OD has joined HR in the repression business-and we can only lose

There is something to be said for HR having become a business partner.
Business partnership means understanding the context in which HR is operating in order to better promote the interests of the HR role and profession.That should not mean that HR becomes the sycophant and execution squad of management. It should not mean that business decisions are made and HR cleans up after the parade.
As Gloria Ramsbottom’s blog illustrates (ramsbottom-lemieux.blogspot.co.il),far too often HR has become the oil that greases the machine of grinding obedience fueled by a lack of values.

Similarly, OD practitioners can no longer do interventions which are purely developmental in nature, driven only by spiritualism or humanism.
OD practitioners have needed to understand the business domain in which they operate in order to create interventions that create value.
Yet the value I am referring to is not the value that finds its way into the OD practitioners pocket.

I am referring to value for the clients’ ability to factor in the human element to create alignment between the business and the people, without which the organizations fails. OD needs to understand and drive the synergy between the business environment, the community that it resides and the persons that it employs. Business must understand the synergy between these, and recognize that its employees are valuable assets that must be nurtured.
In the crushing market since 2008 and faced with massive competition, OD has joined HR in creating business partnership to the detriment of the profession.
OD wisdom has been replaced with products, truth to power has been replaced with kissing management’s ass, correct has been replaced with politically correct and authentic has been replaced with civil.
This has created a blur between OD, change management technicians and business consultants. In this overlap, OD loses more ground daily. We are no longer even aware of our value proposition. We are losing our vocabulary. We have overly adaptive to the point of using terms like human asset management and developing matrices to measure ROI in “human asset value”.

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4 thoughts on “OD has joined HR in the repression business-and we can only lose

  1. Well said. Business is tough but the answer is not merging with HR. The very definition of OD is being eroded and corrupted. It needs to maintain its strong connection to psychology and systems theory, and its commitment to humanitarian ideals.

  2. I would like to challenge some of these assertions… for starters, who says OD has joined HR in the repression business? Are there some references you would care to cite, or is this just your opinion? As an OD practitioner I do not share the view that we (as a community of practice) are loosing our vocabulary or sense of connection with how we create value within organizations.

    I agree that business are much better positioned to create sustained innovation when they understand and seek to create increasingly powerful alignment between the interests of the organization and those of its people. There is a term for this process; it is called transformational leadership and there have been several excellent books and scholarly articles written about it. I suggest starting with James McGregor Burns’ book Transforming Leadership (2003), published by Grove/Atlantic. Bernard Bass, Gary Yukl, and many others have also made significant contributions to the research on this topic and it is well worth exploring what they have to say.

    I will conclude by saying that it is not particularly useful to characterize the disciplines and practices of OD or HR in broadly generalized terms without citing specific examples that serve to illustrate:
    1. What sorts of practices and behaviors are currently being observed and quantified.
    2. How those practices and behaviors are affecting organizations and those who work in them.
    3. How these variables compare to whatever body of historic data can be identified for the purpose of making reasonable comparisons.

    On of the first things we should have learned as OD practitioners, is the importance of being able to fully define the problem, which is not possible until we determine where we are now and how it differs from where we wish to be. Your argument appears to be an attempt to describe a current state, but not in any detail and without the aid of credible references. You offer no data, cite no sources and bring no expert commentary to bear on this issue. Your post reads more like a rant than any well reasoned and researched perspective on what is an important topic, worthy of consideration.

    Better luck next time.

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