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Understanding Organizational Development (OD) From Specialists' Lens

Multiple Interpretations of OD

Organizational development commonly referred to as OD, is an ever-evolving discipline with numerous interpretations making it challenging to comprehend. Many understand it as an aspect of learning and development, while others consider it an HR component.

Whether OD is a component of a specific function or if it stands alone as a process is a considerable debate that looms large over organizational hallways. Jithesh Anand, OD practitioner and currently CXO of Abra VMSD in Dubai, demystifies the concept defining OD as "the function that attends to the organizational need to achieve a higher performance or cultural goal by ensuring that all other functions operate with a larger scope and capability with the utmost effectiveness to help achieve that higher goal."  OD is a science-based endeavor that emphasizes enhancing business capability, encompassing humans in its implementation, therefore, relating OD to human resource management (HRM). Still, it cannot be confined entirely to HRM.

Sangramsinh Pawar, Global HR Head at Atos, who has led numerous OD interventions, describes the field of OD as a scientific body of knowledge that aids an organization in building, leveraging, and sustaining critical 5Cs or Commitment, Character, Capability, Capacity, and Change. "Leveraging leadership Commitment, building strong Character & ethos, continuously developing Capability in terms of leadership, knowledge, and Skills, and strive increasing Capacity in order to adapt to the Change," explains Pawar. Commitment builds a sense of ownership, character defines how the external world perceives an organization, capability bending keeps a business viable and competitive, and lastly, capacity to change provides for constant improvement.

Is Organizational Development Synonymous with Change Management?

The success of the intervention highlights the distinction between OD and change management. "In contrast to change management, OD is governed by working through applying the applied behavior principles rather than by process steps alone. Human behavior is extremely dynamic. Therefore, OD intervention is driven more by values and principles and less by rigid rules", explains Anand.

The goal of every OD intervention is to align multiple elements, including strategy, processes, performance matrices, and reward structures, to achieve the desired outcome. Therefore, an OD practitioner must maintain constant cognizance of the current circumstance while focusing on the goal.

The primary qualities of an OD practitioner are the ability to make a thorough diagnosis of a business's current state of health and to recommend the proper treatment in the form of solutions. As a result of the ongoing changes in organizational health caused by OD operations, it is crucial to adapt treatment as necessary. "OD and rigid rules don't go together since OD constantly evolves," Anand argues. Therefore, the rules must constantly evolve to accommodate the organization's development needs.

What Makes OD a Tough Nut to Crack?

"The most challenging aspects of OD operation are, dealing with human behavior and the change," said Pawar. "For a successful OD operation, OD practitioners must recognize that humans' resistance to change is inevitable, said Anand. Once this acceptance sinks in, the navigation through the process becomes simple, if not easy.

Anand mentions another challenge- "OD practitioner has a difficult task to accomplish in terms of making a business owner's dream turn into reality with meaningful outcomes." He continues, "While OD intervention may focus on a particular function, department, or region, its effect spans the entire organization, either because of the magnitude of the coordinated efforts to accomplish a common goal or because of the impact it casts upon every entity in a system."

To better grasp the concept of OD, let us consider an analogy. Consider the OD project to be a painting commission. The finished piece must satisfy the following criteria to be sold for the highest anticipated price; the frame must fit the specified dimensions; the artwork must translate the decoded message; the colors and finesse must match the commissioner's vision; and the painting must successfully capture the attention of art enthusiasts. To get the intended outcomes, the painter, marketer, and carpenter must all share the commissioner's vision.


Various interpretations and streams of OD amalgamate into one ocean, redefining systems within an entity. The urge for everyone and everything to advance, develop, and grow is as constant as change itself. OD operation facilitates change in an ever-changing world to keep businesses relevant and enterprises updated.


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