The OD Practitioner of the Future

Posted: January 27, 2017 by Matthew Hanwell in Change, Human Resources, OD, Technology, Uncategorized


Blog Post by: Ian Gee

Carole and I have written a series of blogs about how Tech, HR and otherwise, is changing the nature of the workplace and the impact this is likely to have on the practice of OD.  This has included looking at Utopias and Dystopias, how OD practitioners might engage with Tech and exploring how we might make use of AR/VR, AI and gamification to drive and support OD and change.  For me this all raises the question of what skills, capabilities, attitudes and behaviours OD practitioners need in order to be successful in the future?

If you do a web search, you will find numerous articles and blog posts about the future of OD.  But not a lot about the skills, attitudes and beliefs OD practitioners need in order to be effective in this future.  Many of the articles express the need for a shift from the humanistic and behavioural science origins of OD, to a more pragmatic understanding of the changing world of business and organisation. There was nothing I read that I could disagree.  A lot of it felt like revisiting the old arguments about whether OD should be focusing on emergent way of engaging with change or stick to traditional programmatic way of working. What none of the articles explored was the transformative power Tech is likely to have on our practice.  I truly believe that we need not just to engage with Tech but fully immerse ourselves in it.  We need to understand what it is all about or risk becoming an irrelevancy in tomorrow’s workplace.

I believe good consultancy skills are at the heart of OD practitioner excellence.  The kind that people like Bill Evans  have spent many years helping practitioners to develop.  I would then add in political skills like those advocated by Simon Baddeley, Kim James and Tanya Arroba.  I believe these essentials, with the addition of a deep understanding of the world of people and organisations will remain at the core of what an effective OD practitioner needs in the new technologically driven workplace.  When thinking about the specific new skills, attitudes and beliefs demanded by our technology driven universe I have come up with the lists below:


The interaction of personal values, beliefs, feelings, a way of thinking and feeling about something

* Embrace the potential of the future rather than trying to shoehorn it into a version of the past.  This means scanning the horizon and keeping curious over what is coming and working out how we might incorporate it into our practice or need to respond to it and help shape it

* Develop a deep reflective practice to help us understand what has worked in the past, what our relationship is to technology, what excites us and what frightens us

* Being prepared to build new alliances both inside and outside of the organisation, recognising that the inspiration and support to develop ourselves and the organisations we work for can come from many different places

* Make friends with software architects, consumers of our organisations services, pressure groups, new media etc. In other words, stop seeking just to work with the top and hankering after only C Suite relationships!

* Being ready and happy to explore immersive technologies and take a risk on applying them to our practice


The application of knowledge and expertise to get something done

* Understand and start to consciously practice both computational and algorithmic thinking.   Algorithmic thinking is thinking about how to accomplish a particular end.  It is detail-oriented thinking about methods.  It is a way of getting to a solution through the clear definition of the steps needed.  Computational thinking is thinking about data by using computers to transform data into a more easily understood form. (With thanks to Mark Guzdial)

* The ability to carry out basic coding and develop algorithms and apps to be used to support OD interventions

* Understanding things like Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Gamification and how to apply them in the organisation

* Knowing how to contract with and work with a much broader range of people from Geeks to venture capitalists

* Developing new ways of thinking about organisations and developing the skills to work with different organisation forms.  Such as, start-ups, intrapreneurship, workplace communities, short life organisations, partnerships, imaginariums etc.


The way in which one acts or conducts oneself, especially towards others

* Being open working with a very broad range of people and having the ability to make these relationships work for ourselves, those we work with and the organisations we work with and for

* Openness to work with technologists and use our OD skills to bring their technology into the organisation and maximise its potential.  For example, my friend Thorsten Gorney and his new engagement offering Cabaana. Thorsten is not an OD practitioner, he has an interesting piece of technology but adoption and maximising the potential for an organisation I believe needs the skills we have.  The same is true for HR Tech – a lot of time and money is spent on buying and implementing but less time on ensuring maximisation of use and return on investment * Being happy to experience the metanoia of the OD profession.  Letting go of what we thought we always knew and embracing what might be

Let me know what you think.  Feel free to disagree as well as agree! If you have ideas for new attitudes, behaviours and skills then please feel free to share them in the comments section.



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