Catalyzing Connections Through Learning Together

OD: Profession, Hobby, or Spiritual Practice?

20 Sep 2012 11:01 PM | Fernando Lopez
Marilyn Laiken shared with us the notes she prepared before her appearance in this panel event:

TODN  Panel Discussion Notes

1.    4:30  - Introduction – 3-5 minutes – Who Am I?

•    How I got into the field of OD  - 1974, trainer. Context not supportive, became interested in the organizational system; doctorate in STSD, practice, teaching, research, supervising students, etc.

•    What is OD to me – hobby, profession, spiritual path? All 3 – began as a hobby, as I wasn’t making much money with it at the start – just developing the field. Then it was my profession for 35 years, but felt more like a spiritual path, as I believe so firmly in the values and try to live them in everything I do. Now it’s a hobby again, as I am essentially retired and working in the field more for my pleasure than anything else (though still open to consulting contracts).

•    What distinguishes me from the rest of the field? When I began to practice, I was one of the few professionals in Montreal doing this work, so I had to become very eclectic – I worked across sectors in everything from 1-1 coaching to complete organizational redesign. So I think it’s my varied experience, both as an internal and external consultant that may differentiate me from the professionals more recently in the field, who I think, by necessity, find themselves wanting to become more niched in their expertise.

•    What is a prevalent misunderstanding I encounter about OD or my work? Working at OISE for 20 years exposed me to a consistent misunderstanding about OD as a “corporate, capitalist venture” – when in fact I believe that OD values are essentially socialist and egalitarian in nature. Certainly that’s true of how I practice OD – and I believe that it’s effective everywhere, and not only in business environments.

•    My Unique Contribution to the OD Community.  At this point in my career, I think my most important (if not unique) contribution is to mentor new and developing professionals in the field. When I was learning the field, there was really no educational support in Canada – though much in the US (which is where I went). Through CODI, we’re trying to support the profession in Canada, and I personally am so enjoying my contact with developing professionals through the CODI work I do.

2.  4:50-5:30 – Moderated questions to panelists

What is possible for OD in the future?

•    OD has always had an organization design component. The designs of organizations in the future will be very different, I believe. We are finally moving away from hierarchically structured organizations to ones that are more networked – a former student of mine (Mark Federman) calls them UCAPP – “ubiquitously connected and pervasively proximate”.  OD is inherently equipped to help organizations with this kind of change now and in the future.

•    The one thing I would like to change (and I’m working on this through CODI), is to see the field start to receive the credibility it deserves. One way to insure that is for some in the field who are so inclined to write about their successes with metrics – numbers seem to talk these days. It’s no longer enough to say that we believe in it because it feels right. At the very least, let’s try for more behaviorally descriptive assessments of our work.

•    I would also like to see every professional in the field move steadily from “savoir” to “savoir faire” to  “savoir etre”. OD is not a collection of “tools” – it’s a way of being in the world. I’d like more OD professionals to embrace that notion.

My own Crossroad on My OD Path –

•    I’m now in the last stages of my career, and would like nothing more than to leave a legacy of well-trained and exquisitely competent professionals supporting each other all across Canada to carry on this important work.

Re: Different Approaches

•    I come from the school of “whatever works”, do it. As long as it’s focused on the client’s needs and works for their organizational culture. I tend to view most interventions that come from a client-centred set of values as OD – so that would include everything from individual coaching, to organizational change and everything in between. I have been personally trained in a large array of approaches, which come from such fields as the behavioural sciences, family therapy, applied psychology, brain/cognitive science, sociology, social psychology and others. Whether one is using MBTI, Six Sigma, Action Research, Appreciative Inquiry, Future Search, Open Space, stakeholder engagement, team development, 360 degree feedback – and I could go on – they’re all OD, if the goal is to help create organizational environments that are respectful, life-enhancing and supportive of continuous learning and creativity. Whether it’s done by structural redesign, culture change, or any other intervention, as long as the intention is to access the greatest potential of both the social (people) and technical (work) systems, for the mutual benefit of the individual and the organization, in collaboration with the client – it’s OD.

Together, with different approaches – we have the capacity to do anything! I will always want to work with people who have different approaches from mine – I search that out. The most important goal for my life is my continuous learning -  which hopefully will continue until the end of my life. People who bring different views and approaches are my teachers.

What does success at CODI look like?
“My best hope is that a participant leaving the CODI program will be confident in their ability to assess a consulting situation, in collaboration with the client, and be able to provide the most appropriate intervention from an array of many in their repertoire. They will be acutely aware of their own consulting style, preferences and skills, and know when to offer them and when to refer to others. They will be a reflective practitioner who is constantly learning about themselves, their clients and the field – able to build on their own strengths and be honest about their areas for development. They will be genuine and transparent with others – seeing who they are personally as the key instrument for change. They will believe strongly in a theory/practice integration as increasingly skillful practitioners who are able to explain their choices from a strong theory base. Finally, they will leave with a cohort of colleagues from whom they can continue to draw support, as they take their skills and knowledge into the world, with the intention of making it a more humane, equitable, peaceful and growth enhancing place.
Marilyn Laiken, PhD, Academic Director, CODI – September, 2012

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