Open source and OD

Organizations use a plethora of IT, managerial and  behavioural systems to drive operational  uniformity and create predictability of deliverables. Some of these systems are apparently more coercive (IT) whilst others are more intangible.

Conventional wisdom has it that these systems do get organizations to be effective, even though there are deviations, aberrations and exceptions that need to be managed.

My assumption about organizations is that there are many people who try to beat the systems and/or work around them because of human nature and cultural preference.  Many cultures have educated people that systems do not work as well as relationships or negotiating.

As far the systems themselves,  I see organizations as more and more “open source”. By that I mean that control and command systems just do not have the capabilities to get people to behave/act in the prescribed manner. The real control of what  goes on is dispersed, and/or a matter of good will.  So, some of the formal mechanisms which are in place may never work well any more.

And this needs to be factored into the OD consultant’s value proposition to the client. OD should support adaptation to this new reality, and not get the old model to keep working when it’s falling apart.

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6 thoughts on “Open source and OD

  1. Right on, Allon. And what you have said points directly to the imperative of employee engagement, in my mind. No, not the employee engagement of surveys and slogans. But rather the “open source” approach that you are taking. I call it leadership by liberating people from what Peter Drucker described like this: “So much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work.”

  2. Time after time after time I am called precisly to “fix the systems”. I am amazed how until now so many still believe that “if just we had the right procedure, everything would miraculously work”! Then they hire consultants (me) to do it, and when it doesn’t work (because it simply cannot), they … hire more consultants to do the same thing again! Do people ever learn?

    And when at some point you tell them: “Listen, if your (procedure, system, form etc.) doesn’t work, maybe it shouldn’t?” you just get a weird look… and no more contracts. Ironic, isn’t it?

  3. Your post was made evident to me as part of a presentation by an anthropologist on “Systems and cultures”. He first presented the systems to control road traffic in the world. For most word cities, the system requires drivers to go on green, stop on yellow unless it is unsafe to do so and bring your vehicle to a full stop at a red light for its full duration. He then asked for people’s personal experiences of its application. I offered my bit: In Switzerland, I got a police notice from an off-duty officer on foot for crossing the street on a red light at 3 am with only I as the second pedestrian returning to my hotel; in Italy, the police signaled me to drive my rental car on the sidewalk counter a one-way street to reach my hotel; in Sao Paulo, the company’s driver would honk at red lights and continue on driving (he explained the honking code); in Newfoundland Canada, people stop at yellow lights and wait from 10 to 20 seconds before proceeding on green; in Montreal, Québec, pedestrians are targets and stop signs considered a proposition, in South East Asia, I was just too scared to drive.

  4. Pingback: Stop beating the dead horse of reorganizations and process clarity | Allon Shevat

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