Organization Development “after the flood” – What is to be done? And what will become undone?

Certainly at this point, no one knows jack shit about what is in store for organization development if and when the current plague subsides. That reminds me of what  a client  of mine (who dabbled in politics at a senior level) told me..” The public generally does not know two basic things-what will happen, and what actually happened.”.

Nevertheless, in this brief article, I want to suggest a framework for approaching our professions’ continued survival, as well as put out my neck and predict some shattering developments.

Framework

No one has a clue what will happen to organizations/the act of organizing if and when society crawls out of this black hole called corona. It makes no sense to guess if people will work from home or return to the work-place. It makes no sense to predict trends and support possible ways of recovery-unless you get your kicks that way.  What does make sense is to own the fact that no one knows anything. Because that is one of the strengths of OD-coping with ambiguity.

As the new organizational reality and changes are conceived, we will not be in the bedroom. At best,  we will be the midwife. The changes will be foisted upon us by economic reality, political change and changes in belief systems. Organization development will be able to ease this process along, by avoiding any arrogance of trying to re-mold a new order.

My friend Robin Cook wrote me that “no OD practitioner worthy of the title would dare to try to impose his or her solutions”. This is true to some extent, but the values that OD espouses do impose value loaded solutions in a passive aggressive way. Many of our core values will have to change as the world resets. OD is particularly conservative when it comes to examining our own values. Without such a value reset on our part, OD is doomed to irrelevance.

Allon foolishly sticks out his neck

And now I am going to stick out my neck and share with my readers a few of my assumptions, which may all prove to be wrong, no doubt.

  1. Organizations will become like jungles than they already were with supply of jobs much smaller than demand. Salaries will tumble. Management will be more authoritarian and demanding.
  2. CFO’s will call the shots for a very long time.
  3. Many perks and wellness programs will be abandoned; perhaps the slogans will survive.
  4. Political correctness will die. Perhaps it will be massacred. No one will forget where and how the virus started, which communities are ill and which are not. Who prepared and who denied? And the results will be ugly.
  5. Social order will erode big time. The age of repression is at the gates, and this is an ill omen for our profession and its assumptions. If we don’t play our cards right, we are soon to become extinct.
  6. The lower end of OD (training, empowering middle management, chicken shit products which enable change in one day) will be wiped off the map because  many organizations will have no money to waste. Internal OD will be eliminated  The only OD practitioners to be left standing will be the best consultants and the false prophets and magicians, the latter always flourishing in very bad times.

“Of course there is,” Brishen said flatly. It had started badly; it turned worse and hinted at becoming ruinous.”
― Grace Draven, Eidolon

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8 thoughts on “Organization Development “after the flood” – What is to be done? And what will become undone?

  1. Sounds reasonable. On the upside, this pause gives some of us time to reflect and rethink. Most, however, will be scrambling to survive and some will die in it.

  2. Allon, Your opening reminded me of this bit of humor: “There are three kinds of people. Those who make things happen. Those who watch what happens. And those who ask ‘What’s happening?'”

    If I were to stick my neck out, I’d recommend that OD consultants do their best to find people of the first type who are “making things happen” for the better and support them.

  3. Our role will not really change that much, Allon – to facilitate problem solving. It has never been our place to create solutions. Effective OD has always been about drawing out & empowering the knowledge & wisdom that’s already there & putting it into usable, actionable form. No OD practitioner worthy of the title would dare to try to impose his or her solutions. That’s simply a recipe for failure.

  4. Allon,

    Great posting, as usual. It is flavored with the spice of integrity. I like that.

    I also found your response to Robin fascinating. I agree about values imposing but what really jazzed me was the idea of passive aggressiveness. I can see that clearly; with benefit of your observation but would not have seen this without such benefit.

    In regards to your prognostications, I think the “age of repression” is already here. It came with PC. So, I see your prediction as it getting worse. I agree.

    I see great irony in this sentence: “OD is particularly conservative when it comes to examining our own values.” While I agree, the irony is that OD is largely co-opted by liberalism and liberal values. Some of that passive aggression you noted to Robin. Indeed, OD has strayed into a sycophantic relationship with liberal ideology. The great irony of this is that liberalism claims tolerance and freedom of expression are core values. Yet, PC and the “age of suppression” largely comes of this body. I, along with others, miss you on the List. That comes to mind because it is an example of suppression. Your Voice was made unwelcome unless you suppressed or left. It makes me sad to think of it.

    Keep swinging, Slugger.

    Cordially

    Ed
    Drive on!

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