The new proposed OD operating system-an example

Minahan and Norlin in their recent article “Edging Toward the Center” (OD Practitioner: Vol 45: 4, 2013) suggest a move away from the extremities of OD which may have been applicable in the past in the happier days of OD and suggest that OD should migrate to the centre, i.e., towards bringing more value to clients without abandoning OD’s core values. I suggested in my critique of that article that this is “too little too late” because OD has been almost “voted off the island”; I also suggested we needed a new Operating System for OD, not a bug fix or service pack. I proposed six principles.

The goal of this post and the next 5 posts is to provide examples of each of the 6 principles I proposed as a new operating system for OD.

1) Provide a culturally-agnostic, contingency based platform which enable people with very different values and communication styles to work effectively in a global organizational configuration, in a spirit of inclusion and cooperation.


Sales VP Alex Cunningham (Raleigh) has complained at the most recent meeting of the senior management team that in “deal reviews”, he never gets a straight answer from the Asia Pac Team. Fred (Boston)  who leads the North American Sales Team is very forthcoming with data and risk analysis, while Watanya (Bangkok) who leads the Asia Pac Sales team “hems and haws” and “always surprises us.”

Classical old style OD: Make Watanya understand that openness and transparency are key business values, and while Alex needs to be patient, Watanya needs to change. In other words, Alex, be patient until we transform Watanya into Wanda.

New OD OS:

1) Redesign the deal review process so that it is no longer one size fits all.

2) Scrap the shared value of transparency and rework it so that data gets exposed but people save face.

3) In this aforementioned case, train Alex; don’t change Watanya. Watanya needs to trust Alex and there need to be less concalls and more face to face meetings.

4) In some cases, of course, Watanya will need to change her behaviour. But “who changes when” is contingency based, and not the present mode of “we will be patient until you become like us”.

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