Organization Development (OD), according to Market Business News, is the “planned and systematic approach to improving the effectiveness of a company, a government department or any organization—one that aligns strategy, individuals, and processes.”
But with the many cultures and practices of different companies in various industries, how does OD approach this improvement? OD LAB 2019: From Culture to Cool Chore, a 3-day event hosted by Organization Development Practitioners Network Philippines (ODPN), sought to answer this question on organizational culture transformation. The entirety of the event involved theoretical and practical demonstrations of OD concepts.
Perhaps what makes this three-day event so unique to other workshops is how far it goes into making sure that its participants truly absorb the OD experience. On its second day, different participants are asked to visit six different immersion sites; more on that later.
Victor Magdaraog, a veteran business advisor to different companies, and himself a longtime member of ODPN, was the opening keynote and was the most memorable speaker to me. If not for his silver hair, it would’ve been difficult to pinpoint what age Mr. Magdaraog was, as he was brimming with energy and creativity. With enduring enthusiasm, Mr. Magdaraog told stories of how he rode the wave of innovation in order to truly spark change from the inside-out. He also cited Apple’s business model, the Apple Ecosystem, as a true game changer within the industry. From thereon out, many businesses have tried, and failed, at reaching the height of Apple’s success.
One of my favorite quotes from Mr. Magdaraog were, “Respect and integrity are important, not only to people, but also to your tools. You should have respect for the tools and technology that you are currently using.” Another is when he stressed the importance of velocity in planning your business. “Speed without direction is useless.”
Ateneo de Manila University’s Ms. Josephine Perez, a licensed psychologist and a faculty member of the university’s Psychology Department, facilitated a skill-building session on Process Observation and Analysis (POA). There, she discussed the basic principles of observation. “Observations” are simply things and actions that were witnessed during the period of observation, any words that involved opinion were in fact categorized under “analysis,” and would entail bias. Only from sufficient data can you infer true analysis of a scenario without bias. That was the heart of OD observation: data-driven analysis.
What concretized these theoretical concepts to its audience was a panel discussion on organization transformation from different OD representatives from the government, education, and business industries. The panel was led by Ms. Tita Datu Puangco of Ancilla Enterprise Development Consulting, one of the top training and consultancy providers in Southeast Asia. The panel discussion revolved around one thesis statement, “Digital isn’t the future; it’s the now.”
Some of my favorite quotes from the panel came from Mr. Schubert Caesar C. Austero, Senior Vice President of Human Resources at Philippine National Bank (PNB). “Culture is behavior. In culture-building, communication has to be visual.” As an OD practitioner, you cannot spark true change by just explaining concepts to the organization you are helping, you have to make them see what you’re saying in order to truly understand it. One thing that struck me when Mr. Austero was talking about his own organization was the innovativity of their hiring process no longer following the cognitive approach. The assumption was that if one were to graduate from college, the institution has already instilled in them the necessary theoretical foundation that they will need in their careers.
OD Lab had an immersion activity to different companies where OD is practiced: Shakeys Philippines, Benedictine International School, Lyceum of the Philippines University (LPU), Air Asia, and Bangko Sentral Ng Pilipinas (BSP). I participated in LPU’s immersion.
There, we were oriented to the Community Outreach and Service Learning (COSeL), the university’s community extension program. As a socially responsible university, LPU seeks out communities deprived of access to basic services, one of these being education. With education as their focus, they bring change to different communities of Indigenous People—Agta, Ayta, Batak, Dumagat—through in-depth study of their needs and goals.
During the Q&A section, one of our OD LAB participants asked about the measures they were taking in order to ensure that the employees would not feel as if their weekends were being “taken away.” The LPU faculty gracefully answered that participating in this program was of their own free will, and that if you saw the impact you were making into the lives of these communities, you would easily understand why this is important to the university.
When asked about the evaluation tools they used for measures of success, the panel answered that their measure of success lies entirely in the needs of the community, because if the university were to provide them with things they don’t need, then their “help” was ultimately useless. The LPU volunteers are also relentless with their continuous assessment, “Because if assessment stops, then what’s the use of the technology you provided?” The technology mentioned ranges from computers to boats, again, “Depende sa pangangailangan nila.”
Today, as the COSeL program continues to reach out to other IP communities, the program has successfully produced 2 IP graduates from LPU, who are now both employed by the school.
This experience was the height of my learning, as I saw the direct and positive impact of OD in the lives of so many people—bringing education, employment, fulfillment, and passion.
When our immersion group was processing our immersion experience afterwards, we found ourselves faced with very real problems and questions regarding the OD immersion. We listed down the positive factors of the program, like the importance of a good leader, as well as its self-awareness and clarity of purpose; also important are the deep passion and pride that the employees feel in what they do. What the OD LAB participants would’ve wanted to know more about were the specific evaluation tools that they use during assessment, and a concrete timeline of when the outreach programs would stop in each respective community extension.
I realized that no matter how good a program already was from one perspective, there’s always room for improvement and clarity. Quoting again from one of OD LAB’s many repeated mantras, “Cultural transformation is a never-ending process.”
Patricia Li is a frequent contributor at WorkWise Asia and Familywise Asia. She loves to read and write, and tries to incorporate this in her career.