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Alvigor Organisational Development

Should organisational development target only those in the Senior Management?

Organisational development (OD) is an interdisciplinary field of applied behavioural sciences involving continual implementations of effective organisational changes in order to increase workplace efficacy. Beckhard’s (1969) theorisation of OD is a bottom-up change effort that encompasses features of a planned, organisation-wide collaborative effort that is managed by the executive tier. Utilising understandings in behavioural science, systematic interventions are implemented in order to increase an organisation’s overall efficiency and development. There are varying approaches of OD, depending on which schools of behavioural thoughts the models originate from. However, the constant humanistic undercurrent of OD unvarying places the individual as the prime agent of change. This directs the focus of an organisation to the individual by valuing participation and involvement as a stepping-stone to better decisions and enhanced social interactions.

Should OD only target those in senior management, it assumes that a change in organisation’s higher levels will necessary lead to a cascade effect of changes throughout subsequent lower levels. However, this assumes an overtly simplified understanding of human behaviour, of both the self and in a situation, and undermines the complexities of psychology. On an organisational level, such method implies homogeneity of working and leadership styles across all levels of in an organisational structure. However, Mann’s (1965) study of organisational leadership proved otherwise, instead revealing that leadership across different levels requires specific role demands that are not always applicable to others. This understanding entails that by simply targeting senior management, specialised changes and skills may run the risk of being irrelevant in middle and lower management tiers, and hence discontinuity of effective change.

Not only so, change in a single part of the organisation does not necessarily translate into the change of an overall structure. An organisation is made up of individuals, and individuals themselves do not all work in similar ways with one another. Through research in multiple large fields of psychology, such as interpersonal perception, emotion and motivation, personality and temperament, individuals have been found to respond preferentially to different forms of stimulus, be it conflict or negotiations. Not only so, the understanding of human psychology is further complexified by the person-situation debate, a controversy that weighs, but is ultimately unable to disentangle, an individual’s personal traits against the power of the situation.

Given the intricate dynamics of an organisational context, applying OD to only the senior management would result in a chasm between theory and reality. Hence, OD has to target the entire organic system of the organisation, and not just its individual parts. Effective OD should ensure that individuals at all levels of an organisation have a clear, shared meaning of the organisation’s core values and goals. These cannot be simply contained within senior management. With such centrality of values, OD can thus be guided, and although each management tier may implement different effective strategies in order to cope with changes from the market and its employees, there will be a constant reference point of intention which will ensure the relevance of such implementations to the organisation.

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There are 4 Key Areas every start up has to constantly work on

1. Strategy :
What do we do?
(What problems are we solving? What goals do we aspire to reach? )

2. Human Resource Management (How do we measure and reward performance? How do we attract, retain and mobilise talent? )

3. Technostructure (How do we use technology and better internal structures to be effective)

4. Human Processes (Creating a culture of learning, innovation, accountability and risk taking)


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