OD and Change Management: some major differentiators

1) Change management assumes that organizations are more orderly than they really are. And, when CM encounters unexpected difficulties, they further develop tool kits to drive out the noise cause by these so called “unexpecteds”.

OD (when practiced as an art) knows that the organizations have massive underlying dynamics which render much of the “visible activity” of an organization into a very partial view of things. OD knows that the organizational world is about the anxiety caused by the chaos fuelled by constant changing.

Thus, OD’s view of things is less positive and enticing for managers.

2) Change Management is not stuck in humanistic values. Thus, CM is more appealing to managers,. Managers and CM never say that people are spare parts; they just act that way. Thus, the derivate difficulties they encounter but do not often acknowledge.

OD is rooted in humanistic values, many of which are admirable but out dated. OD has been reticent about updating its value offering by become more relevant world wide. Thus, OD is a bogged down in the values of the western world and cannot scale up to global organizing.

Thus, CM mechanizes change and ignores people while OD promulgates western values in a global environment.

3) CM is productized, easy to understand and markets well. OD is “knowledge work” with an “art” delivery mechanism when well practiced. It is very hard to market, but far more sustainable over time.

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9 thoughts on “OD and Change Management: some major differentiators

  1. Hi Allon- another great blog. I am loving this series. You have managed to express y/our hard-earned insights succinctly- brilliant! Over the years, we have come to use the term ‘OE’ rather than ‘OD’ which encompasses MofC or, my preference- ‘midwifing org change’ without selling our soul to CM.

    I appreciate your challenge regarding ‘western values’ that underpin OD. I find myself agreeing and disagreeing with you. The part of me that disagrees is that, having worked in many cultures, underneath cultural differences sit human needs and wants and I have found those needs and wants to be universal. This is my ‘come from’ when I practice OE/OD.

    • Hi Amy
      I spent many of my formative years in The West and live in The East. Probaby this taints my view against the existence of universal needs of people.
      This merits a two hour supper-next year at London OD conference?

  2. Allon and others, I think the behaviors you identified around constant change and chaos are very real, and can be unsettling, unnerving but can be addressed through CM, which addresses rational processes like timelines, metrics, formal roles, agreed-to tasks and clear boundaries. In a chaotic environment people often feel decentered and such rational approaches tend to provide them with something to hold onto like a life line. In addition, people would need clear and frequent communications using primarily the face-to-face channel in order to reduce ambiguity. The OD practitioner, on the other hand, who is schooled in psychodynamic and intercultural processes, has the tools to incorporate those rational processes while helping with the client system to understand the irrational dynamics as they emerge. I see the principal task of the OD consultant in such fluid systems as helping to transform the anxieties. What do you think?

  3. I see the role of the OD consultant to work with the client that “changing” is a constant anxiety augmenting state which can backfire. When we overdose on flexibility and constant change, this leads to breakdown of committment to the organization. So we have change after change after change, nothing really changes.
    Sometimes, speed makes limited sense if the committment is not there. And if everything is fast, then we have lots of change and no committment to make it happen.
    I doubt that change managers confront managers on this issue; I am sure OD people try do, albeit with limited success.
    Thank you for taking the time to read my blog and comment.

  4. Allon – Very interesting post. You have captured the essence of OD and CM as well as their strengths and weaknesses while avoiding jargon. One area that I find myself disagreeing with you is when you say, “OD is a bogged down in the values of the western world and cannot scale up to global organizing.” OD by definition is a humanistic approach, which is why values are central to its practice (unlike CM). I find myself agreeing with Amy Barnes above that the following values may be rooted in Western cultural thought but have universal human application: “having a say in how work get done” (democratic participation), “respect for the uniqueness and dignity of the individual” (human rights), and “the use of self as an instrument of change” (individualism). Thanks for providing some much needed food for thought on this topic.

  5. Very interesting post Allon, no doubt ..
    Just a passing thought .. OD and CM, irrespective of how we define them and the terminologies used .. they would continue to be 2 sides of the coin .. complementing each other .. in other words .. you cannot have one without the other 🙂

  6. I’ll defer to you on the “global perspective” portion, since I have no international experience. Otherwise, as usual, I couldn’t agree more!

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