What is to be done about Organization Development?

Organization Development has 4 major threats.

  • Change Management presents a more concrete perceived value  proposition in  the change domain
  • Coaching has encroached on group and personal consulting
  • IT technology has a eliminated a lot of issues OD dealt with because of the manner in which people interact
  • A very threatened HR is closing the door and “throwing blocks” at OD work.

Some folks in Organization Development are waiting for market reality to “go back” to what used to be. Others suggest a return back to OD’s humanistic roots, in a weird “back to basics” syndrome.  Others moan and groan about a “bad market conditions” and hone their OD “marketing skills” in a failed attempt get work in a tough market.

I have chosen the road less travelled, focusing my OD work to address the unique challenges of global organizations. OD’s western set of humanistic values and tools is irrelevant for many of the issues and challenges global organizations face.  Yet OD can be, and is, in the process of being redesigned and retooled to support inherent problems of global organizations.

The pragmatic, eclectic and skilled OD practitioners, with advanced cultural literacy and cultural humility, probably need about ten days of retraining to jump start professional capabilities to be effective in global organizations.

And the hardest part is not the learning, but rather the un-learning of OD “orthodoxy”. The OD establishment has a lot to lose if OD becomes “too flexible”.

Redesigning and retooling OD is a bit of a rebellion. Those who do not rebel against traditional OD and its establishment will fight a battle of retreat.

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14 thoughts on “What is to be done about Organization Development?

  1. Allon you are so clear and so right on point. You shed the spotlight on my future thinking.

    There is so much trash in the knowledge that flies by me by me every day.

    I only have time to read or pay attention to very few knowledge sources.

    Allon S is one of those. Another is John Spence who gives me contemporary overview of organizational life. Both Will be presented on video and in print on my new Fourth Edition of Practicing Organization Development.

  2. Allon: I don’t take issue with the cultural differences issues you raise; however, it seems to me that somewhere at the heart of the matter there exists some core set of values that mark OD. Otherwise it ain’t OD. What values do you see as marking “global OD”?

    • Not values but the essence..

      1) Relationships before process
      2) Inclusion of Harmony, face and discretion to be factored in change efforts
      3) Contingency based used of interventions, based more on what works than what “I believe in”
      4) Pragmatism and practically
      5) Cultural humility

  3. P.S. Let me add just one example to illustrate. I think “showing respect for individuals” is a core value in OD. How respect is shown doubtless varies from culture to culture.

  4. Fred
    We disagree.
    Respect for individual is an umbrella term and when you drill down you see things like:
    Respect me as an individual and allow me to cut off the genitals of the female members of my family.
    Respect me as an individual and come on time.
    Respect me as an individual and pay me off.
    Sorry, I would wipe the word out of the dictionary.
    It obfuscates.

  5. Allon

    On this one, I disagree. Please tell me how this reads.

    1. Change management offers ‘stability’ – not concreteness. So that is the OD opportunity.
    2. Technology was an external dimension in organisation design. Today, its contours are ubiquitous, and can shape behaviors, though, interactions will still root back to human essence. OD has to embrace science in linking behaviors and its mediators to base motives, intents, and context.
    3. HR is not threatened, it is merely challenged – cognitively and affectively. Yes, this may mean they are insecure, and they apparently embolden themselves in alibis that have no bearing with OD.
    4. Coaching has caught on, but in itself cannot entail whole system effectiveness..It surely is a great complement, that OD can leverage.

    The future of OD is threatened more because of an abject neglect of science, and in the incomplete adaptation that practitioners have yet to finish for themselves than anything else.

  6. As ai read this one, Allon, I had an image that, just as the OD founders saw the inter-connectedness of the individual, their group and their organization (the ‘larger system’ at that time), you are pointing to the more accurate current reality of the NEXT LARGER CONTEXT in this ever-expanding domain where we seek to make a difference: the GLOBAL CONTEXT. Maybe we need to let Coaches have the individual, the Team-Builders have the groups, and make our (OD/OE) mark in initiatives that may incorporate the first two but focus on the LAST two.

    Which few of us are fully-equipped to carry out IMHO. There are probably many OD colleagues who do training that impacts individuals and their group, but not many who actually do OD/OE work that impact the entire organization and/or that organization’s global context.

    Say on, brother!

  7. Allon, your 5 essences, say it well. My own South American half (first generation) would create, what I found to be, a productive tension with my Midwestern industrious / task oriented side regarding: 1) Relationships before process. It is enough, without going into your other four points to note that relationships are exactly what has given the professional executive coaching industry its leg up over the OD confidant of the past millenium. The coach offers the neutrality and support for the loneliness and alienation at the top as we look at alternatives to the industrial age, and find ourselves, in the US, more often trapped by it.

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