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

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Going Deeper Into Change

On February 11, eleven Learning Group members held a special meeting on Presencing and Theory U, following up on learning from the meetings on those topics presented by Otto Scharmer in our meetings of September 2004 and December 2005, respectively. It was a very stimulating occasion, illustrating the energy and breadth of knowledge and experience that always occurs when Learning Group members get together.

Some of the questions and issues discussed were as follows:

What are the sources of resistance in individuals and organizations toward deeper inquiry and transformational change?

Having perusaded an organization to go deeper, how exactly do we get them there (or is better just to go without knowing how)?

How can we make ensure that “shift happens”?

Can make a typology or map of techniques for going deeper? In addition to Presencing, Dialogue, Focusing, intentioning, interventions based on poetry and other arts (our October 2005 program presented an example), getting people to tell the truth, were mentioned?

How can we maintain the “magic” and energy that deeper practices create?

If people don’t want to go deeper, can we persuade them – or should we just let them fail?

Can we create a “container that lasts”?

What is the role of critical thinking in developing deep change?

The consensus was strongly in favor of continuing the discussion. We thus invite members to participate here as one way to do that. We will also be announcing another meeting, possibly taking place next month.

Indeed, a new Learning Group special interest group could be in the making. We were, however, not able to come up with “just the right” name for what it is that we are exploring and agreed to work on that as a follow up activity.

Noting that other posts have been made about the role of humor in OD, here are some possible acronyms:

· Deeper Intervention Guides – DIG SIG

· Getting Organizations Deeper – GOD

· Shift Happens in Optimal Organizational Transformation - SHOOT

· Taking Organizational Analysis Deeper - TOAD

Jim Murphy

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Jump Start Your Consulting - First Report

The ODLG has instituted a monthly giveaway at program meetings to one lucky member who is wiling to share the benefits by writing up their learnings for the ODLG - a win for all concerned. I was fortunate to win a place on the course offered the The Society of Professional Consultants (SPC) called "Jump Start your Consulting Business" run by former SPC President, Bruce Katcher, President of Discovery Surveys, Inc. Instead of waiting till the end of the six session series, I'll keep you briefed session by session via this blog.

Session 1


Ahead of time, Bruce gets us to prepare ourselves with a few skillfully selected questions. We are expected to brief the group on:
  • Our focus
  • Our strengths
  • Our weaknesses
  • Our challenges
  • An example of a client assignment
  • Our approach to marketing
  • What we would like to get out of our time together
Seven people show up on a freezing cold Friday, each in a very different field of interest, each bringing different challenges, expertise and issues, but here are some common themes.
  • How to develop a pipeline and become more efficient at building one.
  • Knowing how much to charge (and consequently what the ideal number and type of projects should be).
  • Whether and how to work with partners
  • Discovering where is the need for one's services and who will pay
  • How to focus when one has disparate skills and offerings
  • How to expand one's network and awareness of one's products and services
  • How to create more rigor round business practices, good processes, a sales funnel.
  • How to create business development plan so you don't have to rely on referrals.
Content - the Learning Model
The agenda is set to cover a number of areas. After introductions and lunch, we are supposed to discuss "How to Establish your Credibility", "Applying these lessons to your Business" and "Next Steps". But all we do are introductions and lunch in three hours. The process interests me. The session was conceived with a hierarchical learning model in mind, with Bruce as the expert-teacher-leader and the participants as students. But as we go round the room, each telling his or her story (structured by Bruce's questions), we hijack the process and turn it into a more horizontal peer-learning model. No matter that we have a biotech person, a career counselor, a software person, an event manager, a call center expert, a journalist and a business strategist and coach - each person's story can be processed through our own filters and reveal new insights about our own situation, and each person's unique perspective and willingness to offer advice adds value to the others. At the end of the session, Bruce expressed regret that we had not covered as much ground as he had hoped, but I felt the experience to be very valuable.

Random Takeaways
  • Productizing is a good way of defining the steps in your process, naming them and then sending an announcement to everyone you know.
  • As a consultant, you should be careful about charging for your time. Charge for deliverables or for results instead.
  • Be conscious about the business model you choose. What will work for you?
  • Talk to people as you are establishing your consulting practice.
  • Focus on what you are passionate about or on an industry niche. Remember the sweet spot is: the overlap of what you do well, what you love doing, and what is needed in the marketplace.
  • For those who have hit analysis paralysis, or who have difficulty letting go of potential lines of business/product features/services, don't worry that you'll lose opportunities. To get across the chasm to your market, pick one pin and bowl (and forgive mixed metaphors).
  • Tricks for building credibility: write articles (there was a debate about whether reprints should be dated or not - yes for high credibility and timeliness; no for longevity as a marketing tool) and write a book (one of us had been fortunate enough to be invited by a publisher to write a book; the rest of us have to struggle on our own).
  • This report would not be complete without commenting on Bruce's delicious chicken salad with avocado, cranberries and balsamic vinaigrette, definitely a competitive differentiator in the management development marketplace.
Till next time....

Fredia Woolf
Principal, Woolf Consulting

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Accentuating the Negative

A post by Jim Webber has asked us to consider what OD would be like if we mastered the art of “Accentuating the Positive”. That is certainly a good question, though, at the risk of accentuating the negative, I think it is also a very tough one.

After all, what usually motivates organizations to call upon the services of an OD practitioner? Problems – trouble – negative circumstances. What makes organizations willing to change? According to many authorities, only the pain of their present situation, the so-called “burning platform”.

Consulting generally proceeds via problem identification, data collection, diagnosis, and recommendation. When we collect data in the organization, we almost hear people telling us the good things – for a few minutes or so – which is then followed by as much venting about what is wrong as we are willing to hear.

Given, then, that clients are invariably thinking about what is wrong and that people in the organization are on the same negative wavelength, if we want to, as the cliché has it, “meet them where they are” isn’t there a risk that a positive mindset on our part can actually create a disconnect? Which of course is not to say that Appreciative Inquiry is not a valid intervention, but perhaps we also need to consider why positive thinking seems to run against the average organizational culture.

Accentuating the Positive

Accentuate the “Positives,” an Emerging OD Opportunity
Positive Psychology,
Positive Organizational Scholarship
and Appreciative Inquiry

Creativity and humor, topics of prior posts, are part of the emerging field of “Positive Psychology.” Positive psychology is the new science of strength, resilience and hope. The Handbook of Positive Psychology (Snyder, 2005) is an incredibly useful and accessible guide to the field. Topics dear to the OD heart include: well-being, flow, emotional intelligence, optimism, hope theory, self-efficacy, the passion to know, wisdom, compassion, love, empathy, relationship, gratitude, toughness, social support, multicultural context, and spirituality.

Positive psychology, in turn, provides the social science base for “positive organizational scholarship” (Cameron, 2003), a developing academic discipline that “focuses on the generative dynamics of human organizing.” (p.10). The titles of the three parts of the book, alone, are enough to rekindle the OD spirit:
Part 1: Virtuous Processes, Strengths, and Positive Organizing
Part 2: Upward Spirals and Positive Change
Part 3: Positive Meaning and Positive Connections

Today, OD practitioners use Appreciative Inquiry (AI) in their work. The AI process asks positive, rather than deficit based, questions, and typically includes the steps of discovery, dream, design and destiny. The roots of appreciative inquiry, as an applied practice, is positive organizational scholarship and, more fundamentally, positive psychology.

Our Challenge: What would OD become if we mastered the art and science of “Accentuating the Positive?”

Snyder, C. R., and Lopez, Shane J., Editors (2005) Handbook of Positive Psychology, Oxford University Press

Cameron, Kim S. Dutton, Jane E., and Quinn, Robert E., Editors (2003) Positive Organizational Scholarship: Foundations of a new discipline, San Francisco, Berrett-Kohler Publishers. Inc.

Ludema, James D., Whitney. Diana, Mohr Bernard J., & Griffin, Thomas J. (2003), The Appreciative Inquiry Summit, San Francisco, Berrett-Kohler Publishers, Inc

Jim Webber

Sunday, February 12, 2006

More Resources on Creativitity

This is a response to the post on creativity by Jim Webber. Our September 2005 program was on Creatvity . Although the notes regrettably are not yet ready, you can find many resources on creativity and OD in the program handout and in the program bibliography.

Creativity is a very hot topic in the management literature these days. While I have actually used a ruler to measure, it would seem the Management sections in bookstore shelves have at least as many titles on that topic as on leadership or team building.

It is thus an area that we should revisit in the future. Membership suggestions on topics in creativity that could be explored would thus we welcome.

Jim Murphy

Humor and OD

Humor and OD

An informal group interested in the role of humor in organization development seems to be emerging at Mass ODLG. Donna Hamarah-Mill urged practitioners to develop their sense of humor at the January meeting. At the February meeting several of us, including Donna Hanifa-Mill, Susan Lee, Elin Anna Bjarnadottir, Sarah Kingsbury, Steve Ober, Bob Maitland, and Jim Webber clustered around a reference page that classified types of humor. This classification scheme is being used by the Union of International Associations (www.UIA.org) in their work on creating a harmonious world.

Humor is a serious matter in organization development. Humor is an essential leadership virtue as embodied by Jim Murphy, our illustrious leader. Humor and playfulness are critical skills of the group facilitator. Humor enhances personal well-being and health and is used systematically and therapeutically in healthcare settings. Humor is a means of communication. Laughter reduces tension and provides perspective in the workplace. Humor plays a role in conflict management as illustrated by the formation of APHIA, the Association for the Promotion of Humor in International Affairs.

There are different kinds of humor – OD has a special interest in mutually enhancing humor as opposed to cynical, destructive and mocking humor. The International Society for Humor Studies organizes its research on humor around: genres & types, disciplinary approaches, writers & performers, cultural traditions and applications.

Come to the March 9th meeting and laugh it up with us,

International Society for Humor Studies: http://www.hnu.edu/ishs/
Humor and Play-Fullness article: http://laetusinpraesens.org/musings/humour.php

Jim Webber

Thursday, February 09, 2006

How can we combine OD skills and business knowledge?

Our February 8 meeting was “OD Meets MBA: Learning and Leveraging the Language of Business” and was led by three-time Learning Group presenter Harvy Simkovits, a/k/a “Mr. Business Wisdom”. We learned Harvy’s model for relating the Top Game, Inside Game, and Outside Game of Business and applied it to a case study.

In a sense, this was a follow up to our November 2005 “Future of OD” meeting. On that occasion, one item on our brainstormed list of “things OD needs to do” was to develop business skills and knowledge. Harvy’s combined expertise in both areas gave us some good answers to that question.

Harvy closed by asking to use “both hands” - the OD hand and the business hand - in our work. But we should not forget the lesson of our October 2005 program: we also need to use our heart as well as our hands!

In addition to the general issue selected above as our Question of the Month, we came up with some other questions for further consideration, viz.:

How can we deal with downsizing and restructuring?

What do you when board or team meeting turn into a fight?

What should ask in your first, fifteen minute, meeting with a CEO?

How can we deal the impact of family members on the boards of family owned businesses?

How we can lead from “what clients want” to what we believe is “the real problem”?

What metrics can be used to measure OD success and how can we get agreement on those metrics?

How we prevent “consultant dependency,” i.e., get organizations to be able to on their what we do for them?

How can make sure that OD interventions last and organizations don’t “relapse” to their old behavior?

We invite members to post their comments on these issues and to suggest additional related questions.