Importance of Organization Development in the Age of Technology


Organization development (OD) as a field of study has been around for many decades now, however in recent years it is starting to gain prominence in business domain in general, and HR in particular. Many organizations today have OD as a separate function within their HR team and are increasingly looking to extend   the role OD plays in various HR & business processes.

Organization development (OD) is the study of successful organizational change and performance. OD emerged from human relations studies in the 1930s, during which psychologists realized that organizational structures and processes influence worker behaviour and motivation.

More recently, work on OD has expanded to focus on aligning organizations with their rapidly changing and complex environments through organizational learning, knowledge management, and transformation of organizational norms and values. Key concepts of OD theory include: organizational climate (the mood or unique “personality” of an organization, which  includes attitudes and beliefs that influence members’ collective behaviour), organizational culture (the deeply-seated norms, values and behaviours that members share) and organizational strategies (how an organization identifies problems, plans action, negotiates change and evaluates progress).

If you look at the above explanation about OD given in Wikipedia, it’s very clear why OD is important in today’s day & age especially with the rise of technology. Technology has impacted all aspects of our life and most businesses are now looking to transform their operations. These digital transformations of many traditional businesses are causing major disruptions at individual, group and system level. The technological revolution has also given rise to many new businesses and business models which never even existed a few years back. The rate of change of technology is ever increasing and more & more individuals, groups, & organizations find that they are falling behind.

In such situations organizations, groups, & individuals can definitely look at the OD way of life. The humanistic OD values as defined by Margulies and Raia (1972) are:

  1. Providing opportunities for people to function as human beings rather than as resources in the productive process
  2. Providing opportunities for each organization member, as well as for the organization itself, to develop to their full potential
  3. Seeking to increase the effectiveness of the organization in terms of all of its goals
  4. Attempting to create an environment in which it is possible to find exciting and challenging work
  5. Providing opportunities for people in organizations to influence the way in which they relate to work, the organization, and the environment
  6. Treating each human being as a person with a complex set of needs, all of which are important to their work and their life

As one can observe all these humanistic values are the ones that we are increasingly talking about in the technology driven world. As more and more business processes get automated and some even being performed by “robots”, businesses are increasingly emphasizing on treating employees and customers as humans rather than resources. Organizations are increasingly focusing on the customer experience and the employee experience. Design principles are being deployed to ensure that all business processes, whether they are customer facing or employee facing, are being designed for ease of use & engagement.

The benefits that organizations can derive by adopting OD practices are further accentuated in the current technologically hyper connected world. The importance of being present in the moment has been highlighted many times in the context of work environments to ensure more effectiveness & collaboration. In the constantly changing world, individuals, groups, & organizations have to continuously learn & improve. Certain OD practices like action research equip groups to ensure they continuously develop approaches to emerging challenges. The practice of systems thinking allows groups to empathize with other parts of the organization which are impacted by their decisions, actions, or the lack thereof. These practices enable open & honest communication across organizational groups which positively impacts organizations ability to understand the need for change & respond to the same accordingly.

Organization development efforts operate at individual, group & organizational level, thus ensuring that the unit of change varies based on the nature of the intervention. This integrated view of the organization ensures that organization level changes impact individuals and vice-versa thus enabling a culture of continuous learning & development. Such learning culture is an important aspect for survival and growth of individuals & organizations in the rapidly evolving technology landscape.

OD practices ensure that every individual is participating in the OD efforts thus improving the sense of ownership, accountability, and innovation. OD practices also make the individual & organization aware of various human processes which support or impede various organizational processes.

Most technology adoptions fail primarily because they fail to address requirements of multiple stakeholders. The OD way of doing business ensures that all stakeholders are heard & participate in the entire solutioning process, thus ensuring early engagement. Post deployment of technology solutions OD processes can be used to assess the level of engagement & determine additional interventions required to make necessary adjustments to further improve engagement with the technology solution, thus ensuring the investments in technology provide the intended business result.

The other important aspect of technology implementation or adoption is change management. OD processes help organizations identify the need for change at individual, group, & organizational level. The practices then enables individuals & groups to appreciate the need for change, understand the reasons for resistance and establishes processes to address those challenges or assist the group to find relevant solutions to their problems. These OD practices thus help build a culture of trust among groups.

Many businesses routinely measure various business parameters and make decisions based on data & patterns of data. OD practices ensure similar principles are applied to human behaviour & interactions, where such data is captured, analysed to identify patterns of human behaviour and then explored to identify the source of these patterns of behaviour. Such systemic approach to human behaviour & interactions ensures that businesses focus on the human aspects which are increasingly becoming critical in the age of technology. So in order to succeed in the technology world, every individual and business needs to practice and learn OD approaches.

Amol Pwar is an HR professional with 15+ years of experience in diverse HR roles in Multinational, Mid-sized and start-up companies. His love and interest in HR technology goes back to 2004. He has experience of creating HR tech solutions, deployment of the same in local & global environments. In the current role, he operates as Independent HR Tech Analyst and looks to interpret global trends in Indian context. He is passionate about creating content for HR Tech which helps buyers & sellers in the Indian market.


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