Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Nine Steps to Successful Organization Development - Part 3

The field of organization development is full of fascinating theories and models. Talking with an OD guru can be a mind-expanding experience.

At ground level, however, the everyday customers of OD, my "clients," are seldom interested in theoretical models. They have work to do and want to get on with it.

Step 3 - Shall We Dance?

A successful OD professional, therefore, should really be (and think of him or herself as) a practitioner. At the practice level, there are a host of skills that need to be developed and refined for everyday dealings with clients, including:

- contracting (with the client)
- assessing (the client's "problem," challenge, situation)
- diagnosing (the root causes)
- intervening (using appropriate methods)
- evaluating (the effectiveness of the actions taken)
- giving feedback (to the client)
- coaching (the client in order to help him or her to be more effective)

- collaborating (with the client)
- negotiating (with the client on issues such as deliverables, deadlines, alternatives)
- refusing (to do things the client wants you to do, that you believe are wrong)
- offering alternatives (to provide the client with choice)

On this last point, I believe that a really good OD practitioner is sometimes difficult.

Monday, May 23, 2005

The Nine Steps to Successful Organization Development - Part 2

When I started this series the other day, I did not have all the steps planned out in advance. Still don't. I picked nine to give me enough room to discover what I want to say. What I am realizing already is that each of these nine steps is going to contain a real personal story where I learned something about organization development through an interactive process with a mentor, a boss, a colleague, a customer, a competitor, or a friend.

Step Two - What Is OD Exactly?

People in the field of organization development do a wide and varied range of work, including such things as leadership development, team building, coaching, strategic planning, MBTI, performance management, culture change, and succession planning. In their work, they often cross paths (and sometimes swords) with HR people.

Interestingly, as smart as they are, OD practitioners sometimes have a hard time boiling it all down into a clear and convincing tidy elevator speech.

Years ago, I learned an important lesson about OD when Bob, the CEO of the telecom company that I was working for, asked Marsha, the VP of Sales & Marketing, to take over the HR department. Initially she was skeptical (and probably a bit scared, as HR was not her comfort zone), but being a fearless lady, she said Yes and stepped into the new role.

A quick learner, she rapidly mastered the staffing and compensation areas of HR, two areas of huge relevance to the company, which was aggressively expanding around the country at that time. A third area that she grabbed ahold of right away was learning & development, also a high priority. The training piece made sense to her right away, as she had been a champion of training in her former role.

The OD side, however, left her puzzled. On a planning retreat, she said to my boss Judy and me: "What is OD all about anyway?" She wanted to get a handle on it in order to know how to utilize it to the benefit of the company.

Judy and I started to educate Marsha on OD, but it was not an easy sale. It took time and several conversations. Just like a difficult sales process. Marsha was no pushover. She wanted to know exactly what she would be buying if she provided the resources of the company to support OD work.

I came to realize that the best customer of OD is the most demanding.

For OD to be successful, the OD practitioner needs to know what he or she has to offer and can explain how it contributes to organizational effectiveness.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

The Nine Steps to Successful Organization Development - Part 1

Having been in this field of organization development for some years now, I guess it's high time that I tried to distill and share the wisdom that I have gathered in my travels. So, this is the first entry in a nine-part series that I am calling "The Nine Steps to Successful Organization Development."

Step One - Where Are you Going? and Why Would You Go There?

Many years ago, at a very large international pharmaceutical and chemicals company, a mentor of mine named Steve was attending a problem solving course that I was teaching. It was a training course on one of those logical rational problem solving models that proliferated in the Seventies and Eighties following the success of the Kepner Tregoe model.

As I finished the overview of the steps in the "roadmap" to problem solving, Steve raised his hand and asked, "Isn't there a step missing?"

Knowing how smart Steve was, I played along and asked him in return, "What step would you add to this model, Steve?"

His answer was one of the most meaningful lessons for me as a journeyman OD guy. He said, "Well, before I'd commit resources to solving any operational or organizational problem, I'd want to ask first, Where are we going? And, Why would we go there?"

As good as this problem solving course was, it was myopic; it was not strategic. What Steve added was the strategic mindset.

In a flash, I realized that I was being myopic as well, and that I needed to question more, push back more, examine givens more, and stop taking things at face value.

Successful organization development starts (and ends) with strategic thinking.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

I've Been Noticed!

CEO and HR branding blogger Regina Miller has added my blog to her round-up of good HR/OD blogs.

How nice to be recognized. And to be placed in the company of Tom Peters, no less.

Thanks, Regina!

I came across a blog entry today that talks about a scrum gathering.


According to the dictionary, a scrum is:

1. A play in Rugby in which the two sets of forwards mass together around the ball and, with their heads down, struggle to gain possession of the ball.

2. A disordered or confused situation involving a number of people.

Hmmm. So what is a "scrum gathering?" At wikipedia, I found this explanation of scrum.

Apparently it is a management and team effectiveness technique, that has evolved within IT and project management, as a way to boost team performance and achieve breakthroughs. Wonder how it compares to other similar techniques?

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Sticking Your Neck Out

Is it a good thing to tell your employer that your skills and experience are being wasted and would be better utilized in another fashion?

I guess it all depends on how you tell them.

Once again, the importance of finesse!

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Brat Camp

Troubled teens sent to a wilderness survival therapy program?

You bet! It's called Brat Camp and it will debut on ABC this Summer.

The teens are real, as is the intervention program called Sagewalk.

I was fortunate enough to see a sneak preview and it is great! I predict this will be a winner.

Monday, May 09, 2005

On Change

As a change agent, I have always liked this quotation from Gandhi:

"You must be the change you wish to see in the world."

Today, I came across one that I had not seen before, from Peter Maurin, one of the key founders in the Catholic worker movement:

"The future will be different if we make the present different."

He also said:

"If everyone became better, everyone would be better off."

Apparently, Maurin had a way with language.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

I Am a Transitionist!

A clever wikipedian named has coined a new term, "transitionist," defined as someone who is "adept at transitions and more precisely, skilled at managing change."

Whoa. I have finally found a word to describe myself. After all these downsizings, mergers, acquisitions, and reorganizations that I have survived, I can now sum it up in a word.

Thank you, whoever you are.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Who Gets the Mail?

Last week ended with a thud.

My boss was let go on Friday. Today someone asked me what to do with my boss' mail. Figuring that I'm "the last man standing," I went over to the mail slots to have a look.

Two computer reports. Dump.

One form in need of a signature. Find someone to handle.

I noticed that one slot was full of inter-office envelopes for a guy that has not worked here in months.

There's something ghostly about organizational change, like the phantom limb phenomena. Although people you worked with every day are now gone, you still sense some trace of them. Like when the mail arrives.