When you find out that someone is a nurse or an accountant, you understand what they do for a living. However, when people discover I am an organizational development consultant, I often receive polite nods and mild confusion.
Organizational development is a field of business that focuses on enhancing organizational performance. The principles of OD apply to a wide variety of organizational sectors, and apply to for-profit or non-profits businesses. An OD consultant works alongside a business in order to help them identify areas of strength & weakness and then develop plans to leverage strengths and minimize weaknesses. Some OD consultants will work with organizations for a long time while others will provide project-based services.
A simple way to understand the role of an OD consultant is to borrow the metaphor of baking a cake. Most cakes use a similar blend of ingredients that require artful arrangement to create our desired outcome. Additionally, subtle changes in the ingredients (e.g.- chocolate or not?) can dramatically change the outcome.
Every organization uses the same basic organizational ingredients to bake their cake. But the way they artfully mix them is what creates their ‘secret sauce’. The diagram below outlines the ingredient list I use as I work with clients (adapted from the brilliant Jay Galbraith).
Suderman Solutions uses this model to help business leaders identify the root cause of organizational gaps (or opportunities). This tool can help leaders discern the difference between symptoms (the obvious manifestation of a challenge) and the root cause (the core issue causing the symptom). Symptoms and causes are often confused. If you go to the doctor with a recurring headache (symptom), she will not likely just prescribe Tylenol. Instead, she will use probing questions and tests to help understand the underlying cause of the headache. The way we treat a headache due to allergies, a blood clot, or cancer are very different. Many organizational challenges are inadvertently mistreated because of confusing symptoms and causes.
For example, a client once asked me to provide sales staff training to help correct a low client retention problem. At first glance, the symptoms indicated a people problem and training was the solution. However, we used this model to dig deeper to ensure that this was the root issue and not just the symptom. It turned out that it was not! What we discovered was a Rewards problem. While new client acquisition had some great financial rewards, client retention had no incentives! So staff were doing what the rewards system incentivized them to so. A simple change to the bonus structure (Rewards) remedied this problem in short order. And no staff training was needed!
Organizations are complex! A good organizational development consultant will help you ensure that your organization is doing things that will help you maintain healthy culture and production. And in rough times, an OD consultant can help you find ways to restore organizational health.
Contact me if you would like to discuss how Suderman Solutions can help strengthen your organizational performance.