>The closing gap between OD and L&D

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This week I put up a post about Organisational Development and my learnings from the L&D2020 workshop held by the Training Journal. Today I’d like to let you know about the actual session itself and the topics talked about.
The Benefits of an OD Approach
Linda Holbeche opened the day’s proceedings with an introduction to OD from her research based consultancy the Holbeche Partnership. She spoke about the ability of an organisation to be agile and ensuring the ‘right’ people are focused on the ‘right’ things and engaged in collective effort. To support you also then need the ‘right’ kinds of management and leadership, the ‘right’ business model, processes, structures and systems.
Linda gave some insight into what constitutes a high performing organisation:
– Adaptable and change-able
– Enable innovation and are knowledge rich
– Boundaryless
– Stimulate individuals to higher levels of performance
– Great places to work
– Values based
From the work she has carried out, her research and exeprience, OD applies to:
– Changes in the strategy, structure and/or processes of an entire system
– Based on the application (and transfer) of behavioural science disciplines e.g. group dynamics, leadership, strategy and work design
– An adaptive process for planning and managing change
– The design, implementation and reinforcement of change
– Oriented to organisational effectivneess; supporting organisation improvement and sustaining organisation renewal
At its core, OD has the following humanistic values:
– Democracy and participation
– Openness to lifelong learning and experimentation
– Equity and fairness – the worth of every individual
– Valid information and informed choice
– Enduring respect for the human side of enterprise
Typical OD applications include:
– designing and delivering L&D interventions
– process improvement
– HR’s transformational role
– culture change
– leadership development
– team development
– conflict resolution
– supporting clients in major change and organisation design projects
– generalist system health practitioners; keeping the organisation healthy, ethical and agile to face future challenges
I found Linda’s presentation a good introduction to OD and to provide a lot of context to the range of work that OD includes.
Developing Your OD Agenda
Next we had Martin Saville present a fascinating OD model. Martin is an independent consultant and has his own practice – Martin Saville Consulting. The first point Martin raised is that those work in OD don’t come from a particular background, instead they have a mindset. That mindset is about looking at a complete organisation and finding ways to ensure each part understands that if a piece of work is to be achieved successfully, other relevant parts need to be involved, and if they’re not it has a direct impact on operational effectiveness.
The model he presented is called the Burke-Litwin model which hopefully is presented below clearly.

Okay so apologies for the lack of clarity – my first time trying to add an image to a post (any advice welcome). Essentially you have two broad categories of the way an organisation responds and reacts to change. There are transformational factors which are factors that drive the change. These include – the external environment, mission and strategy, leadership, the organisation culture and individual and organisational performance. Then there are transactional factors which you need in order for the the change to be effective. These include – structure, management practices, work unit, motivation, systems and processes, task requirements and individual and individual needs and values.
Once you take some time to think about an OD challenge you are facing, you can look at the Burke-Litwin model to help you identify what are the factors you’ve considered and which you do need to pay attention to. Martin admitted the model isn’t perfect and excludes some factors such as communication processes but it at least provides a holistic perspective of the factors which will help support and drive change.
The Emergence of the L&OD Function
This presentation was delivered by Lee Sears whom I have spoken about before in the post about the future skillset of L&D. The information he presented was no different to that, and if you’re interested, have a read of the post.
What it did help to do was re-surface his findings of how L&D and OD are becoming more and more entwined. Even though they are separate disciplines, the cross-over is becoming more commonplace, and in fact many HR/L&D/Project Management/Internal Communication specialists are all engaged in activities which are in effect OD, but they’ve just not been exposed to the terminology or processes or structures to help them think of it in that way.
Case Studies
There were some interesting case studies from the civil service and from a housing organisation that offered insights into how OD has helped with real organisational issues. Unfortunately, the decks weren’t available and so I can’t divulge information as it’s history now. From memory though, the housing organisation were reaching a point in their development where a number of mergers and formation of Group status meant OD played an important part in the way very different groups and senior management who had not worked together previously and were now expected to.
The civil service was an interesting case of a department whose resources had been outsourced with the remaining incumbents feeling bereft of responsibility and control over what the outsourcing company was producing and the quality of that work was in question. OD helped to bring this group to accept what their situation is, what they currently do, their responsibilities, and then included the outsourced company in conversations about current and future practices.
Where I’ve not included specific references to materials, all the above is taken from the respective individuals decks and is to be attributed to them directly unless otherwise stated.

>Whatever you do, don’t follow best practise

>Here at LBi Towers (my workplace, all opinions my own, blah, etc) we have a theory that best practise is all well and good if you want to identify a ‘standard’ way of doing something. But, if you want to do something amazing, you need to do more than just best practise.

Essentially best practise is about doing a set of actions that result in a desired result. And in most cases that desired result is pretty staid stuff. We want to increase online engagement, we want to improve retention rates, we want to increase brand perception, we want to be an employer of choice. Those are all fair, and in some cases lofty, ambitions. And for the most part, those companies will be advised to do a set of actions to help them achieve those things. And the cycle is reinforced.
So why am I, an L&Der, concerned about best practise? Well, it’s a piece of terminology that has infected both HR and L&D circles so much that I think we’ve both lost our zest and passion for the job we do. Many in the industry follow what has been outlined by ACAS or the CIPD or because they are the alleged experts that guide what we do and how we should do it. For L&D in particular, there is no direct industry body, but that’s something for me to rant about later.
What this has meant for us professionals is we are trying to get companies, in the main, disciplined in the act of following policies and procedures so they do not fall foul of employment tribunals for transgressions they should have avoided. Part of what I’m talking about is reminiscent of a post by a HR professional, delightfully called theHRD, where he blogged about the de-skilling of HR. And also a post I made a while ago on the over-reliance of policies.

Instead what’s happened is a field we now call Organisational Development came out of the bushes and said, Hey! You keep doing your policies, L&D, you keep doing your training, and we’ll get on and do the exciting company wide development stuff like employee engagement and inter-departmental blending and culture development. I’m not begrudging OD professionals what they do – in truth my passion lies more in OD than it does L&D. But what is apparent is HR and in most cases L&D are given shorter remits of work as other ‘specialists’ come in to do the stuff which is not best practise.
These specialists push those boundaries of convention and are lauded for their free thinking and challenging ways. And the truth is they should be applauded for those things. But, and here’s the crux of it, HR and L&D have an equally important responsibility to shout for the same recognition.
It’s not enough that HR manages recruitment, retention, employee relations and policies. It’s not enough that L&D creates a training programme, delivers training, and helps staff feel valued. They need to move beyond those restrictions and show companies that they are better than that. And that’s not by following the best practise of other companies, or your very good friend who is HR director at Google. It’s by identifying which business objectives you can get more involved with that show either HR or L&D can play a more strategic role in the business or organisation. That’s a basic tenet of what should be happening anyway, and I’ll wager 80% of HR professionals aren’t doing this.
In my opinion, the best way to ensure you have someone who is looking beyond best practise is by having a full time in-house resource dedicated to their role. Outsourcing is fine but does not allow the true value of the profession to be realised. I’m fortunate that I have full responsibility for L&D, have no one to steer what I do, am self-reliant enough to get on and do things and have established the credibility of L&D across the agency. It’s taken time, but I’ve done that. If you’re not able to do that, you either need to review the responsibilities of your role, rise to the occasion and make your mark known, or seek to develop yourself so that you can step up and not rely on best practise.

>A great planning tool

>As an L&Der I love learning about different tools and techniques to help groups achieve their goals and objectives. The world of L&D and OD (Organisational Development) cross over immensely and the lines are often blurred where one stops and the other starts. In my experience though the two don’t need to be that disparate. OD is about implementing a new way of doing something, or identifying new processes, or facilitating a group in a discussion. L&D is about improving skills across the workforce. I’ll discuss this in a later blog. For today though I’m focusing on a particular planning tool which really helps focus a groups efforts.

The Impact/Effort matrix is a good tool for helping a group decide on what actions they should undertake, and often in what priority. Let’s explain what it is first, then discuss uses after. Effort is defined as the amount of time/resources you need to put into the task in order for it to be a success. Impact is defined as the potential achievement of a set of objectives. This could be impact to organisation, team or efficiencies.
Effectively you have a 2×2 grid.
1) Bottom left = Low Impact and Low Effort (Think about)
These tasks require little effort but will also have little impact.

2) Top left = High Impact and Low Effort (Quick win)
These tasks will have immediate results and require little effort.
3) Bottom right = Low Impact and High Effort (Forget about)
These tasks will take a lot of effort but the return will be minimal at best.
4) Top right = High Impact and High Effort (Requires planning)
These tasks will produce high return but also require high effort.
This is best used once a group have come together and created a list of tasks they need to action but are unclear about how to prioritise them. Where I have put this tool to good use, within the space of an hour you can see that a team readily identify what needs to happen and the priority associated with each.
You can then plan out the tasks and assign such things as time-frames, potential budget, resources required for completion, and communication plans.
Once you have decided on these, it’s then important to assign responsibilities. It seems like an obvious this to say but so often have I seen that the tasks have been prioritised but Bob thinks Terry is going to do it and it should have been Neil doing it all along.
It can also be effective for time management. If you have a way of initially creating a to-do list, this grid can be used in exactly the same fashion as described to help you prioritise which tasks need to be done so your time is effectively managed. In this scenario you would envisage tasks in 4) should be given the larger portion of time (approximately 60-70%), those in 3) given a fair portion of time (approximately 20-30%) and those in 2) and 1) divided accordingly to what you have available.