Effective OD Consulting requires additional areas of expertise

You sure don’t need this blog to tell you that the context in which Organizational Development is practised is changing:

  • people have become spare parts making our humanistic focus an uphill battle.
  • rapid change is just getting faster, making organizational change inhumane; this has grown the business of “change management” and shrunk available business for more classical OD types.
  • globalization is all over us, making the Western values of OD often irrelevant.
  • the HR function is degraded to compliance and hire/fire, and OD’s former gateway to organizations is contaminated,
  • the twisted character of the manager who gets the top in this new reality, make the prognosis of their understanding OD’s added value as poor.
  • and the inroads of the false Messiah of quick fixes, aka,  the Coaching “profession”,making competition cut throat.

Given the above, what are the areas of expertise we need to survive as OD consultants, without cross dressing as coaches or change managers with a humanistic streak?

Here are 3 areas which come to mind.

1) Cross cultural competence.

Huge portions of this blog site  are dedicated to how to acquire  cross cultural competence and I shall not expand on this here. An example in this link.

2) Business Domain Knowledge

Domain specific content and context is absolutely necessary not only for face validity, but also in order to ensure relevance.Gone are the days when OD consultants can facilitate change in all domains, simply because we focus on process and people and systems.

Personally, I focus on high tech organizations which develop products quickly, medical devices, the interfaces between R&D, engineering and product management, financial services and professional services. My  domain level of understanding is enough that I really get the gist of what is going on, end-to-end.

I believe that without this domain specific knowledge of the clients served, you are a has been.

3) Cognitive and Behavioural Patterns of Various  Professions

Finance people, engineers, software developers, chemists, lawyers, system engineers and accountants all think and act quite differently in organizations. While within each profession there is vast variance, each profession has a code which OD needs to crack in order to be able to interact and gain trust.

It is unreasonable to expect an OD consultant to be “fluent” and capable of interacting with all professions with the same level of competence.

OD needs to map out the cognitive and behavioural patterns of the various professions and provide ways and means to “gain access” by speaking our language in their dialect.

  • These 3 skills are part of  the foundation for the next generation of competent OD consultants. These skills will  provide OD  with a competitive advantage, create more customer intimacy, and enable OD practitioners to be more relevant and effective in the niches in which they operate.
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8 thoughts on “Effective OD Consulting requires additional areas of expertise

  1. I like to think that growing up with a father who was 1 of the 1st systems analysts has given me much greater insight into/affinity for tech & the sciences that many OD folks…

    However, I really do still believe that a good OD generalist can function in any industry & being an “outsider” to a given industry provides a different perspective that is a real asset to change initiatives – we tend to ask questions that someone who grew up in that industry probably wouldn’t think to ask…

  2. Allon, another provocative piece. One request: your bulleted) list at the beginning had these items in it–

    + people have become spare parts making our humanistic focus an uphill battle.
    + rapid change is just getting faster, making organizational change inhumane; this has grown the business of “change management” and shrunk available business for more classical OD types.
    + globalization is all over us, making the Western values of OD often irrelevant.
    the HR function is degraded to compliance and hire/fire, and OD’s former gateway to organizations is contaminated,
    + the twisted character of the manager who gets the top in this new reality, make the prognosis of their understanding OD’s added value as poor.
    + and the inroads of the false Messiah of quick fixes, aka, the Coaching “profession”,making competition cut throat.
    I hope you will address a few more of these in future blogs.
    John

  3. Interesting ideas. I can relate to them all. I can also see the paradox in what you are suggesting. On the one hand cross-cultural understanding means engaging with and understanding many cultural types, whilst on the other, adopting a business domain focus means a deep dive into one area and its related support sectors.

    All the points in your bullet list also resonate. In particular I have been known to rant about HR as a route to market for OD (or not), “twisted” managers and the coaching “profession”.

    To build on you thoughts maybe: I believe understanding culture per se, whether regional, domain or profession-specific is a vital skill for OD practitioners, as it is for our CEO’s and their teams.

  4. Allon, Please write a post expanding upon “the false Messiah of quick fixes, aka, the Coaching “profession”,making competition cut throat.” I have provided teams and individuals with coaching for most of the thirty years I have been a Training & OD practitioner, but in today’s world you cannot call yourself a ‘coach’ without spending a small fortune to get ‘certified.’

    • Hey Terry,
      First thank you for following me.
      I am not referring to coaching with a small C; I am referring to the “C”oaching profession, which I view with “some” disdain.
      OD has group and personal coaching sessions, which have 0 in common with Coaching.
      Do you know that Gloria Ramsbottom-Lemieux, whom you may know, has a CCC after her name, Certified Charted Coach?
      allon

  5. Hi Alon,
    Your ideas are brilliant and provocative as always. Yet I agree with every word and I find it matching with my experience as a consultant.
    Shana Tova
    Gilat

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