance to change." Adopting change shall be a rewarding value in humanizing performance expectations. 

Core Values and Principles Essential for OD

Agility "Who says elephants can't dance?" "To allow an elephant to be nimble and able to move swiftly, it needs to be given an open corridor and not a compartmentalized border," Pawar stated, comparing large-scale cultural changes and institutionalization to moving an elephant. Agility and redefining limits are the two most conspicuous change levers of success of an OD operation.

Adjusting Behavior - The most complex element of OD is to bring consistent and sustainable shifts in human behavior. "Behavior is a kaleidoscope of cultural, technical, and interpersonal competencies, and each person is a mosaic of these competencies." "Creating a sustainable loop of the required shift in human behavior is critical to the efficacy of an intervention," according to Anand.

Real-time Recognition – People have an innate need to be socially rewarded and recognized for their contributions and achievements. "Recognizing and socializing the recognition for and by the person at each milestone must be real-time and organic, and not erratic and reluctant," said Anand.

Real-time rewards and real-time communication ensure that employees are willing to commit sustained efforts to calibrate their behaviors to reflect the core values needed to achieve desired results at each milestone of OD intervention.


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