Why Are The Fundamentals Of Organizational Development Important?

By Patrick Trottier

To begin with a few quotes:

 “You have to monitor your fundamentals constantly because the only thing that changes will be your attention to them. The fundamentals will never change.” Michael Jordan

 “Learn the fundamentals of the game and stick to them. Band-Aid remedies never last.”  Jack Nicklaus

 “Success is neither magical nor mysterious. Success is the natural consequences of consistently applying basic fundamentals.” Jim Rohn (famous motivational speaker who grew up poor, and succeeded on his own volition.)

 So what is a ‘fundamental’?

Fundamentals are simply the building blocks you ‘practiced’ when you learned to ride a bicycle.

So, think about an area of your work or life in which you feel you are consistently effective. It can be a project, a sport, a hobby, being a parent, building good relationships, writing, cooking… anything…

Got one? Good…

Now, write down 4-5 basic things that help you achieve effective results on a consistent basis. What helps you achieve that consistent desired result?

Now ask yourself, if I did not do those things, what would happen? Would I get the same consistent results? Do those things keep me on track to achieve a desired outcome? If so, these things are the ‘fundamentals’ of that activity.

Also, if those are the things that consistently get you the results you want, do you think it would it be good to remind yourself of these things from time to time? For example, as a professional golfer who consistently makes seemingly effortless swings that sends the ball straight down the fairway, what fundamentals does she practice to put that golf ball straight down the fairway consistently.

At the same time, when a professional golfer starts to hit that ball into the trees, what does that golfer start to remind herself about? That is right – a professional golfer goes back to the fundamentals of her swing. When things go astray, look back and check out what you did not do. It may be those basics that you did not do. So, ask yourself, what things were you not doing on a consistent basis that worked before things went wrong?

“Ah, I strayed from the a, b, and c… of the fundamentals.”

So what would a ‘Fundamental OD Approach’ look like?

One key fundamental of OD is that its ‘process’ is built around ‘Action Research’ and engages both the ‘process’ and ’emergent’ models to change and development.

See: https://globaltransforming.wordpress.com/2012/06/13/approaches-to-consultation-the-four-basic-models/

The following entails a generic OD process – it is ‘dynamic’ and certainly not all inclusive, but it may give you at least a ‘picture’ of an overall approach that you might design and customize for a particular client.

This OD process can be viewed as an overall  macro framework, or as a ‘micro-framework’. An example of a ‘micro-framework’ word be to use an OD approach for ‘Leadership Development’ within an overall OD approach to ‘Cultural Change’.

The steps in a dynamic OD approach are predominately:

1. Entry – Exploratory Interviews – Contracting.

2. Form A Powerful Guiding, Supportive Coalition, Leadership Support, Coherent Mission, Vision, Values Statements and Strategic Business Focus.

3. Design A ‘Draft’ Process Model*.

4. Create Understanding and Effective Engagement (a felt need) Throughout Organization*.

5. Assessment, Feedback and Diagnosis*.

6. Strategy, Design and Action Planning*.

7. Interventions – Implementation*.

8. Evaluation – Continuous Feedback For Continuous Improvement*.

9. Reinforcement  – Shaping – Adoption / Internalization (new norms)*.

10. Maturation – Separation.

 * Mirrors the Mission, Vision, Values and Strategic Focus. Giving people a different experience than the ‘staus quo’ in the approach to change and development which mirrors that which you want to create in the organization.

 Throughout this ‘OD process’ the competency to continually create readiness, ownership, effective engagement, and re-framing is fundamental in an OD approach.

Some key distinctions of an OD approach imbeds critical fundamental human and organizational dynamics into the approach, methods and technologies.

Another thought to contemplate: The ‘change agent’ is NOT the OD practitioner, the people in the organization are the ‘change agents’ – does this offer a whole different fundamental paradigm?

Added value’ of fundamentals:

By mastering the ‘basics’ of any activity, this allows a person to build on such to enhance their creativity, to be innovative, to expand their thinking, and to develop their own personal style. This is true if it is cooking, skiing, baseball, writing, or Organizational Development.

 So, why are fundamentals important in the practice of Organizational Development?

  • They give a practitioner a framework to discuss with a client – what will make a real difference in an approach to achieve the desired results such as building an ’ongoing adaptive culture’.
  • They give a practitioner a ‘mental approach’, a perspective, a framework, to design and implement a customized overall processes with a client that ‘fits’ a particular organization.
  • They give a practitioner an eclectic, adaptable approach in working with different clients.
  • The form a ‘process base’ to integrate, mold, and adapt various ‘interventions and developmental initiatives‘ (e.g. leadership development, strategic planning / alignment, business process improvement, etc.) into an overall OD process.
  • They support to enhance an integration and a congruency of approach through the different stages and levels of development across an organization.
  • they help form a cornerstone in our ‘mental models’ and help us formulate creative thoughts and creative strategies within an overall framework.
  • They give other professionals a ‘value-added’ approach to integrate and enhance their discipline’ and functional processes, tools and practices into a whole systems OD approach

So what are a few examples of some ‘concepts’ that are fundamental to O.D?

  • The use of an ‘action research foundation’ with feedback loops for continuous adaptation within an emergent process model.
  • Creating ‘readiness’ in an organization for an on-going integration of change and development within their day-to-day work experiences and activities. (e.g., continuous improvement vs. a ‘program’, or a ‘special initiative’ that has a beginning and an end)
  • Cultural transformation always goes through a healthy and a normal phase(s) of chaos.
  • “You can lead the horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” (the fundamental of building ‘ownership’)
  • Kurt Lewin (with Lippitt, Leland Bradford, and Ken Benne) in 1947, realized that people learn much faster and deeper if they receive feedback immediately and are then given the chance to act on that feedback. Further, such ‘here and now’ experience expands learning beyond the cognitive domain and embraces the emotional (affective) and the skill (motoric) domain.
  • Kurt Lewin’s Field Theory, succinctly formulated as B=F (P,E), meaning that behavior is a function of the person and the environment.
  • Creating the necessary degree of readiness, ownership, sponsorship and engagement begins within the first step of any OD process.
  • When someone’s ‘mental framework’ shifts, change occurs.

So what are some times we may want to remind ourselves of the fundamentals of OD?

Well, how about:

  • Before an introductory and exploratory interview – to create ‘exploratory questions’ to help the client think about what is needed in the initial steps.
  • Before designing an overall process with a client where ‘fundamentals’ need to be the dynamics within the overall process to support desired results.
  • When the ‘competing demands’ of the initiative start taking control, the complexity starts to become a ’whirlwind’, and the integrity of the process begins to be ‘compromised’.
  • When things get mixed up, chaotic, confused, discombobulated (although this may actually be a healthy sign – but how can one tell the difference?)
  • When you are not sure what to do, or how to proceed – gives a framework and a ‘grounding’ to get unstuck – to think and design from.
  • “When I start to think that ‘this’ is all about me – that I am the center of the effort, or I start to take on all the responsibility.”
  • OD  fundamentals and processes can also integrate with other methodologies, and can form a framework for such practices as Strategic Planning, Employee Development, Business Process Improvement, Project Management, Recognition and Reward Systems, Leadership and Management Development, Assessment / Feedback Initiatives, Re-Engineering Efforts, Performance Feedback Systems, IT Systems implementation, IT Change Management and other organizational practices.

 These are just a few examples of the value of reflecting on OD fundamentals from time to time. I am sure everyone has their own examples when revisiting the basics could have been usefull, or times when things did not work out as well as we would have liked.

Any additional comments to contribute to; ‘Why the fundamentals of OD are important?’

About Patrick A. Trottier

I am a 30 plus year applied Organizational Development practitioner having honed my craft in the U.S., Canada and internationally. Presently living in beautiful Vancouver, B.C., I am currently developing the next evolution of O.D. termed; 'Emergent Organizational Development and Emergent Change® (EODC)®, and focusing on Emergent OD®, Emergent Change® and the development of Emergent Organizations® within my professional practice.
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