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Seb Anthony

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Is there a difference between learning and development and organisational development?


Im looking at a possible new role which is down as head of organisational development. I have heard the term OD being used before and was just wondering if there is some theoretical difference between OD and what we all know as traditional L+D
craig mitchell

4 Responses

  1. OD versus L&D
    Here are two definitions that may help.
    Organisational Development is the planned process of developing an organisation to be more effective in accomplishing its desired goals. It is distinguished from Human Resource Development in that HRD focuses on the personal growth of individuals within organisations, while OD focuses on developing the structures, systems, and processes within the organisation to improve organisational effectiveness.
    Alternatively: Organisational Development, [French & Bell, 1999] “Organisational development is a long-term effort led and supported by top management, to improve an organisation’s visioning, empowerment, learning, and problem-solving processes, through an ongoing, collaborative management of organisational culture-with special emphasis on the consultant-facilitator role and the theory and technology of applied behavioural science, including participant action research.”
    Increasingly I am finding that the most modern L&D functions are seemlessly taking on OD interventions. So in practice the boundary is beginning to blur.
    In some organisations, OD is an overarching function that embraces HR, change management and L&D.
    I think you should find out more about the role and the internal workings of the organisation before you get to interview.
    Best of luck

  2. HRD is just one OD response
    Adding to what Graham says – I think of (traditional) L&D as just one type of Organisational Development response. OD is about culture, systems, business processes, structure, relationships…. it’s about shared meaning; about aligning all of those elements of the system to deliver the outcomes the organisation desires. Effective OD never takes just ONE element in isolation…. it looks at how all of them interact (its a bit like the domino affect – eg: if you make changes to structure it affects many other elements of the organisation.) OD requires a commitment from senior management; OD can sit in a number ofplaces in the organisation…. my experience andpeference leads me to believe that it should NOT be located in HR -while a people focus is a critical part of OD, it much more than an HR or HRD approach…. it encompasses strategy and business etc etc. Learning is always central to OD interventions and development – but not always in the traditional ways! A critical characteristic of an effective OD manager is a very good understanding of change and change management.

  3. New ways to remunerate too
    There’s not much to add to that said by Graham and Sue, although one critical OD element which must be addressed when change is desired, is the way in which people are rewarded. This is not something that L&D would normally look at.

    It’s a very human emotion to ask “OK, but what’s in it for me?”. Neither companies nor their HRD or OD practitioners should be afraid of recognising that people, more often than not, need financial aswell as emotional incentives to “do something differently”.

  4. yeh but, no but…
    As an L & D person who’s been involved in ‘OD’ interventions, I’ve been intrigued while looking for my next job how many so-called ‘OD consultant’ or ‘OD manager’ positions are in practice good old-fashioned L & D jobs. I’ve got a theory that this is part of a move to make L & D look more strategic, or perhaps encourage HR people whose strong point is not L & D to apply. Unfortunately, the purist definitions are becoming blurred.


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