OD interventions are not physics.
It is difficult to predict when an intervention will have sufficient traction to drive change only to slow down, unravel itself back to square one, or even suddenly regress only to be worse than it was in the beginning.
In this post, I want to provide a few guidelines (about what can be done when things get stuck) that I follow myself and also suggest to the people I supervise.
- Defocus. Instead of working on one or two directions, try several directions, all at the same time. This will enable to work with what you have. Remember, organizations can be very unpredictable.
- Use the “stuck in a snowbank” routine. Well, I’d better explain. I learnt to drive in Quebec during January’s severe winters. When stuck in snow, you can move you steering wheel slightly to the right and left, then go slowly back and forward, then back and forward, rocking your way out. So, applied to organizational development, this would mean: look at your mandate, widen it or narrow it down, and/or don’t apply constant pressure in the same direction. Or, push forward and allow things to regress, then go forward again and again, and back, until there is change.
- Look for hidden agendas. Who is benefitting by the lack of progress? Is someone in HR trying to replace you as a vendor? Is the CFO trying to cut down costs? Is your client just stringing along with you to please his boss.
- And never think about you. Change is not about your success, but rather the success of the organization. If you want faster change to make yourself look good, you are in the wrong business. So when things get rough, don’t make stupid mistakes and get thrown out in a futile attempts to look good.