Toward A Theory of OD Practice

The Future of OD?: A Hopeful
View of Where We Could Go
MN OD Network
June 7, 2012
David W. Jamieson
University of St Thomas
[email protected] ● 310-699-3060
David W. Jamieson, 2012
The Topic
I have taken a stab at this during three other
decades. Amazingly, much of what I talked
about in the 70s, 80s & 90s has happened!
This topic and field have become too large
and complex to do them justice in these short
comments, but…
This opportunity does provide a chance to
share my recent perceptions & hopes and
start a conversation among the MNODN
The field of OD is not that old (60years) and
has never been able to establish it’s own
discipline (in academia) or a fully-credible
position in organization work.
Much internal debate with varying identities
Includes a wide swath of topics, knowledge
and skills making it hard to bound
Is and is not part of many other functions
Was actually founded as a multi-disciplinary
Many OD values, practices & methods have
gone mainstream and become included in
other fields work
diversity & inclusion
use of democratic processes
Use of feedback
more humanistic management practices
During our history, not enough attention
has been paid to some important issues
that are necessary to establish any field:
concrete results
 evaluations of OD outcomes
 making connections between what OD
does and what organizations need
 Making our concepts and knowledge-base
clear conceptually for all to understand
A Hopeful Look to the Future
Bring OD theory & practice into more common
use by integrating better with other disciplines
and roles:
Make it more regular in management education,
leadership development, HR education, project
management skills, public administration
programs, etc.
Keep it as a field of study (for more depth), but
translate much of it for use more broadly
Don’t let the other fields dictate what it is and how
it’s used! Be proactive
The goal is to equip more people who can create
healthy & effective organizations
A Hopeful Look to the Future
Stop debating what OD is. Let’s outline a
flexible definition and framework for what OD
brings to any party AND JUST DO IT!
A working definition and way of talking about OD
on next slides
Highlight the value OD knowledge and skills adds
to organization, group, and interpersonal success
Ground our work in concrete issues and needs
such as all the change that is needed or
integrating technology, work and people or M&A
or global efectiveness
What is OD?
a process of planned and 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)
What is OD?
A series of actions (interventions) in a
planned & emergent 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
What is OD?
To understand systems & behavior; and
to take action for change, effectiveness
and improvement
Conducted in accordance with certain
 participation
 choice
 development
What is OD?
So that the organization & its members
learn & grow (develop capacity & their
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
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
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
What is OD?
OD specifically brings into focus:
The systems context
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
A Hopeful Look to the Future
Improve documentation, research and causal
links. Help to make the case for the what, how,
when & why of OD in relation to organizational &
societal outcomes people care about
Collect more data. Ask more participants about
their experience. Talk about it and write it.
Make whatever causal or correlational
connections you can. Patterns, common outcomes
from similar processes and experiences where ‘B’
usually happens after ‘A’ or with ‘A’ will bring
Some Implications
For Education:
Moving across disciplines. Influencing other
What to include in masters & doctorates in OD
Mixing different concepts and language
For Professional Associations (MNODN):
Who brings a different representation of what’s
Early adopters of OD in other fields
Search for research and data that adds value
to the case
Some Implications
For You:
How broad is your knowledge and skill set?
 What disciplines or functions can you
integrate with?
 What developmental edges could you
 What can you do to make OD more
universally accessible?
If possible open this video clip
for use at end
Good way to see continuing need for
OD work
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