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Posts tagged ‘consultant’

Three Essentials of Organisation Development

I was asked the other day what my three essentials of Organisation Development are.  It was a interesting questions which really got me thinking.  What are the three most important things an OD practitioner should practice in any intervention?

You might have an alternative set of essentials but this was the answer I gave.

#1 – People

Any organisation development intervention must have people at its centre.  Organisation Development is about allowing the people in the organisation to create the change the organisation is looking for.  OD is a holistic intervention, and therefore isn’t restricted to the top brass.  In fact, it works quite the opposite in that it releases everyone from the bottom up to have a say, and share their knowledge, talent and skills in developing the organisation.

If your OD intervention isn’t people centred, and unashamedly humanistic it is probably not an OD intervention.

#2 – Know you Tools, Know your Theory

Whether it is Complexity theory, Action Research Theory, Lewin’s Change Theory, Systems Theory or Appreciative inquiry the cross discipline theoretical background of OD is essential to understanding the tools that an OD practitioner will use in their OD practice.  If you don’t understand the behavioural sciences, sociology and psychology behind methods such as gamestorming, focused conversations or world cafe’s you won’t know which tools to use to deliver the results the organisation needs for sustainable performance and organisational effectiveness.

A mechanic doesn’t try to fix your car engine without knowing how the combustion engine works ‘in theory’ – by understanding the process the mechanic can quickly identify where the process is broken and know what tool/method required to make the engine roar back into life.  OD is no different.

Many practitioners dismiss academic theory as ridiculous ‘ivory tower’ thinking and not applicable to the real world.  The interesting thing is that the theory that OD is built on is often criticised by the academic community because it is built on practice and field work experimentation, worse still, in the eyes of academics, it takes bits of different disciplines because those ‘bits’ are relevant and ignores the stuff that doesn’t add value to the process.  Get to know your theory and you’ll get to understand How the OD toolkit works and when to use the different tools.

#3 – Be Sustainable

I could have chosen a number of things for number three, but the one I plugged for is that of legacy.  The OD practitioner is the catalyst in OD interventions.  They must have the ability to build the business case for the leadership team, get the leadership team on board to sponsor the programme, build relationships with key change agents within the business and draw together disperate groups to make the intervention successful.  They become the centre of the intervention.  The use of self as a catalyst of change is a central pillar of OD practice.  BUT.  What happens when the OD intervention comes to an end?  How do you prevent the organisation from slipping back into old habits?

This is the paradox of the life of the OD practitioner.  You are the centre of change whilst at the same time building a legacy which means that the organisation learns how to change itself.  The OD practitioner must translate the practices, and tools that they use so they become embedded into the way that the organisation does things.  The questions you ask, become the organisation’s questions.  The techniques you use, are understood and used by the organisation you are working with and more importantly you leave the organisation in a positon where they have learnt how to develop themselves without the ‘self’ of the OD practitioner being present.

When the OD practitioner is no longer needed then the OD intervention has worked.

So there you have it, my top three essentials for the OD practitioner.


In Defence of OD

What is Organisation Development?

A good definition for OD is, is one given by French and Bell (1999);

“Organization Development is a long term effort, led and supported by top management, to improve the organization’s visioning, empowerment, learning and problem solving processes, through an ongoing, collaborative management of organizational culture – with special emphasis on the culture of intact work teams and other team configuration – using the consultant-facilitator role and the theory and technology of applied behaviourial science, including action research.”

Which is an academic way of saying that OD helps organisations deliver sustainable performance improvement through people.

The OD Consultant

I don’t have a ‘lift speech’ explanation for what I do as an OD Consultant. Part of the problem stems from my slight embarrassment at calling myself a consultant – a breed that is only slightly better than bankers. So I usually refer to myself as a practitioner to avoid the shudder caused by the grubby nature of some consultants. (Sorry if any of you dear readers are consultants but you know what I mean and probably have a “who” in mind too)

Those who practice OD (like me) usually have strong humanistic and democratic approach to organisational change. People and collaboration are key features of an OD intervention.

So I am a humanistic democratic consultant-facilitator. I am not a trainer, although I might, as part of an intervention, facilitate an experiential workshop that has a learning outcome of some form of skills development.

But I also get involved in strategic thinking, culture change, change management, coaching, leadership development, team building, organizational design, evaluation, performance management, talent management, HR processes, learning and development, sales effectiveness, customer service excellence as part of a holistic OD intervention.

Not exactly short and snappy..

OD Seriously…?

There appears to be a growing number of OD practitioners being employed in OD departments within organizations. So despite the difficulty in pinning down exactly what OD is, it’s ability to deliver real change that delivers real performance improvement is recognized.

OD can seem like a messy discipline. Its foundations are not even in one ‘ology’ taking ideas and frameworks from various behaviourial sciences, theories and research as well as developing theories from field experimentation.

OD does have a strong theoretical background. It is based on research (and experimentation) that delivers real change. And I believe that a practice that successfully manages to marry academic theory and practical, pragmatic interventions in the field deserves to be taken seriously.

Why OD?

Whatever you think of consultants I do believe that OD has a huge amount to offer organizations who are wanting to deliver a successful change programme.  Rothwell and Sullivan said;

“Consider: success rates for reengineering efforts in Fortune 1000 companies range from 20 to 50 percent (Strebel, 1996). A study of corporate mergers revealed that only 33 percent could be classified as successful (Dinkin, 2000), and Doucet (2000) found that four in ten firms did not realize desired savings from mergers. Only 28 percent of information technology projects are successful (Johnson, 2000), and 50 percent of firms that downsized actually experienced a decrease—not an increase—in productivity. (Applebaum, Everard, & Hung, 1999)

I believe that the research (and my own experience) demonstrates that OD can deliver that difference.  A holistic approach lead by a facilitator who values the human dimension might seem a bit ‘out there’ but organizations change because their current business model and strategic plan needs to improve if they want to retain competitive advantage.  Can that very same organization really afford to take a risk on a change effort that has only a 30% chance of success?