Organizational Development in Special Situations. #2 Relay of Intent

This the second of 3 posts to illustrate that OD is not passé.

While others have cannibalized some of what OD used to do, and people are not as valued as they used to, there are special situations where the added value of OD is outstanding. The first situation I described was  New Product Introduction.

This post relates to use of OD to relay intent in cases where cultural obstacles prevent dialogue.

Due to globalization and speed as strategy, people from extraordinary different cultural assumptions need to work together. Use of the English language has enabled people to understand the words (as it were), but they  certainly do not understand the intent of one another in many cases. Many of the obstacles faced in the global workplace are insurmountable without a 3rd party who helps each side “relay intent”.

While culture training purports to educate people to one another’s sensitivities, relay of intent is an on-line translation service, yet the translation is the translation of intent.

Here is an example, with intent  in red. The 3 parties are:  American Fred (Head of Sales), Thai Som (Regional Head of Sales) and Israeli Moshe (Regional Head of Sales)

Fred: Hi guys. Can we discuss what Q2 looks like until now?  I am getting some mixed signals. What’s really going on with Q2? Don’t surprise me.

Moshe: We are waiting for technical pre sales material. Fred, can you update us? Fred, you do your job and I will do mine.

Som: There are several important client visits planned, even though our market is driven by costs. The product is too expensive; nothing is happening.

In order to do translation of intent, the OD consultant must

  • understand all cultures s/he deal with, so that the message can be relayed in a way which relays maximum intent and.does minimal damage 
  • have business domain knowledge
  • build trust with all sides to do this grisly work Smile
  • understand when direct dialogue is possible and when a 3rd party is necessary.

Unlike most consultants, I believe direct dialogue in some cases hurts business, especially when speed is strategy. Direct dialogue  has too many obstacles when the speed of  business is mission critical.




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