“Due to a prolonged downturn in business and a cut throat competitive climate, OD is playing defense. OD claims that people are important, yet the business climate and type of leadership which rises to the top seems to feel differently. So what is to be done?”. It was with these thoughts that I came to London for the OD conference.
Here are my answers.
1) There are still lots of sloganeering going on about how important people are, and how important it is to promulgate the importance of people, yet this slogan mongering sounds nicer to our ears than it does to clients’ ears.
2) Within OD, there are “hard” tools being developed (such as organizational mapping) which shall appear very attractive to management in a few years. At present these “hard” tools have bugs and flaws in logic (such as the need for strategic clarity), but over time these tools will become more robust, and these tools will threaten traditional OD in the same way that mobile phones have “threatened” (ie, eliminated) land line phones.
3) New IT and communication technologies and measurement-ism have created an organizational world where it appears that the human resource is merely “spare parts”. However, measurement-ism and IT technologies have created a whole set of new problems, from alienation to institutionalized organizational ignorance (addressing the wrong issues). OD has the tools the address these burning issues, if our “art” is practiced as an “art” and if the OD focus is appropriate, i.e., getting people to communicate and interact effectively/authentically in order to work around the new set of problems described above.
4) Organizations have been globalized but OD has not been globalized in its approach/values, and unless OD undergoes a radical transformation, OD as practised is irrelevant for many configurations of global organizing. New groundwork has been done in this field, yet there is still ideological resistance, because global OD skills threaten the comfort zone of many traditional practitioners.
5) There is no room for content agnostic, pure process driven OD interventions anymore. The world is too complex and there is no time to waste time. Domain expertise is needed.
6) To be truly effective OD practitioner, one needs to have an understanding of economics and have a defined philosophical world view. (Perhaps, there is a need to be in touch with some spirituality. I say “perhaps” because I have little contact with spirituality, which makes me effective in some situations and ineffective in others.)