Critical issues facing Organizational Development-revised

“The outlook wasn’t brilliant for the Mudville Nine that day;

The score stood four to two, with but one inning more to play,

And then when Cooney died at first, and Barrows did the same,

A sickly silence fell upon the patrons of the game.’

From Casey at the Bat –Ernest Thayer         Hebrew translation

Let’s look at the context in which OD is practiced nowadays and what this all means.

1) There is a severe economic crisis which has been going on for a long time. While some phoney “economic indicators” may look better than they did in 2008, the truth is that organizations are war zones in which people struggle not to join the ranks of the unemployed. Few people expect to have job satisfaction; “ satisfaction” is having a job. Since market conditions favour the employer and not the employee, people are no longer all that important. People have become spare parts.

The cornerstone of OD was to align the individual with the organization and focus on creating an environment which is good for the individual and for the organization. Thus, the relevance of OD’s value proposition appears bizarre at the present moment.

2) Professions should have professional standards. These professional standards serve as a balance and complement the commercial criteria by which professions are evaluated. So, a chartered accountant who has a thriving business but violates accounting practices will find himself in deep water.

OD is a poorly defined profession with no borders. There are no agreed upon professional standards. Thus, commercial standards are totally dominating how OD is practiced. OD has become a commodity, sold by an OD vendor, and the OD practitioner must satisfy the client. If the client does not know what he needs, this is irrelevant because you “follow the money” and deliver what has been ordered.

A cornerstone of OD was to “speak truth to power”. If one needs to “titillate” and please the “customer”, the ability of OD to delivery on one of its major principles is castrated.

3) OD was founded by White Western and European males, and the Western values of OD are  in line with those of the founders: participation, openness, authenticity, delegation, team work.

Organizations are now configured globally. In most of the world, there is more autocracy, more secretiveness, more discretion than is seen in the west; many of the values of OD are seen as parochial and irrelevant to the way people should operate, especially when they are threatened as people are in today’s economy.

4) As OD “stands its ground” and waits for the economy to “recover”, other professions cannibalized OD.

Change Management promises those in power that changes can be “managed” with a set of templates. HR’s disguising itself as a “business partner”, has cast aside/betrays the lobbying for the human resource and often serves as management’s 5th column to “deal” and contain the human resource. Unions and organized labour may/will fill in the vacuum. Certainly in the country where I live, re-unionization is rampant.

5) OD had a massive focus on communication. In organizations, people rarely talk too much any more; they text and email and use portals. A major domain in which OD brought huge value is shrinking.

6) Now that Corona has created unprecedented crisis and unrelenting change  in all organizations and systems, there is a new challenge to our relevance.

  • Jobs are very scarce. Very scare. Like 4 leaf clovers. And that means that it becomes an employers’ world: sans work-life balance; sans perks; sans engagement; sans paid vacation; sans lunch coupons.
  • Choppy choppy is back in season. 3 jobs will become one. Three departments will become two. Six engineers will become four. And until that happens, organizations will be war zones between people vying to be retained.
  • The roles and functions focused on gender equality and diversity will be totally marginalized and wither away. It’s a world of many people drowning and very few life jackets.
  • Dreams, vision and big ideas will be relegated to the back burner.

We need to be faster, more short term focused, less non-directive and far more creative, shaking off values which hold us back from being relevant in this economic catastrophe. This is a tall order for a profession so enamored by its past, and trapped in the values of another world which is dead and gone

Oh, somewhere in this favoured land the sun is shining bright;

The band is playing somewhere, and somewhere hearts are light,

And somewhere men are laughing, and somewhere children shout;

But there is no joy in Mudville — mighty Casey has struck out

From Casey at the Bat –Ernest Thayer     Hebrew translation




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