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?


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