Showing posts from June, 2005
Ballet or Hockey?

Way back in the heyday of the TQM movement, Quality guru Phil Crosby talked about two kinds of organizations: Those that are like ballet, and those that are like ice hockey.

- Ballet organizations are very precise and elegant places where methodical procedures and processes ensure that every toe meets its mark on the stage.

- Hockey organizations are wild and crazy blurs where sticks and skates are flying in pursuit of the puck . . . and the goal.

In my travels, I haven't see any pure forms of such organizations. I have seen hybrids however! Yet, I think, underneath whatever the outward appearance is, all organizations are very much alike deep down . . . in certain respects.

All organizations are:

- Striving toward some goal(s) - Whether clearly visualized or not, whether intentional or not, each organization is headed somewhere.

- Trying to serve their customers - All organizations -- across the spectrum from private to public, from for-profit to non-profit -- have s…
The Nine Steps to Successful Organization Development - Reflecting at the Top of the Hill

After taking these nine steps, I feel like I am standing atop a hill. Surveying the landscape around me, I look back upon the nine steps to successful OD. Like birds taking off from the fields, a flock of additional ideas about OD are springing up.

Looks like this series is about to be continued!

The Soul of OD

One of the cool things about the field of organization development (or OD for short) is that people are always asking, So what is OD? and What do you do? Funny thing is, the folks in OD ask these questions too!

OD folks seem to be in a perpetual state of self-analysis and self-criticism (maybe even self-doubt). To me, I think it's healthy, because it keeps us on-our-toes and ready to explain what it is we can bring to the party.

At the ODNET discussion board, someone recently asked, what is the soul of OD? I love it. This is a typical OD question.

What do OD folk do? One person answered, We…
The Nine Steps to Successful Organization Development - Step 9

I knew when I started this nine-part series that the number 9 was an artificial thing. Truth is, success in OD probably entails 99 steps or 999 steps.

What matters most, I think, is to keep moving. The journey to being a successful OD practitioner is never-ending.

And the most important tool for the journey is learning.

Step 9 - Here We Are. Now What?

I am learning all the time:

- from my experiences
- from the people I meet, at work, at home, and elsewhere
- from reading
- from coursework
- from networking
- from online communities

Plus, I am learning from my experiments, from the risks I take, from the things I push myself to do that take me out of my comfort zone.

An example would be online tools for collaboration. I am not a technogeek. I can turn on my PC, use Outlook and Powerpoint, and do a search on Google, but that's about it for my level of proficiency. But despite my level of IT literacy, I have plunged into the…
The Nine Steps to Successful Organization Development - Step 8

My mother, who passed away in 1981, taught me that "Life is what you make it." I've always believed that, but until one day, I didn't fully get it.

Step 8 - Life is what you make it

We had been acquired. Along with all the others from my company, I was attending a required management seminar. The topic was leadership and change. The instructors were consultants, hired by the new owners, charged to shake us and wake us up to the new realities.

They were provoking us to think about the results we want to obtain in life. They were pushing us to think about who really determines the outcomes that we get in life, both at work and at home.

If life is truly what YOU make of it, then very few external things really influence your life. A tsunami, for example, such as the one that hit Indonesia last week, can overwhelmingly influence your life. You don't have any say-so in the face of a tidal wave.

Outside of uncon…
The Nine Steps to Successful Organization Development - Step 7

In organizations, we look into the future and ask "What do we want to become, to achieve?" We call this process various things including strategic planning, annual performance objectives, goal setting, etc.

Organizations would do well to remember to "be careful what they wish for."

Step 7 - What Do You Wish For?

Some years ago, at a large chemicals company, I worked with a Quality director named Winston. We co-taught a problem solving course. A pleasant fellow from the South, he was a highly experienced Operations guy with many wise aphorisms, including the following: Every solution, no matter how elegant, generates a new set of problems.

He illustrated this with the visual image of a bathtub full of balloons. Push one balloon down at one end of the tub and a couple pop up someplace else.

I was struck by the truth of this saying. Problem solving isn't linear. It's not even a cycle. Just when y…
The Nine Steps to Successful Organization Development - Step 6

A few years ago there was a little book about innovation called "If It Aint Broke...Break It." For me, there was an exciting truth contained in this book: that breaking something doesn't kill it ("What does not kill me, makes me stronger."); rather, when we break something, it opens it up the possibility of transformation, as a butterfly must break out of the cocoon in order to fly.

Step 6 - What do you believe in?

I believe that we are broken. Brokenness is part of our human condition.

And not only that. I believe that we are gifted as well.

Taken together, like the yin and the yang, we have the whole of each person: their brokenness and their giftedness.

~~In our brokenness, we have wounds and weaknesses.

~~In our giftedness, we have talents and strengths.

Each person's life is the story of being both broken and gifted. How do I discover my gifts? How do I use them to reach my goals? How do I use th…
The Nine Steps to Successful Organization Development - Pausing on the Steps

Before continuing on to Step 6, an interlude.

Since embarking on this series about OD, I am somewhat amazed (and pleased) at the feedback I have gotten so far. It has come from far and wide, including a CEO and another blogger in India!

Today, some comments rolled in from Jay, a friend of mine who found my blog and wrote me an e-mail. In part, he wrote:

"The humanness that you write about seems pretty interesting. How does human motivation fit into this? How about human behavior? It seems like humanness conceptualizes more than human nature ... perhaps humanness is human being (about being human).

"Is it fair to say that OD is fundamentally about helping people to know what they're doing and why? And/or that OD is about human relationships ... knowing what one is doing and why with respect to other(s)? It sounds like OD could be measured simply by asking people if they know and understand h…
The Nine Steps to Successful Organization Development - Step 5

In the last installment, I mentioned Professor Dave Davidson's theory of human nature: "Never assume that the next guy knows what he is doing...much less why."

Because that maxim has bedeviled me for the past 30 years, I will explore it some more in this entry and relate it to the practice of OD.

Step 5 - What Do You Make of This?

As a Communication theory guy, Dave Davidson was very into the work of Karl Weick. (See my previous blog entry on Weick , "A Weick on the Side of the Head.")

Among Weick's many contributions, his concept of sensemaking made a lot of sense to me. In a nutshell, sensemaking is the mental process of interpreting and constructing the reality around us. So defined, we are sensemaking pretty much all the time as we go about our daily lives. Most of the time, stuff makes sense to us. Sometimes, we find ourselves in challenging circumstances where we have to actively make sense…
The Nine Steps to Successful Organization Development - Part 4

At the ODNET discussion forum, there is an intriguing exchange going on about the fundamental concepts of OD. Some have suggested alignment; others have suggested context. All are correct. But none have suggested what I would put forward.

Part 4 - What's It all About, Alfie?

Organizations are created by people, inhabited by people, and destroyed by people. Organizations are human endeavors. Therefore, the fundamental concept of OD that I'd suggest would be humanness. (Is that a word?)

Humanness includes all that people bring with them when they come to work (or whatever organization they go to) each day:
- their hopes and dreams
- their fears and disappointments
- their goals and plans
- their strengths and gifts
- their weaknesses and wounds

Because OD work is about humanness, it pays for an OD practitioner to be an avid student of human nature. Human nature can be a very quirky thing.

A mentor of mine, Communicatio…