Why Segmenting Organizational Development Doesn’t Work

The Industrial Age taught us new and amazing ways to do things. We have learned how to create very complex things in a relatively short amount of time. The creation of the assembly line began this process and there has been a perpetual focus of improving the assembly line since its inception. As the service sector gained traction, many of the ideas of segmenting work were dragged across the lines that separate these two sectors.

segmentationIn the service sector, these segments have come to be known as front office, back office, L&D, employee engagement or even departments/business units. While many of these segment have value and purpose, there are some things which don’t make as much sense in practice as they do in idea. The common thinking and approach to this way of doing things is: If everything works on a small level, the larger whole of the collective parts must function equally well by default.

While quite logical on a number of levels it doesn’t work this way in many – dare I say most – areas, especially when Organizational Development is the focus. It is frequently common to see HR working on leadership development training programs, the C-Suite working on organizational culture issues and business unit managers working on engagement goals. The thinking is, if people are properly trained in leadership, the “big dogs” work out how to create a great culture and the front-line leaders/managers work on engagement the entire organization will benefit.

Each part is being addressed, so the collective whole MUST be successful, right?

In my work, I have seen this fragmented approach so many times. I have also seen money wasted because this approach is wildly inefficient. Sure, there are some improvements but there is still way too much potential left on the table because of a disconnect that is created by this design of segmenting organizational development work.

Here are a few key things to keep in mind when developing your organization.

  1. Understand influence – Most everything in organizational development either influences – or is influenced by – something else. Learn what these things are and map them out for your organization. Don’t just know what they are, find out in what order they naturally tend to happen.
  2. Define relationships – If you look close enough you will find that things doing the influencing, as well as those being influenced, do so in a way that has a certain relationship – or at least a common relational dynamic. Finding and defining what these are will give you great insight into how to use these natural relationships to work for you, not against you.
  3. Incorporate into training – Knowing these things is all well and good, but if it isn’t known across your organization you will be going it alone. Don’t assign an ambassador to look after one part of it; that is segmenting the work again. Let people’s creativity support and best use these organically functioning relationships.
  4. Don’t judge – If you don’t like what you uncover in your research, don’t cast blame straight away. Figure out how you can make it work for you. Most folks are averse to change, so making abrupt changes creates other problems. If you use the organic structure of things but make a few tweaks here and there, then the “system” will feel the same but with a slight adjustment in expression or presentation. Simple.

 

What difficulties have you experienced from organizational development work being segmented?

 

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