OD need not straggle behind

 

Almost every aspect of organizational life has changed beyond recognition in the past decade.

  • People who share neither values, culture or language work together. (new diversity)
  • Global organizational politics is riddled with complex, survival site agendas. (new conflicts)
  • People “message”/ email more than they talk, because teams are mainly virtual. (new communication)
  • Management is all about task promotion and self-survival. Employees are far less engaged. (new values)
  • The human resource is seen as dispensable. (new motivations)

What has changed in the way OD is practiced?

In my opinion, very little. OD is tap dancing and dithering on the stage, with lots of internal focus and debate about side issues as organization life is reconfigured.

This is happening because the gatekeepers of OD are holding back. As OD lost  ground,  OD guidelines became an orthodox religion.

This is why the battle for globalizing OD is an uphill run. The hill is steep and the wind is blowing in our face.

My advice to OD people who want to remain in shape and relevant is to learn about Global OD instead about how to market yesterday’s produce.

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OD preaches change, but refuses to change

A What is this all about?

For almost a decade, I have been harping on the Western bias of Organization Development, and how to align OD with global organizing.

My argument is that OD’s values and tools have a western bias which render OD inappropriate in global organizing. OD should not be the tool to impose western values, but rather the platform which enables various cultures to work together to get things done without cultural imposition of OD’s western ways. To claim that traditional OD has relevance for global organizing is preposterous.

B Where did I start? Where am I now?

I started this line of thought in the Organization Development Journal (Vol 21) in 2003 in my article “Making OD Global”, which was initially ignored and is now often quoted. For years after that, I engaged with junior and senior alike practitioners in the ODNET discussion group about the western boas of OD.

At present, I am engaging people about coming to terms with their Western bias in both LinkedIn Groups, and via this blog which has about 600 hits a day. I recently published an article called “Aligning Organization Development to Global Organizing”.

I am writing an exercise book for managers and consultants to expand their global awareness.

C) Resistance I encounter

A very small population of OD practitioners understands both my strategic direction and the derivative tactical need to cast aside concepts and tools of traditional OD in global organizations.

By and large, I encounter massive resistance to my ideas, and in this post I point out various ways in which my ideas are resisted.

1) There is nothing new except for Allon’s arrogance.

Folks who make this claim appear to understand that my argument, if correct, is very threatening to the status quo. Thus, I become part of the status quo.

2)  Allon may have a point, I need to acquire some intercultural skills”.

Folks who make this claim conveniently ignore the point that a global  practitioner does not need some cultural understanding, but rather the ability NOT to act with a western bias.

3) “Allon exaggerates a bit”.

Folks who make this claim prefer to believe that “in the end, people are all the same; they want to be “open”, face saving does not apply to the young, and no one really wants to defer to authority”. OD is a process which will “enlighten” the East lies at the heart of this claim.

4) Some folks find my ideas so repulsive that I get hate mail.

5) Some folks agree that what I claim is true, but only in the global organization.

I find the word “only” pretty shocking, because everyone is obsessing about the future of OD, and global organizations is where the world is going.

D) Let’s not go on pretending

I waging this campaign, driven by an overwhelming feeling that OD can have universal application only if its key values/concepts and derivative tools are revised and adapted to global reality. Because OD does not “get” global organizing right.

In the past, I was a main line, traditional  ODer, with a Tavistock background.I was a career officer for many years in the IDF, and that sure pushed me to conform.I graduated from Montreal’s McGill University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, neither of which promoted too much intellectual innovation.

I will continue this campaign of mine, despite the very limited impact I am having on the way mainstream OD practitioners think about and “do” OD. I will do so because it needs to be done.

 

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When creativity is applied inappropriately.

I live in a country with a very high level of creativity; there are thousands of start-ups in Israel. Many have performed exits and probably no one reading this post has not been exposed to Israeli technology (Waze, Viber, eg.)

The starts ups are fuelled by massive creativity, lack of discipline, lack of process, all of which enables looking at problems differently. Anyone who has ever worked or visited corporate Israel knows that meetings go on and on, with endless digression and associative thought, often resulting in either great solutions or total chaos.

The value of the creativity is innovation; the price of the innovative mindset is the lack of scalability, and the inability to solve simple problems, because simple problems requires routine. In other words, there are severe  limits to innovation if inappropriately applied.

In the last few days, there is an illustrative example of the inappropriate application of creativity.  Israel suffers from a horrendous housing shortage. Many politicians have attempted to solve this issue, but  very few politicians have ever suggested building more houses. The assumption is that via changes in taxation, this housing problem can be “outsmarted”. And of course, it cannot be. There is a SIMPLE supply and demand issue. But that’s too simple!

In the end, more houses will need to be built, yet this very obvious solution will be implemented only when every other alternative has been applied.

This  small example illustrates innovation, inappropriately applied. The housing shortage will continue due to a refusal to do the obvious. When inappropriately applied in business, poor use of innovation means loss of control, due to inability to scale via doing the obvious.

While I do follow politics, I have no personal political involvement whatsoever, and this post should not be misunderstood as taking a political stance.

You can follow me @AllonShevat

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What is a Global Literacy? (updated)

In the spirit or brevity, I have put together a very short list of components which constitute “global literacy”, i.e., the ability to be fluent and effective in the acutely diverse global workplace. This list is based on my observations of highly effective managers in the global work place.

  1. Understand where other attitudes and behaviour different from your own come from due to an awareness of the limitations of your own culture
  2. Non-judgmental about how things get done
  3. Ability to build personal trust to transcend differences
  4. Ability to mitigate the imposition of your own cultural preferences. (like: be open)
  5. Behavioural and attitudinal flexibility to work with people and teams whose major shared domain is that they are different
  6. Ability to shelter global staff from corporate absurdities whilst inculcating central values and behaviours which cannot be compromised/

This is the focus of ALL the coaching/consulting that I do with teams and individuals who need to acquire global literacy. My experience is that very little falls outside this list.

Follow me @AllonShevat

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