Second Time OD

From time to time, an organization can attempt a OD endeavour a second time, after a first attempt has failed.

For the consultant, this is a challenge with many pitfalls, and in this post I will spell them out, with a few recommendations.

  • The previous consultant did good work, but the organization wanted fun and wow wow wow. This can happen when the work was commissioned by an internal OD and Training Manager, who is fearful for her/his standing in the organization. Example: Galit (internal OD) wanted the sales team to improve their soft skills. The consultant recognized that the products that the Sales team were failing to sell are of low quality and highly priced. But the VP of Engineering has a lot of clout with investors, so it is difficult to remove him to improve product quality. The consultant asked to investigate this issue in more depth and was fired for “poking around and overstepping his mandate”. In cases such as these, 2nd time OD will probably fail, unless the consultant also practices the second oldest profession in the world.


  • The previous consultant did poor work and was booted out. I have replaced Kumbaya consultants, rigid old-fashioned consultants who promulgate OD’s western values in the wrong places, flirtatious ladies, and consultants who just did not have the brain power to do the right things. However, the motive of “doing better work than my predecessors” is not a smart one, because it becomes “all about you”. The correct mindset is that the organization, not you, are trying again. If YOU want to succeed where your competition failed, you are setting yourself to be knocked out by your own ambition. Focus on what needs to be done, not where others failed.


  • For certain types of clients, second time OD is very difficult. Organizations with a very strong culture which has become a religion are prone to fail because the OD consultant, if not a high priest of the religion, is a heretic. I remember doing a project where transparency was a religion. Of course, it was not, but it was forbidden to admit it. Or I worked for an organization where every decision had to be made by consensus. This of course never occurred, but again, saying so was heresy.So, take a look at WHY your predecessor failed, and if you observe that the organization probably failed because it is impervious to change, but cannot admit it, stay away.
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