September 20, 2014 » 11:48 am

An Anthology of my Critiques of Organizational Development

My friend and former business partner, Kristin Cobble, recently asked me to re-share some of my critiques of the organizational development (OD) field and of OD consultants in particular. It took me some digging to pull together what I felt were the most relevant posts, so I thought I’d share them here.

The best place to start is, “Group Process on Steroids.” I make the point that OD practitioners tend to be too meeting- or tool-centric. I think they need to be more principle- and practice-driven, like chefs.

In “Disrupting Organizational Consulting,” I talk about commoditizing the low-end of the market. For most people, hiring OD (or management, for that matter) consultants is overkill, and they generally get a low return on that investment. If we created more DIY and low-end support options (which is where I’m focusing a lot of my energy right now), we could eliminate that side of the market, which would also help weed out mediocre consultants. I riff on this some more in, “What Consultants Can Learn From the Photography Field.”

In “Organizational Development as Product Design,” I compare the two fields, and I talk about what OD consultants could be learning from product designers. One of those things is about naming and testing your assumptions up-front, which would give us a baseline for measuring our effectiveness. This rarely happens, especially among social change consultants, many of whom suffer from Noble Pursuit Syndrome.

“Lessons from the NBA on Life, Learning, and Navigating Power” is more of a personal riff, but I talk a bit about the lack of openness and collaboration in organizational consulting, something I’m trying to be a lot more intentional about modeling.

Finally, this network analysis of OD and related fields shows how siloed the OD field in particular is, and discusses some of the implications.

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