How organisations are developing in the digital age

Hands up: who knows what OD stands for?

(The answer I am looking for is Organisational Development)

I didn’t. Not until the last year when, having trained to become an executive coach I started to meet and collaborate with OD specialists. In my world, the relatively new industry that is digital media, such a construct has yet to become common organisational vernacular.

At best, a digital business will know what HR is, and have a function to service its human resources. And a new and increasingly popular function is Talent – this incorporates recruitment as well, which, is a key business requirement in a fast-growth and highly competitive industry like digital. We can’t hire quickly enough, and we can’t keep bums on seats. So both recruitment and retention of talent require much investment and focus within a digital business.

So what is organisational development then? According to Roffey Park it is “a planned, systematic approach to improving organisational effectiveness – one that aligns strategy, people and processes.” That sounds like good business practice to me, especially given the backdrop of technological change and the huge transformation that companies are undergoing in adapting to their customer and employee needs in the digital age. Digital experts - in media agencies, marketing departments and ecommerce businesses – are all about optimisation and effectiveness. Every campaign or activity measured, benchmarked and then improved upon. So why isn’t this happening on an organisational level, I wonder?

(Oh, and by the way, if you don’t know about Roffey Park, check out its fascinating history: it was set-up after the Second World War to help support individuals, adversely affected by bombing raids, rationing and loss of family members, transition back into work)

It is curious to me that everyone is talking about digital transformation of business, yet so few ‘modern’ businesses hire OD specialists who are trained in a “systematic approach” to organisational change?

Perhaps this is an example of ‘throwing the baby out with the bathwater’ in terms of how we build successful businesses today? Entrepreneurs, founders and inexperienced business leaders have so much to contend with in today’s pressurised global economy. Perhaps they could make life a little easier for themselves if they recruited more expert help, and if they drew from the decades, nay centuries, of industrial revolution experience that preceded today’s Internet revolution.


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