How can OD become relevant as businesses reopen

As the current stage of the corona plague slows down and businesses reopen, OD consultants may identify a demand for their services. However with budgets becoming very tight, only the more skilled consultants will get work. In the present crisis, chicken shit pre packaged OD and training packages will not fare well. But there are opportunities for the better skilled.

I have always suggested that when clients turn to a consultant, their problem definition may be a symptom of the problem itself. “We have a communication problem”, or, “First line managers do not identify with the management”, or, “We lack customer intimacy” are all symptoms, and nothing more. Probably the most critical OD skill is the ability to redefine the problem with the client.

I want to suggest that albeit the initial (possibly inaccurate) problem definitions that will come our way on the part of clients, the real issues that clients will face will be:

  1.  Shifts of power within the organization from functions that generate revenue to those who save resources and  focus on efficiency.
  2.  Internal mergers between units and departments. Examples may include between Legal and HR; between Sales and Service; between Project Management and Engineering; from geography based sales focus to government -focus.
  3. Enhancement of risk management by sharing of risk, alignment of decision making to the appropriate level, and development of contingency plans.
  4. Replacing key players/leaders who are not capable of change.
  5. Implementation of extraordinarily painful cost cutting, without loosing  critical functionality and the trust of those who remain.

If you have a skill set which adds value in these areas, then you may have a fighting chance of survival. And if not, then like the Jervis Bay, your practice may go down.

sinking, still she faces her antagonist.
Then the waters begin to close over her.
The waters close over Fogarty Fegan,
And over the flag
That once was used for burials at sea.
And now night spreads its shroud.

                                           -Gene Fowler





Share Button

8 thoughts on “How can OD become relevant as businesses reopen

  1. In my experience, management/leadership perception rarely matches front line reality. IMHO, one of the keys to effective OD practice is being able to surface that front line reality and put it into usable, actionable form that enables leadership to recognize and act on that disconnect.

  2. Good topic, Allon. Everyone is on the edge of their seats waiting for the green light to open and re-start business again.

    You say “Probably the most critical OD skill is the ability to redefine the problem with the client.” You may be right about that.

    A few other skills surface to my way of thinking…the ability to really listen to the client and surface their concerns…the ability to expand the client’s thinking beyond “the way we used to do it”…the ability to help the client design the future.

  3. This age old problem of the client trying to diagnose their on dis-ease and then being very attached to it because they came up with it. (So why hire a consultant?) My own successes with this have tended to come from the dialogic OD approach. Since the client’s idea of what the problem is, as you say is generally symptomatic in of itself, I have found it helpful to spend time with the group and find out more about where the heat is. I then negotiate an outcome that I think I can live with and then bid the project rather than bill an hourly. This allows the manager to have a bit of patience, since the amount of time I spend will cost whatever I’ve bid, and I can take the time to follow my instincts as I dig further into the dynamics of the group. In the course of this, some things, usually specified by both client and group, get better. Eventually the group of issues that is causing distress, be come clearer and clearer and as they do present approaches that are manageable. Usually, I come away having made some money and with my reputation intact.

  4. Allon,

    Interestingly enough, I’m going through the list with a client at this moment! Funny really, and I appreciate, as always, your insights.

    Hang in there.


  5. I’ve encountered client goals & objectives on many an occasion. Often they have already embarked upon some course of action. I suggest that they would be well served by asking themselves four questions about that course of action:

    As a result of (whatever it is they’re doing):

    What do you hope to achieve?
    What do you want to preserve?
    What do you want to avoid?
    What do you want to eliminate?

    Typically, this clarifies what they’re up to and often results in a modified course of action.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.