The one where this isn’t just any OD

For those of you who worry that it’s actually the Illuminati that are secretly running the world you can relax and take a breath. It’s actually the Welsh who are secretly running the world and if further proof were needed it arrived at HRD12 in the form of Nigel Jeremy, Head of Organisational Development for Marks & Spencers (native of Neath).

Nigel took us through what appeared a very pragmatic approach to Organisational Development and it’s credit to him that he made what must be a very complex organisation, both politically and in scale, accessible to a room full of people. He made a number of interesting points, some of which I managed to capture, but those that really landed were:

  • OD translates globally as long as you are aware of the local culture and adapt to it
  • You need to build bottom up from competencies to robust performance management through talent to recruitment and the links they form to engagement
  • To partner the organisation you need line management who are skilled (or are upskilled) in managing performance and talent
  • Getting visible objective data on performance vs potential is key in challenging the organisation away from talent planning based on personal opinion and popularity
  • Unless managers are accountable for outcomes you won’t get traction. For example at M&S anyone who manages more than 5 people gets a personalised cut of the employee survey with their results.

What came through very strongly was how astute you need to be to deliver this kind of role in a large organisation. The acknowledgement that senior stakeholders will have different points of view and you need to adapt how you manage them dependant on their pre-existing views and for those that ‘don’t get it’ they will never get it but you need to work hard to get grudging acceptance (I know that feeling well!!) in Nigel’s words “be patient and sell on success”.

He ended with his view that OD is a system of connected processes that will be different for every organisation and you need to plan your approach with the organisational context and how/who you will influence to get the necessary buy in and his final line was that OD was “a casserole not a sandwich”.

Although he opened with some interesting statistics on how many women would be wearing M&S underwear and particularly bras (I don’t recall the exact numbers) and segued into a joke about bras, which given it was the first session of the day may not have landed as well as he’d hoped, he did stop short of using an M&S style slogan…which I clearly couldn’t resist 😉

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