Organizational Development in Education

Businesses around the world have long used organizational development programs as one of the tools to improve their bottom line.  Educational institutions have been slow to adopt this strategy as a way to improve their schools.

What does organizational development mean?

Trying to define organizational development is a difficult task.  Depending on the organization, many people define it in many different ways. Basically, organizational development is mostly concerned with handling change in an organization.  Whether that change is in a company or a school system, it is still concerned with how people handle the changes. 

Organizational development at its core is figuring out how to manage changes that could make the whole organization or school more effective

According to most sources, the first step in organizational development is to identify the problems in the organization.  The members of the organization meet and decide what processes are working and what processes are not working.  

Then when everyone has a chance to be heard, plans are drawn up to solve the problems. Organizations then implement the plans and give them time to work.   Then everyone evaluates if the plans are working or not.   If not, the process starts all over again. If the plans are working, everyone wins. 

Examples in Education 

In educational institutions, organizational development program models from business can also be applied to schools, but not exactly the same way.

Many schools using organizational development models from business have found that the language used is important.  Businesses use the words satisfied customers as their goal.  Faculty at schools found this term did not and should apply to their students.  

Also, the language used to describe the program is important to faculty buy-in.  Many schools are more likely to use institutional effectiveness or strategic planning or leadership development as the name of the program. 

Since educational institutions are relatively new to organizational development, it was found that it often didn’t work to just copy the program used by another school.  The culture and traditions of one school may not fit another school.  The same way a business should not copy the organizational development program of another business, it doesn’t work to copy another school’s program. 

Organizational development programs at schools that develop out of previous quality improvement programs often succeed better than sticking to a business model.  It’s best to have various school departments come together to consult with each other on the best way to make changes that will help the whole school.  

Another area that helps schools succeed with organizational development is to make sure that the program includes changes in both the academic and in the administrative area.  Each department needs to see the value in the changes being made to each other’s departments.

There are many good outcomes of applying organizational development strategies to educational institutions. Schools are finding that work processes that were outdated are being improved.  Organizational design in some departments has been upgraded to better fit today’s technologies. Performance management systems have been amended and enhanced.