Why Leadership & Organizational Development?

Posted by Matt Grawitch

The School for Professional Studies recently started a new Master of Arts in Leadership and Organizational Development. The 36-hour program is offered completely online and is designed for working professionals.

The first question that I always get is why this program? What are students going to get out of this program? Well, I could regurgitate what we list on the program’s website, but instead, I thought I’d share some deeper insights.

This program will teach people to think and act using an Organizational Development (OD) perspective within their leadership roles.

You may be asking, “What exactly is an OD perspective?” That would be a good question! Too many people think that an OD perspective specifically focuses on managing change in organizations. Well, that’s certainly one effective context in which to apply OD (and we offer a course on it too), but that certainly is not the only application.

An OD perspective really emphasizes three key elements within general decision making, whether those decisions involve large-scale change or not.

First, the OD perspective emphasizes the reliance on systematic processes. A systematic process means that thought is given as to how to do something. This is analogous to buying a new entertainment center that you have to assemble yourself. Usually when you get something like this, you are able to open up the box, pull out the directions and follow a logical set of steps to build it. Imagine instead that you get home and pull out hundreds of different pieces but there are no directions at all.

To get it built right the first time, you need to identify all of the key pieces and determine how best to put them together. Simply ‘figuring it out as you go’ and hoping for the best is likely to lead to costly mistakes. The OD perspective emphasizes the need to focus on creating a logical, systematic process for making important decisions. When there aren’t available step-by-step directions, this means putting in time up front to create a logical process to achieve your desired goal. The OD perspective offers a flexible set of guidelines to apply in these situations.

Second, the OD perspective emphasizes the use of data within the decision-making process. Data can come from surveys, focus groups, marketing firms, website research, and even personal experience. Within this systematic process, an effective OD approach considers which data are most useful for making decisions and ensures that the final decision is evidence based.

Lastly, the OD perspective emphasizes the importance of input and feedback in decision making. Certain data require collecting input from others (especially in the case of surveys or focus groups). After collecting information, you analyze it, interpret the results and provide feedback to key stakeholders. This element of the OD process is used to generate excitement around different options and can even be useful for generating new ideas or new perspectives.

Clearly, all decisions made in organizations do not need an OD perspective, but big decisions can certainly benefit from such a perspective. When combined, these three key elements allow professionals working from an OD perspective to bring something different to the workplace. Rather than focusing on content experience, the OD perspective focuses on process expertise. Working from an OD perspective gives you the ability to integrate the perspectives of workers with different areas of content expertise to generate ideas, solutions, and decisions that may have been impossible to generate without multiple perspectives.

It is this OD approach to decision making, change, leadership, talent management, and strategy that you will learn within our program.

Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/lumaxart/2137729430/

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