HR and OD - 15 Year Check-In

The relationship between HR and OD (the original field devoted to organizational change) has long (over 30 years) been an interest of mine.

For the past 15 years of blogging, I have written about their relationship several times, especially one post in 2005 (Why HR and OD do not get along) and another in 2010 (What does the future hold for HR and OD).

Since we are again at a five year mark, let's check in and see how HR and OD are doing.

Where do things stand today?

Both HR and OD have continued to evolve.

HR is incredibly differentiated. People in Benefits, for example, are practically in their own field now with the dramatic changes going on. The area of Employment Law has continued to mushroom such that many in leader level HR roles are attorneys now.

Talent Management has taken hold as the new paradigm that links the HR processes together. And Automation has caught on in HR especially in self-service and in talent acquisition.

And the professionalism standards in HR have continued to move toward certification e.g. SPHR.

OD has been fully co-opted by HR. As evidence, take a look at most job ads for OD positions and you will see the following areas of focus: Performance management, Talent management, Succession, and Leadership development. All very important, but none are core to the true essence of OD.

The original role of OD as an agent of organizational change was too unstable and dangerous for HR to tolerate.

In contrast to HR, OD has continued to gaze at either its navel or at the clouds above as practitioners dither about the "meaning of OD" and why professional standards and certification would be a good/bad thing for the field.

Regarding the state of OD practice, a few observations/intuitions...

OD is dead - Not a single client (from major healthcare organizations to non-profits to high tech firms) of mine ever asks for it, speaks of it, or makes reference to it. At the same time, every single one of them is wrestling with managing change and is seeking help with it!

OD is alive inside the hearts and souls of ODers - I continue to draw sustenance from such greats as Alban, Beckhard, Bunker, Crosby, Dannemiller, Dyer, Gellerman, Legray, Lewin, Schein, Sullivan, Scherer, Shevat, Schmuck, Runkle, Trottier, Weisbord, and Wheatley.

OD is underground - I deliver "OD" to my clients though it is never spoken of. We "do" it and don't name it. 

For these reasons, OD is rapidly being eclipsed by Change Management, a field I like to call the "unacknowledged offspring" of OD and IT.

Some of us ODers (like Roland Sullivan for instance) who are observing these developments are eager to foster the development of CM since it seems that CM is the future.

So to the question at the top of this thread, yes HR and OD can be partners, especially the HR folks involved in areas such as strategy, mergers and acquisitions, as well as in training and development.

But be careful. Don't expect too much from HR. 

HR has its hands full.


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