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The OD Practitioner of the Future

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

timeforchange

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:

Attitude 

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

Skills

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.

Behaviours

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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HR Tech and the OD practitioner

Posted: October 31, 2016 by Matthew Hanwell in Change, OD, Organization, Technology, Uncategorized

future

Blog Post by: Ian Gee

In this blog I want to continue to explore why Carole and I believe it is critical for OD practitioners to engage with Tech, be involved with its development and find ways of incorporating it into our practice. In her last blog Carole mentioned the lack of visibility of OD practitioners at the recent HR Tech World Congress and expressed concern, that we might be coming late to the party and ultimately miss out. I believe not only will we miss out if we fail to fully engage with Tech, we will see a continuation of the abysmal figure of 70% of all OD initiatives failing.

 

The combination of newly available technology, shifting workplace demographics and changes to the political landscape are the biggest drivers of change we face. You could argue this has always been the case. What has shifted is the pace at which these are moving forward. This presents immense challenges to us as OD practitioners.

 

We have chosen to focus on Tech both because of the speed of change and its potential to impact the very nature of work and our relationship with it. Yet, this seems to be the least explored area from an OD point of view. In terms of how it impacts on our practice, how we can leverage it to enable faster and more impactful change and how potentially it will change the practice of OD in ways that we can hardly yet understand. However, we believe that critically there is an interaction between demographics and change that we need to understand first before we look at how Tech will both change and enhance what we do.

 

We can track the development of OD approaches in terms of the dominant generation in the workplace and the dilemmas they bring with them as they enter the world of organisations. I think Baby Boomers have struggled with the dilemma of organisations being either about social control, conformity etc., or a place for self-liberation and freedom of expression. This led to OD ideas like NTL, T Groups, change agents, action research, Appreciative Inquiry, Future Search, etc.

 

To my mind, Gen X struggle with the dilemma of organisations being about efficiency and effectiveness, versus their need for security and a sense of place. This has led to them dismissing a lot of the ‘boomer type’ interventions as fluffy, soft stuff and consequently moved OD to OE with interventions such Six Sigma, Agile, Lean, re/engineering, Quality Circles etc.

 

Gen Y, who are relatively new to the workplace, I think carry the dilemma of desperately wanting to be part of the herd and yet at the same time wanting organisations to recognise ‘the specialness of me!’ As OD practitioners I don’t think we have not fully understood the implications of this, or the kinds of interventions that will resonate with them.   However, examples such as tech led reorganisations to drive down cost and increase efficiency, workplace communities and structuring for the gig economy all come to mind.

 

I don’t think we yet know what dilemmas Gen Z will be trying to work out in organisations or the kinds of OD that will work for them. As a best guess, I think it will be something about the move from backpack to briefcase being ‘always on and connected’ 4D thinking and a need for depth and focus. What kinds of OD work will resonate with this group goodness knows? However, I am willing to place a large bet that Tech, HR or otherwise will be at the heart of it! To be considered as relevant to Gen Z not only will we need all the skills we currently have but also to be able to demonstrate a true depth understanding of Tech in and outside of the workplace.

 

As Gen Y and Gen Z start to be the dominate generations in the workplace and given their facility with all things Tech, I believe it is critical that as OD practitioners we fully understand such things as Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Serious Gaming. Without this we will most certainly be considered old fashioned and of limited relevance by them. Our understanding needs to encompass not only what they are, but how we can make use of them to enable sustainable and impactful change. We need to understand the ‘what it is’ and to be able to help shape ‘what it might become’. My friend Alberto Torres has written an interesting blog about the differences between AI and VR that you can find here

As we continue these blogs we will explore in more detail what these technologies are and what we think they offer to the world of OD. We will look at Tech in the widest possible sense. Imagining a world where OD practitioners having coding skills, or a good understanding of them and be the kind of professionals who can work as equals with Tech specialists to develop ‘OD algorithms’ and co-develop apps and other forms of Tech we can use in our practice.

If you are already working in this way and incorporating any of these possibilities in your OD practice it would be great to hear what you have been doing and the impact, positive or negative it has had on the outcomes of your work.

Technology – Friend or Foe?

Posted: October 25, 2016 by Matthew Hanwell in Change, Human Resources, OD, Technology, Uncategorized

friendorfoe

Blog Post by:  Carole Grimwood

A few months ago, I was lucky to have the opportunity to attend the HR Tech World Spring Conference in London with my colleague Ian Gee. It was a great event and if any readers are not familiar, take look and maybe go along next time. It turned out to be a couple of the most thought provoking days I’ve had in a while and I wanted to share some of my observations.

First, there was great energy. There were over 2000, much younger than your average, HR conference delegates from across the world with a passion for technology and a future focus. And the big question for them – how can technology shape not just HR but the world of work in general?

Second, there were innovations from wearable technologies of the FitBit/Smart Watch type for 2-way communication with staff, Mobile Apps for learning and employee engagement, video recruitment where the interviewer and assessor is the computer, systems for handling and exploiting big data, and robots with learning capability to automate jobs.

Third, there was much talk about the potential of data as a tool to help us shape our thinking and shape not just our workforce strategies but also the world of work itself.

(It wasn’t all exciting by the way. Maybe it’s just me but the pedestrian world of Learning Management Systems hardly seems to have moved on in the last 10 years!)

Two statistics that were quoted are of particular significance:

  • 35% of today’s jobs in the UK will disappear in the next 20 years
  • There will be a 37% reduction in the number of people employed in HR in the next 5 years

It could be that these projections are optimistic. According to research by Deloitte and Oxford University, as 47% of current jobs could be automated by 2020.

The hypothesis is that this won’t happen because of a failing economy and endless austerity measures – it will happen in spite of it. This is about growth and investment in technology and the exponential rise in the power and sophistication of robotics, artificial intelligence, and quantum computing. Since the conference, I’ve read and posted a good deal about driverless vehicles, self-service bars, room service robots, automated journalism, and the 3D printing of houses. The list goes on.

It was disappointing to find that at the conference very little attention was being given to the OD implications of all of this. There is the potential for an unprecedented shift in the world of work and the need for experts to support the change. OD colleagues didn’t seem to be at the party.

So the question is what does all this mean for the future of work and by implication for the future of HR and OD? Over the next couple of months, we will publish a series of blogs about the impact of technology on the world of OD, HR and the future world of work. Let us know if you have particular views or if there are questions you’d like us to think about?

Commercialism – TINA for Public Services?

Posted: January 30, 2016 by Matthew Hanwell in Change, OD, Organization, Uncategorized

money

By Ian Gee – cross posted from: Albany OD

Perma-austerity’, is what some are calling the new world the public sector finds itself in. Budget reductions and the need to reshape services has led to many public sector organisations exploring how they can operate in a more commercial way. Being more commercial appears to holds out the possibility of generating additional income, raising levels of efficiency and effectiveness, securing inward investment and creating a thriving local economy. It also offers the possibility of keeping services, often in a reshaped form, that would otherwise be lost as part of a package of cuts.

During my consultancy assignments at Albany OD it is very common to hear leaders say “We want our managers to be more commercial, entrepreneurial and business-like”. However as they talk, it becomes clear that no one should underestimate the challenge becoming more commercial, in a public sector context, presents to organisations and those that work in them.

Whatever it means in theory, in practice it means a massive, step change in the way public services think about themselves and how they do business. It also changes the way in which we, as consumers, are likely to experience the services they provide. Commercialism challenges current models of leadership, management and employment. Ultimately, for good or ill, it is likely lead to new types of organisations delivering reshaped and transformed public services.

I have heard of some interesting commercial experiments. I know of local authorities that are trading most of their services. So for example; the local dog wardens will provide, for a fee, advice on dog nutrition or safety around dangerous dogs, an authorities secretariat, for a fee, will provide services such as agenda setting, minute taking etc. for your AGM and revenue services providing a ‘no win no fee’ debt collection service for individuals and businesses. I know of cases where a local authority maintenance service has raised income by offering its service, for a fee, to employees for home repairs and an authority that as well as carrying out road maintenance will also tarmac your drive for a fee. Other authorities are ‘land banking’ outside of their area and in one case an English local authority is buying and letting industrial units in Wales.

Many people find the idea of commercialism threatening. It raises concerns about cuts, organisational change and job losses. Some fear it will challenge their personal values and commitment, others fear it will devalue their professional ethos and status. It also raises questions about the way services are organised and delivered and the people who are leading and delivering them. Do the organisations have the kind of culture, values and beliefs that will allow them to operate successfully in the commercial world? Do public sector employees have the skills, capacity and capability to work in this new way? Previously I have written about the challenges of bringing entrepreneurialism into organisations and I think this applies equally to commercialism in the public sector. If you want to read more about this you can find my latest writing here.

From an OD point of view it is not just a case of ‘lets close down the organisation and reopen, in a more commercial way, in 3 months time’! This is a change that has to happen whilst continuing to deliver excellence to local communities. I would describe it as like retooling a space rocket whilst on the way to Mars! Another way in which some organisations are approaching this issue is to recruit staff from the private sector, in the hope that they will somehow shift the culture and bring about the change. Whilst bringing in skills may be a good idea, the risk here is that you are working on an assumption that your current staff don’t have any of the skills needed and also you run the danger of ‘Tall Poppy Syndrome’. That is those people brought in are considered special and treated as such and this breeds resentment across the rest of the organisation.

At Albany OD we have been giving this a lot of thought. We believe that getting the right kind of OD plans and actions in place is absolutely critical if public services are to reap the rewards of greater commercialism and at the same time avoid the pitfalls. OD has a part to play in the work needed both before commercialism decisions are made as well as in supporting successful implementation once plans are in place. To find out more about our thinking you can look here.

You will no doubt have noticed that I have not taken a stance on whether or not I think public services being more commercial is a good idea or not. I do believe that were it not for the current economic climate, the idea of a more commercial public sector would be seen as a distraction from the organisations core mission. However I do believe that the current move towards a more commercial public sector, if it is managed in the right way, can be seen as an exciting way of renewing the public sector and potentially lead to both exciting career opportunities and a much more engaged way of working with the public these organisations are designed to serve.

It would be great to hear what you think about this and any examples you have of where a more commercial approach is paying dividends as well as where it has gone wrong. This will help us to learn from each other and develop new ideas as to how OD might help move the agenda forward and increase the chances of success.

 

 

 

The OD Geek?

Posted: June 5, 2014 by Ian Gee in Human Resources, OD, Organization, Technology, Uncategorized

brainofageek

After reading an intriguing and slightly disturbing article, Silicon Valley an army of geeks and ‘coders’ shaping our future in the Observer a couple of weeks ago I was left wondering if there is such a thing as an OD Geek?  By Geek I mean someone who is inspired to work, often on their own, for long hours, with great intensity, working out solutions to organisation problems and making money along the way?

As I read the article a couple of things leapt out at me, firstly: “The phrase you hear everywhere is innovate or die.”  I don’t think I have ever heard this kind of imperative within the OD world.  Have you? The second bit that leapt out was:

“…And an army of…   coders…who are progressively recasting the human environment in their own image, forcing the rest of us to adapt to this radically reconfigured landscape in the only way possible: by becoming … more … like … them”

This got me wondering if there are any OD practitioners working in Silicon Valley, or other ‘Silicon’ places around the world, who are supporting and enabling this?    I know that many of the established High Tech organisations mentioned in the article have very good OD teams – during my time with Nokia I met many of these people both in California and elsewhere.  I just wonder if there are any OD people working more generally and probably, as freelance consultants, with the much smaller startups and or helping individual geeks and entrepreneurs with things like business ideation or thinking through how to develop the kind of organisation that will help carry their ideas to fruition?  Again if anyone has any experience of this, it would be great if you could share them with us.  I would be curious to know what it’s like working with them, how did you gain entry and what kinds of issues do you find yourself working on?

I know from my research with Dee Ortner exploring the relationship between Entrepreneurs and HR/OD, that gaining entry in the start up space for OD practitioners is very difficult.  I am assuming this is also true when working with Geeks.  We found that this was for many reasons, that can best be summarised as entrepreneurs not understanding the value add of OD or HR and their being unwilling to spend money on something they believe they can get from friends and family. My guess is this will hold true for geeks as well.  I believe that we OD practitioners have to take some responsibility for this.  I don’t think we have been very good at showing how we can make a difference in this space and developing pricing models that make it a good deal for both the entrepreneur as well as the practitioner.

It would be really good to hear your thoughts an ideas about both working with geeks and what your thoughts are on becoming and OD Geek!

 

Now for bit of news:

As well as continuing to run Edgelands Consultancy I have gone into business with two very good friends and former work colleagues from my time in Local Government, Carole Grimwood and Alan Warner.  We have formed a new business called Albany OD Do take a look at our website.  I will be cross posting my blogs to the website from now on.

 

reality tv

Well here I am back blogging after the summer break.  In this blog I want to explore the rise and celebration of amateurism in all areas of public, business and private life and the impact I think this is having on the professional practice of OD.

For the past year or so I have been speaking at conferences and events around the world about how the nature of change is changing and the implications of this for the successful practice of OD.  This thinking started after I had read a number of research reports that showed that around 70% of all change and OD initiatives fail. I started to wonder why this was the case and how a trade or profession could continue to sustain itself, with any credibility, with a 70% failure rate.

After a lot of thinking and a bit of research I came up with the idea that maybe the nature of change itself has changed and the models, principles and practices we have been using have not.  In essence, the way we practice OD has not caught up with how people and organisations have changed their constructs about change and their expectations as to how it is led and managed.

I identified a number of issues that I believe are driving the change in change.  These included:

  • An increasingly multi generational workplace with greater focus on and discussion about the ‘the generations”, (i.e. Boomers, Gen X, Y…)
  • Social Media creating new ‘centres of gravity’ and points of reference
  • An explicit desire for scrutiny and transparency
  • Instant judgement, supported and driven by mass communication and 24 hour media
  • New relationships to ‘time and space’ through living in a 24/7/365 connected world
  • Popular culture

I want to explore the last issue ‘popular culture’ in a bit more depth, as I believe this is at the heart of the change and the major reasons we are embracing amateurism at the expense of professionalism.

Mass media exposes us to huge amounts of reality TV programmes, all of which are focused on personal, community and even organisational change.   I did a quick trawl of the Internet and came up with examples of just a few of the UK programmes that have this focus.  See the list below.  TV companies franchise the majority of these around the world and so I am sure that wherever you live or are reading this, you will have similar programmes coming into your living room!

The programmes, regardless of the category I have put them in, follow a similar story arc.  An individual or group are stuck in some pattern of behaviour, way of working, living or being that is not enabling them to achieve what they want to do.  In some cases this is very specific (e.g. Fairy Job Mother, How Clean is your House, Naked Office etc.)  In others the focus is on the search for fame as a way of escaping from poor circumstances or a troubled life (e.g. X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent, Master Chef – most candidates have a sob story, which by winning the contest, they hope to ‘heal’!)  As the programme unfolds there is usually an initial intervention that the participant(s) are grateful for and that seems to make a difference.  Then there is a period of crisis when things fall apart and finally a further intervention that does the trick.  We leave the ‘subject(s)’ of the programme basking in the warm glow of the potential of their new life.  Most of the programmes take an hour and very rarely, if ever, do we see a follow up exploring what happened next.  We are left wondering if the change ‘stuck’ and if people made the most of the opportunities the programme gave them.

What is very interesting to me is that in most cases the people who we see designing and leading the interventions (the televisual OD person!) are amateurs.  They are not professional psychologists, OD or HR people.  They are gifted amateurs who have developed a wealth of skill through experience.  They have not had their experience professionalised or codified through traditional academic study.  It could be argued that this continues the spirit of people like Harvey Jackins and his work on ‘Revaluation Co-counselling’ or Carl Rogers ‘On Becoming a Person’.  In many of these shows, professionals are shown to have singularly failed to make a difference in the lives of the people or the community who are taking part in the programme. The underlying message is, it takes an amateur to make a difference.

What, of course, we don’t see during the programme is the team of ‘behind the scenes’ professionals and experts who provide insight and advice to the programme’s presenter.   With the speed at which credits for TV programmes roll these days it is even difficult to see if any professionals were involved, unless you have interactive TV and can use the pause button!

My belief is that this has led people to believe that change, whether it be personal or organisational, follows a predictable path, is easy and can happen quickly in a clean and clear manner.  And you don’t need professional skills to help enable or support it.

A few weeks ago I was listening to a BBC Radio 4 programme “The Morale Maze” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Moral_Maze) which bills itself as “Combative, provocative and engaging live debate examining the moral issues behind one of the week’s news stories” I happened to hear an episode that was exploring the UK governments discussions about internet filters to make access to adult content a matter of personal choice.  The programme had an expert panel of lawmakers; academics etc., and they then called ‘witnesses’ who in this case were from ‘moral majority’ and libertarian type groups, the adult film industry and religious groups.  What surprised me the most about what I heard, was that the majority of adult content people are viewing over the Internet is amateur, uploaded by the individuals ‘staring’ in it.   This move to amateur adult and mainly free content has had a direct impact on the professional side of the trade.  Much of the professional adult industry is now in economic difficulty, with film studios closing down and professional adult artists finding it difficult to get work.  So yet again the public seem to be more interested in the world of the amateur, rather than that of the professional.  They are voting with their mouses!

I think people find amateurism, in both the adult industry and OD and change, to be more connected to them and their lives and not professionalised and distanced.  In the case of the adult industry I think people are looking for others ‘like themselves’ as opposed to those augmented beauties that look inauthentic, unreal and, what’s more, unattainable.  In the world of OD and change management, I think people are looking for something similar.  Something that feels like them; co- created, with not just a surface veneer of authenticity, but a depth of authenticity that drives and stimulates their trust and engagement.

So much of our past and current OD has paid lip service to co-creation and engagement. When reviewing the outcomes of both large and small scale change initiatives, many of the people I have spoken with tell me they feel like the change was ‘done to them’ with engagement and co-creation being little more than a sham.  They feel they had no real opportunity to contribute, influence the outcomes and make a positive difference.  This is often despite the best intentions and efforts of those involved in leading and supporting the change.  I cannot help but believe that this is what lies at the heart of the 70% failure rate for todays OD and change initiatives.

So where does this leave the professional practice of OD?    Like the rest of our HR community, OD has sought to raise standards and enhance its professional standing and status and then advertise this to all who will listen. The belief being that if we professionalise we will be taken seriously, get good and interesting work and make a positive contribution to organisational health.  Given that either consciously or unconsciously the general public think amateurs are better placed to carry out our work, I think we may be in trouble!  If we are to get our success rate higher than 30% I think it is time for radical change in the way we practice OD.  We need to

  • wear our professionalism lightly rather than publically flaunting it,
  • study where the public take their models of change from, and
  • see what we need to do to authentically incorporate this into to our consultancy and intervention design practice.

I am not talking about dumbing down the practice of OD.  What I am talking about is best encapsulated in a story I heard from Yoland Wadsworth in the early 90’s (http://www.rmit.edu.au/staff/wadsworth_yoland).  Yoland is a truly inspiring social scientist and practitioner of action research.  She told me a story about how, when she had just finished her PhD, she was involved in an action research project into the lives of an Aboriginal community in Australia.  She said she did everything by the book, putting into practice all she had learned, but found it almost impossible to get people to talk and engage with her.  After a very frustrating period of time, one of the elder women of the community came to talk to her.  The conversation went along the lines of ‘Yoland, you are a good, clever and smart person and we like you a lot.  However, unless you can show that your liberation is somehow connected to our liberation, no one will come and work with you’.  For me this sums up what wearing our professionalism lightly looks like and finding and celebrating our inner amateur.

Let me know what you think. I will be really interested to see what you have to say.   I also bet this is the first time you will have seen a discussion about the future direction of OD and a crisis in the adult film industry!