5 Misconceptions About Organizational Development

By Gian Odeste
October 24, 2022

Given the relative infancy of its occupation in Philippine corporate society’s collective consciousness, it’s not surprising that a number of myths and misconceptions pose a challenge to our shared understanding of Organization Development. After all, it’s a broad, intersectional field that rubs elbows with a dozen other neighboring practices and sciences, muddying the waters for observers as to what it is and what it’s concerned with. What follows, then, are five myths and misconceptions that are worth dispelling, especially for anyone considering OD services for their own organization.

1. OD is just Human Resource Management/Change Management.

In practice, many organizations can find OD primarily creates these two capabilities when absent or immature. OD has a lot of overlap with both – especially with the strategic and program layers, so there is smoke to this myth’s fire. However, OD covers a lot more ground and has a broader potential to generate value to an organization. Consider: the people are more than just HR’s and CM’s concern.

2. OD is just about the people.

Alright, that last line may have been something of an understatement. Nevertheless, it’s undeniable that the people take up most of OD’s concern and energy. The thing is, people don’t exist or act in a vacuum, such that every factor adjacent to the human experience is fair game. In other words, OD’s territory is the organization’s human ecosystem – including not just the people, but also the structures they build, the systems they propagate, the cultures they nurture together, and a host of other social constructions that power the organizational engine.

3. OD is only needed when there’s something wrong with the company.

It’s a very human tendency to only seek solutions when challenges are undeniably in one’s face. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Don’t change a winning team. Only see a dentist when the tooth starts hurting. And so on with all proverbs in the same vein. OD – for all its problem-solving capabilities – can and should do much more than that. Whether it’s increasing internal understanding, preparing for growth, or nipping potential issues in the bud, OD is concerned with an organization’s overall well-being rather than just its aches and illnesses.

4. OD is an expert telling me what’s wrong, recommending how to fix it, then implementing those fixes.

Granted, this sometimes comprises a good chunk of what OD looks like at the surface. The hidden assumption that places this firmly in the misconception corner, however, is that the practitioner is doing OD to the organization rather than with the organization. As much as the medical metaphor was useful in the previous myth, OD has higher requirements for participation at all stages of the engagement. OD is no silver bullet, and context matters a lot for how much partnering needs to be done between the practitioner and the organization’s members.

5. OD Interventions only apply to employees, not really leadership. OD is a top management issue.

This last pair of myths is concerned with the segregation of involvement. It’s not hard to see why these two persist as preconceived notions. Most OD practitioners and consultants are contracted by management to address strategic, organization-wide concerns. Then, recommendations are proposed, and actions are taken by the majority of the organization, i.e., the employees. Yet, neither group has the luxury of staying in their corner or only being a data source when the best kind of OD is being performed. Employees would do well to play a more conscious role with the strategic initiatives in the purview of OD. Meanwhile, management can really benefit from accepting how they can be part of the problem at the very least, or, even better, acknowledging that they should be part of the solution.