Misuse of feedback in the global organization

OD and change consultants who want to remain relevant would be wise to  stop drinking academia’s warmed over cool aid, check their western biases, step away from force feeding western values when inappropriate, and get real. Want an example? Let’s look at the feedback loop’s appropriateness to the global organization.

Feedback is one of the building blocks that OD introduced into organizations. Feedback consists of information about an organization, a group and an individual which is “recycled” to provide a basis for assessment, reflection and as a basis for corrective action.

OD’s toolkit and values froze over a long time ago, whilst organizations globalized their configuration.  The blanket misuse of feedback in global organizations is an example at hand. There is a need to align the feedback loop to the huge cultural variance that exists in the global workplace, which is what I will do in the post.

Let’s look at some cultural variance in the global workforce.

  1. In some cultures, it is easy to talk about the future, but if the past is discussed, there is/may be a  loss of face.
  2. In some cultures, corrective action may be more effective if positioned as adaptive change,without use of explicit lessons learned from the past.
  3. In some cultures, direct and authentic feedback of any kind is seen as extraordinarily rude.
  4. In some cultures, the essence of leadership is to “protect employees by assuming responsibility for their errors” and keeping it all hush hush.

Clearly, the existing feedback loop with all its western biases, must be retooled for the global organization.

As we align organizational design and development to a global configuration, here are a few components worth developing.

1. Develop and legitimize opaque communication tools that allude to the past in order to plan corrective action.

2. Develop and legitimize indirect and “back door” feedback so as not to cause any perceived discomfort whatsoever, yet enable change.

3.Develop a contingency feedback model that allows a legitimate trade off between the feedback and the perceived harmony of relationships.

4. Budget much longer time cycles for giving feedback so as to allow face saving.

Have you ever attended an OD conference that put this issue on the table? Have you read a text book that focuses on western OD’s irrelevance? Of course not, global organizations are side shows which challenge the dominant western bias of OD. And there is a power elite that keeps it this way.  

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