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Organization Development

What is Organization Development (OD)?

Organization Development, commonly referred to as "OD," has been explained as a general consideration of how work is done and what the people who carry out the work believe and feel about their efficiency and effectiveness. The emphasis is on "development," which means that people's capability in creating their own improvement, learning and development is enhanced.

Mincu & Associates' philosophy is that the ultimate answers reside within the client organization itself. As skilled OD consultants, we draw upon process knowledge and appreciative inquiry to bring out that internal awareness and expertise. Rather than providing the answers, Mincu & Associates brings expert process that allows the client to learn to provide its own answers. This process might be a combination of several of the areas described in more detail below.

Is OD Consulting the same as Management Consulting?

OD consulting differs from traditional management consulting in its approach and philosophy. Management consultants typically approach from an "expert" point of view. Managers of the client organization are left with a plan of recommendations that has been created by the consultants, drawn from their expert knowledge. The consultants usually do not get intimately involved in implementation of the plan, or help the organization's people develop capacity to change by themselves.

Organization Development consulting is more of a partnership approach, where our goal is to develop our client organization's innate capability to generate learning and transformation on their own. We provide the tools to help them do so, in a way that is customized to each client's needs and corporate culture.

Assessment and Feedback Reports

Assessment determines how key stakeholders in the organization perceive an identified situation, leader, event, or environment. Assessments might be done through a survey, or a combination of one-to-one or focus group interviews. Stakeholders can be identified as peers, leaders, subordinates, and customers.

Most visible problems initially identified in organizations are only symptoms of a deeper situation. The outcome of a solid assessment is a surfacing of the underlying problems, so that real solutions can be arrived at.

The Mincu Approach

I use the interview process to create a comprehensive feedback report to management on how stakeholders at all levels in the organization perceive issues. For example, a thorough assessment report based on confidential interviews can indicate the desirable direction of a change process by giving participants' answers to the following questions:

  • How clear is the organization vision or strategic goal?
  • How is a leader perceived, in style and effectiveness?
  • How is the organizational culture impacting performance?
  • How are the interpersonal dynamics between team members or business units; is there tension that is affecting work outcomes?
  • How are policies and procedures helping or hindering the organization in achieving desired outcomes?
  • How are the business realities in the environment today impacting the organization, in a way that is not being addressed?

My reports are well-organized, easy to read and assimilate quickly, are timely, and include realistic, actionable recommendations. From the information generated, I work with clients to design a program that will truly address their situation for both short and long-term, and not simply provide a band-aid or quick fix.

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Systems Thinking

Peter Senge (The Fifth Discipline, 1990) introduced the term "Systems Thinking," in describing the concept that an organization and all of its parts are an interrelated system. Although this idea may seem obvious, most organizations operate in practice as if their units and processes are separate parts!

In business organizations, departments often are set up as "silos," each with its own management, responsibilities and budgets. All too often, this kind of structure creates a lack of common goals and sets up difficulties in communication and coordination. Common outcomes are

The Mincu Approach

Creating remedies for lack of systems thinking

I start by looking at an organization's strategic planning process, the organization's structure, and the ways in which information is regularly communicated. This gives an idea of how integrated the different departments or layers of the organization are in planning and visioning together, and working out common problems. I then determine at what stage the organization is, in realizing a need for systems thinking - what examples are there that people can look at and say, "That happened because we aren't thinking of ourselves as a whole entity."

The Case Study Workshop

Building a real-life "case study" around a problem situation that has actually occurred in the client organization or its industry is a powerful tool around which to create a customized Systems Thinking workshop.

Financial Services Example: A financial services company- the largest in its industry -- had recently lost an important international client because of a number of many small errors and incidents where the ball had been dropped. I interviewed organization members who had been involved to attain their view of the situation. Utilizing each point of view, I composed a fictionalized case study with characters in situations typical to their real-life counterparts.

I created a two-day Systems Thinking workshop for the senior management team around this case study. On Day 1, participants in the interactive workshop were each asked to read the study, and to assume the point of the view of a particular character. Each character had to operate as best he could, given limited information. In working through the situation in this interactive workshop, the participants could immediately relate to the story, and determine for themselves how each character -- seeing only a small part of the big picture - inadvertently compounded the problem. This made it apparent that learning to think systemically would eliminate many of the typical problems the organization had been having. Day 2 was spent on learning to understand Systems Thinking and how to bring it into the organization.

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Leadership Development

The rapidly changing nature of work today makes it more important than ever that organizations are run by effective leaders. This means having leaders who are not only inspiring in setting strategic direction and keeping the organization on track, but who can motivate followers to stay the course.

Many times, organizations promote individuals to leadership positions because of their past skill or performance in the ranks. While high performance competencies may help someone become a better manager, this does not necessarily translate into skill in leadership.

Management vs Leadership... what's the difference?

Management is the focus on day-to-day activities. A manager must maintain the business running smoothly. Good management is focused on the present activities.

Leadership, on the other hand, must be forward thinking. An effective leader needs to anticipate the future, setting a vision and preparing the organization to reach future goals. This requires a high degree of Emotional Intelligence, a strong "people sense" to understand how to motivate the individuals and teams that must drive the organization forward.

Can Leadership skills be developed?

Daniel Goleman, in his book, Working with Emotional Intelligence (1998), noted that up to 90% of the difference between outstanding and average leaders is linked to Emotional Intelligence (EI), and that Emotional Intelligence is a learnable skill. A critical element in learning the skills of leadership is that the individual wants to become more skilled, and is ready to change his style or behavior to move in that direction.

The Mincu Approach

Leadership Development

I work with new supervisors, middle management and senior management to develop the kind of leadership skills are necessary for them to operate effectively in their environment. I specialize in developing customized programs that can combine training and coaching. My programs are designed to address the particular needs of the individuals and their environment; that is, the company's culture, the industry and competitive situation, and the expectations of the organization.

Past Leadership Skills development workshops include:

  • Setting vision and strategy
  • Communication strategy
  • Communication skills
  • Understanding preference and behavioral style
  • Operating in an empowering environment
  • Working with team dynamics
  • Understanding cultural diversity
  • Running effective meetings
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Team Development

With so many organizations working in a more flattened hierarchy than in the past, there is much more reliance on decisions being made in teams. This makes positive team dynamics and productivity critical.

People sometimes believe that teams that operate well are ones where members get along smoothly, usually agree, and have little conflict. This is not necessarily true! The best teams usually go through a period of "storming," where issues are thrashed out and disagreement is surfaced. In fact, the most effective teams are composed of members who have a variety of personal styles and preferences for communicating, gathering information, and decision-making. Naturally, these differences cause clashes.

Teams that are effective and productive have learned to value and respect differences, taking advantage of the strengths of each of its members. Team Development workshops concentrate on helping team members -- as a group -- develop capacity to understand their own and others' styles, communicate for understanding, negotiate conflict and solve problems. Teams that have developed a capacity to learn and grow together can disagree "productively," thus leading to higher outcomes.

The Mincu Approach

Team Development Workshops

My typical work in team development starts with interviewing members of a team individually, to understand their issues. I may then design sessions with the whole group to surface differences in how the team perceives itself. This is done in a creative, interactive way that opens people up in a way that strictly intellect and talk never can! Team development is always engaging and enlightening. A more effectively operating team can lead to breakthrough results.

Live Theater Options

An most exciting way to work with teams is to integrate live actors into a team development workshop. Mincu & Associates is affiliated with theatrical and improvisation professionals, and can create a unique, dynamic experience with teams that ensure that team members will remember they skills they learn.

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The overriding issue for members of almost every organization is poor communication. Communication problems can cover the gamut: lack of communication down the hierarchy, little communicating across departments, poor feedback or acknowledgement within teams, and leaders' messages being misunderstood or distorted. Poor communication can sabotage every positive thing that an organization is doing. No matter how compelling a vision, how enlightened a policy, how clear a strategic plan - it will not focus behavior in a positive direction if it is not communicated or understood by every stakeholder!

Improving Communication

The ways of improving communication within an organization are determined by the nature of the problem, and the resources at hand. Some assessment should be done to determine where the communication breakdown is occurring. Savvy organizations will want a communication plan before a major change is to take place. Communication training and coaching can be incorporated into a change initiative, such as department or organization redesign, culture change, or new system implementation.

The Mincu Approach

Communication Skills Training

Depending on the extent of communication training, I do stand-alone communication workshops, or incorporate communication into broader topics such as team development, leadership development, new supervisory skills and diversity training. I have created customized communication workshops for:

  • Customer service representatives - conveying a helpful attitude
  • New supervisors - giving feedback and direction
  • Middle managers - operating in an empowered environment
  • Teams - communicating with members of different styles
  • All management - holding effective meetings

Bringing improvisational actors into the training to allow participants to see and practice communication examples is most effective!

Communications Coaching

One-to-one coaching is invaluable in helping an individual with specific communication challenges. This can incorporate the use of role-play in the safe coaching environment to achieve real breakthroughs in communication effectiveness. Just a few areas where this kind of coaching is useful are:

  • One-to-one communication and giving feedback
  • Addressing groups or using persuasion and influence
  • Written communication strategy and usage
  • Strategic planning of a communication campaign
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Managing a Transition

Change of all kinds has been accelerating so rapidly that much Organization Development work has become centered on helping an organization work through transition as smoothly as possible. Usually the people affected by the change will have the best ideas for how to make it happen as a win for everyone. When employees' participation is welcomed in the change process, organization members will be much more likely to buy in to the change. The challenge is to create a process that embraces participation. A good rule of thumb for organizations to follow is a Change Management model.

The Mincu Approach

Participation and Communication

I have helped my client organizations develop and implement changes that involved everything from completely shifting the culture, to redesigning work processes and department structure, to helping non-technical workers adjust to a major technology implementation. In any transition process, Mincu & Associates would emphasize communication and participation as key to success. We would work with clients to help them with a process and action plan to create the transition.

Some specific examples of transition management I have worked with are:

  • Transformation to an accountability culture, as organization moved from commodity service to becoming a profit leader in its industry
  • Change to a disciplined project management methodology, from a laissez-faire way of managing projects
  • Changing a culture from top-down leadership to self-empowered work teams
  • Changing an organization's norms and way of operating when it was acquired in a merger
  • Creating a learning culture
  • Voluntary downsizing resulting in loss of 10% of the workforce
  • Redesigning departments and the entire way they operated
  • Implementing a large-scale systems application in a previously non-technical environment
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Participative Redesign

There has been a lot of activity over the last 15 years involving Reengineering. Unfortunately, it has been discovered in the years following implementation that more than 85% of reengineering efforts failed to achieve the goals they were set up to accomplish. Much of this failure has been attributed to a lack of human process; although the technical process was documented, analyzed and reengineered, the human factor was not taken into account. Even a highly technology-driven organization must be run by human beings!

When a Redesign follows OD process, the human elements of the organization are considered alongside of the technical and structural aspects. OD consultants assume that the knowledge of the best way to do things lies within the people who have been doing them. The challenge is to surface that knowledge, and bring all the pieces of the puzzle together. Knowledge sharing is typically stymied in organizations because of silo'd structure, excess hierarchy, lack of information about the big picture, fear of consequences, cultural reticence to speak "out of turn" the list is endless.

The Redesign Model

The first step in surfacing the knowledge is to bring all the relevant stakeholders together. Processes such as Large-Scale Redesign, Fast-Cycle Redesign, and Socio-Technical (STS) Redesign are means of getting people together. The kind of model an organization creates with their consultant depends on the time and resource constraints they have.

The Mincu Approach

Participative Redesign

I have directed and facilitated many department redesigns, usually over a period of months. In each case, we start with uncovering the root cause of the problems before attempting solutions. The solutions the redesign group arrives at are thoroughly brainstormed, analyzed for feasibility, and arrived at through consensus. The department targeted for change is kept involved and informed at each step, with ample representation at all levels in the design process. This way, the design is one that was designed to work for the good of the department, the people in it, and the larger organization.

Redesign of Client Service - Case Study

Situation: A financial services organization had was set up in client service teams to handle its major corporate clients. Each team consisted of a leader, account supervisors and three specialized operations people, all devoted to that one account. Increasingly numerous errors were taking place, resulting in costly rework and upset clients. I was asked to develop a process to help the company arrive at a solution.

Solution: I brought together and facilitated a 10-person Design Team consisting of representatives of each client service team, and members at every level. There was no hierarchy on the Design Team: operations clerks had equal say with team leaders. Management committed to allow these individuals to devote their time to the team for several months, and to be open to the solutions the team generated. Using the brainstorming and analysis process, the team determined that keeping operations specialists on client-specific teams was hindering their knowledge, prohibiting load-leveling of the work, and stymieing cross-training. Their primary recommendation was to create a centralized operations department while maintaining individual operations specialists as the primary point of contact with their specific clients.

Results:After lengthy and heated debate, management agreed to centralize operations. Errors were tracked carefully. Within the first month of operations centralization, errors and rework were found to have dropped by 70%.

An added benefit for people participating on the Design Team was the skill that they gained in developing their recommendations for senior management. In going through the process of brainstorming, analysis and writing/presenting their recommendations and rationale, members of the team gained competencies that helped them achieve credibility for higher leadership roles. This was especially motivating for operations clerks who had not received previous recognition.

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Competency Development

Competencies for a given job are considered the knowledge, skills and attributes that are determined to affect the performance of that job. Competencies are assigned to a job, or role, by determining what knowledge, skills and attributes (commonly referred to as KSA's) are present in those who are considered expert at performing that job. In times when quality of performance is critical to achieve goals of competitive advantage, customer service or cost reduction, it becomes increasingly important for an organization to become aware of what competencies are required, and to selectively hire people who possess those competencies.

There are some theories that separate out the Knowledge and Skills component of Competencies from the Attributes. The reasoning here is that knowledge and skills can be taught, but that each person possesses some innate attributes that are uniquely a part of that person. Someone might learn to imitate them, or to take the steps to approximate them, but without genuinely possessing those attributes, would never be able to achieve real excellence in job performance.

Tying Competencies to behavior

Competencies are always stated in terms of specific behaviors, so there can be little ambiguity as to the level that a person exhibits the competency. Different levels of behavior might be expected at different roles or job levels. For example, a technical analyst might not be expected to be as proactive at probing for customer requirements as a VP Project Team Leader. If a competency is identified called "Determining Customer Requirements," the descriptor for the analyst might be: "Obtains information necessary to understands user requirements." At a higher level, the VP's competency description might be "Partners with user to understand requirements, proactively seeking solutions that are feasible from user and technical department's point of view."

Why is Competency development important?

To illustrate why identifying Competencies matters, we can take, for example, the job of Customer Service Representative (CSR) in a telephone response center.


Understanding competencies is critical for recruiting and hiring the right talent. If we interviewed our best CSR's, we would find that the job could be broken down into many components to determine competencies. There are technical skills, such as mastering the use of the equipment such as telephone and computer. And there is knowledge of the product or service, about which the CSR will converse with customers when they call. These competencies can be acquired with training - given the individual has the aptitude to learn them.

But to be a truly excellent customer service representative, a person should have an innate drive to provide service! Broken down into separate attributes, the descriptive components might consist of:

These attributes consist of desires, drives, motives and personality traits. They cannot be taught! For an organization to achieve high scores in customer satisfaction, it would have to hire representatives who possess these innate qualities.

Promotion & Development

In order to retain its best talent, an organization would want to make sure it is rewarding and promoting people for the right reasons. Identifying Competencies allows an organization to develop feedback and performance appraisal systems that focus on real behavior in the things that matter. This takes the negative judgmental factor out of appraisal and allows development discussions to take place in a way that creates positive development.

Imagine a supervisor telling a CSR: "You're rude. You have a bad attitude with customers." This kind of comment would likely generate defensiveness, and does not provide any information that the CSR could use to develop or improve.

By contrast, the supervisor in a Competency-based feedback session would convey the same concern, but tying it to behavior. This might be: "You hung up abruptly on a customer twice last week. You spoke sharply to a customer who didn't understand you. You didn't take the extra step of seeking the information that Ms. Jones requested." By talking about specific behavior that ties to Competencies, the CSR can discuss what led to the behavior and how to prevent it in the future.

Competency Development during a time of change

If an organization or department is experiencing a change that affects the way people will work together, the structure of a work group, or the kinds of skills they will be doing - this is a time to look at Competencies. A common example of this kind of change today is when a new system is implemented, such as PeopleSoft, SAP or Oracle. This kind of system changes the way people work and interact in their transactions. The kinds of skills and competencies that were rewarded in a non-technical environment may be very different than the ones required after implementation. It is important that people realize this, so that they may adjust their expectations accordingly.