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Organizational Development (OD) Consulting

In our experience, we’ve found that many experienced HR and OD practitioners continue to treat leadership problems with OD solutions, or OD problems with leadership development solutions. An appropriate metaphor is the relationship between a car and its driver. An Italian sports car cannot perform well if it is in the hands of a bad driver. Conversely, the most skilled Formula 1 driver cannot perform magic while driving an old bus. Yet many organizations fail to recognize the difference and may oscillate between these two extremes. The key to effective prescriptions is in the diagnosis itself. Basic as this may sound, many still fail to make the distinction, and end up treating the ailment with the wrong solution.

At Linkage, our organizational development (OD) consulting expertise involves determining accurately whether the challenge on hand is indeed a leadership issue or an organizational/systemic issue, or both. We diagnose a problem by isolating its root cause (or interrelated causes) rather than merely treating symptoms.

Leadership Development Challenges

If the problem is characterized as a “Leadership” one, we perform our diagnosis on the human side of the equation, studying the impact that the leader may have on the performance of people within the organization. For example, what are the leader’s strengths and limitations? Does he have derailment factors that manifest under stress? How does he go about producing business results? How does his specific leadership style affect others? Sometimes the problem is caused by the multi-layered dynamics found within teams, especially top management teams. How well do team members work with each other? Do differences among individuals contribute to collective strengths, or do they result in disharmony? Do conflicting objectives and agendas cause rifts in team effectiveness?

Organizational Development (OD) Challenges

The other side of the equation lies on a “Systemic” or “OD” level. Are the problems experienced by the organization somehow inherent in the culture and value system? Sometimes there is a lack of alignment between the corporate values and the way that the organization is structured, resulting in conflicting priorities when work is performed, especially in complex value chains. There may also be flaws in the various internal processes designed a long time ago but have not been updated since. Do employees operate in silos, or are they constantly close to the customer, thus flexibly responding to customer needs and demands? Structural flaws in the way that information is shared and decisions are made are also key contributors to breakdowns in the system.

Another critical factor to address is the HR system such as pay & performance practices. Do reward systems encourage the right behaviors that organizations want to promote? Are employees encouraged to innovate, or is performance criteria solely focused on meeting targets “no matter what?” And yet another factor to consider is the way talent systems are designed. How is the selection criteria defined when hiring new talent into the organization, and how well are newcomers managed in the on-boarding process? How closely aligned are performance and productivity with development systems? Are employees trained in skills that are current and relevant in meeting business and organizational demands?

These are critical questions to ask when performing an accurate diagnosis. Often there are inter-relationships between symptoms with a common central root cause. Often there is not one, but several related problems to solve—the challenge is being able to prioritize and solve the urgent ones first.



Linkage’s Diagnostic Framework

HR and OD practitioners have access to many frameworks at their disposal, but they also need to ensure that essential questions are asked. Linkage’s 15-year research study in the field of leadership development and organizational development (OD) has shown us that the top five concerns in most organizations fall under five categories: Strategy, Execution, Systems, Growth, and Culture. This framework provides a practical structure for organizational analysis, framing the right questions as focused on each of the five key elements.

  • Strategy: Does my organization know where it’s headed? If so, where?
  • Execution: What are the issues around getting things done?
  • Systems: What is blocking my organization in terms of process, structure, etc?
  • Growth: Where is my organization’s growth going to come from?
  • Culture: What does my organization stand for? What type of change is the organization (and its people) currently experiencing?

Linkage’s Organizational Analysis Framework