Organisational Development as a Tool to Deal with Organisational Challenges

Posted on 12th January 2021

The events of 2020 have been difficult for many companies. The need to refocus, review and revise plans has been at the forefront of strategic priorities. Leadership teams have been challenged to re-evaluate or to use a buzz phrase ‘pivot’. This work is essential from to time to time to address challenges and improve performance, but the unprecedented global pandemic has meant that in 2020 there has seen a renewed focus on organisational development.

There are many definitions of organisational development. In simple terms it seeks to provide systematic support to organisations to build their resilience and growth capabilities. It is the area of knowledge and practice  involving the management of all systems  and processes within an organisation to improve performance.

Organisational development professionals see the organisation as a system made up of  series of interconnected  systems, each distinct and  interdependent. Each element of the system  is central to planning, management and the achievement of goals. Organisational development can help managers and leaders to develop high performing organisations. Effective  leadership requires expertise in the following areas: performance management,  team development, process management, governance, quality management,  strategic management,  change management, coaching, and instilling an organisational culture  that is consistent with continuous improvement and the development of people.

The metaphor of a human body is very useful to look at the organisation as a system made up of interdependent systems.

  • The head and the brain being the guiding principles, values and vision
  • The skeleton being the management and leadership
  • The heart being the  employees
  • The lungs being the income and assets
  • The blood being the culture

.. and so on

To be in optimum health, maintaining healthy habits are critical. A neglected human body suffers ill-health and can end up in a critical situation and possibly on life support just as a badly run organisation can end up on its knees. Clearly, there are limits to the analogy, but it very usefully outlines the organisation as a series of systems which have to be operating at optimal efficiency and effectiveness to be healthy. Organisational Development Practitioners carry out organisational diagnostics to review each system of the organisation. This is not always an easy task. A finding that  an organisation has failing systems and has become or is in danger of becoming ineffective suggests remedial actions to prevent systems breakdown or failure.

For an Organisational Development Expert, there are various approaches to support the necessary review process. The starting process for any process is a systematic health check or organisational audit. This looks at every system, cultural and behavioural patterns and seeks to delve deeply into the organisation to get a thorough understanding. Various tools can be used to help with this first step towards change.

In the case of an organisation in crisis, if the facts are that poor leadership, inadequate operational systems, poor reputation, lack of staff development and so on have contributed to a failing organisation, then this needs to be tackled. Identifying the symptoms of  a disorder is inadequate without looking at the causal factors and making room for improvement actions. As part of the change programme various   tools are used and this also involves work to develop competencies, a new culture and a clear road map with set of standards and benchmarks. All of this leads to powerful changes which creates motivated teams, intuitive and confident managers and increased productivity.

If you would like to discuss an organisational review or health check please use the contact form or email

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