Indicators that an Internal OD function is not properly focused

In a previous post, I described internal OD departments as chicken shit brigades, a pejorative term that I do not regret using.

I reread the post and instead of updating it which would force readers to re-read it and find the differences, I have put together a case study that illustrates a few symptoms indicating that an internal OD function needs to be refocused, to use a polite term.

  • CEO Stan stated in his yearly goals that middle management needs to assume ownership of problems, and not escalate almost every issue to senior management for resolution.The level of teamwork and alignment between Stan’s direct reports is non-existent. Stan over-delegates to his direct staff and they have become warlords, who micromanage middle management.

Stan’s HR VP, Gloria, has an internal OD department, which coordinates training programs, allots parking space, coordinates the health/wellness project and leads the Early Bird Retirement Plan for staff fired before the age of 40. Gloria is about to present how internal OD will support the changes Stan strives for. Here is her plan.

  • Middle managers will each be coached on how to assume responsibility. 2 hours per month. 5 external independant coaches will be commissioned from the National Coaching Institute.
  • The Middle Management Steering Committee will put together a mission statement and critical success factors. The committee will be composed of the top 3 middle managers, the HR director and the internal OD function.
  • Middle Managers will get a monthly lecture, on Zoom, on empowerment, out-of-the-box thinking and authenticity.

Internal OD departments which focus on people, not processes or systems, reduce the scope of the real issue to get senior management off the hook. They serve as a mild sedative which transfers blame and delays a solution. At best, they are often irrelevant. At worst, they make solving the problem much harder by delaying system changes until a crisis mode develops.

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5 thoughts on “Indicators that an Internal OD function is not properly focused

  1. This is one of your themes and one that is difficult to address, as you have also pointed out. Obviously the HR proposal is going to exacerbate situation.I hope this person gets some good coaching and air cover to go to the boss and reach an undertanding of what he thinks the problems are and what he can tolerate to address them.

  2. Allon, if you look at internal OD job descriptions (at least the ones I see in my job search), there are very few OD job titles that have actual OD job descriptions attached. These days, the vast majority of OD job titles have straight HR or training descriptions.

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