Joining the dots – learning about OD

By Helen Jones

When I signed up to do the OD practitioners programme at Roffey Park, I knew that I ought to know all this stuff, having been in post for six years! However, the shift from learning and development to OD is a step change, although a very natural one. My mantra at UCLan is to make it ‘a great place to work’, which of course encompasses the development of individuals, teams and the whole organisation, but OD for me, joins all that together and to quote Simon Inger ‘it’s the spaces in between’ which count. No one activity is independent of another, there are always consequences and cultural/human influences which affect the work being undertaken, in that ‘not written down’ space, where things really happen. This is where OD can be most effective.

PhotoA couple of things to share about my learning at mid-point on the programme;

1. The concept of self-as instrument is fundamental to OD. A simple quote attributed to Jane Austen that one can never merely observe a conversation, by the fact that you are there with the people talking, you influence what is happening, made me think. Being aware of how I am seen in the organisation, how I interact with people, the impact I want to make by being present will affect the work I am able to carry out. I came across this concept when I joined the ODHE group six years ago, and continue to learn about it’s importance each day in my role.

2. The OD value base really resonated with me. If you consider the values set out by Bennis, Beckhard, Tannenbaum include ‘people are essentially good’, ‘collaboration rather than competition’, ‘feelings are legitimate’, ‘acceptance of individual differences’ and so on. These make complete sense to underpin my work, as well as my everyday life.  I wondered if I do this job because these are my values, or is it a happy coincidence? There is definitely a strong correlation which affirms my desire to work in this field.

I was familiar with lots of the principles, skills, theory, but lacking the behavioural science foundation which OD requires. This is the area of learning I now need to pursue, as the different models of human behaviour and ways of looking at the world are the filters through which we work, so probably the missing layer for me in terms of my understanding of OD.

That is my development sorted for the next ten years!

Helen Jones, Leadership and Development Manager, University of Central Lancashire


An ODE to OD – Charting the Org


by O. D. Gnash

This poem was inspired by the talks and discussion at the recent ODHE Group get together in Windermere. We were thinking about different approaches to organisational design, one of them being to ‘move the boxes’ around on organisational charts. Is this enough to effect systemic change? What are the unintended consequences? It’s also about labelling in the workplace – do we do this even when we say we are being neutral and non-judgemental? What’s in the box?

Lift the lid off the little boxes, little boxes and they’re all made of…

Emotions, commotions, ready for promotions, fearful of demotions

hopeful and hopeless, dreamers and schemers

jobsworths, worth their weight in gold, waiting-for-the-gold-watchers

do-gooders, get the job done-ers, doers of the right thing, do things righters

fighters and blighters

absentees and presentees, people at ease, people pleasers

creators, conductors, obstructers, the unreconstructed.

Deal makers, piss takers, heartbreakers, movers and shakers

leaders, needers, bleeders

old hands, young turks, lurkers, smirkers and shirkers

lifers, high fliers, duckers and divers

goody two-shoes, clever clogs, smarty-pants, down-at-heelers

team players, dragon slayers, nay sayers

empaths and sociopaths (maybe one or two psychopaths).

Nine to fivers, strivers and skivers, dead wood and dead good, up and comers

bummers, slackers and just plain knackered

people who know, in the know, know how, know who, know a (wo)man who can

know where they’re going, going nowhere

onwards and upwards, backwards and forwards, side by side

shoulder to shoulder.

Back to the drawing board.