Whither OD?

Recently, after asking "Is OD Going Away?" a few interesting responses appeared.

Lisa Haneberg at Management Craft wrote: "My 2 cents on this - not until we improve our management training, which we should do but most won't. Most of OD is surrogate management."

Interesting. Question for Lisa: When you say "Most of OD is surrogate management," are you saying that if management did a better job, there would be no need for organization development?

HR blogger and CEO Regina Miller said: "Oh this is a great topic...and I want to chime in definitely on this...I have a post that I have been planning for a while called the new OD curriculum. I will say some more in an upcoming post..."

While waiting for Regina's thoughts to appear at her blog, this topic has stayed on my mind too, especially since hearing OD legend Marv Weisbord say that he is concerned about the rapid pace of change in today's world and he wonders if OD people can be effective with the tools of the past.

Is OD still relevant? Does OD need to reinvent itself? Can OD do it?

To get the ball rolling, here are some thoughts on a few selected knowledges, skills, and attitudes needed by today's OD practitioners.

First, there are some capabilities that have been around for a long time that are still as relevant as ever, including consulting skills, organizational assessment, and ability to communicate. Also needed: stakeholder management, project management, and computer skills.

On the leading edge, there are newer capabilities emerging, including:

Connecting - the ability to build, grow, and leverage social networks, locally, globally, virtually

Facilitating Wisdom - the ability to guide others through a process of visioning and discernment that taps into inner wisdom and leads to a discovery of shared wisdom

Possibilitizing - the ability to help others to generate ideas against tough challenges, even those intractable problems that seem unsolvable and hopeless

Community Building - creating and cultivating community; clarifying and communicating purpose; engaging and mobilizing people; providing stewardship of gifts and talents

Added Note 12/16: Gautam has weighed in on this topic, and so has Regina .

Posted by Terrence Seamon, 12/09/06


Robustus said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Don Blohowiak said…

OD is, if my observations are indicative, whithering and I'd posit it never thrived.

It's not that OD practitioners cannot add value. They do, however, face some challenges.

1. Unlike many other professions, such as law or medicine or chemical engineering, there is no common canon from which OD practitioners draw. Virtually anyone can call him or herself an OD person and can use any "intervention" that strikes their fancy.

2. Most executives charged with delivering results in organizations have no idea what "Organization Development" is. Hell, most self-proclaimed OD people can't define it clearly. See #1 above.

3. OD people, even "bona fide" ones talk funny. We use made up, fuzzy sounding words to describe ourselves, our processes, the supposed value we bring to the table. "Real" business people are pretty well convinced that we keep crystals and incense in our cubicles. And who can blame them?

4. Lacking rigor in methodology, we sure don't have much evidence to establish efficaciousness. In other words, who knows if what we do makes any difference? We don't. So it's easy to not pay for our services. The few "enlightened" executives who "get it" are rightfully asking the HR folk, "Hey, don't you guys know about this stuff?"

And the HR folk, who've been watching the OD folk for years with their blue smoke and mirrors, are saying back, "Heck, yeah. We can do that stuff, too."

And who can blame them -- or the execs for accepting what they get, or not discerning the difference from "real" OD?

5. The move to more discrete, functional-specific roles such as executive coaching, "change management" and the like makes perfect sense because everyone can understand what those things are (at least they think they do!). OD could hardly be more nebulous.

[And, yes, I know that much of executive coaching is ill-founded with little to no theoretical or practical basis for its various methods. I say that as a member of ICF, WABC, and one who is obtaining a certificate in Leadership Coaching from Georgetown University, and a Ph.D. in Human Development.]

The message the business community is sending OD folk really is simple: We don't get it, and we ain't paying for it.

Can you blame them?
Terrence said…
Hey Don.

Welcome back. That is quite a salvo you just fired! And right on target too.

Have a happy holiday!

Steve Pashley said…
Hi Terry,

I thought you might be interested in my post 'Productivity and OD'. I've just found you and I'm enjoying 'catching -up'.

Best Wishes
Terrence said…
Hi Steve,
Welcome! Glad you found me. (By the way, how did you find me?)

I like your blog. It's context rich. I've started reading several of the entries and I've already learned quite a bit about your world.

Enjoyed your entry on "Productivity and OD" and I'll leave a comment there.

Terrence said…
Hi All,

Just a note that Gautam Ghosh, Co-Founder of The Imagence Partners, has responded to this entry at his blog:



Check it out.
Terrence said…
And Regina Miller has weighed in with a rapier sharp salvo of her own!


Enter the "No Whining" Zone.
Steve Pashley said…
From a reference on the Mass Bay ODLG blog http://mbodlg.blogspot.com
Terrence said…
"From a reference on the Mass Bay ODLG blog "


Hey Jim, Did you read Steve's comment?

Anonymous said…
I agree with much of what Don Blohowiak wrote. As a former computer professional, I understood I needed to produce results at the end of the day - each and every day. Sometimes it takes longer with OD and we don't have the consistent measurements to prove our value. Therefore, when a business leader is looking for value and ROI, the OD profession often gets ignored.

And we will lose the attention of many leaders when we tell them how long it takes to successfully change a company's culture - very few leaders have that kind of time and patience.

Also, as Don says, we sometimes use different language. I have always understood that we need to use the language of our clients, not the OD language. I have always disliked the term, "intervention." Yes, I understand why it is used but in today's world, it is more associated with someone with a personal problem. What business leader wants that word used around the office?

Finally, as a general statement, OD as a profession needs to be more process focused. We need to combine human behaviors with good processes to gain our clients' satisfaction. I have seen too many OD pracitioners ignore process to focus only on the behavioral aspects of a change.

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