I am regularly asked for advice from those keen to start a career in OD and about what training is best for preparing to become an OD practitioner. I guess it depends what you want from a course and what level of qualifications you currently hold. But for me OD is all about the theory. If you understand the theory, you will be a better practitioner, and not just labelling yourself as something you are not.
I always find it disturbing when I come across development practitioners who aren’t in the habit of regular self development and study, it reminds me of the saying that “Cobblers children always go barefoot.” If you are not developing yourself then you are, in my opinion, falling at the first hurdle. The first and last rule of becoming an OD practitioner – never stop learning!
Personally I would recommend reading as much as you can around the subject and there are some great authors and books that have really inspired me over the years.
One of the seminal books is by Peter Senge – The Fifth Discipline. Another good book is by Edgar Schein – Organizational Culture and Leadership
An OD book that will give you a good grounding in the discipline are Organization Development: A Practitioners Guide for OD and HR by Cheung-Judge and Holbeche. A new book, which I have a discount for on my website until end of August 2014 is Griffin et al, A Field guide for Organisation Development which is now my favourite OD book. Finally for all the foundational academic background I’d recommend Organization Development: Behavioral Science Interventions for Organization Improvement 6th Edition by French and Bell.
Books that have really changed the way I approach working with group dynamics are the following;
- Time to Think by Nancy Kline
- Developing Mental Toughness by Clough and Strycharczyk
- Gamestorming by Brown and Macanufo
For more recommended reading follow this link.
If you haven’t studied HR or psychology at an undergraduate level my recommendation would be to start with an Organisation Psychology course because a psychology course will give you are good grounding in theory and best practice.
At Masters level there are more specific courses available for OD. In the UK one of my go to experts is a lady called Mee Judge Chung (Her book on OD is one of my bibles) and having heard her speak a few times I believe she would be a pretty terrific tutor. In that respect my first choice would be to recommend an MSc in People and Organisational Development at Roffey Park. Roffey park itself has a really good reputation. However the course is a part time two year course.
Roffey park also offer an OD Practitioners Programme which are shorter courses which build towards a certificate in OD, which may be more suitable if you are travelling from outside the UK.
The CIPD offers a Level 7 award (which is masters level) which is a professional rather than academic qualification. However, my experience of studying with the CIPD is don’t let that fool you into thinking its not heavily academic! They have several qualifications, some of which are summer school, some fast track etc which would match your need for short stays if you are travelling from outside the UK.
The USA is much more advanced than the UK in regards to its professionalisation of OD practitioners most likely because it is the home of many of the founding fathers of OD and has an established professional body called the OD network which has a mission of “advancing the practice and theory of OD”. Their website has a page on education but I have to confess I have no experience of OD network, I’m not involved in it and can’t make a personal recommendation.
Its not all about the theory. Developing your skills as both a consultant and a facilitator are also key. For most this might be something you do naturally, but becoming the best OD practitioner you can be requires you to hone your skills. This means traditional training course in various ‘soft’ skills. Whether it is personal impact, coaching, facilitation, research methods, giving and receiving feedback; you name it, the more skilled you become the better practitioner you will become.
Network, Network, Network
I have an extensive network, and the best thing about working alongside other practitioners is you pick up amazing advice, tools and techniques that you wouldn’t discover any other way. I call it ‘stealing with pride’ – if someone is doing something ace, add it to your tool kit. There is no room for ‘not invented here’ in the world of OD, if an intervention (diagnostic, intervention or evaluation) works – use it!