The benefits of integrating organizational development into your health care practice

By Admin
How do you take an unruly thing like organizational development and have it succumb? How do you rely on it to engage and inspire the work force? How doe...

How do you take an unruly thing like organizational development and have it succumb?  How do you rely on it to engage and inspire the work force?  How does it build team engagement and customer partnerships, and how does it benefit the patient and the provider?

What is organizational development?

Organizational development (OD) is the aggregate of an organization’s knowledge, strategy and practices, and the use of those to foster members’ behaviors and results. The result is effective change. 

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OD serves to impact the company’s and the individual’s performance and development—it propels the organization and its individual members to be more effective and efficient (expert) at:

  • anticipating, initiating and managing change
  • solving problems via effective strategies, action plans & communication
  • improving performance
  • attaining desired results & goals
  • anticipating, initiating and managing future change & continuous improvement

(Note the continuous loop there.)

OD includes: strategy and planning; leadership structure; talent development; continuous improvement; operational structure and process design; performance management; coaching and mentoring; team building; communication strategy. These are some of the invariable raw ingredients. How they are cooked, however, varies from one organization to another, and this cooking process is the art behind the science. It is what gives an organization its own flavor, its own personality and its own culture. 

Further, OD serves to clarify each member’s role within the organization: what that role is, its purpose, and how to accomplish it. Armed with this knowledge, each member has the opportunity to master their role and then expand it: and building on that, have increasing influence in the organization.

OD works on the assumption that when individuals have a comprehensive knowledge and appreciation of their organization’s goals, expectations, and procedures, they will engage more, take more responsibility, collaborate more, and achieve more. 

Why is OD important?

An organization is a system, comprised of individual parts working alone and in concert with others. Rarely can there be a failure or success of one part without a corresponding effect on others and/or the whole system. 

Further, when these “parts” happen to be people, they are inevitably influenced by how the organization lives and behaves: the organization’s structure, personality, practices and processes influence worker behavior, motivation, adaptability, engagement and development.  When an individual is not aligned and working in concert with the whole, or vice versa, both suffer. But when the converse is true, there is symbiosis—everyone benefits from the other. 

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Essentially OD, when done right, makes the inevitable and the challenging change—a group effort amongst internal and external willing participants. And think how much easier change efforts are when undertaken by a group playing nice and playing the same game, versus when one guy is playing volleyball and the spiker has gone off to swim practice because she never much cared for volleyball. 

OD engagement in health care

How do we convince health care workers (clinicians and others) to bother, never mind engage, with OD? 

It is first necessary to establish the identity of the organization, what it stands for, and what it means to accomplish. Whether in a global company or a small concierge practice, identity matters. Further, if that identity can be developed and groomed collaboratively by multidisciplinary and multi-level colleagues, then the identity will be, among others things, more true, more inspirational, and more engaging. That, rather than not!

The “how” question is also important—how will the organization do what it means to do? Ethical, moral, and legal goes a long way, as does: collaborative decision making; focus on team development and professional growth opportunities for all members; engaging communication strategies where all members, internal and external, are effectively/appropriately ‘in the know’. A mission, vision, values statement, if developed in partnership with multiple stake-holders, will often hit the target—why are we here, and why does each one of us belong here? And to do what?

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A vital question, and an invariable misstep in the health care arena, is how to marry the clinical mindset, the altruistic sole, the caregiver, with the business, the logistics, and the finance of treating patients. How to heal people, and make a profit? That’s a tough one for clinicians. For many it’s even inappropriate. The answer—the bridge—is often found in this realm: an ever evolving dialogue about how can we empower one another to most effectively and efficiently (i.e. expertly) deliver care to the  most patients? No need for any individual, or even any one group, to answer that question. But essential for the organization to answer it, over and over again. 

How does OD happen?

The scaffolding that will support OD will include components that define and illustrate the organization’s design, leadership, strategy, clinical and business operations, customer service, team development, culture, and more. 

These will include:


  • Who we are
  • Organizational structure
  • Mission, vision, values
  • Business strategy & finance policy
  • Strategy, re partnership, with the organization’s members & customers

Operational structure and process

Continuous improvement                   

Communication strategy

  • Effective information sharing to engage members and customers and to propel change

Growth strategy

  • Why and how should the organization grow and evolve? For what purpose, and does that purpose belong to the organization’s members or its executives?

The rewards of OD

This scaffolding invites introspection and self assessment, which gets minds thinking and people talking about what to make better and how—change! It lubricates dialogue between the individual and the organization. Change is not only anticipated, it is desired. OD takes reasons to resist and transforms them into change initiatives. A staff becomes a team, and a customer (or patient), becomes a partner.      

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OD, through a systematic reliance on organizational and operational structure and change management processes, influences worker behaviors, focus points, and results. It functions to align the member’s goals and activities with those of the organization so that individual and organizational efforts complement one another. 

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