Organizational Assessment is, in simple terms, a process that seeks to understand an organization and its parts through gathering relevant data, analyzing them to paint a picture of the organization’s conditions, and validating insights to increase accuracy. As an activity, it may seem fairly basic. Sometimes, it may even seem redundant if an organization believes that they already have a complete understanding of themselves because of advancements in enterprise-level analytics, internal research, and varied feedback channels. Yet, here are five reasons why Organizational Assessment is still important – perhaps even more so now than ever before.
Evidence-Based Practice Needs Evidence
Assessment is the foundation of all organization development services. Any intervention that stems from an OD engagement necessarily needs some basis that corresponds to the current realities of the organization. Parties that try to represent an organization’s interests with an OD practitioner provide a major perspective – perhaps even the most major perspective. Yet, it is almost always the case that that perspective can’t represent the entirety of an organization’s complexity as a system of many moving parts. Alternatively, an OD practitioner’s expertise with similar organizations may also be seen as enough to recommend interventions with minimal exposure, but even this crumbles under the weight of how sometimes the finest differences have collective or multiplicative effects on understanding what makes an organization tick. In this way, understanding the organization through gathering evidence that is up-to-date, from multiple sources, and with a variety of methods remains one of the most reliable ways to design relevant interventions that see a stronger possibility of success.
Disruption Hits When One Least Expects It
If disruption wasn’t on every organization’s dictionary before, it certainly is now. With how most organizations have grown accustomed to regular turbulence, it may slip our collective memories of how blindsided the vast majority were when the largest disruptive forces hit unexpectedly. Very rapidly, what worked before came undone, and those who adapted the fastest became additional disruptive pressure for those who could not. Many things separate the former from the latter, where awareness of their organization’s latent weaknesses and threats is one key example. In times of relative stability, internal-facing improvement is not usually on top of the priority list when things are working well enough – when people are making do with what they have. Understanding where these pillars of conditional strength (or critical points of potential failure) lie is vital to quickly adapting in crisis situations. Essentially, this is business continuity strategy beyond the usual planning for minimum operating requirements: integrating the results of a parallel external analysis in market disruptions with an OD practitioner’s internal analysis of corresponding organizational, collaborative, and motivational pressure points can help an organization keep not just its financials afloat, but its retention and engagement as well.
Ivory Towers Are Hard to See From
It’s no secret that leaders are important in ensuring organizations are greater than the sum of its parts. However, by whatever combination of organizational size, leadership layers, geographic distance, strategic acceleration, passive or political subordinates, personal workload, and a host of other factors, leaders can find themselves distant from the vast majority of the organization. While the reduction in personal exposure is made up for by reporting, feedback, and analytics, these come with their own social, contextual, and perspective limitations. Whether intentional or not, this bubble of everyone’s making will in turn negatively affect everyone’s effectiveness and relationships. Organizational Assessment acts with and outside that bubble (and other bubbles) to provide a perspective that looks at the whole, where the whole has eyes and ears from all directions, not just the top and those who speak to it.
Battling Symptoms Instead of the Disease
When already aware of organizational challenges, internal attempts to solve them naturally occur with varying degrees of success. There are instances, however, when it can seem like the solutions never last too long until another one is needed. Sometimes, this is because there are just that many challenges. Other times, this is because the solutions are short-term focused or address parts rather than the whole. Whether driven by limited resources, different priorities, or lack of information, the constraints of the system can inhibit internal actors from problem-solving to their fullest potential. Enter the Organizational Assessment, where the perspective of complex human systems helps conceptualize challenges in terms of their causes, their effects, and whether solutions need to address only one or both. Providing perspective on how organizational elements are interdependent and how solutions can help or hinder each other guides organizations in their problem-solving endeavors for complex, systemic challenges.
Growth is External and Internal
Organizations with an eye for jumpstarting or sustaining growth can find themselves pressured to do it at the speed dictated by external market conditions, and this pressure can limit internal growth solutions to just increasing operational or sales capacity. This hides other internal opportunities for growth that can have multiplicative effects, bolster sustainability, and prevent overburdened support structures. To this end, Organizational Assessment can help provide visibility into how an organization’s current state and capabilities can address growth as a whole, identifying foundational and transformational factors that, when integrated into the strategy, can help ensure that pursuing growth is a net positive for the organization in the long-term, not just the short-term.
Article by: Gian Odeste | Organizational Development Strategist