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?