OD as a “Mature Commodity”-and how to deal with it

Last week, I got a call from someone who asked me if I would like to “bid” for series of 3 workshops on post merger integration, which is one of my specialties.

She said, “I have heard that you know what you are doing, but please make sure that your bid is cost effective”. That was the gist of our short call.

This illustrates the bizarre and tragic productization of OD interventions:

1 Because “cost” rules as the “product” is seen as mature,the wrong service  is “ordered” in the wrong way.

2 The vendor ( OD) is blocked from influencing the definition of the problem and the proposed intervention because a “solution” in already being procured.

3 The client trades off a  (non existing) “product” with a cost to make a balanced decision. Neither parameter is the most relevant for the type of service that is needed.

This pitiful dynamic has developed an inevitable derivative of large consulting firms creating profit by providing new college graduates with a set of so-called products (and a slide pack to make it happen). The large vendor “clips the coupon” of repeatable scalable OD productized interventions.

The clients’ life is also made easy: the OD product is easy-to-understand, and comparable to other products of its kind. And any Gloria can manage the procurement process.

The only problem is that OD is not a product, and the provided product is a sham.

The best way to deal with this is to stick your guns. Be patient. If you know what you are doing, patience pays off.  A lot of my work has been procured when an OD product failed. When the gateway into the organization is procurement or  training, my suggestion is to back off and turn work down. Refrain from food fights with procurement, hoping to improve things later. Remain professional. stick to your standards, and do good work. The good work you do will get you more work.

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5 thoughts on “OD as a “Mature Commodity”-and how to deal with it

  1. Allon: I agree with your description. It fits my model of 4 markets, commodities (Battleground) being what yoiu are talking about. The consultant, business owner, needs to decide what market is served. Certainly OD is not a Frontier, new product, at this point. Our dilemmas about it are indicative of its presence either in the Kingdom, where you can call the shots, or in the Jungle, which is a highly competitive market due to the easy entry environment. The customer plays with us if we allow them to, because there are many more around the corner who will do whatever the customer wants. One of our issues is that we let the customer define us; and then we get into the more for less continuous degredation of what we do, mainly because we can’t differentiate what we do.

    These are basic skills for doing business in a competitive marketplace. My belief is that, since we refuse to understand competition for ourselves, we are not very healthy help to our clients, who are deep into it.

    Sorry to be so blatant, but that is what my book is about–really the basic skills of doing business in the 4 kinds of competitive markets. Simple stuff on the surface, another story deep down.

  2. Allon, you are so right in presenting this dilemma – not just for us, as practitioner, but more importantly, for the clients who want (and are pressured to) constrain time and cost. But as we ALL know, quality is that 3rd constraint.

    We, who identify as OD consultants, have done a lousy job of marketing ourselves in the broader sense of the word – clients don’t know what we do. Change Managers have done a better job of that, but they often sell the client short, because they have a more limited skill set in the up front part of leadership vision.

    I think we could do a better job by merging the best of both fields into one “organization change” role and more clearly defining the spectrum of the work entailed.

  3. I completely agree with what you’ve written and am encouraged by your words to be patient and even turn work down in order to keep the real and specific work of OD pure and alive. It’s not a one size fits all or some template standard that can be applied to all situations. Quick solutions for the sake of keeping costs down seems to only exacerbate and reinforce the issues that are identified through OD work.

    This blog entry is good timing for me and a great reminder to stay true in spite of the pressures I may be experiencing. Thanks!

  4. Not only have we done “a lousy job of marketing ourselves”, we have also failed to understand that service is a product that is consurmed while it is being produced. Hence, consultants have frequently shifted from the idea of preparing, cooking and dining with the client at his own kitchen and table to “frozen dinners you can serve in little time” . We have co-created our client responses to our services through each episode of sending and receiving of expectations. This has resulted in consultants and clients holding each others hostage to our most feared outcomes. The result: “Let’s go for assurance and predictability through scalable product lines.”

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