When Fixing the Right Problem is Key, Are You Using the Right Tool?

Kiersten Rippeteau | Consultant | Palmer OSG

If you've ever invested in a solution that felt perfectly planned - one that you, your fellow leaders, and even your teams were on board with - but found the organization facing the same problems within months or even just weeks of implementation, then you've spent time fixing the wrong problem. The good news? There's a tool that any leader can use to discover the right problem and solve for it, or discover the right opportunity and pursue it.

What is it?

Let's start here: say you're on a jobsite and you notice a sheet of drywall that just went up yesterday is now discolored from moisture. Do you call your drywall guy to come replace the sheet, then check it off your list? Or do you work with your crew to find out where the moisture is coming from, fix the root cause, and then replace the sheet? It seems common sense that you wouldn't ignore the moisture issue and just replace the sheet; you'd likely pursue the second option. And this option -- discovery, assessment, and action -- is the very tool we're talking about: Organization Development (OD).

So why don't more leaders use it?

In our experience, even some of the best leaders wind up solving the wrong problems or pursuing the wrong opportunities for three reasons.

Reason #1: The most painful and loudest symptom often tricks us into thinking it's the first thing that needs to be fixed. In business, it is very tempting to mask the symptom (i.e., just replace the discolored sheet of drywall) and move on.

Reason #2: There is a lack of patience for assessing a problem holistically before naming a solution. We may very well know the issue is likely to return, but it's off our plate for now.

Reason #3: A misconception that OD is "just the soft stuff." OD doesn't fit neatly into the functional areas most of us were trained in (Finance, Operations, IT, etc.). It takes a different way of thinking, so its connection to the bottom line can be difficult to see at first.

Here's the deal.

The measure of OD on the bottom line is the organization's capacity to (1) identify root causes efficiently (2) adapt and solve the right problems without wasting time and resources, and (3) effectively leverage its knowledge and strengths to take the right opportunities at the right time.

OD is just like the Superintendent who chooses to take down the sheet of drywall, discover the root cause, fix it, and then replace the sheet. Instead of discolored drywall, an OD practitioner will assess symptoms like increasing turnover in a department or a declining reputation among important suppliers.

OD is not a luxury to be used when time and money permit; it is a critical foundation of organizational health. It is an effective practice for assessing and planning by taking all your organization's moving parts together; for solving the right problems before they become crises, and for discovering and acting on the right opportunities before they pass by. Or - more simply put - it's the right tool when fixing the right problem is key.

If you or your organization could benefit from using OD as a tool, OSG's OD Business Partners can help. Reach out to learn more.