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!