Avoid using these 3 OD religious tenets in Global Organizations

Readers of this blog know that the stubborn author keeps harping on the need to adapt Organization Development to the complexities of global organizations.

Presently, I am working on a book ten exercises which will expand the capabilities of the OD practitioner to be effective not only in a parochial western organization, but also in global organizations.

Writing a book is not writing blog, and I keep forcing myself to focus on “what are the key messages that I want to make “, so as not to drive my readers crazy, like my satirical character Comrade Carl Marks.

By asking that question of myself day after day in the course of writing my book, I seemed to have also arrived at the major points I want to make in all the posts in this entire blog. So here they are:

While the tenets of OD are applicable to western organizations, their application to global organizations are ill appropriate. 3 major religious tents of OD need to be avoided, in alignment with cultural humility

  1. Avoid unpleasant interactions stemming from the authentic and open “management” of conflict. Deal with conflict discretely, quietly and try to work around it.
  2. Avoid “open and authentic” feedback, when the feedback is seen as damaging cohesion and diminishing face. Use non verbal clues and back-door obtuse communication.
  3. Avoid use of semi-structured meetings with free flowing communication when this will embarrass people who prefer to express discretely matters of importance . Prefer one on one, face to face, more structured communication.

 

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Do most people agree that telling your boss what he wants to hear, and not the truth, constitutes a lie?

In a previous post, I listed ten questions geared at assessing the question “do you have a global mindset. John Scherer, from Wiser at Work,  made a webinar about these ten questions.

In my upcoming book Global OD-Ten Exercises, I shall provide detailed answers to these ten questions.

Yet the book is months away, so in the meantime,  here is an explanation for one of the trickier questions, “do most people agree that telling your boss what he wants to hear, and not the truth, constitutes a lie?

Many cultures value the collective more than the individual. In such cultures, the harmony and cohesion of the collective are served by strong and powerful leaders. In cultures, authoritarian leadership is accepted, respected and deferred to. Whilst there may be complaints about excesses of authoritarian style, few would prefer the  lack of harmony which arises due to weak leadership.

Harmony and cohesion in such cultures are more valued that the accuracy of this or that factual detail.

In such cultures, it is acceptable that a boss be told in public what the boss wants to hear, even if this includes a few inaccurate facts. This is not considered a lie, because it serves a higher perceived truth, i.e., maintaining the position and face of he who maintains harmony around whom all are rallied, willingly or less so.

This position of the leader is “more important” than a few uncomfortable facts, which can and will  be relayed, but discretely.

So the answer is no to “Do most people agree that most people believe that telling your boss what he wants to hear, and not the truth, constitutes a lie? Not a lie at all for some-rather the ultimate truth, harmony and a strong boss, can naturally be maintained by a few factual inaccuracies. Yes, for others, this is a bald lie, but not for all. A split jury.

OD and change-management types may find this type behaviour offensive. Indeed OD’s development  was rooted in anti-authoritianism.

However, OD ignores these cultural genetic codes to the detriment of our profession.

Neither OD, change management nor a strong corporate culture can re engineer such deep genetic cultural codes.

So in the following case, what will you tell Art? …..Art (US) asked Wang (China) “what does this quarter look like” on a concall with 6 participants.  Wang said “looks good”. After the concall, Wang called Art and told him that the quarter looked bad. Art told himself that Wang cannot be trusted as he is a pathological fibber.

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4 factors that impact the ability to integrate an Israel based start up

The art of post merger acquisition is difficult regardless of cultural differences. When the culture of the Israel start-up is factored into the equation, the challenges of post merger integration become daunting.

This post will focus on 4 factors that will impact the ability to integrate an Israel based start up after its acquisition.

1) The Israel market has a crushing demand for top talent. So it really does not matter what type of stay bonuses are put in place after acquisition, there is a good chance that top talent will be lost. And because Israel start ups have so few processes and so much “oral law”, the chances are that not only talent will be lost, but also unrecoverable knowledge .

2) Israel is a very modern society and appears very western in its cultural accoutrements.. But Israel is not Western at all: relationships are more important than process, the “old buddy” network is impregnable similar to the Chinese old friend clique, and the communication style within the inner circle is very different than the communication with the outer one. Very few non Israelis get into the Israeli inner circle within the first 3-5 years acquisition.

3) Transparency is a rare commodity Like the Chinese, Israelis believe that transparency maybe foolish, especially when it gives HQ the possibility to screw you.

4) Israelis argue all the time about everything, both with one another and with their bosses. This is very time consuming when doing anything, large or small, because one cannot give “marching orders” to the Israel based manager and assume that things will happen. Corporate directive often encountered with the fiercest resistance due to lack of discipline and rugged individualism, the same rugged individualism and lack of discipline  that enabled the innovation to begin with!

My next posts will address what is to be done when acquiring an Israeli company.

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OD’s fate is “signed and sealed”

According to Jewish tradition, one’s fate is signed on New Year’s Day (Wednesday evening, Sept 24th) and one’s fate is sealed on the Day of Atonement, which falls the week after New Year’s. The days between the signing and the sealing of one’s fate are the Days of Awe, when supposedly the verdict can be overturned. (For those of us who resent having religion rammed down our throats, this is a punishing time to live in a semi-theocracy.)

However, while I am agnostic and I spend these “holy” days at the beach doing non-holy activities, the tradition and metaphor are useful.

OD’s fate is signed and sealed. There are many reasons why OD is rotting away. Follow this link if you want the gory details. The grisly execution of OD has been in progress for the decade. Unlike the executions we all see on TV as of late (which happen in my liberal neighbourhood), the dying process of OD is prolonged.

So what is there to atone about?

Well, universities and colleges and other institutes of learning are pumping out OD consultants as if the demand for OD is insatiable. This is an absurdity because there is very little work in OD for the new generation of OD “technicians”, unless they want to work for some canned-training company or support degenerative BPRs which are the very antithesis of OD.

Students spend years and years learning a disappearing profession which is self-destructing and being cannibalized. I must get 50 calls and emails a month asking me “if I need an assistant” or “where can I find some work, anything”. My message to these people is loud and clear-you chose the wrong profession. Go get retrained.

Yes there is plenty of work if you have been on the road as long as I have and have built up a reputation and areas of domain expertise (in my example global organizations, new product introduction and mergers). But there is almost nothing around for the newcomer, who wants to do OD the right way, not as an order taker for “3 workshops on people skills, medium rare”

And the universities need to atone for misleading thousands of people who have made the wrong career choice. Probably they cannot, because universities themselves are trapped in their own paralysing paradigm.

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Don’t ignore the underworld of poor team work.

No other discipline can deliver results as powerful as can OD in the domain of teamwork.

This having been said, too many OD practitioners look at teamwork out of context and proceed to work with organic teams or “cousin groups”  to develop team effectiveness before examining the context in which the team operates.

This post will focus on what an OD practitioner needs to both look at and deal with in order to create a context for team work, regardless of the specific team.

1) Does the organization have an expectation that clearer defined roles and responsibilities as well as adherence to process are essential to team work?

Because the truth is:  teamwork’s added value is that it compensates for the inability of process and total role clarity to enable the work flow. Often poor team work is a result of overdosing on process and clarity  to control work flow.

Creating a context for teamwork entails working on teamwork as a compensation for the system in order to get it to work.

2) Does the organization recruit team players at the top?

Because if the organization is led by people who maximise their subsystems. there “ain’t gonna be no teamwork”.

Creating a context for teamwork entails working on the optimization of subsystems at the top of the organization.

3) Does the organization fund face to face interaction?

No amount of technology can compensate for the alienation inherent in the global configuration of organizations. People who do not meet face to face will not be able to work well as a team, especially if the issues at hand are complex and need a lot of healthy heated interaction to solve.

Creating a context for teamwork entails insisting that face to face dialogue is budgeted.

4) Does the organization overcommit to its customers?

If the organization has hallucinatory  commitments to its customers, the entire organization will be covering their ass to show that they are not guilty for the inevitable slips that will occur in both schedules and costs. Teamwork in over committed organizations is a critical success factor, but very rare.

Creating a context for teamwork entails removing the “blame game” and working on the over commitment, not just the team work.

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Stop beating the dead horse of reorganizations and process clarity

In a recent post, I suggested that many organizational regulatory mechanisms that are in place to standardize organizational life may never work well anymore, because of a paradigm shift in what way organizations work.

In this post, I will spell out 3 doomed  mechanisms.

1) Enhancing Employee Engagement

The labour force appears to clearly understand that engagement is too often a manipulation which means” “bust your ass and do whatever it takes to help the company succeed”, even though management will and does fire staff without blinking an eyelid to make results look better in the short run.

Enhancing employee engagement as presently understood is  futile effort; there is a need to move beyond engagement sloganeering to address the need for a new contract between management and labour.

2) Frequent changes in structure

Management often relies on reorg after reorg as a medicine for nearly all organizational ailments. Changes of structure do not solve problems of trust, lack of transparency nor do they compensate for incompetence.

Managers use this medicine and board members “put up” with these reorganizations because it is “doing”, and buys time. Yes, what I am saying is that the motive for reorgs is often political.

OD consultants over 40 know (and all staff) know that these frequent reorganizations take place in order to avoid change.

3) Obsessive Clarification of the process

Process needs some clarity but organizational reality is very, very complex and one cannot define away complexity via process. In extreme global complexity, organizations need to develop appropriate staffing, team work, and cooperation instead of obsessing about process quality. 

In the dying OD profession, those of us who do still work should not spend too much time to make outdated mechanisms work.

OD should focus on implementing change and not reorganizations, rebuilding the social contract between management and labour, and building teamwork and trust.

Clients which smell the coffee desist from beating the dead horse of more reorgs and overdosing on process clarity. And those who don’t use change managers and OD consultants the wrong way.

Follow me @AllonShevat

 

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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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Dealing with the imperfection of OD

In one of my last posts, I dwelt on the natural imperfection of the OD endeavour.

Unlike the OD product vendor who sells a cock-and-bull story about the results that can be “delivered” by the application of his/her OD product (such as the 2 hour Wow-Wow Post Merger Integration Module), the OD practitioner who provides a professional service is faced providing an imperfect service (by nature).

Here are a few tips, based on ideas that I have used which I have found to be helpful.

1) In your Sales effort with new clients, emphasize the senior managers and successful organizations with whom you have worked over time; avoid focusing on what you know how to do and/or deliver.

2) Negotiating with corporate procurement (whose role is to nail down the vendor down with a clear statement of deliverables) needs to be avoided at all costs. Your internal client should be your interface to Procurement. If the client cannot do so, then you are probably working with someone too junior to do any meaningful work anyway.

3) Goals of the OD intervention need to be constantly reassessed; as a matter of fact, the ongoing reassessment of goals in a major achievement of the OD process!

4) Avoid the use of all measurement tools to evaluate OD work. OD interventions have huge impact; none of them can be isolated and measured.

5) Contractually, ensure that it is easy to fire you. This can take lots of heat away off defining success criteria of a project.

6) Admit mistakes and do so as they happen. Model how imperfection can be used as a powerful development tool.

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The perfect storm: The fearful HR clerk and the OD “brush salesman”

In my previous very widely read post, I described the imperfect nature of the OD intervention.

The goal of this post is to link these imperfect OD interventions to what is happening to HR, which often commissions external OD interventions.

The positioning of HR organizations is in a state of drastic decline. HR domain has been cannibalized by IT technology, Legal Departments as well as by the declining perceived value of the resource that HR represents, i.e. people and their loyalty/satisfaction.

As a result of HR’s speedy and painful demise, the anxiety level of the remaining HR executives is sky high. Management and peers of HR constantly “question the value” of HR, as illustrated in the satiric HR Gloria blog. Like a third rate politician frightened by plummeting rating, HR becomes motivated by fear.

There is a still a group of HR managers, mainly (but not only) in their 40s +, who stand their ground and do an admirable job in this hostile environment. However there is also a younger set of HR managers , transactional technicians,  who accept that the HR consists of sycophancy to the regime  (obsequious flattery) and transactional efficiency. These HR technicians guard their position by “apparent effectiveness” and wow-wowing, i.e., organizational cheer leading.

At the meeting point between the imperfect world of OD interventions and the anxiety of transactional HR technicians, the perfect storm occurs.The OD practitioners can only commit to a process that questions the regime’s assumptions, and the HR technician deals with its own anxiety by wow wowing and cheer leading.

The result of the perfect storm is that the type of OD intervention which is chosen by HR is aligned with the fear level of HR and not the needs of the organization. The OD “vendor” must ensure that the intervention is fun, measure-able, and creates a wow buzz. Luckily for HR, there are many OD hacks who have morphed into doing this shit.

Just to provide a small example. Recently I received a call from the HR manager of a company which had recently been acquired. The call went like this, “Hi this is Dorit speaking. I am the HR manager of XXX, which has recently been purchased by YYY. Do you have an “engagement package” for technical staff. And how much does it cost?. I need this by 2 pm”.

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Use of self in OD

“Use of self” is a key advantage that Organizational Development has in facilitating organizational change.

Use of self simply means combining OD knowledge and skills education  along with leveraging aspects of ones personality traits, behaviour, value systems, and culture as part of OD practice.

Use of self allows the OD practitioner to work on and work through the unseen world of emotional undercurrents as well as other hidden dynamics impacting organizational life. This perspective provides a phenomenal  advantage over the absurdly  mechanistic world of Change Management and the pathetic cheerleading efforts of many “semi-skilled“ HR departments which dabble in change.

So far so good.

The challenge begins if use of self negatively impacts the practitioner, because of the practitioners’ own cultural bias, especially in global organizations.

Let’s take an example.

A (product manager)  and B (sales) are upset with one another, although they pretend to get along well. A is pressuring B to coax a client to buy a new feature. B wants A to ensure feature completion so that B does not ruin his career by selling something he cannot deliver.

Consultant Z wants to develop genuine and authentic dialogue between A and B, leveraging the positive relationship Z has with both. When positive dialogue has been established between A&B, they will figure out a compromise.

Consultant Y wants to ensure that A&B continue to sidestep the conflict between them, so that they can pretend get along well. Y believes that if A & B were to express the differences of opinion between them openly, no good will come to their relationship. Y is convinced that B, an 55 year old male from a conservative society will never accept the input from a 24 year old female product manager from a western society.

So Y wants to serve as a go between so that A&B do not need to interact on this sensitive issue.

Summary

At present, Z’s behaviour is aligned with positive use of self in OD, because OD is bogged down in western values.

If OD embraced more non western values,  Y’s choices would becomes a legitimate strategy as well.

Until that happens, use of self provides no advantage in the world of global organizing.

Follow me @AllonShevat

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