Organizational Development Consultants: Do We Really Need Them?

Organizational Development Consultants: Do We Really Need Them?
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Consultancy is a fallacy, isn’t it?

Anyone can…call themselves a consultant”, says business expert Adrian Herschell.

Yet, organizational development consultants are essential to a CEO’s guide to change. But are they really necessary? And what do they actually do?

As a project or support manager, or an IT decision maker, you already deal with organizational development. So why use a consultant?

What have organizational development consultants got that I don’t?

That’s a good question. To answer it, we first need to determine what organizational development is.

“Whilst there is no single definition of organisational development (OD), it is commonly known to be the practice of changing people and organisations for positive growth.” Australian HR Institute

This definition focuses on the people within an organization. Whereas the below definition sees the organization as an entity or system.

“Organizational Development is an applied behavioral science that is focused on the organization as a system. … OD is a process used to develop healthy, high-performance, self-renewing organizations and successfully manage change…” Institute of Organizational Development

Either way, it’s to do with positive change. In today’s highly competitive market, organizations need to stay ahead of the curve. This is why organizational development (OD) is such a cutting edge field of expertise.

OD covers many areas, including:

  • IT systems and processes
  • HR, hiring and firing
  • Employee engagement
  • Culture, team building and leadership
  • Operations and office management

It’s highly likely that your role covers one, maybe two, of these areas. But does it cover all of them and more? This is how organizational development consultants differ from internal managers and HR.

But that doesn’t mean you can’t handle change management on your own.

Brush up on a few tools and techniques designed to help you manage change. Research stages of change models and adult learning theory. Try some fun exercises to break down the common barriers to change.   

Just make sure you approach change management in a strategic and proactive way. It’s a delicate process that requires careful handling. Here is a framework for doing it yourself.

Managing change like an organizational development consultant

Organizational development consultants follow the five steps of OD.

1. Needs Identification

This is an essential part of any change management. It’s about identifying the “gap” between where the organization is and where it needs to be.

2. Diagnosis

Organizational problems are solved through thorough diagnosis. Consultants would use one or a combination of methods to collect data for diagnosis:

  • Interviews
  • Focus Groups
  • Questionnaire
  • Multi-rater instrument

3. Design

Once a diagnosis is established, a plan of interventions is designed. Organizational development consultants have the advantage of being experienced in this work.

“If the organization is to change, the analysis and recommended interventions to bring about organizational change, must be in the hands of a skilled expert.” Institute of Organizational Development

4. Implementation

In the design phase, you identify various solutions. These are executed in the implementation stage.

Examples of appropriate interventions include:

  • Team building
  • Strategy planning and development
  • Intergroup problem solving
  • Facilitation for development
  • Goal setting
  • Systems and processes development
  • Executive coaching
  • Digitization
  • Curriculum development

5. Evaluation

Change management begins and ends with data. This is how you measure success.

Organization development expert Carrie Foster suggests building your evaluation around the following questions:

  1. Did the intervention achieve the purpose and required outcomes identified at the start?
  2. Were these desired outcomes achievable given the budget, timescale and resources committed?
  3. Were the metrics used suitable for the OD intervention that was in place?
  4. What tracking methods were used in reviewing the progress of the intervention?
  5. Have internal change agents been involved in gathering evaluative data? If so, has their project ownership increased as a result?
  6. How can the evaluative process aid and reinforce the change process embarked upon?
  7. Based on the evaluative data, what actions are needed to adjust the outcomes required or the intervention approach?
  8. What worked? Why?
  9. What does not work? Why?
  10. How does this impact future interventions going forward?

Answers to these questions will form your evaluation.

So, perhaps you don’t need an organizational development consultant after all. That said, they do have their benefits.

Benefits of using an organizational development consultant

The most obvious benefit is that organizational development consultants are experts. In fact, many have specific qualifications in organizational development.

An organizational development consultant is up-to-date with latest developments in the field. They have a deep understanding of what is best practice. And they know what digital tools are beneficial to the change process.

A consultant is also an external, independent partner. Ashley Wilson writes in GovLoop that, “OD practitioners are systems-thinkers. They partner with the client to improve the organization. This participatory approach – known as Process Consulting – greatly improves the odds of success.”

Whether you are a consultant or an internal manager, approach change as an OD expert. You’ll be more likely to succeed.

Christopher Smith
Chris is the Lead Author & Editor of Change Blog. Chris established the Change blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to Change Management.
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