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

Friday, October 24, 2008

How can we tell whether what people tell us about organizations is the truth?

Our October 22 program meeting was on “Getting the Organizational Truth”. Bruce Katcher of Discovery Surveys presented on "Designing Effective Survey Questions". Louise Mallette of The Telic Group presented on "Creating a Safe Space". Michael Nagle of Michael Nagle Consulting Group presented on "Open and Honest Dialogue”. Deepika Nath of Indica Consulting presented on "What You Need to Know Before You Seek the Truth".

This program was in part a follow-up our December 2004 “Interviewing and Surveying Customers and Employees” and July 2006 “Focus Groups in OD”. The 2006 program was a result of ideas from a brainstorming session at the 2004, and this program similarly originated from whole group discussion at the 2006 one.

Our overall theme was that we have to collect data in OD, using such methods interview, surveys, and focus groups? But since people don’t always want to tell us like it is and sometimes don’t even understand their motivations, how can we know that this data is “the truth” (or, if that is too philosophical a question, adequate ground for making sound decisions and taking effective action)?

This time we also considered what we would learn and what topics would be good to learn more about. The following were some of the ideas proposed:

· How can we get open and honest feedback? Is this situation different in virtual contexts?

· How can we build trust in organizations? And how can we rebuild trust after it has been broken (e.g., betrayal by management)?

· How can develop discernment? Specifically, how we practice “use of self” and build more reflective self-awareness?

· How can we find courage to speak up when it is not safe to do so? Or is this something that sometimes should be avoided?

· How can we avoid self-deception? How does this apply to leadership?

All of these would make for good program topics. In the meantime, we invite blog discussion on any of them or related topics. For the Question of the Month, we taken the overall question provided by the program title.

Jim Murphy