The outdated profession of organization development-an example

Barry has just raised 15 million dollars from investors by promising  to deliver a product within 2 years that will detect pain in canine and feline pets in order to advise the owner whether or not a trip to the vet is necessary.

Barry knows that 2 years and 15 million dollars are not enough. More likely, he will need eight years and  triple the amount of money. It may even be necessary to purchase another company which specializes in canine ophthalmology at a hefty price.  Only Barry knows this.

As CEO, Barry will provide unachievable goals to his staff. Milestones that need 9 months will be planned for 3 months; each staff member will be burdened with the work of 4 people. There will be no link between the plan and the do-able.

Barry will burn out most of the people who work for him. They will be replaced and the board will probably accept the derivative delays that stem from employee turnover. Every single plan and budget will only serve one purpose-managing the investors’ expectations. 

Employees will bitch, morale will be low, many engineers will suffer from insomnia and digestive problems. Barry will divorce, see a shrink and age. Ten years later, Barry will be a very wealthy man, and his company’s history will appear in almost every business magazine.

Classical Organization Development has no added value in such a situation, because transparency and a healthy work environment are building blocks of our outdated profession, which is geared to a world that is almost disappearing before our very eyes.

What can be done for start up? That is a different post. 




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Don’t mitigate an organizations’ pain

There have been screaming matches between Sales and R&D (Dev) ever since the market release of the last product.

Unhappy clients have communicated thousands of complaints which are besieging management! It is now very hard to get the  Sales and Dev teams to sit in the same room in order to solve problems. There are nasty emails threads going back and forth with personal insults, buck-passing and character assassination.

Stan, the CEO, has no time to deal with this. The investors are on his back for a faster return on investment. He needs to replace his CFO who he caught “chirping” to the board about revenue forecasts. Stan  expects the head of Sales, Lucien, and the head of R&D, Deepak, to be mature and handle the issues at hand like adults. “Boys”, said Stan, “get these teams aligned. Use HR or a consultants as needed”.

The HR manager ran an on-line survey to see what needed to be done to “calm things down”; staff described their level of pain as 9 (on a ten point scale). Job satisfaction was rated high (8) and interdisciplinary teamwork was low (6).

A consultant was hired  to do outdoor training to lower group pain. A  yoga coach  was hired to relieve the stress/pain of the last few months at the individual level. Lucien and Deepak were given each individually 2 hours of anti-stress coaching provided by an on-line vendor via Skype. As is said in the Merchant of Venice, the goal of both interventions was  “Hiding the grossness with fair ornament”.  Act 3, scene 2. Or as is pointed out in a comment (in Hebrew) below by a reader  Mr. Koren, the emphasis was placed on feeling well, not getting better.

However, this mess  was all about the risk taking behaviour of CEO Stan. In order to show his investors a pattern of growth, CEO Stan had oked the design and release of a totally immature project, which no one yet knew how to design let alone build. Sales numbers were high because the install base is in the third world, where agents pay off corporate purchasing to buy almost anything.

The product, now released, has cause huge pain. Sales cannot deal with the angry clients and expects R&D to send people to the client site to get the product working. R&D expects Sales to “manage the the customer” until a half decent “fix” can be concocted.

The moral of this story is that organizational pain is an important indicator, and thus need not be/must not be suppressed. Quite the opposite, the pain can lead us to the dysfunction, albeit not directly.

Mitigating  pain symptoms  in organizations is often the least indicated solution to organizational problems. Mindlessly mitigating pain is a happy happy, wow wow, useless useless exercise which has corrupted organizational development of the worst kind.

Oh yes, coaching for individuals is often (certainly not always)  the mother of all pain mitigation elixirs. Coaching for the individual often means, “Let’s work together on how you overcome other peoples’/system problems”.





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