Unveiling the mysteries of… Organisational Development

How good is your Organisational Development knowledge?

When I first heard the term a decade ago, I wasn’t entirely sure what it was.

At the time, I was being introduced to the HR team I was business partnering with in-house. Seeing my puzzled expression, they kindly explained their role to me.

How well do you work with your OD colleagues? Do you understand what they do? Do they know what you do?

It’s worth having a chat if you don’t have a good relationship already.

Our purposes are closer than you may think.

This week I had conversation with Pamela Moffat, Senior Business Partner, OD, Internal Communications and Engagement at Staffordshire County Council here in the UK.

I was fascinated by the information she shared with me and am pleased to say she offered to write for my blog to, as she puts it, “unveil the dark art” of OD.

So here’s Pamela to shed some light. I think you’ll enjoy it.

Want to know more about OD? Do get in touch with your queries as she’s happy to write more.

Unveiling the mysteries of the dark art… Organisational Development

In the 20 or so years I have worked in Organisational Development (OD), there is one question I have always dreaded, especially if it comes from a relative or friend….

‘What do you do at work?’

Now I have a few options here that I could say:

  1. I help people (not entirely true)
  2. I help senior people make their business perform better (getting closer)
  3. I help all parts of a business work really well together (definitely moving in the right direction now)……..

What I know with certainty though is, that if you Google OD there are more definitions of it than there are flowers in florist shop window.

Every description that I have ever taken the time to read is full of what appears to be big, fancy words that don’t make sense unless I’ve had a glass or two of wine.

How can that be? I’ve been doing the job for years.

Anyway to my mind, it can be as complex or a simple as you want to be, just like anything in life, and I chose to keep it straight forward for my own sanity!

Besides I’m from the Northwest and generally if its beans on toast, we say it’s beans on toast and not a carbohydrate base with a protein topping!

It is, however, true that it has a different interpretation depending on the nature of the business and I think that makes perfect sense; there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ version of OD.

But to offer some clarity, the broad principles of what OD does, are probably similar no matter where you look.

It has a long history, born in America in the 1950s but debated and researched from much earlier than this.

Its evolution came from human psychology and sociology, so there is some science behind it, behavioural science.

Even though to me it’s more of an art!

The profession has given birth to the tools we still use today such as NLP, Neuro-Linguistic Programming – it’s simply a technique to influence behaviour without having to put a metal colander with tons of wires attached to it on someone’s head.

It helps us understand why people behave in certain ways at work.

So why should we care about this?  OD professionals care about everything about a business, not just the people, because people will behave according to the system they work in, the things they hear and see.

Important to note that people need to think and feel in order to behave or act. Like a root cause will always have a symptom.

So that in mind, a typical day in the world of an OD pro could go something like this…..

analysis of employee satisfaction data to inform the refresh of the employee engagement plan, a presentation to senior stakeholders to introduce new learning and development products then a conversation with the marketing and team on internal branding, a coaching session for a senior leader on a business change issue then off to meet with planning to discuss the next year’s business plan

and breathe………………………………

So what does this have to do with internal communication? 
Well, more recently I have heard my IC colleagues say ‘people are just indifferent to a specific communication’ and I ask…..’but what have you written to encourage them to think?’ Doesn’t matter if people love or hate what you’ve written (there will always be a difference of opinion) indifference is a missed opportunity’.

Upshot is, I believe that OD and IC are dependent on one another (a bit like fish and chips) and I have first-hand experience of this.

I believe we need to work together to have better impact in pursuit of ‘what’ people do and ‘how’ they do it but firstly we need to understand each other better.

This includes lifting the lid on ‘what OD is’ as a starter for 10.

What more might you want to know about the dark art?

Thank you very much Pamela.

Over to you, my lovely readers – did you find this article useful? What would you like to read more about from an OD perspective?

As ever, you’re welcome to comment below or Tweet me @AllthingsIC with your thoughts.

Thank you for stopping by


Further reading on the All Things IC blog
How to create, map and keep stakeholder relationships
Why you need to improve line manager communication
The changing face of internal comms?

First published on the All Things IC blog 21 February 2017.


  1. Stefanie Rymsza says:

    Finally, someone is unveiling the mysteries of OD! I found the “think and feel in order to behave or act” very interesting and it has left me thinking about the relationship/dependency between OD & IC and OD & HR & IC and and and….

  2. Thank you for your comment Stefanie. Glad to hear you enjoyed Pamela’s article and it resonated with you.

  3. Emily Maher says:

    Great article – love the idea that you need to make people think to drive action.

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