What is “organizational learning and development”?

Organizations — companies, communities, associations, non-profits, clubs — are living organisms made up of their people.  They breathe, they grow and flourish, they become ill and decline.

To grow and flourish, organizations need to be intent on developing the knowledge, skills and talents of its people.  That means learning, trying, risking, practicing, playing.  It means communicating with each other, supporting each other, criticizing each other, watching out for each other.

This is what I do.  This is what I love.

What is involved?

Organizational development is an endeavor to understand the human dynamics issues that can either support or undermine institutional objectives and initiatives. Organizational development involves deploying strategies and techniques:

  • to elicit and listen to both employee and manager concerns and assumptions (needs assessments, which often point to issues beyond the initial presenting problem);
  • to identify and articulate factors – in processes, in environment, in skill sets, in organizational culture and structure – that are frustrating the accomplishment of goals (gap analysis, working with the client to explicitly define outcomes and to pinpoint significant inconsistencies);
  • to organize their energies around practical programs to address those concerns within the context of improving work results (organizational change, in which the consequences of implementing new systems and approaches are spelled out and planned for); and
  • to put into place systems that will reinforce, sustain and build upon the learnings achieved.

Very often this may include defining or redefining responsibilities and relationships within the workplace.

Organizational development assumes that there are many such dynamics that are common across groups, companies and industries; but that the root capability of an organization to overcome its problems and to be successful lies in the unique assets of its own people.

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