Discussion forum for members of the Massachusetts Bay Organizational Development Learning Group

Friday, August 19, 2005

Door A or Door B

Each program meeting we are selecting a Question of the Month for on line discussion. This blog will be the Learning Group’s primary medium for such follow up, though the newsletter and the web site will also be utilized.

The current Question is “How can we choose Door B?” In his highly stimulating August 11 Learning Group presentation, “The Organizational Workshop,” Barry Oshry explained Door A and Door B. Every day, we choose which door to go through, both in our personal lives and in the organization that we work for.

I am wondering, by the way, if Barry once saw the same Stan Freberg television show that I did. It began with Freberg standing in front of two doors, one marked “Same Old Stuff” and the other “New and Creative”. As a TV writer, Freberg instinctively began going through the first door, but a voice induced him to instead choose the second. Freberg had somehow got Chun King, for whom he was doing advertisements, to sponsor this one-hour program travestying television, which was shown once on a Sunday afternoon and the voice represented the sponsor freeing him to do what he wanted.

In organizational life, as Barry explained, Door A leads to Predictable Responses. If go that away, the same old things will happen. We may avoid getting ourselves into trouble, but we will be stuck in the same old rut.

Door B takes us to Unpredictable Possibilities. On this course, the way is harder and we have to give up a lot of our routines, but we will find ourselves addressing the core issues of organizational life and reaping the reward of meaningful change.

One could say the job of the OD practitioner is to get organizations to choose Door B. We may often in fact go through Door A because that is what the client wants or because it seems the only paying route, but we know in our hearts that Door B is best.

So motivating Door B behavior is not just the Question of the Month but also a fundamental issue in OD practice. I rather doubt that there is one answer to the question, but finding answers could be considered to be a key goal for the Learning Group, whose mission involves increasing the field for OD practice.

There seem to be two types of answers given when this constant question comes up. One approach is to explain to clients the pain and the costs of Door A. As I often put it, “Work does not have to be like Dilbert!” Another way is to demonstrate the value of Door B. Those who maintain that OD practice has to demonstrate ROI favor such persusion.

No doubt the right “voice” depends upon the situation and the client. Hence one way to continue this discussion would be for us to consider some actual case studies in which we have in fact tried to lead people to the right path. Who can contribute an example of successful or unsuccessful attempts at motivating the choice for Door B?

A couple comments from Barry Oshry

Barry Oshry just posted a couple comments to the previous post. I'm posting them here for the benefit of those who don't pay attention to the comments. (This raises a question of how we want conversations to play out in this forum--primarily through comments or through posts. Another good topic for people to post about.)

Barry says:
I'm dealing with the question: "How we empower others in our organization...make them aware of the costs" etc. You need to understand the framework I operate from: education. I never begin with an organization's actual condition, the specific issues it is facing, and so forth. I want to take them away from that specific world to first explore "organization" as it exists EVERYWHERE. For that reason, I always want to start with an exercise like the one we experienced (only at least a day long) or, if a workshop isn't possible, then a presentation on some facet of general (universal) organization life such as "Life in the Middle" or "Why are there no Top Teams?" The point being that there is power in people seeing that the issues they are experiencing are not specific to their organization and are not tied to the personalities of the players. This creates a very different emotional, intellectual, and strategic base for looking at, understanding, and working with their specifics.

With regard to the system pain: systemically-focused workshops and presentations deal with the costs of system blindness - personally, in term os relationships, as well as costs to the system.
And Barry also says:
I'm dealing with the question: "Is victimization something that is culturally learned?" To understand victimization, we need to go back a step. To feel like a victim, we need to believe that there is some powerful person or group who could solve our problems if they chose to. All you have to do is go back to childhood to see how early and powerfully this belief in a "powerful other" is embedded. All we needed to do was whine, and they took care of us. And we also learned that if they didn't come after the first whine, all we had to do was whine louder and more frequently. So it is understandable that our first reflexive reaction to pain is to blame that non-responsive "powerful other." The problem is: Some of us, or all of us some of the time, never get past that first response even though that "powerful other" is no longer around.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Barry Oshry of Power + Systems

Yesterday evening Barry Oshry of Power + Systems treated us to quite a show. Funny thing is that we were the ones performing, in our roles as tops, middles, bottoms, and customers. I would say our performance was unrehearsed, but actually one of Barry's main points was that our real-life organizational behavior is all too rehearsed. We act out the same stories again and again. "I'm responsible here, so I better suck it up"; or "I'm oppressed by my bosses, so screw them"; etc.

Most people I know (including me) got very wrapped up in their roles for the evening. Then after our last 10-minute "workday" was done, we collected ourselves and posed some questions for further thought:
  • How do we empower others in our organizations to take responsibility? What benefits can we sell, and how can we minimize fear, even while our colleagues are being battered?
  • Is there a "tipping point" where an organization collectively lets go of victim story and chooses responsibility?
  • Does this kind of exercise work in cultures with different attitudes about independent thought? How much of our victim reaction is learned culturally?
  • How can we create good organizational simulations? Especially simulations like this one where participants really own their reactions?
  • When we do this exercise for a real-life organization, who is the client: just tops? Or tops, middles, bottoms?
Now's your chance to share your thoughts on these questions. Just ask to be added to the list of blog contributors and then you can write your own posts for all to see.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

ODLG Blog Guidelines

Last night Mal Watlington and I conferred with the ODLG Coordinating Committee and agreed to the guidelines for the ODLG blog. In short, our guidelines are the following:
  1. Any member of ODLG may post to the blog. Just ask to be added to the list of contributors, if you're not already on the list.
  2. Before you post to the blog for the first time, take some time to get familiar with the flavor of what's been posted already. Then add your OD-related inspirations to the conversation.
Below are our official preliminary guidlines (subject to change by the ODLG coordinating committee).

For years Learning Group members have suggested that we find a means for ongoing discussion. We are thus pleased to announce another methodology for that purpose and to invite participation by all members.

At our June 19 meeting on “Planning for Change,” our business section had a special presentation on blogs by Bruce Hoppe (whose blog is “Connectedness”) and Mal Watlington (whose blog is “Online Conversation and Beyond”). Bruce and Mal volunteered to create an MBODLG blog, and the Coordinating Committee was pleased to approve that ideas, as you now see before you.

What is blog? A blog (or “weblog”) is simply a web page that is in the formal of a journal. Blogs have a theme, sometimes called a “meme”. Blogs are somewhat like a list server, but have the advantage of a nicer interface.

What is this blog for? This blog is for ongoing discussion of organizational development topics. Each month we will select a particular discussion question from that month’s program meeting. We recognize that discussion may be “flowing” and don’t anticipate “censorship,” but we do reserve the right to edit the blog with this goal in mind and with respect to the guidelines cited below.

Who may contribute? All Learning Group members may contribute. (Note that, as explained below, nonmembers may use certain other forms of MBODLG communication methods.) To be a contributor, simply write to blog@learninggroup.org. No technical skills needed – though literacy is assumed!

What are out guidelines? Ever discussion needs some ground rules. The following are thus indicated:

  1. Be respectful. No attacks (so-called “flaming” – but see the next rule). Try to be sure that you understand what you writing to, especially when responding to a post, and that your information is accurate.
  2. Avoid jargon. Just as everyone who is interested in OD is welcome at our program meeting, so too this discussion forum is not just for the digerati! Try to avoid technical langue that may impede others’ understanding or participation.
  3. Stay on topic. Be relevant. See below for other resources for sharing your thoughts that may be unrelated to our discussion.
  4. No commercials. See below for other resources for this purpose. Likewise, thoughts on MBODLG issues should be directed to the Coordinating Committee, and discussion will be recorded on its web page.
  5. Use private replies. Before posting responses, make sure that what you say is for everyone and not just meant for the original poster. If the latter is the case, send that person an individual e-mail.
  6. Edit your post. We all make mistakes; that’s why spell check and grammar check were invented. E-mail is very susceptible to errors, and we maintain the right to make needed corrections.
  7. Be brief. Conciseness and brevity are conducive to good blogs. If you have a long statement, consider posting it to our Member Essays page.

We would note that the Learning Group provides many other resources for communication and that many of these may be more suitable for what you have to say. These options include the following:

  1. If you “just want to talk,” we have our e-group (so-called “Message Board”). Note that this resource also allows for file sharing, on-line chat, and other features.
  2. If you wish to communicate with individual members, use our Member Directory. Please note that under our privacy policy we will not give out information except as authorized by members in this source.
  3. If you have a question or announcement, you can use the Newsletter, members having up to two paragraphs each month in the Member Announcements and Requests section. If your message is time dependent such that the monthly newsletter deadline would be too late, you can use the e-group.
  4. Subject to time restrictions, those attending our program meetings can make announcements on matters of interest. In addition, they can use the Wall of Networking to send such information to those attending and (for members) to post it on our web page.
  5. We encourage members to contribute reviews of books, articles, organizations, persons, places, or things to our newsletter and both members and nonmembers to submit Internet resources to that source. For longer writing, we have our Member Essays web page.
  6. Our Jobs Group maintains an e-group for members that is used to share information. Employment notices and related information are posted here.

If there is some communication resource that we not providing, let us know (cc@learninggroup.org), and we will try to provide it. And now we have the blog, too. Let the discussion begin!

For those who want to learn more, here a few resources on blogs:

Why people blog: http://www.ics.uci.edu/~jpd/classes/ics234cw04/nardi.pdf
Short history of blogging: http://www.rebeccablood.net/essays/weblog_history.html
Sociography of blogs: http://home16.inet.tele.dk/jesper_t/weblogs.pdf

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

This is the title of the first post

This is the first sentence of the first post. The second sentence of the first post only at the very end refers to itself as "this."

The third sentence of the first post contains actual content, suggesting that ODLG members check out the latest issue of Fast Company, which features the cover story "Why We Hate HR." Next a fragment introducing a picture:

Finally, an invitation to contact Jim Murphy if you would like to join the list of contributors to this blog.