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The World’s Largest Remote Working Experiment

As a manager you will be supporting many employees who are unaccustomed to working remotely but the novel coronavirus has meant that offices are going into lockdown and individuals are self-isolating.  It’s unprecedented, and the World’s Largest Remote Working Experiment.

Top Five Tips

1) Treat everyone as an individual:  Coaching at a distance requires intentional individualisation.  Make sure you ask the individual the conditions under which they perform best, their concerns about their workflow and their emotional response to the situation.  This is especially important if people are concerned about loved ones.

2) Be clear about expectations:  Make expectations crystal clear.  What work should the individual be doing.  What is the quality standard expected and when is the deadline.  Senior leaders will need to provide high-level expectations about what should be done to keep customers engaged and maintain corporate standards.  The more detail the better.

3) Equip and Inform: make sure that the individual has the equipment to the job they need to do and have access to all the information they need.  There are plenty of tools available to collaborate on line e.g. MS Office, Zoom and Skype Business just to name a few.

4) Communicate productively: Make sure you are purposeful about your communication, include three elements to every call or video-conference: relationship, resources and information.  Make time for socialising, prepare the information that will be required and ensure resources are accessible.

5) Support your reporting managers: remote working over an extended period of time will interrupt workflow and reporting managers may begin to feel negatively if they don’t trust their workers.  Give support both practical and emotional.

Finally, this will be difficult for everyone, but see the changes in workflow as a positive.  Focus on what CAN be done, rather than what is being prevented.  And the enforced change in pace creates a unique opportunity for all that personal development you’ve been meaning to do – so take the opportunity to learn too!

The Human Economy

The Renaissance culture movement profoundly affected economic, scientific, social and political thinking as humanism, liberalism, and intellectual inquiry led to a revolution in learning.  Architecture, music, philosophy, mathematics and artistic endeavour are studied and still admired hundreds of years later.  This flourish of human imagination was eventually overtaken by industrialization, technological progress, social organization, managerialism and urbanization focused on creating efficiency and economic growth.  The idea was to improve the human condition.  It is true that scientific progress has improved quality of life and economic development.  However, the mechanistic Victorian paradigm birthed in industrialization continues to exist within organizations focused on processes and efficiency saving.  The result is a significant cost to both the environment and human society: Deteriorating quality of work and life, loss of individuality, reduced individual power, negative health impacts and rising levels of inequality.

Pollution, Environment, Drone, Aerial

In recent years there has been a growing trend towards integrating humanism into organizational life, and the growth of the human economy.  The digital economy has swung the pendulum away from the mechanical to a focus on knowledge, innovation and creativity.  It is no longer just about what people can make but what humans can create and communicate.  This movement was accelerated following the 2008 credit crunch when the financial machinations of corporatism woke up the working population to their exploitation at the hands of their corporate masters.  The millennial generation are leading the shift to the gig economy as accepted ideas regarding the workplace challenge the nine to five permanent role as the only acceptable form of employment.  This offers a dual benefit of releasing organizations to be more human, whilst creating a stream of disruptive influences as those working outside the organizational boundary become infect organizational culture.  This new structure of employment is challenging what is meant by organization, and forward thinking organizations are moving towards a more humane form of organizational endeavour.  Perhaps history will note that this era was the beginning of a New Renaissance, demonstrated by the shifting political landscape, social upheaval and a growing demand for freedom and independence of workers wanting to think for themselves, create something new and contribute to society beyond the economic.  The fear of non-conforming is being replaced by a fear of conforming and a struggle for freedom to be, defines the hope of this generation.

What does this mean?

As a discipline Organization Development (OD) is over 60 years old, but the movement towards a more human economy means that the philosophy and approach offered by OD is in tune with what is happening in the wider social, political and economic systems. Knights (2016: 4) stated that, “to expect ‘the leader’ to always come to the best solution alone is unrealistic especially in our modern complex world.”  The world of the charismatic leader that always had the answer has been exposed as problematic, and once feted leaders revealed as flawed. Organizations are facing unprecedented pressures on their operations and this environment is often referred to using the acronym VUCA;

  • Volatility: Unexpected challenge over an unknown time period
  • Uncertainty: Unknown causes and effects of change
  • Complexity: Overwhelming interconnection between variables
  • Ambiguity: Unknown, unknowns.

OD can offer organizations tools and techniques to combat these challenges by harnessing the human power and creativity within the organization to deliver sustainable organization performance.  It offer a human approach to an industrial problem.

The Evaluation Phase

The Evaluation Phase in to some extent a misnomer, because in OD evaluation is a continuous and constant process of assessment. Formative evaluation will take place throughout the OD cycle in order that the OD practitioner can make adjustments to keep things on track and respond to new information that becomes available as a consequence of each interaction and intervention. Setting a plan and blindly sticking to it fails to take into account the system in which the OD programme is being delivered. It is therefore essential that mechanisms are put into place to evaluate progress and take stock of what has been achieved so far. Since organizations are social constructs, the very act of changing the conversation and language through dialogic interventions will result in a shift in the organizational culture. Keeping track of how the organization is evolving will mean that plans that were crafted following the initial investigation will need to be adjusted or scrapped completely. Regular communication of progress with the sponsor, steering group and key stakeholders is essential to keep track of developments and ensure that support continues for the programme.

A summative evaluation provides the process for assessing the extent to which the OD intervention has delivered the outcomes agreed during the Contracting Phase. The metrics used should have been identified and agreed prior to the programme delivery. The Evaluation Phase is essential in understanding whether there has been a return on investment (ROI) from the OD intervention, that the work delivered has been effective and resources used efficiently. Evaluation measures also ensure that value delivered by the OD programme is captured and recognition is given for the resulting achievements. Monitoring the changes occurring within the organization galvanise trust in the OD programme and provide the energy to keep going with the tools and techniques. Continuous measurement of the outcomes provide the basis for confidence that the OD tools and techniques can deliver the desired organization change, and the achievement of sustainable organizational performance can be attributed to the investment in people led change.

Just as there are positive forces for change in every organization there are also negative or counter forces that will seek to reduce or reverse changes. The organization is a system, so although change in one part will impact another part of the organization, not changing part of an organization can prevent change for happening somewhere else. For example, during a transformation programme in a UK manufacturer a new customer relationship management (CRM) system was introduced. The commercial teams were given technical training on how to use the technology. However, there was no specific intervention to support their line managers in embedding the use of the CRM back in the workplace, nor any attempt to give meaning to the training beyond what buttons needed to be pressed. The line managers continued to demand that their teams work in the old way resulting in a doubling of the employees’ workload. Although the employees used the system, the employees lacked an understanding of how the CRM system fitted into the wider organizational process. This led to a multitude of processing and data errors, resulting in tens of millions of pounds worth of financial adjustments every month. Nine months later an intervention using OD tackled the managerial stakeholder attitudes to the new system, and employees were engaged in behaviour change and sense-making regarding expectations regarding why good data was so important. However, the damage to the change programme and the financial performance of the organization in the intervening period was significant. A full diagnosis and employment of OD tools and techniques prior to the original technical training would have circumvented these issues. This occurrence highlights the importance of good diagnosis at the start of the OD programme and the attention that should be paid to on going evaluation. It also conveys the serious consequences of getting change wrong, and the relevance of evaluation in enabling the OD practitioner to respond to issues promptly.

In addition to monitoring outputs of the OD programme during its delivery phase, evaluation provides the information required to ensure that change is reinforced and stabilized as part of the organization’s culture. Sustainable change to the organization can take years to secure and the desired outcomes may not be apparent in the initial few weeks or months in which the more visible changes may seem to occur.

Process evaluation is also necessary to ensure that both the practitioner and client learn lesson from the way in which the OD programme has been implemented and activities have been delivered. By analysing and distilling learning from previous projects the OD practitioner is able to hone their skills and improve the effectiveness of their interventions. Key questions to be addressed during that the evaluation phase are:

  • What required outcomes identified at the beginning of the OD process did the intervention achieve?
  • Given the resource committed to the intervention were the desired outcomes achievable?
  • What metrics were used to evaluate the OD intervention and were they suitable for measuring progress?
  • What tracking mechanisms, methods and approaches were used in reviewing the progress of the OD programme and who had responsibility and ownership of the data?
  • What responsibilities and ownership could internal change agents have in gathering evaluative data?
  • How can the change process be reinforced by the choices made regarding the evaluative process in use?
  • Following the analysis of evaluation data, how can the actions or the intervention approach deliver the outcomes required?
  • What worked? Why?
  • What does not work? Why?
  • How does this impact the design of future interventions going forward?

    The OD Tool-Kit – What you need for the Evaluation Phase

    At each stage of the OD cycle it is possible to evaluate progress. At the end of the Diagnostic Phase it is possible to evaluate what next based on what is new knowledge has been generated through the diagnosis. After each intervention it is possible to evaluate what happened, what was delivered and what progress has been achieved against outcomes. It is also important to re-evaluate what next based on new knowledge, which has been generated by the intervention. At the end of the programme, outcomes can be measured and a ROI generated. Process evaluation is required at every stage of the OD cycle. At all points it is possible to determine whether the goal is any closer to being achieved. The techniques and methods required for the Evaluation Phase of the OD cycle are:

  • Social Science research design in measurement and statistical methods
  • Knowledge of organizational metrics and outcome measures
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Stakeholder analysis
  • Evidence Based decision-making
  • Return on Investment calculations
  • Peer-to-Peer Learning methodologies
  • Report writing and presentation Skills


  • OD evaluation is a continuous and constant process of assessment
  • The evaluation phase is essential in understanding whether there has been a return on investment from the OD intervention
  • Evaluation provides the information required to ensure that change is reinforced and stabilized as part of the organization’s culture.
  • Process evaluation is also necessary to ensure lessons are learnt from the way in which the OD programme has been implemented and activities have been delivered.

The Intervention Phase

Top-down change management creates the problem of resistance with leaders battling to motivate and engage. OD supports organizational change by utilizing their people resource. Rather than creating barriers and a culture of fear, OD intervention methods should be designed to enable people to speak up.

Once the Diagnostic Phase has been completed, the feedback report should provide the information needed to design a robust action plan for OD interventions that will enable the organization to continue its change journey. By this point the disturbance process should be in full effect and options for OD techniques and methodologies can drive real behavior change as well as change to structure, process, and policy. Interventions can be devised to address a number of organization system requirements sustaining and maintaining some elements, consolidat- ing progress made, building on strengths, or preparing for future changes. Interventions can be limited to examining a single issue or an ongoing program of interventions designed for progressive development. At the core of each OD intervention is the search for existing organizational capacity, which can help progress the organization toward prospective futures.

Based on the theoretical underpinning of OD practice, there are a number of OD tools and techniques available to the OD practitioner. Key questions to be addressed during that the Intervention Phase are:
■ Where and at what level within the organization should the intervention be deployed?
■ What specific areas of change are required and to whom: individuals, teams, functions, or the whole organization?
■ What is the focus of the intervention: task, process, or people?
■ Given the organization culture should interventions be rigorously planned or will the change journey be emergent?
■ What intervention tools and techniques best t the organizational environment and have the potential to deliver the outcome required?
■ Who within the organization will be in- volved in codesigning interventions alongside the OD practitioner?
■ What actions can the OD practitioner take to improve the client’s ability to deal with future problems?

An Intervention Model—Harnessing the Human Resource
OD interventions should engage with the tripartite of thinking, feeling, and being, which is central to human endeavor. Harnessing the Human Resource within the organization requires that each intervention engages with rational logic, awareness and self-awareness, and transpersonal elements of the change process.

OD creates space for individuals to think using iterative methods of action and re- ection. It grants access to the full range of intellectual capacity and knowledge depositories within the organizational boundary allowing for a high-level interchange of ideas and information. Reasoning creates an arena, which allows individuals to utilize the intellectual capacity available within the organization, resulting in solutions that are broader in scope, thought through, innovative, and creative.

The links to behavioral science mean that OD interventions encourage people to watch, notice, perceive, and observe their own behavior and that of others within the organization. Sometimes referred to as emotional intelligence, the act of increasing awareness into how people behave and exploring why they behave in that way in- creases an observance of behavior, which, once noticed, can be developed.

OD engages with individuals to appreciate their own, and others’, feelings, values, and beliefs. This appreciation transcends the requirement to be right, and instead develops a connection even in difference. Clear perception and recognition of how individuals activate their beliefs and values results in greater levels of understanding and appreciation, which enables personal peak performance.

The OD Tool Kit—What you Need for the Intervention Phase
The intervention phase is the beating heart of the OD program and harnesses the human resource in the organization to create a safe environment where ideation, creativity, and innovation are utilized to overcome challenges and pursue opportunities. The techniques and methods required for the intervention phase of the OD cycle are:

  • Acknowledgment of complexity
  • Cultural sensitivity
  • Knowledge and methods relating to adult learning and learning through play
  • Knowledge and skills in employing OD Methods, for example:
    • Community Learning (Fulton, 2005)
    • World Café (Brown and Issacs, 2007)
    • Open Space Technology (Owen, 2008)
    • Charrettes (Lennertz, 2003)
    • Theory U (Scharmer, 2009)
    • Work-Out (Ulrich et al, 2002)
    • Sustained Dialogue (Saunders, 2012)
  • Ability to develop supportive and safe environments
  • Flexibility and adaptability to respond to the ow and messiness of the intervention environment

■ OD supports organizational change by utilizing the people resource.
■ The feedback report from the Diagnostic Phase should provide the information needed to design a robust action plan for OD interventions.
■ At the core of each OD intervention is the search for existing organizational capacity, which can help progress the organization toward prospective futures.
■ Harnessing the Human Resource within the organization requires that each intervention utilizes reasoning, observance, and appreciation.

The Diagnostic Phase

The Diagnostic Phase of the OD cycle provides the data and information with which decisions can be made in regard to moving the organization forward. It is a full exploration and investigation into the historical context of the organization and what is happening in the present circumstance. In many ways the OD practitioner takes on the role of an organizational detective seeking to find not only the answers but also the right questions to ask. It is through the diagnostic process that the OD practitioner will develop a deep appreciation of the organizational situation, developing knowledge of the organizational capability; culture and strengths, which can be developed in order, move the organization forward.

Image result for Diagnosis

Both qualitative and quantitative data collection methods can be employed with each method having disadvantages and ad- vantages depending on what needs to be achieved. Working with hard data such as absence and turnover data, it is possible to examine trends and hot spots within the organizational system. Soft data can be collected through action research, interviews, and direct observation and can be designed to engage and connect with the organization. Examining mental models, open communication, culture, social constructs, and sense making are the key components of the diagnostic process. The output from the Diagnostic Phase is a comprehensive report of what change, development, and transformation are required. In addition to data gathering, the Diagnostic Phase is also a disturbance process designed to drive dissatisfaction with the current reality and help participants to begin thinking about possible futures. The diagnosis fundamentally examines the current functioning of the organization, identifying key issues and information necessary to input into the intervention design process. Key questions to be addressed during that the Diagnostic Phase are:

  • What data are required to develop a deep understanding of the organization and provide the basis for decision making and action planning for the OD program?
  • What data collection methods and processes are most appropriate in the organizational context?
  • What political context and power controls will shape the diagnostic process?
  • What similarities and differences exist between individuals, teams, and functions in regard to their perception of the organizational reality?
  • What time and people resources are required to collect and analyze the data and is the organization willing to commit this resource to the process?
  • Who has responsibility and ownership of the data collected?
  • Who has the responsibility to complete the analysis of the data, and do they have the requisite skills to do so?
  • Who needs to have access to the feedback report from the diagnostic interventions?
  • What are the most critical issues identified, what are the symptoms of the system, and what are the causes?
  • Based on the diagnostic report, what revisions are required to the proposed OD program?

The OD Tool Kit—What You Need for the Diagnostic Phase

The Diagnostic Phase can be used to in- crease awareness of the contribution individual employees can make to the change journey and to raise the level of consciousness of each individual as to how their behavior impacts not only on their own performance, but that of their team and the wider organization. The techniques and methods required for the diagnostic phase of the OD cycle are:

  • Dialogue Skills
  • Access to Hard Data and permission to collect soft data
  • Knowledge of collecting and analyzing data (Qualitative and Quantitative Methods)
  • Intervention and activities design skills
  • Facilitation skills: support, challenge, re-framing, and questioning in the moment
  • Knowledge and skills in employing OD
  • Methods, for example:
    • Appreciative Inquiry (Watkins et al, 2011)
    • Search Conference (Emergy and Purser, 1996)
    • Social Labs (Hassan, 2014)
    • Visual Explorer (Palus and Horth, 2001)
    • The Art of Convening (Neal and Neal, 2011)
    • Participative Work Design (Emery, 1989)
  • Knowledge of how to use a statistics package
  • Strategic process design


The Diagnostic Phase is a full exploration and investigation into the historical context of the organization and what is happening in the present circumstance.

Both qualitative and quantitative data collection methods can be employed.
Examining mental models, open communication, culture, social constructs, and sense making are the key components of the diagnostic process.