Sailing into Indonesia’s 2014: Reviving the OD principles

In the last few days, I’ve thought on how Indonesian’s 2014 would look like.

While I know that this could be a larger-than-life thought to only be covered by one limited mind like mine, I must admit that as a realistic-idealist I like to see myself as, the picture I foresee is not entirely colourful. Am I pessimistic? Not really. But opportunities are seemed to contain too many uncertainties and lack of clarity, in many social aspects and in business-organisation perspective in particular.

My thought, or concern to be precise, is more on how businesses in Indonesia can adapt with 2014? It is quite known already that 2014 is a political year. Anyone who runs business in Indonesia must have learned that even in a ‘normal’ year, Indonesia’s business environment is already political. And now we are about to enter a year that already indicated as a political year. While so many regulatory decisions in Indonesia was produced by what some people might see as unfathomable political processes, such as the labor regulation, minimum wages, tax and duties, investment regulation, or provincial autonomy; businesses have learned to adapt to this particular aspect of Indonesia’s business environment.

But Indonesia is not a closed system isolated from other things in the world. It is one of biggest potential market in Asia, and arguably is one of the world’s top potential market economy. This can be translated into one statement: Many interests are in played! For people who run businesses, I believe it is not enough to just knowing how to run the business as usual. There are so many cards on the table, with so many players. For businesses who are not sufficiently equipped, there could be too many challenges and complexities to deal with.

Where is the place of an OD professional in the face of challenges of the 2014?

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Does the business has the right people in it?

People are in the cellular level of the business. The question of having the right people is not just rhetorical. In a business environment highly influenced by politics such as Indonesia, this is a technical question. I think that in 2014, businesses need people with certain level of adaptability toward the increasingly intense political dynamic, in constructive way for sure!

This means that businesses need not only skillful people with the right expertise, but also with the right personal quality. Many business organization have put their strategic direction as well their resources on this through their OD and people development processes, indeed. However, have they measured properly whether these processes have serve to their purpose at best?

People development is a feeding to the organizational development. Now the question is: Does the people development process in your organization really contribute effectively to the organization’s effectiveness? Is it something that is nice to have, because it could become good investment and good for company image; or is it something the organization must have, as it has been proven as good business investment? In a blunt way of asking: Have the people development activity ‘produces’ the skillful people with the right expertise and the right personal quality to face the political year in constructive manner?

I’m not so sure if there is anyone who can give a convincing ‘yes’ answer.

OD is noticeable by its absence

We must admit that people development, particularly its fancy derivative, talent development, is mostly focused on ‘producing’ people with good hard skill and soft skill without a specific focus on facing a particular business environment. While people or talent development is a domain of each business organization that claimed to be based on the organization specific characteristics, rarely that they are actually that unique. Often times, they are just following the popular trending framework seems to be favored at the moment. The talent are crafted to be excellent on general sophisticated definition, but not necessarily a customized specification that only fit at best for the organization who develop them.

It means that people development is still more of a generic framework that produced mostly to fuel the ‘talent war’, with less of these talents can actually contribute to the organization they grew up from. In a bit of ironic tone, I would say that people development is more of a substitute of education system (such as school and universities) as the supposedly provider of general people development, and supplying the workforce market with capable people with the right skills and expertise.

This shows the absence of and effective OD function in the business!

Organizational development (OD) in Indonesian practice, unfortunately has often been shrunk into people development with a different name. This reduction has taken away the most essential part of OD, which is organizational analysis and development planning/design. In analogy of building a ship, OD’s main role is to understand what type of working organization that fits with the ship that about to sail. The ship is the business, and must have been designed to meet with the type of oceans it will sail into. Hence, the right ‘manning’  is about designing the best fit of work positions with the most effective organizing formation, to be filled with the right sailors.

These are all the first thing OD professional should effectively do, before deciding what is the best framework of people/talent development for the business. Without a well-defined OD course on the business, running any fancy talent development would only just become a good public relation or marketing exercise with potential risk of loss in the future.

Indonesian’s OD practice should live up to its principles

In face of so many interesting surprises waiting in 2014, business organizations in Indonesia should have a clear sense on how they want to ‘dance with the waves’. As a ship that is sailing to the political ocean of 2014, integrity of the business organization will be tested through its dexterity as well as its agility to adapt. Not just to adapt with the business dynamic itself, but also to foresee the possible outcome of the political year, that will change the business dynamic in much surprising way.

The most important caveat is that each business is unique by its business process as well as its organizational values. Hence, each business is actually a unique ship of its own. For the ship to become a great ship, it has to be well constructed, first of all. But, a great ship means nothing without the right sailors. Every ship deserves sailors who deserve the ship. Thus, business can’t just recruiting good talent from the market as taken-for-granted, because they are not yet ‘tailor-made’ to serve as great sailors for the business ship.

They are just potentials. Whether their potential will be fruitful for the business, that depends on whether the business can develop them to be the right sailors to sail into awaiting fierce oceans.

And such people development can’t be anymore wasted if the business’ OD has not yet define what kind of people the organization needs to have. So, where are your organization when it comes to OD?

Happy 2014!

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