Can software be used to do Organizational Development and Improvement?
Well yes and no. It can be one tool but it will never do this alone. Think about the following and how silly that could sound when you consider what really makes people change behavior.
Many managers, and even CEOs continue to make the mistake of believing that telling people to do things makes them happen. In fact it almost never does. People must be trained, incentivized and coached through any change process. Hence Organizational Development (systems an infrastructure of the company) require Management Development (Training and coaching of the people) to succeed. In the 1980's "Reengineering of the Corporation" was a big deal. More than 80% of those initiatives failed for the reasons listed below. In fact organizations need to constantly evolve to adjust to both internal and external changes. We call this culture a Darwinian Meritocracy(TM).
Firstly it is important to understand that neither software nor policies will inject proper philosophy or best practices well into an organization.
Software just frames and enforces policies, sometimes on a micromanagement level. Call up any cable company and watch software in action. It is structure so poorly that even the simplest things take many times what they should and any deviation requires an act of congress to fix. Software can give and collect information (behavior or results), it will not really provide the skills or experience. If it did no software training would exist.
It is possible, though I am not sure it has ever been done well, to embed some context sensitive training inside software but I think that may require an innovation or break-through that we may not yet understand. I believe there are break-through opportunities to be discovered.
We blend some work of others like the Adult Learning model of Malcolm Knowles, as well as the model Malcolm Gladwell created on levels of learning. Both of these models apply to Organizational and Management Development and there are new neuroscience principles that may create a better process/system. Neither of these two ground-breaking models has been properly applied in the corporate space yet. David Rock with Bersin-Deloitte has also done some thought leading work here in his Neuroleadership Institute.
Dripping training to people, just-in-time, as appropriate may be part of the solution too. Business rules (or possible AI) for that are likely complex to design, though may be simple to automate once the design is done. As such I think massive success and rapid adoption of new organizational design and principles will be a function of how well a company can embed Management Development, People Development (non-managers) and Organizational Development (Organizational Systems, policies, processes) inside the organization's normal operations and cadence of management. By this I mean the daily operational procedures, weekly management oversight and other monthly review cycles that allow an organization to benchmark its own performance and constantly improve. Organizations without this are like ships without rudders. Organizations without professionally design dashboards and metrics are like ships without a control room full of equipment to monitor progress. Neither a ship nor an airplane would start a journey without these but many corporations fly blind for years, losing huge opportunities, or often running up on the rocks.
Without improvement and use of best practices no framework for communications, reporting and measurement is useful. Organizations need an institutional feedback loop and cycle to improve. Ideally this is checked and adjusted monthly. Our AirTight Management includes a platform for OD, MD and motivating use of best practices in management and leadership. With these things embedded in regular operations improvement is constant and both managers and individuals "own" the philosophy of Constant and Never Ending Improvement (CANI), or what the Japanese call Kaizen. This will drive much better success and results for any organization.
I believe far better results will come if the company's management system “pushes” best practices and employee development somehow. Our hybrid Organizational and Management Development program to improve corporate performance includes a recipe of consulting (design), training and coaching.
I cannot see OD or MD being successful without some real one-on-one coaching, mentoring and selling of these concepts to people. Use of gamification and other technologies and innovations will become common in the coming years also. The shift towards “Continuous Learning”, JIT and LMS capabilities is a long-term trend. It is unlikely to reverse and likely to increase due to more knowledge and specialization with each passing year, but also generic skills that will never change.
Programs like reengineering initiatives have an 80%+ failure rate because companies make these mistakes:
1. Underestimating the resources needed to drive habit change (managers and other have 5-10 years of habit formation to overcome)
2. Underestimating personal resistance and agendas of people who want everything to stay the same for personal power and other reasons. i.e. silo information and control and maintain personal leverage via that power
3. Not understanding the motivation of employees to drive learning and commitment to the change and growth of people too
4. Insufficient corporate commitment from the top of the organization – As MBO research demonstrates you get 56% improvement with top level support and only about 12% without it.
5. Lack of experience and “ownership” in the art of implementing change via OCM, BPM, BI, selling the “new” solution and WIIFM of each individual
a. In my experience only one-on-one hand holding through these habit shifts can make it successful. This means a “coaching” component to the change process and selling each individual based on the benefits to them to have 100% buy-in and commitment.
Call (619) SCALE06 today to get a free consultation and custom proposal to prepare your company for more rapid growth and success.
Bob Norton is Founder and President of AirTight Management. He has trained thousands of CEOs and executives since 2002 and helped hundreds of companies prepare to scale their businesses and increase their growth rates dramatically, often by 100% to 200%.