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