Organization Developments’ dangerous fundamentalism

Fundamentalism is the strict unwavering, inflexible adherence to principle, most often  but not solely religious.

We all know what religious fundamentalism looks like as well as the damages/mass stupidity it can inflict both on its own believers and its enemies. The user experience at airports since 9/11 is a testament to this.

Not only religions have fundamental principles- so do professions, including organization development.

The fundamental OD principles were based on where, when and by whom OD was founded, and served as the platform for the profession and its subsequent development.  While the world of organizations has changed, the principles have not, rendering OD’s fundamentals as outdated as a man waving a sword chopping  off peoples’ heads off because he  wants to recreate his 6th century grandeur.

Let’s take a few examples.


OD was a response to the dangers of fascist regimes and many OD interventions encourage democratization. In 2019, it is democracy which is facing huge challenges. Not only is it clear that democratic processes can lead to extremely dangerous decisions, but over time the types of people who rise to the top can be very dangerous and corrupt.

The empowerment of the individual:

What a mess this has become! System problems (such as aggressive deadlines and enforced loneliness aka remote work) are ignored. Coaching the individual, wellness programs and engagement voodoo take the system problems out of the spotlight, wallpapering them with an irrelevant focus on the individual.


OD places a premium on authentic communication. However, in many cultures, authenticity is akin to farting in an elevator. Even in the west, authenticity does not pay off. Authentic people often get fucked, when they don’t get fired.

And I can go on and on. But I won’t. I will however end this post by a description of how an OD fundamentalist facilitates a merger. Ignoring Machiavelli and Darwin, the OD fundamentalist with try to take the best from each culture to form a new culture, based on the best of both worlds. This inevitably fails. However, an OD consultant who has moved beyond fundamentalist will assume that there are no mergers, just acquisitions, and let nature take its course, serving as a midwife for the inevitable survival of the fittest.


Share Button

6 thoughts on “Organization Developments’ dangerous fundamentalism

  1. Thank you for continually bringing this divide up to our attention. I haven’t had as much experience as you have in the East, but I have had the experience of being completely misunderstood in my own country–the USA. I have experienced the perils of being authentic and even speaking up when you see the foolhardiness of a manager’s actions. OD folks here are primarily women now–few of color. There is complete denial of the realities of power and politics. Just be positive and focus on appreciative inquiry they recommend. Not everyone sees much to appreciate. We live in separate realities it seems. Now research is saying that most children especially in poverty stricken areas suffer from some form of PTSD as adults because of traumatic experiences in childhood. We cannot expect these people to respond to engagement strategies developed by people who did not suffer the traumas that taught them silence is golden and don’t give away how you feel. So much to consider.

  2. So, if it is a call to vigil, that’s one side of the story. But if it is danger, what’s at stake? What’s evolutionary paradigm indicating as potential or tragic end state? What’s the system growth got to do with ODs role today? Or OD’s emerging role?

    Assuming that the symptoms you cite indicate a pattern humans need to discern, how can we reframe the role or position of the individual vis-à-vis the system, the ecology, the planet? Would that be less dangerous or more?

    Comparative views in global commerce give us a chance to review a larger planetary impact of who we are as a species. So what’s with ideals on one hemisphere that another will resist? What’s with connect with another hemisphere that both will engage? Raising these indicative queries as a simple set of possibilities to see a teleological view too, than a merely evolutionary one.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.