Organizational development goes through these phases: identify a specific problem, solve the problem with change, assess progress, and reset organizational culture, says Rachel Burr, Catamentum leadership Coaching.
Organizational Development is a systematic method of creating effective institutional change. It relies on open communication with stakeholders (which can include managers and employees, suppliers and clients) and effective feedback to:
- Identify a specific problem;
- Effect changes to address the problem;
- Assess progress; and,
- Reset organizational culture to the “new normal.”
Impetus for organizational change comes from changes in strategy by top leaders, when leaders need to steer the organization in a particular direction, they will need active involvement by stakeholders at different levels. Individuals who are active in the process of change are more likely to adopt it.
Change Agents Lead the Way
Organization Development operates through “change agents” – Change agents can be leaders within an organization. Other times, leaders partner with OD consultants who bring their expertise to help leaders create and sustain change. They work with individuals and teams to identify both the problems and possible solutions, and make change happen.
Once the desired outcomes for changes are identified, change agents often begin the process through structured activities, such as workshops, surveys, or interviews, which are designed to gather information and collect feedback as the process unfolds. Another big part of the change agent’s role is to coordinate communication so the reasons for change, and the benefits of change, are well understood.
The communication itself needs to come from leaders. An OD consultant can help leaders design a plan for communication, including timing and messaging to different stakeholders. They may even help draft communications for the leader, but it is important the leaders themselves communicate to ensure these communications have the necessary weight and importance.
The Change Management Model – Three Steps to Change
A clear and concise way of viewing organization development is through the Change Management Model originated by Kurt Lewin, a pioneer in the field. According to Lewin, successful change occurs in three phases , which he labeled:
- Transition; and,
Let’s explore the three steps individually, keeping in mind that there will be overlap among them.
Unfreezing – Preparing for Change
Unfreezing is the planning stage, in which leaders and those assisting leaders with organizational changes gather information to identify the problem and its cause. As noted above, the process may include structured activities or workshops, as well as surveys and interviews, to get stakeholders actively involved.
The objective is to help people understand why the changes are happening, how these changes will impact the work, what the challenges might be, and how to navigate those challenges.
The leader is the owner for the change(s), even though some of the implementation work can be delegated to others, the leader owns both the responsibility and the results.
Transition – Making the Change
Once the organization is “unfrozen” and ready for change, it’s time for action. The organization undertakes the planned course of action, often called interventions.
Interventions can take any number of forms, and may impact individuals, groups, or the organization as a whole.
An individual intervention may call for training or coaching, either due to a new role or a performance issue. A group intervention may involve team building exercises or workshops to develop new ways of collaborating. Finally, an organization intervention may involve restructuring or strategic changes that affect everyone. Such major changes will be unique to each organization.
Transition is the most difficult stage. Even with maximum involvement and understanding, some individuals will resist adopting new ways of working. Leaders must communicate – clearly and consistently – the need for, and benefits of, change, and they must be prepared to help the organization navigate the resistance.
The change agent has a dual role at this stage: Supporting leaders in their communications, while also monitoring the impact of change. The second part of that role reflects the need to continue getting feedback, assessing effectiveness, and making adjustments if needed.
Refreezing – Establishing a “New Normal”
Once the hurdles of the transition stage have been overcome and the results assessed, the organization needs to reset its culture around the new ways of working. The refreezing stage is intended to reinforce and ground changes in the organization to avoid falling back into old patterns.
Leaders must set the tone and lead by example, becoming role models for change. Leaders must understand where flexibility will be necessary: giving individuals time to adapt, preparing for the inevitable resistance, and providing other support as needed. The goal is to ensure the organization successfully embraces change as a new way of doing business.
If you would like to learn more about organizational development, or if you want to leverage Catamentum’s OD expertise, please contact us.
Rachel Burr is an executive and leadership coach with over 20 years of experience working with CEOs and the C-suite across all industries, in organizations of from 20 to 10,000 employees. Rachel holds dual master’s degrees in Organization Development and Clinical Psychology, and numerous certifications in the field of executive coaching. Rachel is a “people expert” who works with clients to unleash their leadership potential.