The A to Z of OD (Part I)

This is the first part in a series of articles that will set out the A to Z of organisation development.  The series will consider the principles and practices, the tools and techniques and the past and present thought leaders that have shaped the field.  I don’t know exactly what will be included under each letter of the alphabet.  That will emerge.  If you have any thoughts on what you think should be included, get in touch and we’ll discover together where this goes!

But first, we must discover what is OD.  And to do that, we must first decide what is an organisation.

What is an organisation?

An organisation is a group of people who come together to achieve a common purpose.  They establish a collection of systems and processes that produces more together than the sum of their parts.  These components continually impact on each other, depend on each other to thrive and collectively contribute as a ‘whole system’ towards achieving the organisation’s purpose.

Different parts of any organisation perform different functions and can become highly specialised.  This specialisation creates a need for coordination at a ‘whole system’ level, i.e. the need for more and more sophisticated leadership and organisation.

What is organisation development?

Organisation development is an ongoing, systematic process of implementing sustainable change that recognises and draws on this ‘whole system’ thinking.  It also uses applied behavioural science to understand organisational and team dynamics.  After all, organisations are human systems – they only exist as a collection of people coming together to achieve a common purpose.

The goal of organisation development is to maximise the organisation’s effectiveness at serving its purpose.

A is for Action Learning

Action learning is a process whereby participants study their own actions and experiences to improve their performance.  You do it in conjunction with others in small groups called action learning sets, typically using the services of a facilitator.

Action learning propels your personal development further and faster in the real world.  This is because your peers are helping you reflect on your interactions with other people and the learning points arising.  This guides future action and develops real-world wisdom rather than traditional educational processes that focus purely on knowledge.  It is particularly suited to leadership development in organisations, where participants are working on real problems in the real world that affect real people.

OD thought leader: Chris Argyris

Chris Argyris (1923-2013) was a founding father of organisation development.  He is known for seminal work on developing learning organisations.  He pioneered Action Science – the study of how people choose their actions in difficult situations.

Action Learning and Action Science are related.  There is a risk the former may inadvertently encourage ‘single-loop’ learning: you act, you reflect on the outcome of that action and then make practical adjustments so that you revise the action you take next time.

Argyris argued that humans are overwhelmingly programmed to act based of defensive thinking.  Organisations reinforce this defensive behaviour through institutionalised routines.  Such routines prevent individuals expressing concerns, encourage avoiding behaviour and promote a lack of authenticity.  It is hard to break this vicious cycle.

Argyris proposed a double-loop of learning.  Double-loop learning means to be reflective in-the-moment, to continuously pay attention to the present to make your positive future intention a reality.  We must continue to learn, and we must continually relearn how to learn.  For me, reflective double-loop learning is one of the cornerstones of organisation development.

Recommended reading: Argyris, C. (2000). Flawed Advice and The Management Trap: How Managers Can Know When They’re Getting Good Advice and When They’re Not. New York, Oxford.

Next time: B is for Behaviours

Street Wisdom at Leeds Wellbeing Week, March 24, 2018 – FREE (booking essential)

Discover the wisdom of the streets

We are running Street Wisdom at Leeds Wellbeing Week, March 24, 2018 – FREE (booking essential)

“[People] must necessarily be the active agents of their own well-being and well-doing… they themselves must in the very nature of things be their own best helpers.”

–      Samuel Smiles, author of Self Help , 1859

What is the purpose of being if not to discover truths and insights that are obscured by day-to-day concerns?  Street Wisdom gives participants the skills to see the urban environment in a new way, ask a question and use the answers they discover to move forwards in life with a greater sense of wellbeing.

“The concept of creativeness and the concept of the healthy, self-actualizing, fully human person seem to be coming closer and closer together and may perhaps turn out to be the same thing”

–      Abraham Maslow, Psychologist

What is the purpose of being if not to be happy and inspired in our own lives?  Street Wisdom is a global, not-for-profit social enterprise with a mission to bring inspiration to every street on earth.

“Recognising that you are not where you want to be is a starting point to begin changing your life”

–      Deborah Day, Author of Be Happy Now, 2010

Led by Jeremy Lewis, an experienced coach and professional Street Wizard, Street Wisdom will enable you to find inspiration by wandering through the City’s streets.  Why wait for escape to exotic destinations when inspiration can be found on your own doorstep? Street Wisdom shows you how.

How it works

It’s very simple – that’s because Street Wisdom have been refining the process for years.

Tune Up. Quest. Share.

  1. First, your Street Guide helps you and your group tune up your senses so you can pick up much more information from the urban environment that you would normally.
  2. Then you’re off on a journey by yourself – your street quest – where you ask a question and see what answers present themselves.
  3. Finally, you gather together again to share what happened and, more often than not, wonder at how magical an ordinary street can become when you’re really aware of those hidden messages, chance meetings and unexpected discoveries.

 

The whole event lasts three hours.  Meet on the steps of Leeds Art Gallery, The Headrow, at 13:00.

Book now

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http://streetwisdom.org               www.leedswellbeingweek.co.uk

Past performance is not necessarily a guide to future performance… but it is a good place to start

We are told that past performance is not necessarily a guide to future performance, especially when making personal financial investments.  That’s why, in organisations, we write business cases to prove to ourselves we will get a return on investment.  How does this apply to transformational change, when it’s not just finances, but relationships between people that need to change?  We are told that past performance is not necessarily a guide to future performance… but it is a good place to start.

 Past – Present – Future … where do you tend to start?

“I want to change the culture,” is something I hear a lot from potential clients.  They have an idea of what is NOT working and a vague notion that “empowerment”, more accountability” or “better collaboration” are the ways to change things.  They then immediately set about defining what the future will look like and writing their business case.  If this sounds familiar, chances are you are already on the path to failure.  That is because you have over-rationalised it and are trying to make a purely financial case for investment.

 The Future is unwritten

I’m not going to bore you with facts and figures about the failure of change programmes.  You’ll know yourself that organisations often choose to invest in tangible things that can be measured in financial terms.  Thing like restructuring, new systems and business processes.  They tend to spend less effort investing in building truly collaborative way of working, innovating and problem-solving.  Because these are hard to do.   Also, writing business cases forces you down that path.  It is often a logical place to start, but it is not the whole story.

 Let the Future remain unwritten for a little longer

In my experience, organisations that over rely on these rational aspects of change tend to achieve limited success, smaller business benefits and alienate their people.  Those organisations that consider the softer, relationship-orientated, people aspects of change achieve better results.  Sometimes.  A major issue, even when culture is properly considered, is that those seeking the change only look forwards to envision a brighter future.

 Opportunities lie in the Past as well as the Future

This is, I fear, only half the story.  By looking at how your organisation got to where it is today, you will understand what aspects of your current culture are already working well and need preserving.  Reflect on the journey taken to get to where you are today, the successes, the failures, what has been learned (and what has not).  This will give you a better understanding of what makes your organisation tick, and what might be holding it back.

 Now is all there is

By achieving a deeper understanding of the Past, you allow yourself, collectively with your people, to let it go.  You will become more intently focused on the Present.  I believe the Present is really all that truly exists.  Looking to the Past helps us understand the Present.  Looking to the future tries to hi-Jack the Present and force it into something it is not ready to be. 

 Be right here, right now with your people and allow your Future Intention to emerge collectively from collaborative sense-making and reflecting on learnings from the Past.  Pay attention to the Present to make your Future Intention a reality.  There are a few simple, practical techniques and ways of working that can be applied every day to do this.  The result is transformational.  The result is the culture change you are seeking.

 Jeremy J Lewis, committed to making a difference in embedding sustainable change

I am not a four-letter acronym, I am a free man

Updated copy of a post first published on LinkedIn July 6, 2016

The 1960s TV series, The Prisoner, invited viewers to consider the psychological implications of being labelled and conforming to collectivist ideals, versus being a free-willed individual.  “I am not a number, I am a free man,” proclaimed protagonist Number 6 (Patrick McGoohan).

Well, I have decided I am not an ISFP, or whatever my personality type says I am.

“An ISF-who’s-doing-what, now?” I hear you cry.

Millions of people across the world have undertaken an assessment to determine their personality type.  There are other behavioural and personality type psychometric instruments out there.  However, one of the most recognised and commonly used is the psychology of Carl Jung, as adapted and interpreted by one Isabel Briggs-Myers and one Katharine Cook Briggs (aka the Myers-Briggs thing).

Personality types

Here comes the “science”.  In a nutshell, four dichotomies determine your personality.  Firstly, how you take in (or Perceive) information, which you can do in a detailed, sequential sort of way (Sensing) or a big picture, snapshot sort of way (iNtuition).  Then, you need to consider how you make decisions (or Judgements) based on that information, which you can do objectively (Thinking) or empathetically (Feeling).  One of these Perceiving or Judging dichotomies will dominate your approach to dealing with the world.  Finally, you will put your energy into your dominant approach either by focusing on the external world (Extraversion) or by internalising it (Introversion).  The answers to these four dichotomies yield 16 personality types, each identified by a four-letter acronym.  Only it’s not “science”, it’s just a metaphor for observable behaviour.  you might as well refer to the Native American Medicine Wheel or even Astrology to determine your personality.

Confused?  You should be!  Yet we are told how these four dichotomies apply most often to you determines your personality type.  This in turn determines how you are likely to respond to external stimuli.

The problem with all of this is that people are, well, people.  We are just trying to categorise certain observable behaviours.  Neuroscience now shows that our rational and emotional minds are quite able to be trained to respond in whatever way we choose to any given situation.  So why straight-jacket us with a “type”?  And why make that type so darned complicated?

The concept of preference

What if we viewed some of these types simply as behavioural preferences?  What would these preferences be?  It turns out four such behavioural modes will suffice.  It seems having 16 types really does seem excessive.

What if we could recognise we already have relatively easy access to more than one behavioural mode, say two or even three of these modes?  Would personality typing continue to be appropriate to define us?  I suggest not.

I know I extravert my perceptions and introvert my feelings (apparently this means I work with bursts of energy and makes me a P), but I am quite able to plan out my day too (J).  I’m also happy taking in information in different ways (S and N) and applying both rational thinking and emotional feelings (T and F) to make decisions.  I spend long periods of time focusing on others’ needs and taking in others’ perspectives (E) and I spend long periods of time on my own reflecting and making sense of that data (I).

I am all these things and more.  We need a behavioural psychometric that understands people.  I believe I have found one such tool, called MiRo.  I use it a lot in my organisation development consulting, coaching and facilitation practice.  I’m so excited about it, I have recently become accredited to provide training to others to become MiRo Practitioners.

If you think there’s a better way to help people understand and adapt their behaviour, then I’d like to hear about it.  Get in touch to share your thoughts.  Alternatively, click here to find out more about the MiRo behavioural psychometric.

Jeremy J Lewis

@growthepig

A two-step programme to give yourself time to #JustBe

First posted on LinkedIn March 16, 2016

Busy, busy, busy

It strikes me that we fill our lives with stuff to do: reports to write, meetings to attend, emails to send, phone calls to make, presentations to prepare, endless lists of things to do…  And when we’re not at work, there’s endless lists of things to do too: our fitness regimes to maintain, our food to cook, our homes to clean, our children to drop off, our children to pick up, other people’s children to pick up, …

We allow ourselves to self-persecute; we allow our diaries persecute us; we allow our to-do lists persecute us.  I know people who love making to-do lists.  Their to-do lists even include “Get up” and, “Have breakfast” so that they can tick them off with a sense of achievement.  This I fear is a step too far.  You know it’s really gone too far when you start off a new to-do list with the item, “See other to-do list”.

Striving for efficiency

And even when you know this self-persecutory doing behaviour has gone too far, the only solutions out there appear to be aimed at doing things more efficiently: Smart Phone Apps that get you organised so you can do more, books that help you create an efficiency programme so you can do more, methods to take control of your email inbox so you can do even more…

I remember one of those personal efficiency type training courses I attended as a junior manager many years ago; we were shown how to categorise tasks into three types: ‘A’ tasks – those that our performance was measured against, ‘C’ tasks – those that were just stuff that came across our desks and ‘B tasks, which covered pretty much everything in between.  Then we were told that personal efficiency sprang from scheduling ‘A’ tasks into our diaries.  Who knew?  A colleague and I were paired up at the end of the course to keep in touch and check in with each other to see how we were getting on with scheduling ‘A’ tasks into our demanding work schedules.  So, I rang him a few weeks later to inquire into his progress.  “I’m far too busy to start with all that crap,” he replied.

We become victims entirely of our own making.

Finding time to #JustBe

What if you could find a way to balance all this doing with more of the being we need to rediscover ourselves.  It is said we are human beings after all, not human doings.  What if you could find the time to #JustBe.  Then you might just discover your life’s purpose, your Dharma.  This requires us to reject being a victim and to choose being vulnerable instead.  To choose our own potency over self-persecution.

And this starts with giving yourself permission to #JustBe.  There is a time to do and a time to be.  I like to think of each day as having three parts – a morning, an afternoon and an evening.  That’s 21 parts to a week.  Many of us are contracted to work for 10 of those, that’s less than half.  In reality, many of us are conditioned into working a lot more of them.

Step 1: Make a list of the things that help you #JustBe.  My list includes go for a walk, take a bath, play music.  Then schedule some #JustBe time in your diary.  Your diary will still be full of things to do, but now there’ll also be space to be too.

Step 2: Here’s the biggie.  Clear your diary.  I dare you.  Just thinking about doing it can be scary, vulnerable.  Liberating, isn’t it?  Your diary becomes an ocean of space to #JustBe.  You now have the choice to schedule in some things to do.  A choice.  All life is a choice.

Choose wisely.

 

Jeremy J Lewis

@growthepig

When did this journey truly begin?

First posted on LinkedIn March 2, 2016

There’s an old folk tale of a tourist visiting a monastery, where he was greeted by an ageing monk and invited in for tea.  While the old man prepared the tea, the tourist asked about the monk’s humble lifestyle – a simple bed, chairs and a table, a few books and a prayer mat, a basic cooker and no fridge.  “How do you manage to live like this?” asked the visitor. “No telephone, only a few clothes and no radio, let alone a TV or computer?”

The old man replied with a question of his own. “Where are your possessions?”

“Oh, I’m travelling”, the man responded.  “I’m just passing through.”

“We are all just passing through,” replied the monk.

I chose to spend much of the day today walking and reflecting.  With my partner by my side, I trekked through the moorland near my home, setting down some fresh tracks in the snow.  We had an idea of where we were heading, but the snow obscured the footpaths and we took several wrong turns as we passed through the glorious Yorkshire countryside.  We eventually descended the moor, found a pub for some lunch and later took a train back home again.

I feel blessed to be able to take a day out every now and again and just be.  Pause.  Reflect. Are we following our own path or someone else’s?  When did this journey truly begin?

And so it seems there are no such things as wrong turns, only paths we never thought we’d take.  And in the end, we’re all just passing through.

Jeremy J Lewis

@growthepig