Monday, November 12th, 2018

Reflections on Elections on Veterans’ Day

What a bold, optimistic experiment our nation and government is. So idealistic. So wise about the dynamics of Power. So against autocratic rule. It was designed and created by men (what might have been if women were in the room!) who had just rebelled against their former country and they needed to create a new nation.

I thought about this  as I left the house to vote at the local school on Tuesday. It was pouring down rain, the lines were long, and the system unable to handle it with ease. I didn’t mind the difficulty. Our vote is not a casual happening. It is the moment that power is dispersed across our country. It seemed right that it took some work, discomfort and endurance to use my power. I saw people I knew who I was aware would not vote as I would. And it felt grand. Profound. We can disagree about our vote and have a nice conversation in line. That’s our premise.

While in the Peace Corps, I was in Panama City., Panama. The US had just had an election. My then, husband and I were watching the Inauguration of Nixon in a doctor’s office waiting room. The Star Spangled Banner was playing. There were five Panamanians in the room with us. All were quiet. Then a Panamanian man asked why we were not standing for our national Anthem. He went on to say that it was a miracle to see a transition of power without violence. We jumped up, hands over our hearts, glad the anthem was long enough to allow us a moment of pride rather than what the shame or indifference the Panamanians perceived. It took a foreigner to give us a kick in the pants to make us more aware.

After voting, on Tuesday, I went to the Mall to the Apple Store with my husband. I ended up with three hours on my hands while the sick computer was backed-up. I have low Mall tolerance. I wandered and poked about. I was still thinking about voting and wearing my “I voted” sticker proudly.

I didn’t see anyone else with a sticker. I began to ask people about voting. It started out casually. I ended up talking with young women clerks who looked to be in their early  mid- twenties. None had voted and none were going to. All were good at helping me in the store—nice and competent. I only asked one question; “Did you vote?”

Here are direct quotes from my tiny sample:

—No I didn’t vote. Would have had to wake up too early. After work I have to get to my kids daycare

—My husband talks just like Trump, so it doesn’t bother me

—They are all crooks so why vote?

—I don’t get paid enough to be able to vote

—My break isn’t long enough and I don’t know where to go anyway

—I never have voted. Neither do my mom and dad

—All I know is school is out and I had to pay a sitter more than I make

—This isn’t for President, right?

—I don’t know the people so I shouldn’t vote

—My boyfriend did

—Is this Oprah’s thing?

—Won’t matter to Trump

—I know I should but it takes so long

—I would, but I support Trump

I think of Veteran’s Day and lives lost to protect Democracy and I want to go back to the Mall and give the young ladies the kick in the pants awareness I got in Panama. Then I’ll give a kick to schools that don’t teach where Democracy came from and how fragile it can be and why it is worth fighting for. Next I’ll boot our election process that makes it difficult for people to vote.

Last I’ll give a kick in the shins to every politician who messes with elections, who doesn’t respect or understand a fair fight, and doesn’t understand that our democratic process is what creates our unique value in the world. It needs to be valued, protected and modernized.









Monday, November 5th, 2018

Organizational Development Lightning Bolt


I’m wondering how many of you, OD people out there in the world, were hit by a lightning bolt of (Yes! This is the work I want to do!) when you first experienced or saw Organizational Development skills working?  I have seen the lightening bolt happen so many times that I have a hard time imagining someone plodding along and sliding into OD work without this “falling in love moment”.

My first OD moment was when I came back from two years of Peace Corps work in the remote Panama jungle working with the Teribe Indians. I had certainly learned a lot of culture and change doing Community Development. I think I wrote that Panama needed a benevolent dictator of low ego who didn’t need the job to provide ten years of stability and education to transition to a more democratic country.  Naïve youth or profound OD wisdom, who knows?

I came back from Panama to Puerto Rico to work on the staff of the Peace Corps Training Camp in Arecibo in El Junque rain forest. It was there that my OD bolt occurred. There was a small team of three guys from a place called NTL. Two were writing there PhD theses on something that had to do with our work. I remember suggesting and designing a peer review process on suitability for Peace Corps work that this NTL group loved and the volunteers hated–thought it was tattling.

So, we the training center staff, were in a small group meeting and the NTL leader introduced The Johari Window. This was followed by the guidelines for Feedback. We were off and running. I was thrilled. It made so much sense to me. The immediacy and honesty created such vitality and intimacy (the “we are humans together” kind. I was excited that this kind of work existed. I was immediately comfortable and at home with the tools. I knew that combining the what and the how for any group was a powerful approach. Finally, we were given a resource guide with theory and tools in it. I still have mine. We, the staff, ended up running T-Groups/Sensitivity Groups and self-managed groups for self-awareness.

Now, I don’t know how effective any of this was. I think it got one guy his PhD. Like so often in OD work, the context, purpose and learning goals were not made overt. Did it make anyone a better Peace Corps volunteer?  Could  have if the groups had been cross-cultural. The peer reviews probably stopped an international incident or two. But I was hooked.

I still am. I get excited as I write this about what is possible for breakthrough changes of all kinds. I know OD principles, concepts and skills are coming into the time of their most important use. It’s why I want to support  OD workers (I like that term) to do bolder, coherenthigh impact work. I was fortunate to do just that for over thirty years. I’ll write more about later.

I’d love to hear about how you got into your work in Organizational Development.  Did you get hit by a bolt of lightning?   I am most reliable if you contact me by email.  I’ll publish responses. I bet they are interesting. We are an interesting tribe!





Thursday, November 1st, 2018

Democracy–the Ultimate OD Intervention

Two books,These Truths by Jill Lapore, and American historian and Book of American Dialogue by Joseph J. Ellis. Both hit on many themes and issues we face in the US as Democracy itself is being tested. Check them out.

Here’s what hit me. Democracy is not a given. It’s a wildly optimistic experiment in governing. As an OD global executive and now coach, it is interesting to think about The US Constitution as a gigantic “OD Intervention”.  A green site was created by the Declaration of Independence (a grand universal vision) and the question was, “Oooops we’ve created a nation. Now what do we do?” And so the arduous dialogue began to create the principles and law for a new nation. And so began the sequenced, planned  events meant to create an effective government design.  It involved a lot of talking and conflict and compromise and fury and coming back to the table again and again.

There were some established principles: l. Political equality meaning that people who were unequal in many ways had the same voting rights i.e. power to impact events, 2. Natural rights that are inherent not legal like all people being created equal and having the right to pursue life liberty and happiness. (Jefferson substituted “happiness” for “property” making a broader natural right. 3.”Popular sovereignty” meaning that the people, through a method of voting, gave authority and power to the state to act.

Do not yawn. These are uncommon principles for governing a nation. As. now celebrity, Hamilton said, “We want a government of reflection and choice not accident and force”. Our Fore-people had had enough experience of accident and force. And what we forget is  that accident and force always lurk and it takes an equal and opposite strength to lean toward the optimistic form of government we have in our Constitution, a government of the people.

This idealistic form of governing (Democracy) does take education and constant dialogue and leaning into the law of its interpretation. It’s never comfortable or easy. There is always the abrasion of opposing ideas that appall one another. We have a design or structure in the Constitution that was built to manage power assuming imperfect people.

Constitutional Crisis is talked about often. We are in one. We will see if the principles and law of our land can adapt and stretch to include so many more people than it had in mind at its start and with so many more different races of people. Can we expand the heart and mind and action embedded in our Constitution to have a multi-racial, gigantic sized, Democracy. Can we adapt ourselves and our law? Can we hold to the three founding principles of our country when we get scared of too many differences and what we might lose?Can we proactively create seemingly impossible reconciliation to align with our principles.Or do we wait for the crisis that can bring an end to such a grand, largely conceived experiment.

This is the level at which OD practitioners need to think and act. This is the burning platform of our time in the US. Can you apply these principle of the conception of our country In your daily work? Will you move beyond team to whole system? Will you work at the highest level of system possible? Will you know the importance of your work in today’s world? Will you acknowledge the values you carry proudly?  Will you lead as well as serve?









Monday, October 8th, 2018

For OD Professionals Wanting a Challenge–Institional Garage Sale

As a former executive in the field of Organizational Development I am aware that the processes we use in our country to either solve problems or to create good are not working well today.  The hierarchical structure for most businesses creates a power and reward distance among its members that hinders engagement, creates resentment, and suppresses breakthrough possibilities. Regimented education processes aim at a narrow focus of achievement that precludes teaching how to be a community member in the classroom and then, later, in society. There is no process to create vibrant, healthy marriages and family groupings until problems occur and then perceived and real hurts begin to overpower what could become effective. Certainly, our justice system cannot manage the multitude of judgments and punishments in a way that leads to peace, resolution and learning, but rather, to more judgement and punishment in the vicious cycle of non-resolution and learning. Our religious institutions are in need of new ways to govern that support their beliefs and tenets in order to be respected. All of our institutions are in the five hundred year transition that is described in Phyllis Tickles’ book The Great Emergence in which institutions  disintegrate and need revamping. The focus of her book is religious but includes all institutions.

Of course I think of this institutional crumble in relationship to Judge Kavanagh and Dr. Ford. How painful to watch antiquated approaches invented long ago punish both “witnesses” with no deep resolution. There will be a decision, but probably not the closure that resolution brings. Our fore-people didn’t consider that the masses would be involved in real time decisions. We  average people were supposed to elect representatives to do the work, in private, with only the written word to inform, and that, often weeks after the event. We need process reform from how to elect a president to how to choose a Supreme Court judge. Let’s not leave out all the global institutions. The UN  and NATO both come to mind. We need an Institutions Garage Sale!!  Burnish the good, keep what still works, toss out the old, and create the new.

I am not hopeless at all. There is good ferment happening and there are examples and exploration of a variety of systems (that might become institutions in the future). The Charter for Compassion reaches across all religions to bring an enlightened empathy to the world to alleviate suffering and injustice.  Conversations for the 21st Century (started after the Sandy Hook tragedy) has many permutations but are all based on conversing and connecting to find new ways to be together in community.  We  happen to live during a particular transitional upheaval. We are in the middle of the mess and it can be discouraging and anxiety producing. But new forms are coming.

During the Supreme Court Nomination Procedure I was reminded of The Restorative Justice movement. It is a new process for justice proceedings. A foundational principle is that crime (abuse, harm) causes harm and justice should focus on repairing that harm. The people most affected by the crime should be able to participate in its resolution. The community is responsible for the well-being of all its members, including both victim and the person who caused the harm/crime. Repairing  the harm and rebuilding relationships in the community — is the primary goal of restorative  justice.

I like what John Braithwaite says in his writing about restorative justice in Australia. “Responding to pain with another ‘spoonful of pain’ is seen as a less satisfactory response than responding with healing or repair. A reason is that hurt tned to beget hurt, creating a vicious spiral of retribution and feuding.  Alternatively, it is possible to flip this dynamic into one of healing begetting healing—a virtuous circle.

Wouldn’t it be remarkable to create a new kind of healing justice in our government that allows deep understanding and a commitment to heal all parties that are damaged rather than continue a punishment system that declares winners and losers as the only solution to severe personal, community and institutional hurts and damage.