My Thoughts on the Major Strategic Challenges of OD-following ODN Europe Conference in London



“Due to a prolonged downturn in business and a cut throat competitive climate, OD is playing defense. OD claims that people are important, yet the business climate and type of leadership which rises to the top seems to feel differently. So what is to be done?”. It was with these thoughts that I came to London for the OD conference.

Here are my answers.

1) There are still lots of sloganeering going on about how important people are, and how important it is to promulgate the importance of people, yet this slogan mongering sounds nicer to our ears than it does to clients’ ears.

2) Within OD, there are “hard” tools being developed (such as organizational mapping) which shall appear very attractive to management in a few years. At present these “hard” tools have bugs and flaws in logic (such as the need for strategic clarity), but over time these tools will become more robust, and these tools will threaten traditional OD in the same way that mobile phones have “threatened” (ie, eliminated) land line phones.

3) New IT and communication technologies and measurement-ism have created an organizational world where it appears that the human resource is merely “spare parts”. However, measurement-ism and IT technologies have created a whole set of new problems, from alienation to institutionalized organizational ignorance (addressing the wrong issues). OD has the tools the address these burning issues, if our “art” is practiced as an “art” and if the OD focus is appropriate, i.e., getting people to communicate and interact effectively/authentically in order to work around the new set of problems described above.

4) Organizations have been globalized but OD has not been globalized in its approach/values, and unless OD undergoes a radical transformation, OD as practised is irrelevant for many configurations of global organizing. New groundwork has been done in this field, yet there is still ideological resistance, because global OD skills threaten the comfort zone of many traditional practitioners.

5) There is no room for content agnostic, pure process driven OD interventions anymore. The world is too complex and there is no time to waste time. Domain expertise is needed.

6) To be truly effective OD practitioner, one needs to have an understanding of economics and have a defined philosophical world view. (Perhaps, there is a need to be in touch with some spirituality. I say “perhaps” because I have little contact with spirituality, which makes me effective in some situations and ineffective in others.)

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3 thoughts on “My Thoughts on the Major Strategic Challenges of OD-following ODN Europe Conference in London

  1. We are missing the point OD skills are what is important not the profession. I have found myself using OD skills in every job I had and preforming well in these jobs because of the skills. If emphasis could be placed on the skills rather than on doing “OD” or being an OD practitioner as a profession we would have better functioning organizations.

  2. Alan
    I think that the “positioning” of the profession is important in the eyes of those who comission the work-or you never get to show your skills

  3. No one need to commission work you can use OD skills in any jobs and it will contribute to success on that job. Sales people, plant manager, office supervisor,
    trade jobs like plumber or electrician, even over the net if you are involve in networking,as long as one interact in some form with other people you can use your OD skills and it will be a contributing factor toward effective results. So not everyone in OD (internal or ext renal ) need to be a consultant and this what the problem is.

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