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Organizational Development….Training…Communications…Human Resources Development…Who are you?!


I enjoy what I do.  In fact, probably more than anyone should ever be allowed by law to enjoy their career choice.  And yet, I have come to one tremendous realization: the field that I am in is going through an identity crisis right now.  Trainer, OD Professional, Human Performance Technologist, Learning and Development Specialist…which one is right?  As a member of many discussion groups across the “interweb” I have found that there are many that share this sentiment and it brings to light the question of how many others feel the same way?  How many operational members, including leadership, question what the OD field really is or does? 

That’s what I hope to clarify a bit here.  I don’t claim to have all of the answers, and I strongly encourage anyone who has opinions and thoughts on this topic to leave a comment!  I’m sure that there are many different opinions and explanations, and I for one would love to hear as many as are available.

So what is this Organizational Development thing?  Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/organization_development) defines it as follows: “Organization development (OD) is a planned, organization-wide effort to increase an organization’s effectiveness and viability.  Warren Bennis, has referred to OD as a response to change, a complex educational strategy intended to change the beliefs, attitudes, values, and structure of organizationso that they can better adapt to new technologies, marketing challenges, and the dizzying rate of change itself.  OD is neither “anything done to better an organization” nor is it “the training function of the organization”; it is a partucular kind of change process designed to bring about a particular end result.  OD can involve interventions in the organization’s “processes”, using behavioral science knowledge, as well as organizational reflection, system improvement, planning, and self-analysis.” 

At www.businessdictionary.com/definition/organizational-development-OD.html the definition is slightly different: “(The) Theory and practice of planned, systematic change in the attitudes, beliefs, and values of the employees through creation and reinforcement of long-term training programs.  OD is action oriented.  It starts with a careful organization-wide analysis of the current situation and of the future requirements, and employs techniques of behavioral sciences such as behavior modeling, sensitivity training, and transactional analysis.  Its objective is to enable the organization in adapting better to the fast-changing external environment of new markets, regulations, and technologies.”  At http://www.odportal.com/OD/whatisod.htm we find the explanation as: “There is no single definition of ‘Organizational Development.’  If we were to break it into its parts we can discover one meaning: ‘Organization’ has come to mean the coming together of people and resources to form a unit. ‘Development’ in its simplest form suggests change and grwoth.  So OD could be defined as ‘the practice of changing people and organizations for positive growth.'”  You can also find definitions at http://ezinearticles.com/?organizational-development-definition&id=3893262 and http://www.odnetwork.org/aboutod/credo.php that are somewhat similar.

Why do I give so many references here?  To show that no matter what spin is placed on the definition, ultimately Organizational Development is about helping businesses and their people succeed and grow.  This happens through a company’s people, and the processes that they complete (administrative, physical, relational, communication, etc.) every day.  As it is with any profession there are many things that can fit in to the overall category.  The same can be said for OD.  For example change management, communications, training, business evaluation and analysis…these are all functions of OD.  One of the most common misconceptions is that training is, by itself, OD.  Training is only one tool in the overall OD system.  More recently I have become quite aware that a major piece of OD is the communication function, but again this is only one tool in the overall OD system in my opinion.  Many businesses and leaders would probably group OD in with Human Resources, which is not all together incorrect.  OD does, in fact, generally fall under the umbrella of Human Resources (if for no other reason than they work with a businesses human capital).  There needs to be a differentiation between the “Personnel Department” aspects of handling the administrative functions of employees versus the many functions of OD.

So where does this leave the OD definition, much less the function?  Well, no matter the title that you place on it, the purpose is still ultimately the same: to help organizations and their people succeed and grow!

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