Organizations are complex with unique histories and unique strategies. The best way to develop them is through an effective organizational development program. Effective programs are strategic, long-term, multi-disciplinary, collaborative and bespoke.

Summary by The World of Work Project


Organizational Development

Organizational development (OD) is planned effort to change the culture, behaviors and other “people” factors of an organization. Delivering these types of changes helps organizations achieve their strategic objectives.

lots of people. Taking them with you is key for an Effective Organizational Development Program
People are the core of most organizations.

Most of the time this planned effort takes the form of a program of initiatives, projects or work-streams. The component parts of the program are all designed to help the organization achieve its strategic goals.

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An Effective Organizational Development Program

Organizational Development programs are organizational change programs. Leaders use organizational development programmes to develop and change the way their teams think and work.

These programs are typically made up of several initiatives that address a range of root-causes. Standard program management and governance processes are used to ensure they deliver effectively. The most effective programs share the following common traits.


Successful OD programs have a clear view of the desired future state. They effectively and purposefully help organizations meet their strategic goals. In the words of Stephen Covey, from his highly influential book, “The 7 habits of Highly Effective People“, they start with the end in mind.

To learn more about strategy creation you can read about the strategic management framework or the VMOSA strategic analysis framework.


“Long-term” means different things to different people.

Successful OD programs focus on delivering over the long term in a sustainable way. They know that change can be slow and that quick fixes often don’t last. Exactly what “long-term” means varies between organizations. However, the longer term an OD program can be, the more effective it will probably be.


Successful OD programs know that workplaces are complicated and interconnected systems. They also know that all of the factors within these systems affect each other, and that they are all affected in different ways by different interventions.

To ensure that they are effective, successful OD programs use a range of disciplines and tools to ensure they delivery comprehensive change covering a wide range of identified root causes.


Two people holding tick signs representing collaboration as part of an Effective Organizational Development Program
It’s essential to take people with you on organizational changes.

Successful OD programs know they need to listen to and work with the people at the heart of their organizations.

Good OD programs take the people in their organization on a journey of change. They help them grow, develop and transition into the future state.

The best programs go even further and co-create their future states with the people who will need to operate them in the future.


Successful OD programs know they have unique starting positions and ending goals because each organizations is unique. They avoid the easy temptation of identifying “off the shelf” change initiatives and programs. Instead, they ensure effective change through implementing bespoke interventions.

Learning More

Organizational development is a form of organizational change. These programs help to change culture, improve employee engagement or change the employee experience. Many successful organizational development programs have similarities.

As with much change, we should consider the emotional impacts of change from OD programs on people. We may also use Force Field Analysis to assess how likely it is for an OD program will succeed.

You can listen to a podcast we’ve recorded on the role of story-telling in organizational change and development:

The World of Work Project View

In our experience, many organizations have neither the knowledge nor the time to undertake a truly effective organizational development program.

All too often, organizations roll-out one-size-fits-all programs of changes that have been broadly adopted elsewhere. These programs are then “forced” through in the organization. Leaders seldom really listen to their people and often fail to realize the importance of listening to their people.

We fully understand that doing things properly takes time and effort. However, we think that many organizations have huge opportunities to improve their organizations through effective and well planned OD programs.

Unfortunately, we struggle to really see this changing in the future unless there is increasingly clear and broadly accepted evidential support for the fact that great places to work with effective OD programs are more profitable, or there is a shift away from the traditional core profit motive that drives organizations under our current legal frameworks.

Our Podcast

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This post is based on our working experiences and conversations with practitioners. We have no specific further references for it. 

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