The outdated profession of organization development-an example

Barry has just raised 15 million dollars from investors by promising  to deliver a product within 2 years that will detect pain in canine and feline pets in order to advise the owner whether or not a trip to the vet is necessary.

Barry knows that 2 years and 15 million dollars are not enough. More likely, he will need eight years and  triple the amount of money. It may even be necessary to purchase another company which specializes in canine ophthalmology at a hefty price.  Only Barry knows this.

As CEO, Barry will provide unachievable goals to his staff. Milestones that need 9 months will be planned for 3 months; each staff member will be burdened with the work of 4 people. There will be no link between the plan and the do-able.

Barry will burn out most of the people who work for him. They will be replaced and the board will probably accept the derivative delays that stem from employee turnover. Every single plan and budget will only serve one purpose-managing the investors’ expectations. 

Employees will bitch, morale will be low, many engineers will suffer from insomnia and digestive problems. Barry will divorce, see a shrink and age. Ten years later, Barry will be a very wealthy man, and his company’s history will appear in almost every business magazine.

Classical Organization Development has no added value in such a situation, because transparency and a healthy work environment are building blocks of our outdated profession, which is geared to a world that is almost disappearing before our very eyes.

What can be done for start up? That is a different post. 




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13 thoughts on “The outdated profession of organization development-an example

  1. Absolutely, classical OD is not up to this predicament. If Barry had begun years ago with a mission and vision that might have included work toward this goal and consciously involving staff in the decisions that led to this pass (begin with the end in mind) he might have developed a culture that was more up to weathering this pain… maybe. Schein says that org culture is a set of assumptions that are based on solving the problems of “external adaptation and internal integration” that ends up dictating “how we do things around here.” OD based on laying that kind of ground work might have helped…in the beginning. Unfortunately, few seem to think about culture until they want to change it and then its often too late.

    • Hi Jim
      Re: “Schein says that org culture is a set of assumptions that are based on solving the problems of “external adaptation and internal integration” that ends up dictating “how we do things around here.”

      Schein has his perspective, but more relevant opinions view ‘culture’ as more complex and emergent.

      As an example, from a colleague of mine, a short writing: ‘Three team and organisational culture myths and their consequences for sport psychology research and practice’:

      As for myself, I don’t use the term much, especially with clients – it is overused and has little meaning – has become a cliche IMHumbleO.

  2. Can such an environment/way of operating really survive in a world in which anyone can gain access to any information that exists anywhere in an organization, Allon?

  3. I think this is the type of organization that NEEDS a good OD practitioner that has experience with such a CEO. I’ve worked with a few and they turned around. Same with many other firms. If one does not have the fortitude (strength of mind that enables one to endure adversity with courage) and competencies, then work with organizations that are sweet and nice, and that is ok, also.

      • Good point, Allon.
        However, a CEO is normally on the Board and carries ‘weight’ – so I do not know their voting structure and the ‘voting weight’ (as in, if Berry is Chair of the Board and the rest are just ‘figureheads’ to make it look good – as so many organizations do. Also, the Board usually approves the business model and reviews the Strategic Plan. However, if Barry is lying, or has a hidden agenda, in relation to the Corp. Board, he will be let go immediately again pending the voting weight/structure of the Board – based on your phrase; “Only Barry knows this”.
        As an OD consultant, I have to be honest with the Board and put things ‘on the table’ as per my personal and professional values.
        I re-read Barry’s noted situation above, and could not find a mention pertaining to a ‘Board’…

        As in all these ‘case descritions’, there is not enough information to understand the ‘white space’ – that which is not stated, nor readily apparent in the dynamics of the human venture.

        All the best…. Patrick

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