Research Paper By Godfrey Kalibbala
(Life Coach, KENYA)
In the paper written by Valerie Garrow, “OD Past, Present, and Future”, Garrow highlights the dynamic of Organizational Development and Change management in organizations today. Garrow cites the realities of globalization, cross cultural and cross sector alliances, the digital and networked age, deregulations, open sourcing and out sourcing, supply chains, complex networks of interconnections and cross boundary relationships that challenge the way organizations operate, customer involvement in co-creation and co-designing of products as well as viral markets, the rise in the power of individual and interest groups reaching global audience through blogs and social and business networks, lending and borrowing money from people they do not know without a bank, public markets such as eBay that provide space for people to trade real products directly with each other, new market places for virtual goods, property and currency have increased; and the story goes on and on.
This reality, as also alluded to by Garrow, creates great demand for the OD practitioner today. Cheung‐Judge (2001), as quoted by Garrow, suggests that ‘OD consulting necessitates a high degree of self-knowledge and personal development that must engage OD practitioners throughout their professional lives’. She argues that ‘among the many competencies required of us (OD practitioners), the use of self as an instrument is at the heart of our uniqueness and effectiveness’. A great number of change projects in organizations fail not because the change proposition was bad but majorly because of the way the change was introduced and managed.
As an OD practitioner, my coaching training and practice has provided various lessons that I believe could add value to the OD practitioners in this dynamic challenging environment of working with organizations. The coaching philosophy and principles that look at a client from a functional and not dysfunctional point of view, the focus on the client agenda as the driver of the coaching process, the focus on being present and mindful in the coaching process, the focus on the client’s commitment to discovery of what needs to be done to change their situation and the commitment to action that flows internally from the client and not external pressure all provide lessons that can be applied by the OD practitioner to improve his/her practice. A number of coaching tools too can be adapted to add value in the OD/change management process. Tools such as, Power listening, Powerful questions, reframing perspective, visualizing, mentioning but a few, can greatly impact on the OD/Change management process. It is true that these are somehow used in OD but the depth and appreciation of these tools in the way they can be used to cause a shift and movement in the organization, as it is from the coaching perspective, is something that can be explored for greater value addition.
Coaching Principles and tools for the OD practitioner
Coaching takes the perspective of the client as coming from a functional and not a dysfunctional point of view. This is a critical perspective which if applied in the organizational development and change provides greater possibility of success. To the change agent or the organizational development practitioner, this perspective will influence how one will proceed with the whole structure of the change process. It will lead to a process that comes from a positive perspective, recognizing that there are various strengths within the organization that one can build upon other than focusing on fixing problems. True, there will be problems that need to be fixed but even then adopting the coaching principle perspective will yield more results. This aligns too with the action learning model where one of the key reflections is about what is working well. No matter where the organization is at, there will be areas that are working well or areas of strength that could be strengthened as one also positively addresses those that need to be changed. I realize that as a consultant, taking that positive perspective builds energy among the staff of the organization that can be important in implementation of the change other than over concentration on what has broken down or not working. Taking the perspective of a functional organization helps realize the various hidden opportunities in the organization. Positive psychology also supports this; that people create new reality by releasing and working with their energies and abilities rather than struggling with their faults. Strength based development and Appreciative inquiry (AI) also move away from the tendency to want to fix what is wrong with organizations and people and focus on identifying what works best and transferring them into other situations. Strength based development also emphasizes looking at what an individual is good at and aims to build excellence rather than focus on development for weaknesses which at best can become average qualities or skills in the long term.
As a matter of principle, we recognize that each client in the coaching contract is different. Regardless of the client’s situation being similar to that which you have dealt with in the past, each situation and client must be treated as different and unique. Each client comes with his/her own experience, emotions, feelings, realities, perception to mention. So an experience with another client if brought into the coaching space may turn out to do more harm than good. A coach therefore becomes careful not to carry the previous experience into the new situation. Just because one strategy worked well with one client, does not mean it will work well with another. In organizational development and change management, I see this as a principle that can make the practice more effective. There is a high temptation as a consultant to apply what was done previously in another organization. Sometimes this may work but it should not be the way of doing business. Treat each organization as different; organizations will have different cultures, different practices, different strengths and different leadership styles. Being cognizant that such past experience can be distractive, the coach wants to be present in the moment without carrying baggage into the coaching space. Whereas the experience in change management can be helpful, it is important to be careful so that it does not become distractive. It is important that the practitioner is fully present to understand the dynamics of the organization without being corrupted by the past experience. Being fully present with the organization, understanding and appreciating its uniqueness from whatever experience you might have had, helps the practitioner be more relevant to the organization’s needs and uniqueness.
In coaching, we acknowledge that the client is the expert of her/his life. He/she is the source of the information and the solutions to the issue at hand in his or her life. If this principle and attitude is adopted by an OD practitioner, it can contribute to improvement of the OD practice. A practitioner who adopts such attitude and principle will understand and design his OD process in a way that ensures that there is effective participation of the members of the organization both in generating information and solutions to the problem. I have seen this work very successfully for some of the approaches I have applied in OD. One of the most successful engagements I have had with organizations are those where I have engaged people at the front line of the organization’s core business, jointly identifying problems, generating solutions and being at the center of the implementation of the solutions. This approach is usually very empowering, promotes a high level of ownership and generally one gets more support and less resistance to the change. It is also fulfilling especially to lower level staff that see their participation as another way of being listened to and their ideas being valued by their leaders or managers. For the OD practitioner, this attitude and principle, will lead to giving attention to listening to the members of the organization deeply both for what is said and what is not said. Primarily, if you are to listen to the organization powerfully, the solutions are with them not the experience of the consultant. It is true that the consultant’s or practitioner’s experience is very helpful but if it becomes the driver, it may not only affect the quality of the solutions but also affect the process of managing the change.
Another principle that I find very applicable to change management is the issue of structures. In the coaching process, it is important that the client is supported to identify structures that will enable him or her keep to the commitments and facilitate follow through on the actions identified as important in bringing about the required change. Great change propositions have been made but usually because supportive structures and accountability structures are not well identified by the people affected by the change, the change ends up failing or sometimes the structures are just imposed by the leadership and are resented by staff. Coaching allows space for the client to identify the structures and also make commitment to follow the plan accordingly. The coach is careful, though always with a lot of temptation, not to impose the structures they hope will work or have worked in the past but allow the client create or identify the structures from their own perspective. The OD practitioner can adopt this perspective in facilitating and supporting the change process by ensuring that there is appreciation and commitment to the structures put in place not only by the leadership but also ensuring that there is buy in of the critical mass. This is made easier if the principle of participation by the people affected by the change is adopted in identifying the structures.
In addition to the principles, I realized that there are a number of coaching tools that can be applied by the OD practitioner in a number of organizational processes and change management. The tools such as reframing perspective, powerful questions, visualization, responsibility Vis-à-vis Blame, lightness Vis-à-vis significance, Action Vis-à-vis delay to mention but a few. Adapting powerful questions and reframing perspective, for example, can support the OD practitioner to bring awareness and cause movement in the organization. The powerful questions emanating from power listening always provide deeper reflection for the client to create a sense of awareness and an “ahaa” moment that helps the client move forward or get out of a situation of inertia. A combination of powerful questions and in many cases supporting the client to reframe their perspective opens perceptions of wider possibilities through which solutions can be generated. In an organizational setting, these tools can be very useful and powerful. The OD practitioner can structure processes that will allow this for groups and individuals to support the change process in the organization. Every engagement in the OD and change management process is part of the change you want. How and what you do with the staff at every point allows you to model or elicit the change you want to see, or prepares the organization for the change.
In many cases, organizations get “stuck” because they have not systematically been supported to reflect on the organization from another perspective. A systematic process that enables the organization to reframe their perspective becomes very helpful. An understanding of the reframing perspective tools becomes a handy support for the change agent to use in this process. Although in an organizational setting this is more complex and demanding there are many opportunities to apply these both for individuals and groups within the organization. According to Garrow’s paper, OD practitioners use different frameworks, tools and techniques to help people break out of their normal patterns and shift their perspective.
In conclusion, the theory and practice of Organizational Development continues to draw from various disciplines for its development and in many ways inclined towards applied behavioral science. The current challenges of OD practitioners to add value to organizations in such a dynamic and challenging environment demand openness to learning from different disciplines and practices. I consider coaching as one of the practices from which an OD practitioner can borrow and make great contribution and add value to the OD practice.
OD: Past, Present and Future, a paper presented by Valerie Garrow – Associate Director, Institute of Empowerment Studies, University of Sussex Campus. firstname.lastname@example.org
Kondalkar, V.G (2009), Organizational Development New Age International, New Delhi