Towards a new Operating System for OD-Developing Global Leaders


Minahan and Norlin in their recent article “Edging Toward the Center” (OD Practitioner: Vol 45: 4, 2013) suggest a move away from the extremities of OD which may have been applicable in the past in the happier days of OD and suggest that OD should migrate to the centre, i.e., towards bringing more value to clients without abandoning OD’s core values. I suggested in my critique of that article that this is “too little too late” because OD has been almost “voted off the island”; I also suggested we needed a new Operating System for OD, not a bug fix or service pack. I proposed six principles.

The goal of this post and the next 3 posts is to provide examples of each of the 6 principles I proposed as a new operating system for OD.

3) Develop global leadership/followership capabilities across acutely diverse cultural divides, which factor in value and behavioural  preferences of  all major cultural constituencies. (By acutely diverse, I do not mean merely a colour or food preference divide)

Amir (m) is an outstanding global leader. He is aware of the limitations of his own culture; his basic assumption is that things get done very differently all over the world. Amir has pushed back with vigour on HR attempts to push for unified way of doing things, promulgated in phoney globalism training.

Amir is multi-lingual. He speaks 3 languages and reads books, novels and newspapers of every country he visits. Before his recent visit to Turkey, he read Hurriet for a month, to be savvy of what is going on. When Amir visits different sites, he generally stays for the weekend.

He uses what works: Amir is high on relationships in Asia and in the Mid East, high on process in the US and parts of Europe. He is forceful yet tolerant when dealing with the creative yet undisciplined Israelis and orderly and disciplined when dealing with the Germans. Amir defines this cultural flexibility as his key skill.

When East meets West, Amir does not force feed western ways. Amir does not even push traditional “transparency” in cultures with “face issues”. Amir is quoted as saying “It’s my job to learn the bad news”.

In HQ, Amir’s chooses to surround himself with senior managers from different cultural backgrounds to ensure that the touch and feel of the organization’s HQ has huge variance so that it is user friendly to the extreme. For example, he constantly grills product managers about the cultural  variance of each major market before he ok’s travel.

When he visits Japan, he uses an interpreter and the meetings are in Japanese.

Amir looks at his role as a trust builder between his unit and the rest of the world. “I create a platform on trust and deals are plugged into that platform”.

Amir is very different from the managers who are trained by todays’ OD consultants, who promulgate “patience”, and “sensitivity” and listening skills, and perhaps even “know thyself”. Yet underneath todays consulting is a hidden bias of….one day folks will be develop and do things “our way”. Why does OD have this bias? Because OD itself which”leans” to and on western values.

When OD gets this right builds development of global leadership into the operating system, the sky is the limit of how much impact OD has.

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