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Career: Organizational Developer

A Day in the life of a Organizational Developer

An organizational developer works with client corporations to streamline them and plan future development. Companies hire organizational developers when they are suffering from internal inefficiency or need help identifying their potential growth points and personnel needs. The organizational developer is brought in to provide information and a perspective on what a company needs. It is important for an OD to be open, inquiring, and strong in analytic skills. Organizational development falls into three areas of concern: Structure, personnel, and procedure. Many second- or third-year analysts are assigned to specific areas of specialization and then follow those tracks for their entire careers. Organizational developers usually work in teams, with a specialty area head running each one, and the teams coordinate to make recommendations. Structural organizational developers analyze corporate structures and responsibilities. They examine who is in charge of what areas of the business and how much time they spend on each duty. Many people have to look back to their original job descriptions to find out what they are supposed to be doing, and then they describe what they really do. An OD must be able to interview people in a non-confrontational way and be able to tell when a person is merely saying what he thinks he should say rather than telling the truth. ODs who are involved in personnel concerns have a very hard time interviewing employees, who tend to be extremely reluctant to tell the truth around personnel developers out of fear for their own jobs. Since they must rely on information from data and records, personnel developers face the most number-intensive task of the three. Procedural organizational developers observe employees. They track projects through the company, examine who comes into contact with them and what their regular procedures are. Procedural developers don’t make any recommendations until they have spent significant time meeting with the other OD specialists; recommendations from any other field will affect procedural decisions immensely. ODs said that the most exhausting part of their job is in the final stages of any project, when all three teams meet to exchange information and organize recommendations. This can mean marathon meeting sessions where each team makes a presentation to the other teams and then they debate recommendations. Once they reach a consensus, sometimes after tremendous internal disagreement, they prepare a recommendation summary and make a presentation to the client. Recommendations can include restructuring, changing benefits, encouraging employee education, eliminating personnel, or changing the focus of business. They focus on internal recommendations, their area of expertise, rather than external development.

Paying Your Dues

There are no specific academic requirements for becoming an organizational developer, but the overwhelming majority have college or advanced degrees. Employers look favorably on majors such as business, finance, economics, and psychology. Scientific survey methodology, which can be very interview-intensive, is important. A number of ODs pursue graduate degrees in either organizational behavior or business administration. There is intense competition for entry-level organizational development positions, which entail long hours but limited responsibility. Any work experience demonstrating the ability to work in teams is valuable to employers. Certification by professional organizations is helpful but not required for advancement. The qualities that distinguish a successful candidate in this field are an inquisitive mind, the ability to assemble details into a coherent whole, and persistence.

Associated Careers

ODs can use their analytical minds in a number of other business-related occupations, such as a management consultant or financial analyst. A number become efficiency experts or quality control personnel. An OD’s specialization—structure, personnel, or production—generally determines what avenues are available to them after they leave their jobs.

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