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.

Share Button

20 thoughts on “How my age impacts the way I practise OD

  1. Allon,

    As a fellow oldster, I hear you Brother! AMEN!

    Love your “OD is a service, not a product. No doubt age driven!” Not sure that is age driven. I think it is more wisdom driven. Perhaps wisdom is age-driven so, by default you insight is age-driven.

    I also love this “…yet these beliefs need to be checked all the time.” AMEN! I sit in your church! 😉

    A caution: do not throw out the baby with the bath water as far as models go. I am with you as far as OD delivery models go; e.g. fly in on Monday, assess Tue-Thur; present and fly out on Friday using a set-piece 4 step model.

    HOWEVER, I find models that help one get a model on human behavior are very useful. Your constellation of thoughts on Global OD is an example.

    Beyond the practical insights, I like your model because it is living – constantly changing as you gain deeper wisdom, insights, and the ability to more clearly communicate what you find.

    Be safe my friend, as our President sends more arms into Syria.


    Drive On!

  2. Allon. I resonate so much with what you just said about age. Being just a few years older than you I do yoga extensively each day.

    I do not need to work.. Yet, I work passionately and extensively bringing people like you to the world. It is my dream, that you and I are able to well set a foundation for generations to come around the benefits of what global organization development might bring the world.

    You are a model of what it means to be an authentic change agent. I hope others will take what you say seriously and integrated into their life.

  3. Allon, Love this post! I laughed as I read it. And I nodded too. I even read it to my wife Joan! You are a gem in our field. Keep up the great writing.
    PS I will turn 60 on my next birthday. Yet I can relate to your musings about age. It (and my health) is definitely much more on my mind these days than ever before.

  4. You definitely touched a nerve and it makes me smile to know that I am in good company. I am in constant awe of those who remember service not product. I could never do the “product” because for me the service was always more rewarding. I am slowly moving away from the legal industry and starting to explore not for profits. I am so looking forward to my third act in life.

    Best from the Big Apple,


  5. Allon, due to my family history, I’m probably as close to being a “digital native” as anyone of our generation can be. & I agree with you wholeheartedly!

  6. Great post. I am about 20 years younger and on the other side of the world but your comments resonate. Give me real service over buzzwords any day and regardless of technology shifts good manners is never old fashioned.

    I am constantly dismayed by managers who display such a basic lack of theoretical foundation or even background knowledge in such a complex field but there are still some good people out there.

  7. You made my week, Allon. As a follower of yours and a fellow youngster of 72, I thought I was the only one that felt and fret about those issues and now someone of your stature comes along.

    I would add one more frustration…varios medical issues impede my stand-up facilitating large groups for more than half a day so I have moved to executive team coaching and leave the workshops I design to my colleagues.

    I take refuge in the fact that I have already exceeded my statistical life expectancy so my duty is to celebrate what’s positive about every day and resist the urge to bitch about my aches and pains.

    Warm regards,


  8. Allon – Love your courage to both look within – and to speak out. Thanks for modeling our profession.

    While the texting in other’s presence may be a reflection of age, it is also a reflection on another level of lacking experience of being truly “present.” Makes me recall a year and 1/2 I had in a monthly “dialogue group,” a la David Bohm. Being able to sit in silence and reflection with a group is a learned skill.

  9. I can’t stand people texting or browsing their email on their laptops while we are meant to be in a meeting – it’s so disrespectful to others, but particularly to the human process that they could otherwise be deeply immersed in and enjoying. Instead they pick up bits and pieces and subsequently allow these to seep into their latter decision making. It’s all a bid to get more done (i.e. ‘multitasking’) but at the expense of quality, removing themselves completely out of the here and now, and diminishing the chance to experience the joy that comes from really connecting others. (i’m also over 60 BTW)

  10. “No doubt tinted by [your] age.” Um … I would suggest that your “age” is formal or informal education coupled with experience. We live in an era where users are trained, not educated (you’re certified, but are you competent?). The difference is that, in training, users are given scenarios where the processes complete or function given a redundant set of parameters. Education and experience, on the other hand, drive the user to understand the scenario, then execute in a systems or environmental context with modifications and / or improvements to drive both efficiency and effectiveness. You appear to understand the latter.

    I understand that I’m making a pretty significant generalization, but I observe a “form over content” structure in too many implementations over the past 25 years. I’m old enough to question myself, to attempt to prove facts via testing and (reproducable) experimentation, and to laugh at myself a little more than I used to. Your above observations make me smile, but they’re observable in business. I don’t like the term “great post!,” but your statements are well written and accurate. Well said!

  11. Hooray, Hooray! finally someone is speaking the unspeakable. Not a surprise, that it’s an experienced and wise OD person.

  12. I find that I love working with people with lots of experience. My question to you is; how do you balance the significant change in the expectation that you will have tolerance for values (personal and professional) that are not your own? I find that some folks can’t do that and pass judgement based on archaic “standards.” How have you adapted?

  13. Hello Allon,

    I’ve just discovered your blog and am very glad I did. You have a way of wryly summing up my own thoughts and opinions.

    Regarding your opening point, impatience with people who are “multi-tasking” during meetings, discussions or, believe it or not, training. I used to let my irritation show, but found that I was met with resistance, defensiveness and, ultimately, alienation. My “secret” now is to turn it around and make the encounter as interactive as possible. This leads the offender to “discover” that they can’t multitask after all, and perhaps it’s better that they pay attention. They then take their own responsibility for the engagement, rather than turning it into a power struggle.

    Looking forward to reading more of your blog posts.


    Leo Salazar

  14. As a 30 year practitioner of fundamental OD, I can attest that HR has mostly killed the practice of OD. I remember when OD had respect, had a core identity as a profession, was not just a bunch of ‘practices’ that management puts up with to get HR off their backs, was positioned with and worked closely with Sr. Management. In the 1990s with HRMA (in NA), it became lost in the HR shuffle.

    Is this my age? I do not think so. The fundamentals still exist, but not in what I have experienced lately in what people call OD. Even the OD Net in my town has no idea what OD is.

    RIP, OD.

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.