Models matter, but so do you…

By Cindy Cox, Development Consultant at Roffey Park Institute. Cindy Cox and Tom Kenward, Senior Consultant at Roffey Park Institute, are facilitating the workshop at the Organisation Development Conference and Workshop, 11 - 12 October, London.

In change contexts, OD’s energy tends to focus where the human dimension (ie. people) connects with organisational imperative. Understanding, anticipating, influencing and reflecting how individuals, teams and systems as a whole respond to change is at the heart of good OD work, whether those changes are large scale transformations or small tweaks in process, procedure, structure or patterns of behaviour and interaction.

Human responses to the possibility, let alone the reality of change, vary too – you may well have encountered the resulting behaviours that can support or sabotage whatever change is being sought.

Given the uncertainty, complexity and potential high-stakes, it is little surprise that those taking an OD lens on behalf of organisations are often on the hunt for models, tools and methods that will help simplify their route to impact and give them credibility and respect in the eyes of their often-anxious sponsors.

Indeed OD can be synonymous with the tools more than intent or mindset. In my role as Programme Director for Roffey Park’s OD Practitioner Programme I regularly encounter people seeking OD development via a list of tools they wish to learn, or advice on what should be on that list, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

But the tools aren’t enough on their own. The value but also the pain of mapped out models and step by step methods of course is that they are by nature neatly packaged simplifications of an often messy and always unique reality. Added to that the models, tools and methods themselves will undoubtedly be coloured by the preferences and agendas of those that honed them, those that use them and those that receive them.

When it comes to seeking OD influence in organisations, the tool that may offer greatest untapped potential is the ‘self’. Nothing new here, you might think. Contributors to OD texts and practice journals often talk about the practitioner ‘being the intervention’ and developing ‘self as instrument’. But for me, the concept is exciting and powerful and the reality endlessly surprising in its breadth and challenge. And for others who I see stopping to think about what this proposition might really mean for their work, it is often arresting.

  • What do I notice? What do I ignore?
  • What do I do with my observations or inklings, and why?
  • How do I show up, when do I speak up and when should I listen?
  • Do I know whose agenda I’m serving in any given moment?

There is a lot to ponder there, and it’s worth doing so. From this position of curiosity and awareness in ourselves, the models and tools can combine to generate powerful questions to pose – and crucially spaces to hear answers – that help to sift and sort the mess into good decisions and actionable outcomes that actually make a difference for a business.

Join Cindy Cox at the Organisation Development Conference and Workshop, 11 – 12 October 2017, London.

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