Organizational Development Principles
Principles underpinning successful organizational development interventions for desired results.

Organization Development Principles for Building High-Performing Cultures

The total organizational development framework integrates key organizational development principles to sustain desired results.

Do you have a few operating and strategic principles to guide your organizational development interventions to achieve sustainable results?

Here are six total organizational development principles—or OD synergy principles—which could promote high performance of people and effective organizational systems in a sustainable way:

  • Integrity
  • Commitment
  • Agility
  • Empowerment
  • Renewal
  • Integration
Principles rooted in integrity

The Integrity Principle

An organization cannot remain in a high-performance state for long if it lacks integrity. An organizational development intervention or strategy should be guided by a desire to promote and sustain the integrity of the organization or business and its people systems. The primary meaning of 'integrity' is 'wholeness'. It will include internal facets highly valued enough to ensure harmony, stability, vitality, and wholesomeness which have significant impact on the life of the organization as well as on the quality of its people and integrating systems.

The Japanese have an interesting phrase which underpins systems synergy in general. The phrase is significant to the integrity principle. The phrase is used of a horse in harmony with its rider. Success—or if you like, ultimate success—comes when 'the horse and the rider' are in harmony. In the same vein, total organization development results from wholesomeness in facets of the people and the integrating systems of a business.

What forms the essence of the organizational life and systems? What would harmony between the people and the people systems entail and translate to on measures of integrity? And how would this be promoted in the organizational development intervention? How would 'wholeness' manifest on measures of team, culture, people and systems performance in the organization? These, and such other issues, are important when deciding on OD strategy, framework, tools or technologies.

The integrity principle is the overarching principle for effective organizational synergy and sustainable organizational change and performance. It is the vector-principle that defines the character and shapes the impact of the other guiding principles. It also determines the worth of the OD intervention. A major result of negating the integrity principle is ineffective corporate governance, which could manifest in pervasive and viral organizational frustrations and corporate frauds.

Starting with the integrity principle, all the total organization development principles should be explored, operationalized, and integrated with organizational development interventions in order to produce effective synergy of people's and organization's actualizing attributes for sustained high performance and change.

Organizational commitment rooted in organizational integrity

The Commitment Principle

Your people would give their best and feel fulfilled when they are committed to the cause your business sets before itself. The corollary is also important: Your people systems would give their best if you commit the necessary resources to the cause and incorporate their actualizing attributes. Too often, organizational development interventions are embarked upon without a thorough assessment—or with an underestimation—of the commitments required in people and resources for the desired lasting effects.

There must be an understanding and agreement on the fundamentals of the process, program and strategies for ownership of, and commitment to, the organizational development intervention by the people. Planning resources, developing a focused communication strategy and plan, introducing commitment workouts and roundtables, and profiling organization change and transformation champions, are central to employing the commitment principle. How a business or an organization does these—and what its top management shows to its people in the process of doing them—are equally important.

It is imperative to develop commitment to the overarching integrity principle from the onset.

What is the level of the key people's commitment and what would the organization be doing to get the right level of commitment to the integrity principle? How would the organizational systems, or their facets, be fashioned to facilitate such commitment to promote effective organizational synergy for high performance?

The Agility Principle

The agility principle is consequential upon the empowerment principle. The agility principle emphasizes the importance of facilitating the robustness, responsiveness, flexibility, innovativeness, vitality, and spontaneity of the people and integrating systems. This principle is critical to ensuring that the people and integrating systems are, or remain, in top condition, and that they are well-tuned to achieving the strategic mandate in the long term. Building a learning organization, developing the internal capacity of the organization, facilitating a system talent pipeline and talent management, and optimizing systems elements in the organization development program are some of the designs employing the agility principle.

Strategically positioning for sustainability of desired results

The Empowerment Principle

An organizational development intervention must empower the people and the people systems for effective synergy of their functional interdependence. That is, so that they operate in tandem and seamlessly for high performance. The organization must build the internal capacity and agility or stamina, promote people's drive for achieving the business and strategic transformational results and mandate, and facilitate alignment and vitality in, and among, the systems' elements or facets.

The acid test of the empowerment principle in operation is the degree of sustainability of the organization development program several months after it has taken place.

There must be an agreement on the process, program and strategies which would be used to facilitate and measure the empowerment of the people—and the responsiveness of the integrating systems in the organization. Time frames and assessment metrics should be developed on the various aspects of the empowerment process and outcomes.

The Renewal Principle

At the heart of organizational development is the renewal of the people and the organization's integrating systems. The renewal principle takes off from—and is very much integrated with—the agility principle. Building high-performing cultures and organizations requires that the people and the organizations' integrating systems be operating re-generatively for auto-renewal. The organizational development framework and the organizational development process technology being employed should have a robust, responsive feedback mechanism that is people friendly, and with little or no distruptive after effects.

Thus, to optimize and re-vitalize the people systems and elements, the organization development framework and process technology should incorporate mechanisms and tools for systematic, continuous review, assessment, evaluation, and feedback in a seamless manner and with a high degree of harmony.

Wholeness and functional interdependencies

The Integration Principle

The organizational development framework and technology being employed should identify and explicitly address integration of the elements,
sub-systems and people's attributes that actualize high performance.

Such issues would include, for example:

  • how these elements and people would fit,
  • where in the systems or sub systems new features, sub elements or people would be best placed or positioned,
  • and
  • how functional interdependencies of the elements, clusters of elements or sub systems would be optimized for sustainable, high performance of people and the organizational systems and processes.

Having and using a well thought-out adaptability and integration plan in the course of the organizational development project is imperative.

To ensure ownership of the integration plan by the people in—and operating—the systems, a people-friendly, responsive and iterative feedback mechanism should be deployed. The process of monitoring and evaluating organizational development outcomes should include the piloting of the integration plan at least within a subset of the organization.

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