The following suggested plan for organizational development is a guide for senior leadership to help develop his or her organization. This suggested plan will cover varying areas of concerns including developing people, systems, processes, teamwork, and institutional foresight and knowledge.
The Potential Problems
Before one can appreciate the guide, the potential problems must first be addressed. There are varying degrees to each problem and the scope of each problem cannot be addressed to their fullest extent within this article. However, approaching each from a general point of view will aid greatly in helping to identify some of the key components that make up some of the overall issues at hand.
The first area of concern is in regard to developing your people. From a cost/benefit point of view, massive profit hemorrhaging can occur when an organization does not make the effort to develop their people. Turnover costs and missed promotion opportunities, as well as missed opportunities for employee contribution, can completely undermine the organization at its roots. These and many other potential issues are self-evident. Retention is lost, motivation is lost, performance is lost, and any kind of engagement is lost. This type of environment also leads to a hindered ability to attract qualified candidates for future employment. Be it through reputation or observation, this can and often does equate to a reduction in profitability or general worth.
Organizational systems are a critical element to analyze. Organizational systems are essentially a specified and deliberate way of doing things within your organization. These systems can and often do apply to each layer or section of your organization. When a system is broken, incomplete, or simply not there, the potential for a further breakdown in processes becomes greater. But more importantly, a system allows the leadership of the organization to be absent from time to time, without having the organization come to a complete halt.
Often these systems revolve around repetitive actions. From answering the phone a certain way to stocking the shelves a certain way, to building an actual product a certain way, systems allow the organization to work like a machine. Without solid and effective systems in your organization, you have a greater opportunity for chaos and breakdown.
Organizational processes are the many activities that must be linked together or flow together in order to achieve the ultimate mission. For instance; let us pretend your organization produces canned beverages. Your organization has three steps; 1) brew the beverage, 2) pour the beverage into the can, and 3) seal the can. If your processes are not solidified, and someone seals the can before pouring in the beverage, you have not only made a mess, but you’ve lost profitability. Organizational processes seek to correct such problems before they arise while also pinpointing potential training needs and increasing accountability.
The systems are the map to your organization. They are the standard operating procedures that keep your entire workforce on the same page. If the SOP’s are not good ones, or the workers cannot access them, your organizational processes may need some attention.
Organizational teamwork is a vital piece of the organizational development puzzle. This cohesiveness across the organization does more than just foster an organizational culture of quality improvement, product development or customer service; it creates an environment that allows co-workers to become teammates. When this type of environment is achieved, employees will look out for one another as well as the company. Imagine a worker cracked her wrist in her car door coming into work. The injury has made it difficult for her to use her wrist much. However, her job function requires quite a bit of wrist movement. At this point, a teammate might be willing to step in and help. This type of environment aids the company ultimate mission of production, but also creates a caring and almost nurturing environment for the workers.
When this type of environment does not exist, workers can become cold to one another and such assistance will be missing. Hence, the ultimate mission of the company is hindered. This also equates into a reduction in quality improvement, product development or customer service, which ultimately hinders the reputation of the company overall.
Institutional foresight and knowledge is a critical component to analyze. Essentially this is the strategy, planning, forecasting, and analysis of the things that will impact your organization and how you will plan to overcome them. This can mean many different things for many different organizations. It will undoubtedly involve the evaluation of competitors, emerging technologies, economic or global factors, etc.
This part requires the ability to practice and rationalize the cause and effect scenarios that could or would impact your organization. If your organization is not dedicating a good slice of the time pie to this particular piece, you could be setting your organization up for failure. The reason is rather basic but can be summed up with the comparison of Commodore International versus Macintosh (Apple).
Now that we have identified some of the more pressing areas of concern, a plan needs to be created and initiated in your organization in order to achieve the ultimate success you seek. Again, these solutions should be fine-tuned to your organization following the principle or “spirit” of the suggestion being provided. It should also be noted that such systems are neither “quick-fixes” nor “overnight successes”. Instead, these are steps that should be taken with precision and forethought and fostered over time.
Developing your people is always step number one. By developing your people, you will be able to eventually shift your attention to other areas of concerns or even potential growth in areas that have been lacking thus far. It comes down to coaching your direct reports. You need to foster an environment that encourages the process of mentorship (Campbell, 2013). While you may mentor a direct report, your direct report should be mentoring theirs and so on.
This type of education can often be priceless. Your direct report obviously has something you like. If they mentor another, they help pass that “special something” on to another. This creates promote-ability within the organization and creates a pool of better-qualified candidates when turnover occurs, while at the same time, strengthening employee commitment and loyalty because they can see that personal development is a critical part of your organization’s culture (Anderson, 2012).
It is important to share openly and honestly about operational details with your team. Allow employees to be a part of the discussion and encourage their questions, thinking and suggestions (Valcour, 2014). Some organizations are finding that some of their best idea generators are their employees (Flamholtz & Randle, 2011).
Encourage cooperation between different divisions as well as networking opportunities. The more the workers know about your organization, the better off you will be (Flamholtz & Randle, 2011). This will also reduce turnover. If a worker decides they would like to try a different role in the company or transfer to a different division, it should be encouraged if an opening is available and the worker has the ability to fulfill the job function. This way, you will not lose an employee. Instead, you have gained a cross-trained loyal employee.
Performance reviews should be more frequent. Workers should know where they stand and where they can improve. This is especially true for those workers are who are looking to promote. Even if the conversations are short, they should remain goal-oriented and have the mission of refining and solidifying long term goals with the organization. This demonstrates interest on your part and increases loyalty and job performance on theirs (Anderson, 2012).
It is also important to gain the input of your workers in regard to their job function. As mentioned earlier, sometimes those doing the work are your best idea generators. They may have a better way of going about doing their job function. They may also let you know exactly what they would like to learn moving forward. This should be embraced by the organization as having cross-trained workers reduces the likelihood of operational stops if a worker is either sick or decides to leave. Finally, if a worker is highly skilled at a certain task, encourage them to demonstrate their ability and teach others their methods. This not only creates on the job training for those learning but eases the worker into leadership functions.
Operational or organizational systems are a fundamental aspect of your organization. It is highly encouraged that Standard Operating Procedures either be created (if you do not already have them) or continually refined. This does not mean, however, that you should change things within the procedures arbitrarily. Instead, when a better way of doing something is discovered, it should be tested, solidified, and updated in the SOP. If you discover that there is a task being completed that does not have a Standard Procedure associated with it, one should be created and implemented. Having systems in place, regardless of what the task at hand may be, and having that SOP carefully recorded in an operations manual, will make your business more operationally sound and valuable in the long-run.
These processes should also be solidified. This should be the road map of how your organization operates “on the floor”. By mapping out the system, it will be easier to discover inefficiencies and correct them to increase profitability. An example might be as follows: Your process is roughly 8 steps. Each step already has their S.O.P’s and is functioning nicely. However, there is always a hang-up between step 4 and 5. By mapping this out, you discover that if their position of reception within the building was altered or switched, the hang-up would be eliminated.
Your system now has been improved because you have moved a division, an office, or person to ease the flow within the system. Commit the process to paper and scrutinize whether it makes strategic sense where it is currently at in your system. Scrutinize the structure, the people involved, and the SOP’s within each piece.
Organizational teamwork can be difficult to achieve sometimes. However, a strong head start in the right direction revolves around a few basic ideas that all start with you. To begin with, workers need to have a clear understanding of the direction in which you wish to go and clarification of responsibilities both task-oriented and within the organization as a whole (Anderson, 2012). This provides everyone with a sense of ownership and reduces (in part) the individual feeling. Group meetings, encouraging the use of a co-worker instead of a manger, and encouraging team-oriented tasks, will all build the comradery among workers.
Boosting the morale within the organization is critical as well. This can be done in numerous ways, but ensuring the basics are met is step one in this regard. Making sure workers have the tools necessary to do their job when they need them is critical. Having these will help to create an environment of accomplishment instead of frustration. Following up with workers in a timely fashion is critical. Even if the answer is not the one they wanted, they will appreciate the swift answers.
Arguably the most difficult part of this guide revolves around organizational foresight and organizational knowledge. This requires a proactive effort to strategize, plan, forecast, and analyze aspects that impact your organization down the road and how your organization plans to overcome them (Bishop, 2010).
Of course, this part begins with organizational vision. This vision derives out of the leadership itself. The leader(s) must know what they want and where they are going. This should be clearly outlined in the organization’s vision statement. This vision statement should ultimately guide the overall objectives of the organization (Kim & Robert K. Greenleaf Center, 2002). From there, plans or “plans of actions” should be made to help guide the many different operations within the organization.
Evidence suggests that making plans that include stakeholder input on a regular basis, equates to organizational survival in competitive markets when the plan does not cost too much or rigidly followed (Mintzberg & Ghoshal, 2002). In other words, your organization could see the opportunity for a dollar collapse in the coming months or years. Your organization could make a plan to change to an alternate currency such as the Yuan when the event occurs. However, economic factors could suggest that such collapse will be avoided or perhaps the Yuan collapsed alongside the dollar. The plan should be flexible, feasible, and reachable, but should focus on issues coming down the road.
To ensure the delivery of the point, we could also utilize a different analogy. Say your organization is a retail business. Easter is almost a year away, but you already know that your Easter sales were down significantly this year. In this phase, you would take the data that you know about this year, cross-reference data that you can come across on other retailers who were successful, gain some stakeholder input, and then make a tentative plan for the following year. By doing this, you eliminate having to scramble at the last minute to come up with solutions and you gain a certain advantage over those who are not planning as well as you are. This part should always include the evaluation of competitors, emerging technologies, economic or global factors, etc. It should also be reiterated that this requires the ability to practice and rationalize the cause and effect scenarios that could or would impact your organization.
As demonstrated, the suggested plan for organizational development is a guide for senior leadership to help develop his or her organization. This suggested plan covers varying areas of concern including developing people, systems, processes, teamwork, and institutional foresight and knowledge. By utilizing the plan provided, an organization should be able to better fine-tune the many different aspects of their operations and create a greater degree of profitability and efficiencies by doing so.
- Anderson, D. L. (2012). Organization development: The process of leading organizational change. Thousand Oaks, Calif: Sage Publications.
- Bishop, P. (2010, January 1). Organizational Foresight – Strategy and Terms. Organizational Foresight – Strategy and Terms. Retrieved from http://www.accelerating.org/orgforesight.html
- Campbell, M. (2013, January 29). 3 Ways to Develop Your People Without Overwhelming Yourself. Forbes. Retrieved from http://www.forbes.com/sites/ccl/2013/01/29/3-ways-to-develop-your-people-without-overwhelming-yourself/
- Flamholtz, E., & Randle, Y. (2011). Corporate culture: The ultimate strategic asset. Stanford, Calif: Stanford Business Books.
- Kim, D. H., & Robert K. Greenleaf Center. (2002). Foresight as the central ethic of leadership. Indianapolis, Ind: Greenleaf Center for Servant-Leadership.
- Mintzberg, H., & Ghoshal, S. (2002). The strategy process. Harlow: Financial Times Prentice Hall.
- Valcour, M. (2014, January 23). If You’re Not Helping People Develop, You’re Not Management Material. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved from http://blogs.hbr.org/2014/01/if-youre-not-helping-people-develop-youre-not-management-material/