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.


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.

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4 thoughts on “Use of self in OD

  1. Another great and provocative topic, Allon. One of the keys to “use of self” is self awareness. How can one effectively use one’s self as an instrument of change unless you Know Thyself? Trouble is, we do NOT know ourselves fully. The Johari window helps us see that no one of us has complete self knowledge. We all have Unknowns and Blind Spots, including cross-cultural insensitivities. Even with feedback from others, do we improve?

  2. Hi Allon

    This article hits the spot. If I was asked the question about “self”, I would have answered, “It depends”. It was good to see that you shared the international perspectives. I have found that over the years my revelation of self in my OD work has had to change according to circumstances. We tend to draw from the store of our experiences, as as you note, these are not always culturally appropriate or applicable.

    OD is an applied field and doesn’t respond well to formulaic responses. When I am making up change teams I rarely include HR except for Industrial Relations advice. I look for people with deep knowledge of the business at hand and an interest/certification in Change Management. I have got much better results using such people.

    Thanks for another thought provoking article.

  3. Hi Allon,

    I am new in the LinkedIn group Association of Change Management Professionals (ACMP). I saw your article and arrived on your blog.
    I agree with Terrence it is provocative and if I understand you well, you suggest that OD and for your example more precisely conflict management are bogged down in western values.
    If we focus on needs of A & B:

    A needs to know that B will do everything he can to sell the product to the client
    On the other and
    B needs to be sure that the product A wants him to sell, is complete
    B needs to feel that he is not jeopardizing his career

    So, by the time A and B express themselves through their needs, they can arrive to take actions in order to satisfy both needs of A and B, don’t you think?

    Are not needs (reinsurance, self-esteem, understanding, etc..) human? Don’t you think they are share by the every one?


    • Hi Anthony
      Thanks for reading my blog.
      I believe that B will never receive any feedback from a female decades younger than him, and ignoring so is imposing western values,

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