Tag Archives: OD practitioners

The one where it’s OZ not OD

Last post from the ‘Democratising Learning’ conference I promise.

During the group discussion on the barriers to creating meaningful learning organisations the conversation moved to what was stopping the individual ‘going for it’. The answer that came up from nearly everyone was fear/lack of courage. On sitting and reflecting on both the conversation and the conference as a whole I came to the conclusion that there was no better analogy (and the spark for a wry smile) for the requirements of an OD professional than Dorothy’s companions in the Wizard of Oz…

The Lion

The Lion of course needed courage. You could argue that the OD professional doesn’t need courage but I would argue that not every challenge made either to the organisation or individual leaders can be ‘laid off’ with someone for support or necessarily would work if it was supported. The individual needs at times to just have the courage to act – to make the challenge and attempt to change the status quo.

The Scarecrow

The Scarecrow of course needed a brain. Whether it’s to understand the specifics of the variety of business disciplines we need to interact with, the agility to pick up a given situation or strategy quickly enough to be effective or to be able to understand how any intervention will affect the entire system I would say that intelligence (in it’s many forms) are a prerequisite for OD.

The Tin Man

The Tin Man needed a heart. When I say an OD professional needs heart I’m not necessarily advocating either a) that they wear it on their sleeves or b) that it is the guiding force in every action BUT understanding that the consequences of many of things we do have real impacts on real people should be factored in to the way we operate. The other requirement for heart is more to emotional intelligence – understanding the ‘why’ people do things and using that to grow understanding of motivation and agendas I believe will make the way we operate far more effective.

If this all seems very lightweight I did say it would spark a wry smile and there was a much more grown up discussion on a similar topic at the CIPD conference last year, my take on which you can find here. Saying that, whether you work in OD, have OD accountabilities or work with OD professionals stop for a moment and ask yourself, if they all had courage, brains and heart and used them in the right balance, would they/you be more effective?

P.S. I have thought of all red shoe, yellow brick road and friends of Dorothy gags and have ceased to find any of them funny 😉



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The one with the single version of the truth

If like me you studied biology in school you will likely remember the Kreb’s cycle. It’s a rather nifty process through which the body converts sugars into more accessible forms of energy. At the age of 15/16 I could likely have drawn the Krebs cycle blindfolded and tell you how many molecules of ATP were formed at the end. I can’t anymore.

Fast forward a few years and I was University studying Biochemistry and on getting into a discussion about the Krebs cycle during a tutorial all that I held to be true was dispelled with one comment from a Professor who shared the truth that what we had been taught at school was “a simplified version to enable you to pass your A-Level”. I was crushed and soothed my angst with some glucose diluted in strong continental lager. The more we continued with our studies the worse it became in that there were very few absolutes but many theories, speculations, conjectures and a myriad of things still unknown.

Once I joined the world of work life reverted to a ‘school Krebs cycle’ kind of mode. Opinions of others in the organisation were generally based on those of my boss. Firstly, because I didn’t really have much to benchmark them against, secondly, because I didn’t really trust my own judgement and thirdly because most serious interactions with others outside our team were generally initiated by my boss. Life was easy.

Then I started working in recruitment and my opinion was suddenly part of my trade. But (and there had to be a but) what made it easier was I wasn’t actually providing judgement, I was providing a viewpoint in response to requests for data (interview questions) and then allowing other people (initially clients and latterly line managers) make decisions. Life was slightly more complex but still relatively easy.

As my career has progressed I realise (and mostly with reflection) that my ability to form a view point on other people is probably one of the key elements of my role and here’s where life gets so much more difficult. There is not right and wrong there is only the subjective reality (or as some like to refer to it opinion). I have written before about the confidence required to express your own opinion here and the vagaries of the winners and losers internally here but a conversation last week has made me think more about this and I realise a few things:

1. It’s important to control for emotion in the formation of your opinion

2. Context is of course important but in forming your own judgement experiment with different contexts – it may help you frame a situation/person differently

3. When listening to other people express their judgements realise that they are of course being subjective. Try and articulate (to yourself) the factors that will have driven the formation of that opinion

4. Remember that everyone has good days and bad days…and so do you!

5. Act within your own personal values and the values of the organisation in how you enact your opinion

6. Be prepared to accept new data and allow that to impact your judgement (there are very few hills to die on)

7. Realise that at times your opinion may be a lone voice – that doesn’t make it wrong but it may make expressing it a courageous act

8. Understand that your opinion has value and so do other people’s. Treat theirs with respect and expect them to do the same

9. I know this is a values point but it’s worth expressing – don’t be a conniving political snake (technical term) in how you express your opinion

10. If you want to know someone elses opinion of you, ask them but be prepared for some home truths

Despite the fact that life is rarely easy and the transition to many versions of the truth has left it’s scars I think effectively managing your opinion, it’s impact and that of others is what makes what we do worth it. Otherwise it’s just a holiday spreadsheet….



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The one with the influential session

So best laid plans of mice and men….and I only made it to one day of the CIPD conference in Manchester. I must confess spending most of the morning distracted by my Movember fundraising session (and a brief presentation on developing leaders) and then it was time for lunch. One of the sessions I made it to in the afternoon was about getting OD on the management team agenda and came in the form of a panel discussion between Mike Hawes, Director of Talent, B&Q; Catherine Devitt, Director of People and OD, Breakthrough Breast Cancer and Mandy Bromley, Global OE Director, Unilever

The opening question from the chairman was about defining OD and I must confess at this point I got a little disheartened as what appeared were 3 subjective definitions of OD (and a challenge about OD needing to be OE) but actually these answers illustrated how OD is defined differently in different organisations, who have different challenges and need different solutions (so I became a bit more heartened)

Of the three participants two described a new CEO as key to them getting traction for their agenda and this reinforced to me the idea that actually enlightened leaders will get the value OD (and more broadly HR) can bring and it’s not for missionaries to convince the unenlightened.

Some nuggets emerged some of which I manage to capture:

  • OD isn’t about doing it’s about supporting (or facilitating) getting it done
  • It shouldn’t just be neat/cool interventions this has to actually achieve outcomes
  • Line management is as important as leadership in an effective organisation
  • A lot of OD is about common sense
  • Asking questions, re-framing situations and helping people think differently are key
  • OD practitioners needn’t be HR people: some of the best are from the business

Mike Hawes discussed an equation they’ve used at B&Q which he believed he read in a book somewhere and thanks to the wonder that is Google I have discovered he was referring to Gleicher’s Formula which looks like this:

D x V x F > R

D = Dissatisfaction

V = Vision

F = First steps towards change

R = Resistance to change

B&Q had applied this in understanding what they need to achieve and where they needed to focus to ensure it was effective. I do like a nice model/equation so this one seemed worthy of sharing (and will no doubt appear in a slide pack soon)

The final question that made it to my notes surrounding the qualities required of a person to be effective in OD and through the discussion four main themes emerged:

  • Change – require a divine discontent about the possibility things can always be better
  • System – needing to understand the impact of intervention on the broader system not just in isolation
  • Business – the need to make things real for the business not just a ‘pie in the sky’ solution
  • Resilience – that OD is lonely (sobs into keyboard), requires the individual to challenge a lot and the individual needs to be able to cope with that

From a session that started off with all the signs of just being full of ‘this is what we did at X company’ it ended up being very interesting and I left not wanting my money back (N.B. I hadn’t paid!)


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