How my age impacts the way I practise OD

I am 68 years old. I swim 40 laps (one km) 5 days a week. Few people (except my dentist) “give me” my age, but alas, facts are facts.

To be honest, there are events that remind me of my age; I do not recover from periodic ailments as fast as I used to, I love my routines more than ever, and I find myself talking about health from time to time. And my back has seen happier days.

I have reflected as of late about my age and my profession. This post is about how the way I practise OD is impacted by my age.

Sharing with you all these random reflections:

I am still not used to people or groups sitting with me and sending texts messages simultaneously. Heavens knows that I have tried to adapt, yet I find this practice infuriating. In the past, I refused to accept when it happens, and slowly I gave up.

-Coming from an age when most teams were not virtual, it is my belief that virtual teams are chronically prone to acute trust issues, which plague communication and transparency. I tend to work with my clients on setting proper expectations about virtual teams and “pain management” rather than rah-rahing folks to achieve the impossible in virtual teams. This belief is no doubt tinted by my age.

-Until about 15 years ago, a lot of my work had been commissioned and enabled by very professional HR managers, who understood OD as well as I did (and at times better). They provided me with air cover and used their power at the senior level to remove obstacles which allowed me to succeed. I had always viewed HR as a partner. This past experience has made me  wary of the HR profession as currently practiced: my present stereotype of HR is of a survival-driven sycophant, who wow wows and promotes mindless slogans “in line with core values”. I am very lucky to have found exceptions to this stereotype, but my stereotype is based on a bitter reality, based on my remembering another and better era.

-Having seen so many OD fads come and go, my age has made me weary and wary of OD models; having seen so many solutions de jours, I am religiously eclectic. In this sad age of OD productization, I am a very firm believer that OD is a service, not a product. No doubt age driven!

-At the very of my belief is that “customer satisfaction” is not something OD even strives to provide. OD does not define a scope of work and deliverables, and work to plan. This is not what we do.To use a metaphor, if water is a river, we are in the water and swimming against the current. OD challenges authority, asks questions, rocks the boat. To use a political metaphor, OD is loyal opposition. These beliefs of mine come from another era, when OD did not sell products which reek of snake oil. When I need to change to start “pleasing clients”, I will leave the profession.

I am not in the elearning or webinar space not only because I do not think it is very effective, but because I am not good at it. But probe me deep enough, I do not think it works well. Clearly an age related liability.

To sum things up, I am technologically capable, an OD innovator as well as very relevant in my practice. I am not a nostalgic relic; my age has given me a firm set of beliefs which serve me well, yet these beliefs need to be checked all the time.

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