OD Coaching and Coaching: some differentiators (a biased look by an OD veteran)…In reply to Terry Seamon

My friend Terry Seamon asked me to write a post about some of the differences between the coaching traditionally done by OD people, and the coaching work done by the coaching folks.There is not a clear boundary around either profession, and I doubt that there is even agreement if both domains are professions. But here is a first stab.

1) OD coaching assumes that goals change all the time as a result of organizational dynamics. So coaching within an OD context  is not obsessed with defining goals, because of constant flux, and lots of these goal changes are exogenic to the individual.

2) Coaching in an OD context assumes some degree of organizational “lack of wellness”exists, since the act or organizing itself creates anxiety. Anxiety is rampant in organizations and thus,coaching in an OD context will probably factor in a more “dynamic understanding of context” and  thus may be less gung-ho, “yes we can.”

3) In an OD context, coaching is ONE tool of many than can be applied. Thus, it is not a cure-all. A top OD professional will not recommend coaching when another dynamic is broken. He/she will point to the root cause, and not apply an empty “what’s your goal” protocol.

4) OD consultants would probably concur that individual coaching done within organizations executed by coachers without an OD background is misguided because it lacks context, has the wrong focus, and is a cop out from dealing with the issues at hand….like middle management training.

5) The main beneficiary of OD in the context of an OD project is the alignment of an individual or team to the system and-or change. The main organizational benefit of coaching individuals in an organization but not in the context of OD is the maintenance of the status quo.


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