Creating Value and large scale change via being Eclectic

The dumbing of OD has led to use of tinned OD solutions, superimposed on complex organizational situations. Management via IT process and the need of managers  to look great as soon as as possible has led to massive use of these tinned solutions. When these tinned solutions fail, the vendor can be blamed and another “vendor” hired.

There is another much better of doing things however, as this post illustrates. I will illustrate a complex project based on a totally eclectic approach.

A large corporation hired me to work on a prolonged crisis between the central HQ-based Technical Presales Team and the various RSTs, i.e., Regional Sales Teams in South East Asia, Japan, China, Europe and the Americas.

There had been turf wars between the HQ-based function and each of RSTs, yet the reasons for the turf wars were different. Ideally it would have made sense to decentralize Technical Presales, but due to the lack of product experts, it was impossible.

A well-known consulting firm had just failed in this very endeavour, leaving behind a bible filled with process flow, roles and responsibilities, and what have you. My mandate was to `create uniformity“ so that everyone `works to processes”. I turned this mandate down, and suggested a more eclectic approach.

My point of contact was a very competent HR manager, very unlike my Gloria character. The HR manager and I agreed that the solution may not be uniform, and the starting point will not be the bible of processes, rather, we will do whatever works, with a very eclectic approach.

Quickly I discovered that there was huge variance in the HQ Technical Presales –RST interface between regions.

·      In some countries, the sales force was equipped only with `connections“ and after clients’ doors were opened, the RST expected that technical pre sales do everything else, including signing the deal and legal work.

·      In other countries, the RST was highly technical and all they wanted from Technical Presales was promotional marketing material!

·      In another set of countries, the Technical Presales Team was seen as “bunch of spies for corporate“ serving as an unneeded gate to prevent selling of customization of the products to local needs. Thus, the RST did everything alone, bypassing Technical Presales; however corporate could not build the customizations that the RSTs sold.

My work did not focus on all RSTs at once. First, I did a show case project with one area (Europe) and the change was very positive. The CEO and senior executives bragged about the `turn-round“ between Europe RST-HQ Technical Presales in several senior forums. Eventually, my project expanded to each RST and a 3 year effort was crowned as a major success.

The solution in each RST looks very different. In some RST`s, we worked on trust and communications, in other RST`s, we worked on mutual expectations. In yet other RST`s, we needed to replace managers with negative political agenda. In the Technical Presales team, there was a 10% increase in headcount and a massive investment in travel and personal effectiveness coaching.

The procurement department in this company had recommended not hiring me. There was no scope of work I was willing to commit to a priori, I could not estimate budget, and my travel expenses were high.

Three months into the second year of the project, the Head of Procurement told me that he heard that `the results are worth the investment, even though you (Allon) did not handle the initial  negotiation “appropriately”. And he has a point.

All thru the project, HR provided me with air cover, promoting the eclectic approach of tinkering, seeing what works and solving the problem.

No workshops or OD pre-packaged modules were used.

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10 thoughts on “Creating Value and large scale change via being Eclectic

  1. Sounds good, Allon. Glad you had a savvy and adequately powerful sponsor. I also favor what you call an “eclectic” approach. I call it “configured” versus “prefigured.” But then I would say “canned” instead of “tinned.” Drat! I guess that means I can’t do Global OD (GOD).

  2. I simply cannot understand how it is that so many “faddish” methodologies have gained such credibility.

    Look at BPR. Something like 8 or 10 years ago, the creators of the methodology, in a Fast Company interview, completely repudiated BPR. They flatly said that it doesn’t work & has been misapplied. They completely walked away from it.

    Yet it seems as if half the world still wants BPR.

  3. Good for you Alon.

    Canned approaches do not work in medicine, and definitely don’t work in OD.
    If no humans were involved, canned OD approaches would work well.

    As someone who worked on one of the first “Big 5 Consulting firms” led BPR projects in health I can confirm that the BPR approach didn’t work then and it certainly doesn’t work now.

    It’s funny how people in organisations with vested interests don’t want outsiders brought in – it might lead to transformational change!



  4. “We will do whatever works”… Exactly! Whenever I use a similar approach, it – surprise, surprise – does work, and very well. And, of course, no one can “describe” and “estimate” in advance what it “exactly” it will be or how “exactly” it will work: so “selling” it to anyone who has never heard the word “eclectic” becomes more and more difficult …

  5. Allon,

    Aside from culture and ‘mini-cultures’ within the organization contributing to the value of an eclectic approach, Grant’s comment about ‘canned’ approaches being wonderful if there were no humans involved is absolutely spot-on. I was involved earlier this year in an organization where they chose a canned methodology (a very expensive one) rather than select to approach the effort with a customized solution for their initiative. I think that it is easier for those who do not understand the complexity of OD, behaviour management and collaborative structuring to choose something that appears more ‘tangible’. OD solutions are not like purchasing software and efforts to promote the value of an eclectic approach may fall on deaf ears with some. You are fortunate to have a sponsor who truly understood the value you bring to the table with your approach. Thank you for sharing.

  6. The cookie cutter approach is sometimes “asked for” by the client who thinks that if it worked once, it will work again. In some cultures, it is even preferred.

    The work you did is true OD.

  7. This past week, I visited a relative recovering from cancer surgery at Sloan Kettering Memorial Hospital in New York City. Their new advertizing campaign seems relevant to this thread of replies: “There will never be one cure for cancer. There will be millions. It is time to change how the world treats cancer.”

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