Culture Strategies That Work:
Organizational Development

What Is Organizational Development?

Organizational Development is the process we use to change attitudes, values, and beliefs within the workforce so that employees can drive business results. A successful plan for organizational leadership development typically leads to improved efficiency and higher levels of employee engagement.
How is Organizational Development different from Human Resources? Generally, Human Resources encompasses the management of the employment life cycle such as recruiting and hiring, performance management, and of course, all compliance activities. Human Resources management tends to be focused on maintaining the status quo within the organization.

On the other hand, Organization Development is focused on setting the strategy, mission, and vision for the organization and defining the activities required to achieve those. As such, organizational behavior and culture tend to be focused on activities that will change the status quo and drive the business forward.

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What Is The Role of Organizational Development and Why It’s Important?

A good Organizational Development professional knows that once the company strategy is set, it is time to conduct a gap analysis to determine the company’s current organizational culture and climate compared to where it wants to go. Oftentimes the analysis shows deficiencies in leadership development, training and development, employee engagement, teamwork, and employment brand. The Organizational Development professional’s role is to implement processes to drive change in those areas.
Failing to develop our company is the first step in a declining corporate life cycle. Just as we need to invest in new equipment and infrastructure to service customers, we must invest in the strength of the company and its people to better service customers. We’ve often heard the saying, “People don’t quit companies, they quit bosses.” If this is happening in your workplace, it is a sure sign that basic organizational culture principles are being ignore

Organizational Climate

Climate and culture are two different things, though they are often used interchangeably. Climate is an employee’s perception of the work environment and is greatly influenced by frontline managers and supervisors. Ultimately if employees feel supported by their manager, they are more motivated, and the workplace climate is viewed positively.

Organizational Culture

Culture, however, is determined by a company’s identity. What values does it share? What behavioral norms are expected? Every company has a culture, whether it has been formally identified or not. I believe the culture, more than any other thing, impacts a company’s employment brand and its ability to attract and retain talent.

Organization Strategies and You

A well-defined organizational strategy ensures that our business supports our mission, goals, and objectives. Defining your business strategy allows us to determine the business objectives we will focus on. These objectives become the link between strategy and the specific actions or behaviors employees must take. There are three common business strategies upon which we can build our culture:

Operational Excellence

Operational Excellence is primarily a price/cost-based strategy. It often includes a combination of price, quality, dependability and ease of purchase that competitors cannot match. The corporate culture strives to minimize waste and reward efficiency. Think UPS, FedEx, or Walmart.

Product/Service Leadership

Product/Service Leadership is primarily an innovation-based strategy. It focuses on innovation, product development, and market exploitation. The corporate culture encourages imagination and a mindset driven by the prospect of creating the future. Think Apple, Big Pharma, or any luxury car company.

Customer Intimacy

Customer Intimacy is primarily a solutions-based strategy. It focuses on creating results for carefully selected customers and making them successful. The corporate culture encourages deep and lasting relationships with customers. Think Nordstrom or Starbucks.

What Are Common Organizational Culture Problems?

Culture can be summed up as “the way we do things around here.” One of the biggest problems in a company’s culture is if the way things are done is “always the way we’ve done things.” Today’s employees are too savvy and motivated to adhere to that phrase. They want to work with an organization that thrives on new ideas and approaches to solving today’s business challenges.

Another culture pitfall is allowing a heavy-handed management style to permeate the organization. Managers that sit in the “ivory tower” and call the shots from above do not drive engagement and buy-in from their employees. This leads to de-motivation and high turnover.

We also know that healthy employee relations equals a healthy bottom line. Failing to focus on this key aspect leads to decreased productivity, increased absenteeism and workplace conflict, and ultimately dissatisfied customers.

What Are The Stages of Organizational Development?


The first step to building a solid workplace culture is to diagnose the problem areas in which improvement is needed. Common objectives in the diagnosis phase are to look for ways to increase organizational efficiency, improve employee motivation, or to increase trust and teamwork throughout the organization.

Action Planning

Next, we must develop solutions to the identified problems. What are the most effective and efficient ways to address the problems? Who should lead the initiatives? Do we need assistance from an outside third party?


How do you identify the key things HR needs to do? How will your compensation, benefits, work-life balance, performance & recognition, and development & career opportunities impact each of the six areas?


Usually, small “dry runs” are the best ways to implement the change initiatives. That helps us find any hidden issues not previously discovered. We cannot expect change to happen quickly, especially in larger organizations, so careful planning is required to manage the change initiative.

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Marc Murray

Director of Education & Member Services, The Wire Association International, Inc.

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Partner, RLPS Interiors

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HR Manager, Horst Group, Inc.

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