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March to April seems to be my conference period, that time I take to re-energise, see what the latest thinking is and hang out with my tribe. This year I attended the Engage for Success Conference and the Organisation Development Network Europe Conference. I am not going to talk about highlights as I’ve done that through my various social media channels already. Instead thinking about all the HR Directors that are reading this, thought I’d share what keeps coming back up in my mind; this is a reflective piece rather than a tip and hints one.

The thought that has been roaming in my mind is: we just need to go back to basics when it comes to Organisation Development (OD).

We like to make things complicated don’t we? Businesses make themselves complex because humans are complex, it’s just a fact. However, ironically enough we like things to be simple and easy to understand. I am not saying us OD folk have made it any easier throughout the years talking with a lot of jargon and as an esteemed colleague in the field says, we do have our own little vocabulary.

I’m going to be doing a bit of time travel, back to some of the foundations of OD… ready? (Prompt Back to the Future theme)

In the beginning OD explained itself and its methodology in a very simple way. Whether it was Lewin’s change model or the one I want to talk about Action-Research, I believe they were easy to understand and therefore apply. Same for the values and principles that are the basis for these:

1.The client knows its company best

2. OD is about involving people and engaging them from day 1

3. Contracting and expectation setting is important, as an OD person we are there to help the organisation (sometimes we need to help you see what you can’t and challenge)

4. It is a humanistic and democratic practise

5. Change is never ending

So yes, in practise sometimes we forget these things, but when you look at things like Agile, Holocracy, creating more Engaged workplaces, TEAL, etc what you realise is that they focus on that too. Agile for example is basically a faster version, less planned version (it’s more about playing and let’s face it the future is now usually uncertain anyway), of Action Research.

Add the playfulness in, shorten the planning bit of it and you got Agile, because at the end of the day it’s the members of the organisation who will own the process, create awesome self-managed teams, and you will see your organisation transform. See the little arrow there at the bottom? Notice it’s a cycle, of ongoing change, innovation and learning. One thing to apply is that OD didn’t mean for just one intervention to work and “tada!” like magic everything would be OK, it has always meant to be a “try this”, “did it work?”, “ok, if not let’s go back to the drawing board!”, “if yes, what next?”.

Simplified we can see the use of the methodology nowadays, the principles at play to drive people centred, humanistic, innovative change within organisations are still relevant. Let’s stop trying to make it more complicated than it already is… as with this we will still need to look deep down, deal with complexities and human dynamics, but if we keep the process simple then that’s at least one less thing to think about.

Cinthya Quijano, Director of Change Differently Ltd

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