For many years I (and many of my colleagues) have helped people understand that Organisation development (OD) is not Organisational development.
OrganisatioNAL development is a broad term and can encompass everything an organisation does to develop i.e. estates management programme, mandatory training, capital development programme, continuous improvement programme, talent management programme etc).
Organisation Development with its roots in the aftermath of World War II, the bringing together of the early behavioural and social scientists to coalesce around and consider the parts of lives which take place in organisations is a participative and emancipatory way of working with change.
Early definitions of OD all make reference to organisational life and as such they locate the work of OD people firmly within the organisation. However, the world has changed people do ‘work’ in many places not just organisations. What we define as work, where we do such work and who we consider our co-workers all needs to be explored.
Locally and across the world people gather for a purpose and with passion. They do the work of their hearts, some take a salary for this work, many do not. I am arguing that such activity is the work of contemporary OD.
OD with its base in participatory change, behavioural science and the values …
• Respect for human difference
• Commitment to social justice
• A belief in lifelong learning
• A belief in self-renewal at both the individual and the
• Built upon action research methodology
• Building the clients capability and capacity for the
• Working for independence rather than creating
OD people can support people to move their ‘work’ forward towards their goals. Where people gather for purpose, in and between organisations, in communities OD practitioners can be of support, building capability, supporting leaders, enabling people to take their power and use it for the good.
The OD practitioner understands the mechanisms, opportunities and defences experienced within the walls of an organisational structure AND many OD practitioners have extended their range to work with systems of organisations, and to think systemically about the issues people face as they work to achieve their goals.
But work happens in the spaces around organisations and in the gaps created by organisations, exciting new forms of organising work are emerging. If we, the OD people see our work only in terms of the walls of organisations or within the systems of organisations then maybe we fail to move forward.
Many other practitioners from many fields are working in these spaces and gaps and we need to join up our skills and capability in service of supporting our communities, our neighbourhoods, towns, cities to do their WORK.
Let us consider our knowledge, our skill set and our purpose again, let us work where “where people gather for purpose”