5 elements critical to organisational development

In a previous post, I introduced five key elements critical to organisational development (OD) and the actions every leader should take in making this part of their everyday role.

Whilst I acknowledge no-one is perfect, succeeding in making these areas ‘business as usual’, results in a greater likelihood of commercial success, better employee engagement and therefore fewer talent sourcing issues. Conversely getting these five elements wrong can have an undesirable impact on an organisation’s culture, create obstacles to achieving business goals, as well as resulting in unique challenges around the attraction and retention of talent.

Let's look at these five areas of OD success and the challenges that can arise:

1. A clear vision and goals

It's a mammoth challenge for any leader to inspire employees to achieve a target they cannot see. Consider the business needing to accelerate product development to conquer an aggressive competitive threat, necessitating significant organisational change. Without sharing with employees the strategy and rationale for change (in the form of a clear vision and goals), execution is likely to cause resistance, uncertainty and even resentment, as teams and individuals focus on the wrong priorities or become disengaged when they feel their work is not pivotal to success. At this stage, good talent is unable to deliver and potentially walks out the door, leaving you with recruitment challenges instead.

2. The right people in the right roles

Half the battle in creating and sustaining a great culture is won or lost at the recruitment stage. The risk in getting it wrong multiplies exponentially when we talk about leaders. A leader who joins an organisation that is passionate about its feedback culture, must hire leaders who can demonstrate the ability to give and receive feedback effectively. Consider the consequences if that organisation hires a leader based on their experience, without assessing the primary skill that will ultimately make them a great leader in their organisation.
If there are mismatches between the recruitment brief and the organisation’s strategy, cultures can start to erode, one hire at a time.

3. Connect and coach to the vision

Imagine if you were the CEO of an organisation with a team of leaders who clearly understood the company vision, made decisions aligned with the right priorities and coached their teams to deliver on it. You’ve hit the organisational jackpot.

The vision and goals are only valuable when a leader makes them relevant for everyone in their team. For example, explaining to an employee in finance that their monthly reporting on revenue growth helps the sales team make critical decisions connects them to the vision. If or when that finance employee veers off track, the leader needs to coach them back towards the goal by reinforcing the reason why they're doing it in the first place. If the leader fails to do so, outcomes could be missed and good employees can become disengaged as they miss targets.

Leaders who successfully do this will ensure their people are working on the right things that make a difference – and are feeling good about their contribution to the outcome.

4. Alignment of systems to reward the right stuff

We know that an organisation needs systems to enable it to deliver on its strategy. Despite this, misalignment between systems and strategy is common, as we fail to recognise when they might be in conflict with what we are trying to achieve.

Take an organisation that is passionate about teamwork and has identified it as a key enabler to making the business vision and goals a reality. They hire well and identify employees who share this passion and choose to work in a team-oriented environment. When those employees start their new job, however, they soon find out that they each have individual targets, individual rewards and only see their team at social events.

When the promise and the reality don’t match in a culture, the reality becomes the norm and the promise becomes redundant. Over time, this organisation becomes known as one where individual performance is recognised and celebrated, over and above any teamwork that exists and hiring for teamwork becomes harder.

5. A scorecard for success

Without clear measures leaders are unable to determine if their teams are on the right track and as a result quick reactive decisions are made. This is risky and can result in the wrong actions and direction being given to the team to execute on. For employees, this can be really confusing and demotivating, as they observe priorities changing and decisions being made that they cannot reconcile with previous messages they have heard. Trust is lost, motivation diminished, employee productivity reduced and retention of good staff becomes an issue.

So if you find yourself facing a challenge either attracting or retaining talent, remember to consider longer term factors such as the elements of good organisational development, and avoid the temptation of only looking at tactical elements like salary, benefits and location. To yield sustainable improvements in your talent sourcing strategies, you need to look beyond the surface to find them.
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About the author

Lorena Healey

Lorena Healey Consulting


Lorena Healey is an independent business consultant, specialising in culture alignment, employee engagement and leadership development. Prior to starting her own business, Lorena worked at SEEK from 2006 to 2014 in areas of organisational design,...

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