The diagnostic skills to identify OD issues, problems, and opportunities

The diagnostic skills to identify OD issues, problems, and opportunities

Performance Gap Analysis The first step is to check the actual performance of our organizations and our people against existing standards, or to set new standards. There are two parts to this: Current situation: We must determine the current state of skills, knowledge, and abilities of our current and/or future employees. This analysis also should examine our organizational goals, climate, and internal and external constraints (Bridges, 2003).Desired or necessary situation: We must identify the desired or necessary conditions for organizational and personal success. This analysis focuses on the necessary job tasks/standards, as well as the skills, knowledge, and abilities needed to accomplish these successfully. It is important that we identify the critical tasks necessary, and not just observe our current practices. We also must distinguish our actual needs from our perceived needs, our wants. The difference the “gap” between the current and the necessary will identify our needs, purposes, and objectives. What are we looking for? Here are some questions to ask, to determine where HRD may be useful in providing solutions:

Problems or deficits: Are there problems in the organization which might be solved by training or other HRD activities? Impending change: Are there problems which do not currently exist but are foreseen due to changes, such as new processes and equipment, outside competition, and/or changes in staffing? Opportunities: Could we gain a competitive edge by taking advantage of new technologies, training programs, consultants or suppliers? Strengths: How can we take advantage of our organizational strengths, as opposed to reacting to our weaknesses? Are there opportunities to apply HRD to these areas?

New directions: Could we take a proactive approach, applying HRD to move our organizations to new levels of performance? For example, could team building and related activities help improve our productivity? Mandated training: Are there internal or external forces dictating that training and/or organization development will take place? Are there policies or management decisions which might dictate the implementation of some program? Are there governmental mandates to which we must comply?

Identifying Priorities and Importance The first step should have produced a large list of needs for training and development, career development, organization development, and/or other interventions. Now we must examine these in view of their importance to our organizational goals, realities, and constraints. We must determine if the identified needs are real, if they are worth addressing, and specify their importance and urgency in view of our organizational needs and requirements (Marshak, 2006). For example: Cost-effectiveness: How does the cost of the problem compare to the cost of implementing a solution? In other words, we perform a cost-benefit analysis.Legal mandates: Are there laws requiring a solution? (For example, safety or regulatory compliance.) Executive pressure: Does top management expect a solution? Population: Are many people or key people involved? Customers: What influence is generated by customer specifications and expectations? If some of our needs are of relatively low importance, we would do better to devote our energies to addressing other human performance problems with greater impact and greater value.

Identify Causes of Performance Problems and or Opportunities: Now that we have prioritized and focused on critical organizational and personal needs, we will next identify specific problem areas and opportunities in our organization. We must know what our performance requirements are, if appropriate solutions are to be applied. We should ask two questions for every identified need:  Are our people doing their jobs effectively? Do they know how to do their jobs? This will require detailed investigation and analysis of our people, their jobs, and our organizations — both for the current situation and in preparation for the future.

Identify Possible Solutions and Growth Opportunities If people are doing their jobs effectively, perhaps we should leave well enough alone. However, some training and/or other interventions might be called for if sufficient importance is attached to moving our people and their performance into new directions. But if our people are not doing their jobs effectively: Training may be the solution.Organization development activities may provide solutions when the problem is not based on a lack of knowledge and is primarily associated with systematic change. These interventions might include strategic planning, organization restructuring, performance management and/or effective team building (Brown, 2011).

Applying OD knowledge to organizational situations:

An organization is more successful if its employees learn quicker, and implement and commercialize knowledge faster than the workers of the competition. An organization that does not learn continuously and is not able to continuously list, develop, share, mobilize, cultivate, put into practice, review, and spread knowledge will not be able to compete effectively. That is why the ability of an organization to improve existing skills and acquire new ones forms its most tenable competitive advantage (Kotter, 2003).

Knowledge is a function of information, culture, and skills.The function specifies the relationship between knowledge on the one side and information, culture and skills on the other. In this context information comprises the meaning given to data or information obtained according to certain conventions; this is also known as explicit knowledge. On the one hand, culture is the total amount of standards, values, views, principles and attitudes of people that underscore their behaviour and functioning. Whereas, skills are related to the capability, ability, and personal experience of people; it relates to what people can do, know and understand. The knowledge components culture and skills represent implicit knowledge, which depends on the individual and is stored in the minds of people. This concept is difficult to describe, is based on experience, is practical in nature and finds its source, among other things, in associations, intuitions and fantasies (Burke, 2008). Explicit knowledge, on the contrary, is not dependent on the individual, is theoretical in nature and is specified as procedures, theories, equations, manuals, drawings etc. This knowledge is mainly stored in management information and technical systems, and organizational routines. The central question here is: how can knowledge be transformed into new behaviour? Thus, how can people learn effectively so that they can function better? If knowledge is to lead to competent action, then learning should receive special attention, and the organizational culture and structure should stimulate and support this.

Learning organizations have the ability to learn and facilitate all facets of the learning process and thus continuously transform themselves. Such organizations consist of teams with balanced learning styles, and people whose personal ambition corresponds to that of the organization. Because of this, they have a positive attitude towards improving, changing and learning. Learning organizations also consist of people who constantly learn from their own mistakes, share knowledge and communicate openly with each other. These organizations have leaders who coach, help, inspire, motivate, stimulate and intuitively make decisions, and have processes that are constantly reviewed based on performance measures and feedback. The management of the knowledge stream within the organization is essential for this, as well as changing the way we think and deal with each other. According to Kotter (2003) people must give up their traditional way of thinking, have to develop their own skills and be open to change, understand how the whole organization functions, and formulate the shared vision of the organization together to try to fulfill this ambitious dream as a team. These basic elements of learning organizations are also based on people’s experiences. In practice it shows that the tempo with which the abilities of an organization increase are to a greater degree determined by the efficiency with which one learns from experiences. In order to obtain an optimum learning effect, people should have a certain educational level and specifically get the chance to acquire experience; this is because people with experience learn faster. Therefore, it is important to accept that every employee is able to learn and is motivated to do so, that learning is not a passive but active and continuous process and that associates need guidance in this process.

Organizational learning ability can be increased (Brown, 2011) by:

Creating conditions whereby people are willing to apply their knowledge, share and intensively exchange it with each other

establishing the organizational structure in such a way that people get sufficient space and opportunities to gain experiences and think

Stimulating employees to formulate their own Personal Balanced Scorecard and through this cultivate a positive attitude toward improvement, learning and developing.

Letting employees reflect on the balance between their own personal ambition and the shared ambition of the organization

Making an inventory of your learning style and aligning it to your personal ambition. Reviewing this periodically; aligning it to the planning, coaching and appraisal meetings and the 360˚-feedback system

Establishing improvement teams in which a balance of personalities, skills and learning styles is present

Developing and accepting self knowledge regarding their own favorite learning style and the ones of other team members

giving people a sense of direction based on a shared ambition and linking them to each other

working with teams where team learning is central; teams that think and act from a synergetic perspective, and are well coordinated, with a feeling of unity

Using images, metaphors and intuitions to share and exchange implicit knowledge

Having people who continually learn from their mistakes and openly communicate with each other, and constantly apply Deming’s and Kolb’s learning cycles in their actions

Systematically working with problem solving methods (brainstorming, problem solving cycle, risk management, etc.)

Giving feedback about improvement actions undertaken

Applying an integral and system approach

Diagnosing systems issues and selecting the appropriate intervention

The ability to accurately analyze performance problems is the single most important and value-added skill of the performance technologist. This section will provide you an introduction to a variety of both diagnostic and prescriptive tools for conducting a performance audit. By the end of this section, you will be able to select, plan for, and conduct a performance audit; accurately assess the causes of performance problems; and suggest possible types of appropriate interventions as solutions.

The first skill a performance technologist must master in order to engage in performance analysis is the ability to look at any phenomenon and see it as a system. Recall that Performance Technology as a field is rooted in systems theory, and its methods have been called systemic in nature. According to Brown (2011) a system is a group of interrelated elements forming an entity, usually operating toward a purpose or goal. Analysis begins with a basic understanding of how systems are constructed and operate.

There are four basic tenets of a system (Brown, 2011).

Each system has subsystem/s and a supra-system. (A system can either be a subsystem or a supra-system to another system, depending on your point of view.)

Systems are linked to other systems by their transaction, that is, their exchange and transformation of inputs into outputs.

Living systems are in a constant state of change.

Change in any subsystem has a relational impact (the strength of which can vary) on the whole system.

Bridges (2003) have suggested that organizations are, indeed, living and adaptive systems. Egan, (2002) calls the organization an ecosystem. Note that in organizations, each human is a system with its own subsystems (e.g., learning system, motivation system). In turn, each human is part of system exchanges with other systems (e.g., people or teams) and has a relationship with a supra-system (e.g., team or unit). Again, in turn, the team has a relationship with its supra-system (e.g, the function) which has a relationship with its supra-system (e.g., the unit), and so on through a multitude of supra-system relationships (e.g., department, business unit, company, community, society, global economy, etc.).

Performance Audits

The steps that Barney, Jay and Ricky (2002) describe as Investigating Performance Problems, including collecting information on optimal performance, actual performance, and the feelings of key people involved in the problem are also referred to as the performance audit. The first concept of the performance audit is that there is a difference or gap between a current state and an optimal state. In order to fully analyze the gap, there must be specific data collected regarding these two factors.

Notice that these steps require specific data to be collected on measures of performance. In many cases, this information is not defined nor documented except perhaps in job descriptions and performance reviews (and then it may reflect unobservable, immeasurable factors such as “good worker” or “pleasant”). Direct observation and thorough data collection is required in order to define requirements and measure performance of exemplars and current performers. In some cases, analysis of exemplars may even take you outside of the current organization (such as a Benchmarking study).

An intervention to analyze and define performance measures required to accomplish an organization’s mission can serve both as analysis and as intervention, since this effort would contribute to communicating clear standards and expectations for future performance and could eliminate future performance gaps. A performance intervention, therefore, is something introduced to the system intended to close or bridge the performance gap (Brown, 2011).


The paper has explored particular ways that one can deploy in various organizational development aspects to accomplish professional and personal goals. In particular the paper has looked at diagnostic techniques to establish organizational development problems, issues and opportunities. The paper has also explored meticulous ways of deploying organizational development knowledge to organizational situations and finished with diagnosing systems issues and determines desirable intervention.

Organizational development is an application of behavioral science to organizational change. It encompasses a wide array of theories, processes, and activities, all of which are oriented toward the goal of improving individual organizations. Generally speaking, however, OD differs from traditional organizational change techniques in that it typically embraces a more holistic approach that is aimed at transforming thought and behavior throughout an entity. It is also worth noting that organizational development, though concerned with improving workforce performance, should not be mistaken for human resource development.

OD activities may offer solutions when the problem is not based on a lack of knowledge and is fundamentally linked to systematic change. Such interventions may comprise, organizational restructuring, strategic planning, effective team building and performance management. Organizations are more effective and successful when its workforce can learn faster, and implement knowledge sooner. The capability to correctly scrutinize performance problems is very critical and value-added skill for OD practitioners.


Bridges, W. (2003). Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change. Nicholas Brealey

Publishing, USA.

Barney, Jay B., and Ricky W.Griffin. (2002). The Management of Organizations. Boston:

Houghton Mifflin Company.

Brown, D.R. (2011). An Experiential Approach to Organization Development (8th ed.). Upper

Saddle River: Pearson Prentice Hall.

Beckhard, R. (2009). Organization development: Strategies and models. Reading, MA: Addison-


Burke, W. W. (2008). A contemporary view of organization development. In T. G. Cummings

(Ed.), Handbook of organization development (pp. 13–38). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Kotter, J.P, (2003). Leading Change. Harvard Business School Press, Massachusetts, USA

Egan, T. M. (2002). Organization development: An examination of definitions and dependent

variables. Organization Development Journal, 20(2), 59–71.

Marshak, R. J. (2006). Organization development as a profession and a field. In B. B. Jones &

R. Brazzel (Eds.), The NTL handbook of organization development and change:

Principles, practices, and perspectives (pp. 13–27). San Francisco: Pfeiffer.