Organization Development (OD) is the scholarship and practice of applied social sciences to cohesive groups of people – organizations, communities, unions and the like. OD professionals tune into and assess an entire social system with an aim to guide and coach it to discover and evolve itself, bringing people-based processes to do so.  To clarify, OD professionals are not hired to fix a system like a doctor or manage it like human resources (HR). We might work with individuals and teams, though usually with ALL of them or those identified as requiring support to fit the organization as it needs and wants to be as a whole.  Those who practice are typically systems thinkers, with a view on how people, process and systems work (or don’t) together. We discover how a system may work against its own interests and support it to evolve to serve those interests instead, not in doing anything to the system but by supporting its development of a more effective way.

We support pursuits like strategy-culture alignment and employee engagement through a variety of aforementioned people processes, including:

  • Strategy development
  • Leadership and management development
  • Team development
  • Coaching and facilitation
  • Conflict resolution
  • Large group interventions
  • Succession planning
  • Talent acquisition, retention and development
  • The list goes on…

…but OD professionals do not typically specialize in a single process. We usually have a capacity for multiple processes. Our specialty is in getting to know the system and what it may need, then figuring out the process to support it through research, drawing from our professional community, and trial and adaptation.

As a coach supports an individual to their own growth and development, so do OD professionals support an organization and all its individuals to its whole growth and development. To do this, we must start by engaging the very top level. If leadership is unwilling to change, there is little hope for the whole system to do so. That is the rub. On the subject of employee engagement, for OD, it isn’t about managing employees to engage; it’s about engaging employees, and we can support leadership and management to develop the capacity to do so effectively. Transformation of an organization requires every single member to develop new capacities. We can support that process, too.

If, as a leader, you are looking to take your organization to a new level or in a different direction, we can support you to evolve your organization, as a whole, to move that way. Call on us via OD professional organizations such as the OD Network or the International Society of Organization and Change as well as higher education such as Benedictine or Case Western Reserve University. You can bring us in as external or internal consultants as we do our best work in autonomy from the system, not tucked in to a department, other than perhaps the C-Suite.

We, Organizational Development professionals, look forward to serving your organization’s strategic development needs.

Be well.

I caught an interesting article recently on LinkedIn, Power Causes Brain Damage.  It got me pondering and recalling the impact the Milgram Experiment we watched in a Methods of Organizational Research class had on me where I realized our temptation to abdicate personal responsibility when someone will take that mantle from us.  Along with another part of my research on leadership, where I came upon how charismatic leaders can easily take up the responsibility of those in depressed, repressed or oppressed circumstances, it occurs to me that followers have a responsibility in the corruption of power, especially in leadership.

Effective leaders will keep those around them who are able to keep them in check and rooted in reality, even empathy.  Unfortunately, we see too many leaders who are not so effective, right?  Leadership can be isolating unless precautions are taken and that takes awareness.  Awareness takes learning.  Too often, those merely vocationally or academically skilled are promoted without learning how to lead others, let alone themselves.

Then there is the Navigating Conflict workshop I developed and facilitated based on the Peter T. Coleman and Robert Ferguson book, Making Conflict Work.  It reveals how power, relationship and goal compatibility impact how we navigate conflict.  Human sociology is naturally hierarchical, yet as even revealed in the book, we know the effective and compatible use of power when we encounter it.  Don’t we?  If we delineate power along a continuum of self-serving to common good or socially responsible, when those with power start leaning too far into self-serving, as followers, what do we do?  We appease, we submit, we navigate around.  It may work, at least in the short term, but how often do we let it become a long term proposition?  How often do we let the fear of self-serving power go unchecked?  It seems to me that in the face of self-serving power, we reflexively retreat to a follower’s version of it.  Do you witness that?  We retreat into fear and fall into protecting ourselves.  I see this retreat, however naturally human, as abdicating our followers’ version of social responsibility.  It creates an ugly cycle, doesn’t it?

I have long advocated and facilitated the idea of self-leadership being a skill for all to develop – those inclined to follow as well as lead.  It involves developing self-awareness, effective communication and relationship building capabilities, collaboration and teaming savvy, conflict navigation, emotional intelligence, and other ways of being more socially effective.  Anyone can pursue these concepts.  They can be naturally derived from effective family leaders, academic experiences that put us in circumstances that can organically nurture our need to be more effective with others.  Unfortunately, those same self-protective aspects of human nature can play out within those same circumstances, so we all need exposure to more effective and socially responsible ways of being.   This could even be the case for the more vocationally minded, whom we, in the US, have not seen fit to value and support with an educational path.

I see self-leadership as a way to developing better followers, better follower-ship, where we, with care and consideration, keep the powerful, especially those in leadership, in check, even if they haven’t chosen us to do so.

I welcome your thoughts on the matter.  Please chime in!

Most kindly,

~ Jacqueline Gargiulo, MSMOB/MA