Truth and Wisdom

Truth and Wisdom in OD

Practitioners in the field of Organization Development (OD) are guided by a set of core values; for example, consider this code of ethics from the Organization Development Institute.

"Telling the truth," for example, is an important core value embraced by OD professionals. Telling the truth about Yourself (i.e., truth in advertizing). Telling the truth to your Client (i.e., telling it like it is; no sugar-coating; no collusion to delude).

Some years ago, I worked for an OD Director who was very much a truth teller. If a client's idea was an "ugly baby," we had to find some way of telling him or her. If the client was the CEO, it was difficult. If the CEO was "an emperor with no clothes on," we had an acute truth telling dilemma.

This core value around "tellng the truth" is related to, but distinct from, I believe, another core value of OD. If OD folk believe that it's their job to "help the client organization to learn and improve so that we leave it more capable and better off than it was at the beginning," then we OD practitioners must not only tell truth, we must also seek wisdom.

A favorite guide in this area is Sharing Wisdom by Sr. Mary Benet McKinney, a book now unfortunately out of print, but summarized at this website.

While Sr. Mary is writing about developing effective parish-based councils, I believe that her model has broad application wherever an organization's leadership is endeavoring to discern the "right" path or course of action to take.

This discernment process, of getting to the "right" point, involves sharing wisdom (SW). SW is based upon several underlying beliefs including one that says that the people in the organization already possess the wisdom to discern the "right" path. Trouble is, no one individual has it all (though some may think that they do).

What is needed is respectful facilitation that seeks out everyone's "piece of the wisdom" and puts all the pieces on the table, even if there is conflict and disagreement.

All the wisdom is needed, all the wisdom is honored.


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