Left wing, right wing-and organizational change

Professor Arlie Hochschild’s  book “Strangers in their Own Land” brilliantly describes the bitterness that certain Louisianian Tea Party supporters believe when they are told that what they believe is less important that what they should believe. The book also spells out the historical, cultural and religious consistency of a world view wary of government intervention.

Personally, I am a liberal, secular and  left of center. This having been said, the world view of the rightists described by Hochschild enabled me to look at my own set of beliefs in context, as well as enabled me to understand “the other” world view as an integrated and respectable whole, and not as a set of psychiatric symptoms stemming from ignorance and having been overly Bible bashed.

I wonder how many organization consultants spend their time helping management to get employees to change their belief systems, perhaps via such things as engagement programs. And I wonder how many consultants work with dysfunctional teams, “plying” the importance of cooperation and transparency. Just how much time does our profession spend telling people what they should be thinking!

My personal take away from Hochschild’s book is the need for OD practitioners to develop an effective “over the empathetic wall”  understanding of various belief systems within an organization. Perhaps once that empathy exists, most of the change happens itself.

Case study-CEO Mike called in an OD consultant 3 months after a key customers’ business was lost due the premature release of a product which had caused a system 2 hour outage of all  ATMs in  a city of 4 million people. Mike had had to fire 10% of his employees and  cut benefits in order to survive. Mike wants the OD consultant to “support managements’ efforts to a “back to business as usual mode”, after having implemented a lesson learned cycle. Now, how would YOU do this project without getting people to believe something else, different from what they believe?







Share Button

6 thoughts on “Left wing, right wing-and organizational change

  1. Telling them what to believe is simply NOT OD. Period. Our role is to draw out what’s there & facilitate them in drawing their own conclusions from the data presented. There’s a very big difference between facilitating and guiding. An OD practitioner can guide an individual, if asked to do so by that individual. We absolutely should not be guiding organizational systems.

  2. I read that book as well and came to similar conclusions. Conflicts over values cannot be managed effectiviely without strengthening relationships.

  3. Another very good book on the subject is “The Righteous Mind” by Jonathan Haidt. It also shows the dichotomy of the opposing pairs of values e.g. Care-Harm, Liberty-Oppression, Authority-Subversion, Loyalty-Betrayal etc. that can be very helpful in OD work. Basically checking, which are the values being “challenged” in a given situation, and what can be meaningfully done while still respecting them (your “over the empathetic wall” understanding).

  4. I would be inclined to nod and say, “Glad to lend a hand. The first thing we need to do is get out and about, talk with the people, find out what they’re thinking and feeling, and, most important, solicit their views regarding things that need to be done to get the business back on track, including addressing the concerns that this even has generated on their part. Less I’ve obscured my main point, it is this: They know what needs to be done and the trick is to find out what that is.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.