Organizational Development is a complex endeavor, even for the smallest organizations. This is because there is much to consider as the organization grows and because with each new change, new perspectives and considerations arise. Ultimately, there are several specific strengths and weaknesses that I feel an organization should be on the lookout for. The following is broken down into the categories of “strengths” and “weaknesses” rather than individual bullet points within each heading.
The culture of any organization is important. One built with purpose is better. A clear and specific purpose and sense of belonging for those who are employed is critical. It’s even better when everyone understands and shares common attitudes, values, and customs in regard to the company and work environment. Such a culture aids greatly in regard to overall organizational growth because the sense of team and overall cohesiveness allows the different divisions to move with purpose while being able to better track progress.
An organization built around strategic change has a lot going for them. In this type of organization, new moves are brainstormed, researched, checked, double-checked, and reviewed, and so on, before actual implementation. In this regard, there is little that is left to chance. This is a strength in that each move is highly calculated in contrast to other organizations of similar caliber who may implement certain changes without due diligence.
An organization that does a fantastic job of ensuring that those who are doing the work are well informed about their job and how the company is operating will surely be the winner. This allows each worker to be an advocate for the organization but also creates a sense of engagement or “buy-in”. This helps to ensure quality work and a sense of ownership in the work as well. This is essentially building a shared vision and team learning.
Because of that engagement and “buy-in”, the culture and “family” atmosphere grows. This makes each unit operate a little more soundly. Group and teams are more easily formed for projects or even unit tasks. Complete strangers can effectively work together because they have common goals and have been taught the same information for the same purpose. This makes change a little less abrasive in practice.
Aspects of globalization have been made possible due to the previous points. This is great for organizations because it ultimately equates to market share on more than one front. As market share increases, this breeds more locations, more customers, more services, more products, more money, and more opportunities for the workers in regard to advancement and relocation without leaving the organization. Finally, it is indeed beneficial in regard to collaboration between units. The organization has the opportunity to use this benefit to acquire a plethora of ideas and develop and or exploit them to their fullest potential. This is especially true with the advances in technology. Such collaboration can be in real-time and moved on expeditiously.
There are some weaknesses that impact attempted change in an organization as well. Use of a “Benevolent Authoritative” system in order to ensure that the information being disseminated is consistent and in line with company policy and direction will not breed positive outcomes. In such a system, most of the decisions are not and cannot be made on the lower levels without some type of upper-level approval. This can and has hindered progress in regard to special circumstance for many different organizations. This, to the point where the opportunity to seize a tactical or strategic advantage can be lost while waiting for the “proper approval”.
A poor approach to change management will also be a hindrance. Ideally, practitioners are encouraged to address the organization’s vision, mission, goals, and strategy. In great organizations, this is usually done daily throughout all levels via repetition and graphic display. What I have found is that in poor organizations, often only in upper levels, not only is this not practiced daily, but the interpretation of these points in certain events can change dramatically. This often equates into turbulence in regard to change on a mass scale. This is especially true if the change originated somewhere other than the top.
In turn, the authenticity of the organization becomes questioned by some of the more knowledgeable workers and trust then becomes an issue throughout the organization as gossip spreads. Without trust, a change within the organization can be easily questioned or even “pushed back”. Without trust, sometimes change cannot occur at all. The authenticity of the organization (or direction) must have an element of consistency, especially in regard to company propaganda. Furthermore, follow-through from the leaders in regard to that propaganda is a must.
Globalization is also a weakness when we really tear it apart. Sure, the benefits obviously outweigh the hindrances at this point, but they must still be addressed if only to ensure balance in the discussion. Company policy must remain consistent. As globalization efforts further, a watering down of individual identity begins to occur. Rules are no longer cultural in a personal sense. Instead, they turn into a collective “one size fits all” glove that everyone is expected to wear. On the surface, this may sound nice or even preferred. However, upon further examination, we see that this approach often reduces innovation and individual self-worth. Workers are no longer valued employees; they are a number in the sea of those employed who are more than likely expendable.
Finally, foresight in the face of complexity tends to be an issue as well. For instance, known and clearly identified issues, costing individual units multiple thousands of dollars that are not addressed because of the complexity of the issue. In other words, they do not have an answer, so they refuse to address it. This creates tension as the company continues to focus on lesser issues. Understand that workers become frustrated when they can see that time and money must be devoted to a problem but that problem currently stands beyond the scope of what many are willing to see. A decent example of this might in long term cause and effect projections from an individual unit showing even greater losses down the road, but these projections are ignored from upper management for reasons unknown.
Organizational Development is a complex endeavor indeed. Leadership plays a vital role in how an organization can achieve sound change both short and long term. However, while it is complex; it is achievable – if we are willing to face the challenges and are willing to listen and act.