Is the OD Profession Ready to Grow?

Does the industry need an Intervention?

Discussion on the Future of OD

A recent meeting used a two step process to discuss topics to consider on the future of OD:
  1. Expose attendees to various techniques of group facilitation.
  2. Use these facilitations to discuss the Future of OD.
Here are the outcomes from that meeting


Attendees were first asked to generate the "Questions we should be asking ourselves."  As attendees rotated and joined new groups (in the World Cafe format) discussions began to generate insights.  The last task was to generate ideas and actions that could help guide OD in the desired directions. The following is a list of the Questions and Ideas/Actions, in no particular order.

Note that the different groups from this event came up with almost conflicting outcomes.  And some require further interpretation - if you recall the meaning of any items below, please contact us.  These are the opinions of the night's attendees, and not necessarily the SFLODN organization.

Questions we should be asking ourselves:

Table 1

Where do we want to go as a people/society, so that we can be at our best in ourselves and in our organizations?

Do we want broadness in our groups – to have high diversity, to create collaboration?

What is the strength of OD?

Table 2

Should we have licensing or certifications to manage OD?

Where should the OD person be chartered?

Should OD be External or Internal?

Is OD more involved in the business?  [Interpretation needed…  Does this mean “more today than before”?  or “more than other professions”? Or does it mean something else?]

The layers of OD – how will it look in the future?

How do you define OD today?  What are the components?

What are the strengths and weaknesses of OD?

How do you measure the value of OD?

What responsibility does OD have to retain the knowledge of the organization?

If we assume technology is in the future, what problems will we have?  [Interpretation needed…  Does this mean that today many people don’t acknowledge how much has already changed because of technology?  Or does it mean we ought to anticipate future changes more effectively?]

How can we use looking at the past to plan for the future?

Table 3

Where do we want OD to go?

How can we create synergy amongst ourselves?

How do we share the passion with others?

How do you ready the culture for technology?

How do we create our own need for OD?  (What does the end state look like?)

What do we have in common with those in our organizations who don’t “get it”?  How should we communicate?

Is labeling “OD” helping or hurting?  Does labeling it box us in?

How can we unlock the possibilities of differences?

Who is the driver of the future of OD on a national scale?

Table 4

Should OD Practitioners be licensed? What level of qualifications? What programs are currently most relevant? What programs are more advanced in anticipating OD professional requirements for future?

Definition of OD today… definition of OD in the future.  What are the strengths & limitation of OD (today & future)?

Value of OD… what measures today? What measures in the future?

Evolution of Organizational Design solutions: functional, divisional, matrix, network…. What’s next?

Where will OD sit in the future organizational configurations? Internal or external? Within HR or outside the HR function? (Converging view is outside). Mainly supporting large organizations or also supporting smaller companies?

OD Mission & Purpose:  Support money/profit making logic vs. pursuing additional/alternative agendas (civilization/human wellbeing etc.)?  Who defines the boundaries of the purpose? Does the sponsor?

Ideas / actions we would recommend right now:

Table A

OD’s job is to guide and facilitate; Not OD’s job to create solutions.

OD is reactive.  It’s the core component that helps an organization through its changes.

OD empowers, to enable the organization – it frees the organization.

One OD strength is to communicate and educate.  OD can be a central point of communication.

We as OD practitioners help leaders think about how to make a difference in our society.

OD has to get out of HR skill set that we have.  OD could become a leadership competency.

Table B

Weakness of OD: Might be deeper thinkers than the leaders we are trying to influence.

Strengths/Value of OD: Efficiencies; Engagement; Retention; Structure; Development; Leadership – stronger and more accelerated succession plan.

Internal vs. External:  Internal consultants know the company to speeds things to production.  Externals are useful on large scale efforts.

Table C

Build a knowledge-based network.

What resources are out there (free) that we could use?

Table D

Make OD a set of competencies, as opposed to a profession. This implies creating a Body of Knowledge which people from different professions can study from and pass competency exams.

Improve organizations' readiness/openness to the cultural effect of improved technology use on OD.

OD needs strong national and international leadership.

The definition of OD is in the outcome.

OD has struggled with creating a clear definition. Consider if we need to actually do this, and instead direct the effort elsewhere.

Cultivate inspiring leaders in different ways to the present interventions.

Remember that Self is an instrument of change.

Be Responsive (reactive) to earn the right to be proactive.

And take risks! Be proactive.

Define how we will measure OD in the future.

The OD profession needs to facilitate links between (process) systems, to break up the current system silos.

Define how OD provides value.

Clarify how we measure OD outcomes.

Focus on "Entry" into an organization or situation. It is at this point that you have some latitude.

Table E

One table produced a diagram.  DEFINE is at the top, and coming down from it there are two branches.  The left-hand branch includes “Generalist (People, Process)” followed by “WIIFM.”  The right-hand branch includes “Specialist” followed by “Innovation” and then “Advanced.”  [Interpretation needed…  Can someone explain the meaning of this diagram for us?]

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Also visit the national OD Network site: www.odnetwork
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