Tim, a seasoned leader in his hospitality/entertainment company, finally made the leap from general manager to vice president of the flagship theme park of his company. As he assumed his duties, he realized there were several major challenges in front of him:
Like the great operator and manager that he is, Tim began a series of initiatives to help rectify the problems. He began a program called “Employee First Community,” which was conceived to make employees feel special by having a logo designed and placed on many internal communication tools and recognition gifts such as briefcases. In addition, he set up a series of meetings for the leaders of the organization to begin partnering and communicating with one another. And, he began working on determining which new products were needed and developing presentations to acquire the capital funding and approvals to put those products in place. What were the results of his efforts?
What went wrong? Tim’s predicament was that he wasn’t aware of a complex organizational problem that required a systematic analysis of the company to find long-term solutions. Once he had that revelation, things started to change, because he then knew which resource to bring in: his Organization Development Consultant.
Organization development (OD) a process that helps leaders initiate and manage planned, long-term change. Key beliefs that differentiate OD consultants from other management consultants/project managers include the following:
Many OD consultants use a model similar my Consulting Engagement Cycle to organize their activities. This model can also be viewed as an example of action research, which is the foundation for most OD inventions.
Establish Winning Partnerships: Coming to shared agreement with the leader who has the complex organizational challenge around key issues and mutual expectations.
Assessment: Process consultants use this to determine where the organization wants to be, where it is today and what the barriers are between today and the desired future state. A consultant can use a variety of options at this point. For example, a consultant can use a business assessment approach that looks at what is working/not working from customer, employee and financial perspectives. From there, a consultant makes choices on how to conduct the assessment. Some consultants choose an appreciative inquiry approach that boils down to what is working instead of asking questions about what is not working.
Solution Design: Once the root cause is uncovered, the consultant then determines what intervention is best, which options are most suitable for delivering that intervention, and how to present the client with results and recommendations. Invention options include but are not limited to: business strategy development, organization redesign, process redesign, team development, leadership development, training, and change management. There is a wide variety of delivery options for each invention. Delivery options are decided based on the culture of the organization (how much involvement will be tolerated) and available time. For example, I was involved in developing strategy for several business units for a large Fortune 100 company. For one business unit, there was a need to gain clarity quickly, so a future search conference was the best option. For another unit, time away from the operation was limited, so their strategy development took place during existing staff meetings over a longer time period.
Solution Delivery: Develop and Implement Intervention: Almost all OD interventions involve facilitation of some kind, whether it is between two individuals or work sessions with several hundred participants in attendance.
Measure Results: At the end of the intervention, it is important to measure its effectiveness, to ensure that the intervention actually solved the complex organizational challenge. There are five levels of measurement (according to Jack Phillips of the ROI Institute):
Level 1: Reaction (How satisfied are the clients and intervention targets?) For example, how satisfied were clients/work session participants with the future search strategy development work session?
Level 2: Learning (Did the clients and work session participants learn what they needed to learn?) For example, did the participants learn new strategy?
Level 3: Behavior (Are the targets of the intervention behaving differently as a result?) For example, are the leaders and employees using the new strategy as a decision-making filter?
Level 4: Business Results (Did the intervention lead to improved business results?) For example, as employee behavior changes, how have customer satisfaction and sales been impacted?
Level 5: Return on Investment (Do the benefits of the intervention outweigh the costs involved?) For example, did incremental sales and customer satisfaction provide a return for the investment of time and dollars in strategy development?
One thing that I have learned through my years of working as consultant and partnering with other consultants all over the country is that there are many good OD consultants, but very few great ones.
The following qualities are what makes an OD Consultant great:
Remember our friend, Tim, in the opening case study? Tim had a challenge with silos, with employee engagement and with long-term strategic direction for his business. As you’ve probably guessed, I was the OD Consultant called in, and here’s what I did (after coming to a shared agreement with Tim’s issues and needs and expressing my own):
The immediate results of the process included breaking down the silos. As a result, for the first time, all departments put aside individual loyalties and determined what was best as a whole for the park, in addition to the buy-in and support due to employee involvement. Recommendations became clear for what capital investments were needed. All the tangible business results exceeded expectations, but the clients were able to see immediate impact from the process alone. What sets OD consulting apart is that clients don’t have to wait for full implementation to see results, which begin to appear as soon as the change process is engaged.
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