What can’t OD do?

Because of the competition in the consulting domain and the free for all between coaching, change management and OD, at times everyone claims that they can do everything.

I have 36 years experience;  I certainly do not think believe that OD practitioner can do all the things that we claim to be able to  do.

Here is a short list of what I think we cannot do:

1) OD cannot change culture. OD can midwife this part of this change via facilitation, but OD cannot “change” a culture. Nor can we forge a new culture- post merger. By and large, this is a Darwinist process. We can mitigate some of the Darwinism, but Darwinism is more powerful than OD.

2) OD cannot drastically upgrade the functioning of an incompetent manager. Coaching claims to be able to do so, but I feel this is not an accurate representation of what coaching (whatever that is) can do.

3) OD practitioners generally cannot work well with other consulting professions in a team. Although we preach team work, our own level of teamwork is often poor, since OD practitioners are too paranoid about their space, because they lack confidence about their real added value.

4) OD can not lead a strategic process single handed. OD has massive  value in supporting strategic planning and change, but  we lack the business skills to lead the process single handed. (However, neither can BD or Strategic Planning)

5) OD (as practiced in the Western world) is irrelevant in dealing with cultures where “face saving” and “discretion” is more important than authenticity and transparency. OD has a built in western bias, which it force feeds on Asian and Mid East clients, to our detriment.

There is  lots of good stuff we do, but posts need to be kept short. 😉

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5 thoughts on “What can’t OD do?

  1. Maybe you are right (I know, there is no maybe about it..) and perhaps OD is ONLY Western OD – and that the global work, particularly in the far east or mid east is something else?

  2. Allon, I rarely disagree with you, but I have successfully FACILITITATED culture change, I have worked well with other consulting professionals in a team, & I have facilitated strategic processes.

    But facilitation is the key – that’s where OD’s expertise lies. All too often OD practitioners come to believe that they have the solutions or the expertise to create them. We don’t. What we have is the skill to design & lead processes that draw that knowledge/wisdom out from the people in the organization & put it into a usable form. When we become arrogant enough to think that we have the solutions within ourselves, without drawing them out from the people we’re working with, that’s when we fail.

    • Facilitation is certainly an important skill. Understanding process is another. Understanding organizations holistically, in terms of structure, power, relationships, culture, leadership, and strategy, is critical. To help an organization change its culture, which we can do, an OD practitioner or OP (organizational psychologist) needs to have a broad range of knowledge and skills, and even that is not enough. There is also the interpersonal skill level of the practitioner, which unfortunately cannot be taught in courses, that makes a big difference in any engagement. An effective modern day OD/OP professional needs a broad and well integrated skill set, and if you are really good, I contend that you can make quite a bit of change happen, including culture change.

  3. Hi Allon,
    I think you’re so so right!
    OD can help the organization that is going the right way.
    Its hardly possible to fix the broken organization or apply he “DNA” fix throught OD.
    I do think that OD can greatly help when organization is going through growth phases.

    • I disagree with this comment. If we were only here to help organizations who are already going the right direction, I don’t think there would be a lot of work for us. But as I mentioned in my last comment, it takes a lot of well integrated skills to be good at this work. And, as is true in general psychology (therapy), the client has to be willing to change. If not, then yes, it will be a difficult road. I like to address this topic right up front to ensure that we are both have the same understanding around who and what needs to change, and that change in the organization will not happen unless people change. They are in fact one in the same.

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