Suppose We Took OD Seriously!:
The Path to Masterful OD Practice
MNODN Evening Program
September, 2010
Dr. David W. Jamieson
© David W. Jamieson, 2010
The 60 Year Debate: What is OD?
The field started with a passionate value base
and a different set of perspectives to solve
problems and improve conditions of the time.
It has grown and evolved to address different
problems and conditions, expand the theory and
method base and continue as an eclectic, interdisciplinary field or practice of change
In the process, it has become almost everything
done in organization change and consequently
come to mean nothing or a confusing
The 60 Year Debate: What is OD?
Different views of what OD is are partly caused
by when people entered the field (stage of
development), what disciplinary door they
entered through(business, psychology, social
justice, social science, quality/lean/six sigma)
how they’ve been indoctrinated/mentored (see
above), how they were educated or trained
(psychology, management or education
program; discipline-based certificate) and what
they’ve been able to practice
The 60 Year Debate: What is OD?
Defining the field is much like the blind men and the elephant
in which each sees part of the whole and describes it differently.
This is the same problem we deal with all the time in organizations
who operate with silo thinking.
The 60 Year Debate: What is OD?
Along the way, many early OD ideas and
practices have become more mainstream:
 Team building
 Coaching leaders
 Feedback processes
 Developing potential
 Retreats for planning, problem-solving &
A Short History of OD:
Intellectual Roots
early leadership work that brought legitimacy to
participative and democratic methods (Lewin and Lippitt,
1938; Follett, 1941; Likert, 1961; Tannenbaum and Schmidt,
early human relations work that highlighted the primacy
of social factors, attitudes, and feelings in organization
behavior, influencing productivity and morale
(Roethlisberger and Dickson, 1939; Mayo, 1945; Homans,
early work on group dynamics and laboratory training
bringing attention to group behavior, interpersonal
relations, and self-awareness (Cartwright and Zander,
1954; Bennis and Shepard, 1956; Bradford, Gibb, and
Benne, 1964; Schein and Bennis; 1965)
A Short History of OD:
Intellectual Roots
changing views of the person, motivation, and
interpersonal communication (Maslow, 1954; Rogers,
1961; Argyris, 1965; McGregor, 1960)
early use of data and diagnosis to guide change
including survey research methods and action research
(Mann, Lippitt, Lewin, Nadler)
early work on environments, structures, systems and
socio-technical principles helping to bring design and
work process into the picture (Trist and Bamforth, 1951;
Burns and Stalker, 1961; Lawrence and Lorsch, 1967; Katz
and Kahn, 1966).
A Short History of OD:
Environmental Roots
A social and organization change
movement (late 40’s and early 50’s)
A counterforce to human and
organization conditions of the time
An application-oriented science and
practice (e.g.,Lewin’s work on using group
process knowledge to address contemporary
A Short History of OD:
Subsequent Developments of the Field (60s-90s)
Strategy and Strategic Management (Raia, Lawler,
Porter, Greiner, Beer, Worley, Hitchin &Ross)
Organization Design (Hanna, Galbraith, Lawler,
Cummings, Mohrman, Nadler, Lawrence & Lorsch,
Pasmore, Trist, Emery, Cherns)
Power, Politics and Economics (Greiner & Schein,
Marguiles, Pfeffer, Walton, Block)
“Whole” Systems and Large Group Methods
(Beckhard, Dannemiller, Weisbord, Axelrod, Owen,
Bunker & Alban)
Appreciative & positive science perspectives &
methods (Cooperider, Bushe, Watkins, Yeager,
The 60 Year Debate: What is OD?
Many have been caught up in dialogue and
debate (for a very long time!) over:
What it is?
What does it include?
Is it a part of some larger discipline or field?
Has it lost it’s roots (or is it stuck in it’s roots)?
Is it relevant (anymore)?
How does it fit in today’s complex, connected, global,
fast-changing world?
Is it “dead”?
Is there a “new OD”
The 60 Year Debate: What is OD?
I don’t know about you, but I, for one, am
getting tired of the debate after nearly 40
years, while the world, organizations and
people need help, change and
effectiveness to tackle ever larger issues &
Isn’t it time to make some decisions, stand
up, belong to something that counts and
focus on making a difference?
What is OD?
Who you are and what you do will carry
more weight than what you call it!
So, define your field, pull a chair up to the
table, believe in something, advocate for
what makes a difference and stop
complaining, debating and operating
marginally or tentatively
What is OD?
I hope some will continue the dialogue,
research and inquiry of the field to
clarify, evaluate and deepen
understanding. That is also a value of
the field. But it no longer needs to be in
the foreground (figure) and needs to
become background (ground), not what
the world sees and hears about OD.
What is OD?
It’s a messy intention (change in human systems)
and a messy field. It will never be neat & clean
There will always be new (& old) polarities to deal
Common Polarities
Engineering & human system needs
Control & autonomy
Hierarchy & inclusion
Diversity & privilege
Problem-based and appreciative mindsets
OD values and economics
Deep change and speed- ”good, fast & cheap”
Globalization and ethno-centricity of cultures
Short-term needs & sustainability
Suppose We Took OD Seriously!
Put a stake in the ground!
Develop knowledge and skills for masterful
Apply throughout society, across human
levels and within all types of organizations
Teach/share with leaders, managers &
organization members for sustainability
Write, talk, share within the field & among
colleagues to advance the theory & practice
Suppose We Took OD Seriously!
What is OD?
First, the “O” is about organizations
(systems) of all kinds; the units throughout
society that are human organizations existing
to accomplish some purpose
Second, the “D” is about change &
improvement; growing towards something,
getting better at one’s mission, improving how
work gets done & people live their lives
Suppose We Took OD Seriously!
What is OD?
a process of planned & emergent
intervention(s) utilizing behavioral and
organization science principles to change a
system and improve its effectiveness,
conducted in accordance with values of
humanism, participation, choice and
development, so that the organization and
its members learn and develop
adapted from Jamieson & Worley (2008)
Suppose We Took OD Seriously!
What is OD?
A series of actions (interventions) in a
planned process
Using theory & methods from behavioral
sciences (e.g., economics, psychology,
sociology, anthropology, social
psychology) and organization sciences
(e.g., organization theory, organization
design, systems theory, management
Suppose We Took OD Seriously!
What is OD?
To understand systems & behavior; and
to take action for change, effectiveness
and improvement
Conducted in accordance with certain
 participation
 choice
 development
Suppose We Took OD Seriously!
What is OD?
So that the organization & its members
learn & grow (develop capacity & their
Suppose We Took OD Seriously!
What is OD?
A mindset (way of seeing the organization
A set of value-based perspectives
A philosophy of organizing, managing and
An integration, across disciplines, of theories,
concepts and methods, for understanding &
changing human systems
A field of study & practice
Suppose We Took OD Seriously!
What are OD Perspectives?
An open, socio-technical, human systems
perspective on organizing & organizations
A cyclical, participative, action research
orientation to inquiry, diagnosis & change
An inclusive perspective on planning, problemsolving & change
A humanistic perspective on relationships,
managing & ethics
A developmental perspective on individual &
collective improvements
Systems Nested Within Systems
Levels of Human Systems
Organization Network
Whole Organization
Go Slow, To Go Fast
Balancing planning with implementation, data with
needs, and commitment with action
Suppose We Took OD Seriously!
What is OD?
Defined by how we view the world,
organizations, people & change
Defined by what we focus on
Defined by how we take action
Defined by central guiding concepts-in-use
Defined by the values shaping our behavior,
methods & desired outcomes
Defined by the learning and transfer
Suppose We Took OD Seriously!
What is OD?
OD specifically brings into focus:
The systems context; both social & technical
Inter-relationships and dependencies that
affect outcomes
Human dynamics that contribute to outcomes
Relationships between human levels
Understanding & changing human systems
Inquiry/data needs
Stakeholders: who’s involved and affected
Suppose We Took OD Seriously!
Minimum Requirements
A conceptual framework to deal with the
Model, theory, way to understand
organizations & dynamics
A conceptual framework to deal with the
Model, theory, way to understand &
facilitate learning & change
Understanding Organizations:
Strategic Organization Design
What the organization intends to do
How work, technology &
people are put together:
The Values in Operation
What people do that produces results
© David W. Jamieson, 2009
Ongoing operating policies,
processes and procedures
Every organization is perfectly
designed to get the results it’s
Learning & Change
Pick your favorite learning theory(ies) to
guide methods and change design
 Kolb, Dewey, Mezirow, Raelin, Argyris &
Schon, Polanyi, Bandura, Marquardt,
Pick your favorite change model to guide
planning & action-taking
 Kotter, Lewin, Bridges, AckermanAnderson, Burke-Litwin, Beer, Nevis,
To Manage Change Effectively:
How OD Informs
Consider all aspects of the relevant systems; what
is affected, needs to change or is interdependent
Consider the stakeholders (people involved); what
is there status, preparation, capability, etc.
Consider the data needs; what don’t you know &
do you need to better understand
Consider the values to guide processes, methods
& outcomes
Design the processes for content and psychosocial effectiveness
Case Situation
“Turnover has been really high. It hasn’t really bothered
me until two of my key people who have a lot of
corporate knowledge (and who are almost irreplaceable)
have been sending messages that they are looking
We’ve done wage and salary surveys and found that
compensation is right in line with the market. We
collected exit interview information and nothing unusual
is popping up on the screen. When I’ve inquired about
morale and working conditions, most people clam up
and don’t have anything to say. I did an attitude survey
about a year ago and got only a 10% response.”
What are some different perspectives (lenses) that could be
used to explain what’s going on here? Issues, causes,
How might you use OD thinking to approach this situation
and help the manager & employees of this department?
What Makes OD, OD?
the adoption of certain values (humanism,
participation, choice and development) guiding
consultant behavior, intervention methods, process
design and desired outcomes
using the application of knowledge and methods
from the behavioral & organizational sciences to
the effectiveness of organization systems producing
a multi-disciplinary set of interventions and targets
for change
working from an open, multi-level, socio-technical,
human systems perspective including ‘wholeness’
and interdependent dynamics in diagnosis and
What Makes OD, OD?
using the client-consultant relationship as a tool
of change and learning, putting more emphasis on
its management than in other approaches and
requiring the use of “self” as an instrument
the nature of the consultative relationship
(respective roles, who’s in charge, process/content
balance, client involvement, power dynamics,
boundaries) and emphasis on critical behaviors
including trust, openness, honesty, authenticity,
collaboration and inquiry
the inclusion of increased organization capacity
and individual development in the desired
Understanding Use of Self
Our professional effectiveness is
dependent on how we think & act … our
conceptual ability and skill sets
Ultimately, in service/helping roles, our
use of self influences outcomes
OD has long stressed the importance of
use of self, leading to an emphasis on
personal growth & development in the
service of helping others
Understanding Use of Self
Use of Self is…
The Use of Self is the conscious use of
one’s whole being in the intentional
execution of one’s role for effectiveness in a
present situation.
Being an instrument for sensing (taking in
data), meaning-making (understanding) and
action-taking (doing something) in human
system settings in service of helping
Use of Self
© 2009 All rights reserved. David Jamieson, David Shechtman, Matthew Auron
What Makes OD, OD?
including a planned and designed process that is
comprised of a series of interventions that are
client-centric (based on client characteristics,
capabilities & readiness), on-going, data-driven,
cyclical and value-based
the active management of deviations and redesign of processes around an intended path
(dealing with inertia, resistance and support;
emerging issues; environmental shifts, etc.) creating
a customized process leaving little room for prepackaged programs (“If you know step two, it’s
probably not OD”)
Ready, Fire, Aim
When in Doubt, Gallop!
French Calvary
The Path to Masterful Practice
Blend of:
 Use of Self (see, know & do)
 Consultative Relationship (e.g., influencebased, equal partners, collaboration,
 Knowledge in Behavioral & Organizational
Sciences (content, process & sensemaking)
 Execution Skills (e.g., communication,
diagnosis, design, facilitation, learning)
“In school they told me practice makes perfect, then they told me nobody’s perfect, so I stopped practicing”
“In school they told me practice makes perfect, then they told me nobody’s perfect, so I stopped
-Steven Wright
The Path to Masterful Practice
“In school they told me practice
makes perfect, then they told me
nobody’s perfect, so I stopped
Steven Wright
The Path to Masterful Practice
We learn masterful practice by:
Preparing ourselves for the inherent adaptability of working in
and across human systems (use of the situation)
Building a ready repertoire of principles and frames that
inform meaning and choices (use of theory and
Creating high levels of self-awareness to tune our
“instruments of professional practice” (use of self)
Using critical reflection to tap into and organize our repertoire
of tacit knowledge (use of reflection)
Engaging, singularly and collectively, with mentors and
others in a social learning exchange (use of social
© David W. Jamieson, 2009
The Path to Masterful Practice
change agents can only see what
they have prepared themselves to
see, only understand what they have
knowledge or experience to make
sense of and only do what they have
developed themselves to do
The Path to Masterful Practice
Can start from anywhere & bring an OD perspective
to add value
HR, training, learning & development, performance
consulting, talent management-all pieces focusing on
the same organization system puzzle … creating high
performance & managing change
We need performance & change to survive or
prosper; each area of practice contributes, but is not
Wherever your role starts, OD can help enlarge your
perspective … to enhance what you are able to see,
understand and do
Our “Hippocratic Oath”
Do No Harm
Add Value…Everyday
The 60 Year Debate: What is OD?
What is it?
See slides 4-9; 16-39
What does it include?
Any work with those characteristics
Is it a part of some larger discipline or field?
Its’ perspective is usually larger and draws from
many other fields
Has it lost it’s roots (or is it stuck in it’s roots)?
Depends on how you practice; the roots are the
anchor, but field evolved beyond roots a long time
The 60 Year Debate: What is OD?
Is it relevant (anymore)?
Highly; most effective principles for sustainable
How does it fit in today’s complex, connected, global,
fast-changing world?
more complexity today leading to operating with
less certainty and data, but need many of same
lenses and methods; some methods need to
change with new technology, speed and scale
Is it “dead”?
I don’t think so; narrow, fragmented conceptions
are, but founder’s intentions and field
developments more complete & useful
Selected References
Jamieson, D & Worley, C. (2008). “The Practice of OD”.
In Cummings, T. The Handbook of Organization
Development. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications,
Jamieson, D. (2006). “What Makes OD Different (and
Better) Than Other Approaches to Change” in The
Wisdom of ASTD-LA 2006. LA: ASTD-LA
Jamieson, D. (2006). “Strategic Human Resource
Thinking” in Preziosi, R. The 2007 Pfieffer Annual:
Human Resource Management. San Francisco:
Schon, D. (1983). The Reflective Practitioner: How
Professionals Think in Action. New York: Basic Books.

Suppose We Took OD Seriously!