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Organizational Development

My notes from Joe Bentley’s (Professor of management and organizational behavior, U of Utah) talk at UDEM (Mexico) on March 2012 and some additional reflections after 8 years.

joe bentley

1. We, OD consultants, know how to facilitate collaboration instead of compliance.

Organizational issues require collaboration, as the ones that are at the top of the organization have the power to assign resources but frequently don’t know how to solve the issues or even what the root cause of the issues is, and the ones at the bottom have the knowledge but not the power to solve them.
Collaboration requires a shared purpose, mutual objectives and a joint approach to design process. Anything less than that will create silos, hidden agendas, lack of communication, or just plain resentment.

An OD professional will help you engage the right people to have conversations needed to collaborate. We will design fair processes that help the group balance power dynamics, see the elephant in the room and keep working towards shared purpose.

2. We know it’s important to give voice to everyone, in harmony. We know that giving voice brings commitment, commitment brings energy and energy brings progress.

We’re experts at designing collaborative, agile and humane processes that invite participation at all levels, as we understand that emergent problems require emergent solutions. Solutions that don’t come from best practices but from conversations and that invite the wisdom of the group, as each individual sees and holds a piece of the puzzle.

We are aware of the fragility of trust, and how difficult it is to help organziations recover from disengagement, and how important trust and engagement are to the customer experience.

3. We believe that conflict is not always bad. It generates new opportunities to have conversations that matter. Conflict facilitates possibilities and when it’s appreciated, leads to consensus. Conflict shows where the energy is, and what matters to people.

OD consultants can help groups see the needs of each other and design and implement processes that leverage the energy of conflict in a positive way.

4. We know how things change in a “planned way”. Change doesn’t happen as a result of a Gantt chart and collaboration needs to be developed. Change requires understanding of individual and organizational dynamics and a properly designed intervention.

OD professionals can help your teams design and engage in the processes needed to make change happen.

We understand that human behavior is complex, and we incorporate the complexity of people’s reaction to the process, allowing a semi-organized change, instead of chaotic change.

5. We understand that change is always about people. Technology and Finance could be strong but people are the system. They are who pay attention to what is going on in the environment, the ones who talk to people, the ones that connect the dots.

OD professionals understand the complexity of your system, how it is impacted by the environment and how people react to change. We can help you engage people and help them develop the engagement needed for change initiatives to succeed.

6. We know how to teach and speak truth to power. Sharing what we observe in a group and system is what helps the system see itself. We have the skills and willingness to help leaders reframe their perspectives and get outside of their comfort zones. You cannot fix what you cannot see.

An important role of an OD consultant is to teach the ones with the power.   85% of the leaders hadn’t have any formal training on leadership. As OD professionals, our roles as process consultants, sounding boards and coaches are key for the development of the organization. We know how to meet our clients where they are and help them go where they need to be.

7. We know that the most valuable learning is the one achieved through struggle. Problems open you up for learning. OD consultants understand that people need to experience the struggle and deconstruct it to understand what got them there, why they are stuck and how to move forward. We help the system see the elephant in the room in a way that is productive and not with the intention of blaming anyone.

OD professionals help the organization learn from the problems and learn their process that got them unstuck, instead of sweeping them under the rug. In this way, we increase the organizational capacity.

8. We understand the pressure of time. We don’t know where we would be in the next 20 years, or what the future of organizations will be. We will be solving problems that we don’t know yet, with people that are still studying elementary school, in situations that we cannot predict now, however, we know that face-to-face conversation will be important. We will need to discuss desires, goals, achievements, failures.

We, OD professionals, are comfortable with ambiguity and complexity. We can sit with uncomfortable feelings when exploring sensitive topics and difficult conversations. We eat VUCA for breakfast and enjoy Cynefin in the afternoon. We understand how theory becomes practice.

9. We understand that an OD instervention starts always with a problem. It’s difficult to pay attention if everything is ok. All changes start with a need. We understand that there is conflict between the organization and its needs and the individual and his/her needs. We know how to work with people to solve the organizational problems.

When you stop saying everything is fine in your organization, when there is something that keeps you up at night, it’s time to reach out to us.

OD consultants will help you untangle complex situations and deal with sensitive topics, in a way that builds capacity in your organization.

10. We understand that change requires a lot of energy: at the beginning and also through the entire process. People are usually energized at the beginning but have less energy after the initial stage. We are able to channel the energy for the bold strokes at the beginning, as well as the needed for the long march.

An OD professional is the one: 

  • who is comfortable with ambiguity
  • committed with collaboration
  • who honors other people
  • who involves others in the design of change
  •  who is an expert in Human Relations
  • who learns fast and adapts even faster
  • who is eager to receive feedback

We can see things that the rest of the organization cannot, understand issues in a different way and tell the truth in a way that engages people, instead of losing them.

Is there something we can help you with? We can offer you a free 30-minute conversation to help you find a strategy and address what’s going on. No strings attached. Send us message.

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