OD insight

I just wrote a blogpost that’s a great example of the kind of thinking, insight and provocation an OD professional can bring to an organization.

Read Center Shift at http://joyandlife.wordpress.com/2011/07/24/center-shift/

Happy reading!

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Know thyself..

γνῶθι σαυτόν, "gnothi sauton", "...

Image via Wikipedia

As an OD professional. As an agent of change. Your primary challenge will not be systems or furniture or machines. It will be people. And their motivations. And you must posses a DEEP understanding of human beings and their motivations. And you will achieve this only when you have a DEEP understanding of your own motivations first.

The net is a wonderful place for serendipitous connections. I found this absolutely mindblowing blogpost that gave me goosebumps and I hope will give you a moment of reflection and some idea of what I refer to above.

Read. Reflect.


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Questions – What you ask, is what you get..

3D Character and Question Mark

Image by 姒儿喵喵 via Flickr

Continuing on from diagnosis, it is important to understand that a key part of diagnosis is asking questions.

It may sound cliched, but it’s absolutely true and very relevant, that you will only get answers to the questions you ask. Ergo, the completeness and impact of your OD intervention will depend on the quality of your questions. They’re directly proportional!

That’s why I decided to write a post that focuses only on Questions.

As you prepare for the diagnosis dialogs with members of the leadership team, here’s what you need to understand completely: 

The past – The beginning, the legacy.

The present – Current state.

The future – Desired state.

The Whats-

  • What is the present state
  • What was it like in the past
    3D Character and Question Mark
  • What is the future likely to be
  • What is desired
  • What works
  • What should not, must not change
  • What most desperately needs to change
  • What would be nice if it changed
  • What is going on inside
  • What is going on in the outside world
  • What has been tried and has failed
  • What has been tried and has worked well
  • What should not be attempted at all
  • What are the key performance measures of the business. What were the numbers like in the past? What are they today? What is expected in the future? What impact on those numbers is desired as a result of this intervention?

The Why’s

  • Why were we successful in the past
  • Why are we successful today
  • Why will we be successful in the future. Why not.
  • Why is an intervention needed
  • Why now

Additional questions:

  • Who are the key influencers – at each level of the hierarchy, all the way to the bottom of the pyramid
  • How will impact be measured?
  • How soon is the change required?
  • Are there parts of the organization or team that continue to do well or are different from the norm? Are there islands of excellence here? If yes, what is different about them? Why are they different? What can we learn from them and apply to the larger context?
  • What are the causes for being where we are today? Both in terms of the good stuff, and what can be better.

Now here’s the interesting bit. Questions can also be used for more than just gathering information. Questions are very powerful when used to provoke thought. A simple example of a provocative question is “Road tere baap ki hai kya?” (Loosely translated, that means “Does this road belong to your father?”) but of course I use the example in jest. This particular question only provokes a response (And sometimes you need that too!).

Thought provoking questions: 

  • What if you were to start this business afresh today. What would you do differently? How would you structure/design the business model?
  • What if you had to relook at the market in such a manner that what you currently offer as product/services, is only 5% of the marketshare?
  • What would happen if you were to walk away from your bottom 50% customers. How would it impact your business?
  • If we had to double our production, but reduce our costs by 25% how do we do that?
  • If we have to double our marketshare in the next 2 years, what should we be doing?
  • What if we were to do away with the Quality department altogether. How would we restructure the way we manage business then?
  • So what’s wrong with being an aggressive culture that doesn’t focus on people practices?
  • Why should we change?
  • Why can’t we continue the way we are? We’ve certainly done well so far.
Day 242: Questions For Heaven

Image by amanky via Flickr

The objective of this post was to provide an insight into the power of questions, and how you must leverage them as a key tool in your quest to diagnose and design an appropriate OD intervention.

Take it from me. If you haven’t invested at least half a day in building together the set of questions you’re going to ask as part of your diagnosis exercise, you’ve not done a good job.

That’s the level of preparation you require in order to do a deep diagnosis.

Please share some questions that work for you, and leave them as comments. That will add to us all!

Keep reading, keep giving me feedback on how to improve this blog and stay subscribed. I will ensure this series goes on. And there might just be a certificate in it for you ;o)

Aaaah I’m kidding! What the hell would you do with a certificate anyway? That’s the question….

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Diagnosis – The Key to Effective Organization Development

A warded lock.

Image via Wikipedia

Diagnosis is the key!

And why? Because if you get the diagnosis wrong, everything else goes wrong. When a doctor misdiagnoses, the patient usually dies. Ditto for organizations.

A good diagnosis is way beyond an X-ray, it has to be like an MRI or a CAT Scan. So what are the key tips to ensuring this:

  • Don’t just accept the first thing you hear – validate it by speaking to more people
  • Ensure you cover a broad cross-section of individuals, across teams, levels, and divisions/locations
  • Have a mix of one-on-one dialogs as well as Focus Groups
  • If you can sense people are uncomfortable with voicing opinion, that itself is a diagnosis! And if this is the case, use some other more confidential method of gathering information
  • Ensure you don’t allow your own preconceived notions to affect your diagnosis – we’re all human, and prone to forming quick judgments, be self-aware enough that you avoid this
  • Ensure you don’t get swayed by the opinion of power centers. Most often it is the power centers themselves who’re the root of the issue
  • It is a good idea to sometimes include vendors/partners/customers as part of a diagnosis

Ensure you validate the diagnosis when done, with the key leadership team.

How to diagnose:

  • One on one discussions
  • Focus Group Discussions
  • Research – read survey reports, market trends, share price index of the organization, P&L trends, market-share (for example, if you did this for Nokia, you would realize that they don’t have the capability to respond quickly to a changing marketplace. The next level of understanding would be that the leadership team is unable to create this capability)
  • Use non-verbal techniques. Ask people to enact skits or draw posters that depict what’s working and what’s not.
  • Use all your senses. What does your gut tell you? What do you see – cleanliness and order or disorder? Are people and meetings mostly on time or not?

Personally I find Appreciative Inquiry to be one of the best ways to have a diagnosis conversation. For more understanding of Appreciative Inquiry, follow the link. My AI mentor is Sushma Sharma, who is probably the best practitioner in India.

All the above ingredients will add up to a complete diagnosis, and enable you to come up with a more complete solution.

Here’s an example from one of my early engagements. This was for an American company that had recently setup an off-shore center in India. They were facing a lack of effective response from the Indians. I was told to put together a program for ensuring Indians understood American culture and language more effectively.

I decided to diagnose further. I invested time in speaking to the Indian teams, then the American teams, leaders in both India and the US. And I finally realized that since we were replacing Americans with Indians, head for head. The Americans were against the India operation.

No one had told the American teams why the organization needed an India center viz. our primary customer had indicated that if we didn’t cut cost with an India option, they would take their business elsewhere.

To aggravate these issues, Lou Dobbs was putting up his list of American companies that outsource, on CNN primetime daily. John Kerry was using outsourcing as his primary plank for the US election.

On the India side, the Indians were not keeping to time, were missing meetings. Were being insensitive to what the Americans were going through.

This more complete diagnosis helped me realize that this was not a language or culture issue. It helped me realize that it wasn’t just the Indians who needed to be worked on, but that we needed a more global more inclusive solution.

It also helped me identify what the key impact measures of this intervention could be.

Key of an ancient warded lock

Image via Wikipedia

What have some of your diagnosis experiences been like?

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Organization Development – The Process

There’s no rocket science to the OD process. You’ve actually experienced it all your life. It’s what a doctor does when you fall sick. It’s what the mechanic does when you take your car in for repairs.

89. colon cancer diagnosis

I’m not going to romanticize it or make a big jargonized deal of it. In all it’s simplicity, here’s how it flows:

  1. Diagnose
  2. Measure current state. Identify future state.
  3. Design an intervention
  4. Roll-out intervention
  5. Re-measure against identified future-state
  6. Closure

So what do you think is the most important part of this process? If you said Diagnosis, you get full marks! And I’m covering diagnosis on my next blog-post. So look for it.

If you follow the 6 step process above, you can’t go wrong. And properly implemented, it will also ensure that you enroll key stakeholders.

Diagnosis, S.A

Diagnosis, S.A (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Steps 2 and 5 are critical, they ensure you are able to demonstrate success by comparing across the pre and post scores. By the end of the diagnosis, it is critical to identify the key areas of impact, those are the ones you will measure.

In my successive posts, I will cover details of some of the above steps. Watch this space.

And as always, keep leaving your comments!

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Are you missing the followers?

Election night crowd, Wellington, 1931

Image by National Library NZ on The Commons via Flickr

A google search for the term – Leadership generates 179,000,000 hits. A similar search for the term Followership generates 510,000. Try searching for a book on Leadership. Now try searching for a book on followership.

Interesting isn’t it? Most of us seem to be focussed on Leadership (and rightly so), however, I believe we need equal focus on Followership – the behaviour of followers, their attitudes, beliefs, fears, concerns and challenges.

If you get leaders to change their behaviors, but you don’t work on the followers…will this slow down the change? For example – Let’s say a tough autocratic leader goes through a 360 degree, takes feedback and decides to change. But, his followers are stuck with their perceptions of him/her and operate from their perceived reality. Unless we do some work with the followers as well, the rate of visible change in the dynamics of the team will be slow.

Look at what is happening in Egypt today. ALL revolutions are a result of a change in followership mindsets.

Cover of

Cover via Amazon

Is there a case for working on followership to drive change? Using the mass at the bottom of the pyramid to drive change? Influencing the mass and channelising their energies and commitment to executing on the ground?

But in order to do this, we must understand followership as well as we understand leadership.

My take, in organizations that have complacent/rigid

Dandi salt march, 1930

Image by Dena v.d.Wal via Flickr

leadership – influence the leadership and leverage the followership. Like Gandhi did by exhorting the nation to rise up. And influenced the leadership by choosing non-violence.

In organizations that have leaders who’re keen to change but are dealing with a rigid/anti-change followership – Leverage the leadership, shake-up and influence the followership. Like Gerstner did with IBM.

And in an organization where both are stuck – you won’t get the job. 😉 I’m kidding! You just work harder!

And lastly, when you are able to mobilize such a large mass of people, the sheer mass leads to a very high level of momentum. Once again – check Egypt!

What do you think? What’s your experience? Talk to me. Leave a thought. Challenge this premise. share an experience. Add value!

Book – How followers are creating change

The Exceptional Strength of Followership – excellent blogpost

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Capabilities of an OD Professional


Capability management
Image via Wikipedia

I think we’re off to a great start. Thanks to all of you who visited the blog over the last few days, and left your comments here and on LinkedIn. It has helped me refine my thinking and prepare for this next blogpost and, as any OD professional worth his salt knows, our ability to bring impact is a factor of the collaboration and partnership received from the system we work in. So here’s looking forward to more participation and contribution from all of you who come here to read, share, learn, question, critique and teachback!


Image by KayVee.INC via Flickr

The logical next step clearly seems to be to talk about the competencies of an Organization Development professional.

According to Abhishek (who has an interesting blog on HR/Management/Employee Engagement), the competencies are:

Strong business sense: understanding of business drivers, systems innovation, systems thinking, mission orientation
Leadership: Develops trust, understands individual and group behaviour, decisiveness, risk-taking, collaborator, passionate communicator
Strong in HR systems: Aligns people processes & business needs, customer orientation

My good friend Neetubala has left probably the most detailed note:

1. Impact – Creating a good first impression, commanding attention and respect, showing an air of confidence.
2.Emotional Intelligence – When we talk about “applying behavioral science knowledge” Emotional

Book Cover
Image via Wikipedia

Intelligence is the core competency OD professional must possess. EI will help an OD professional to sense the challenges in an organization perceiving rightly the concerns and challenge of its employees. So EI gives an effortless insight into psyche of people and hence the teams and groups within an organization. As said “Humans are not the creatures of logic but emotions”.
3.Building Positive Working Relationships and Trust – Developing and using collaborative relationships to facilitate the accomplishment of work goals. Interacting with others in a way that gives them confidence in one’s intentions and those of the organization.
4. Mentoring & Coaching – Providing timely guidance and feedback to help others strengthen specific knowledge/skill areas needed to accomplish a task or solve a problem.
5.Influencing and Gaining Commitment – Using appropriate interpersonal styles and techniques to gain acceptance of ideas or plans; modifying one’s own behavior to accommodate tasks, situations, and individuals involved.
6. Managing Conflict – Dealing effectively with others in an antagonistic situation; using appropriate inter-personal styles and methods to reduce tension or conflict between two or more people.
7. Strategic Decision Making – Obtaining

Cover for the Business Strategy Wikibook.
Image via Wikipedia

information and identifying key issues and relationships relevant to achieving a long-range goal or vision; committing to a course of action to accomplish a long-range goal or vision after developing alternatives based on logical assumptions, facts, available resources, constraints, and organizational values.

As you can see, the above 2 responses have clearly detailed what’s needed for an OD professional to have an impact.

My 2 cents:

1. Business Business Business – Too often OD professionals tend to get lost in their own jargon and processes. We need to develop an ability to have a business conversation at the C-level in a manner that gets them to pay attention to us and see us as a partner who can help them achieve their goals and objectives.

Second, it is imperative that we understand the nuts and bolts of the business. The key internal and external drivers of the business we work in.

Third, our ability to be able to predict key business challenges and come up with solutions in partnership with the business.

So here’s a test:

Do you know what’s EBITDA? PBT? PAT? and the difference between Operating Profit and Net Profit?

Do you know Porter’s model for Strategy? BCGs matrix model for Strategic choices?

Porter's 5 Forces Cartoon
Image by Nathalie Magniez via Flickr

Do you understand the key macroeconomic forces that impact your business?

Who are the top 5 players in the industry your business operates in? What are their chosen strategies for competing? What are their EBITDA/PBT/PAT? What is their P/E? And find out the same for your business.

An OD professional who is not grounded in the business, will not have a seat at the table. Period.

2. Confronting/Truth-telling – Our primary role

Image by TW Collins via Flickr

and the one way in which we can add key value, is to put the elephant on the table. Those things which no one else will talk about, those things that employees talk (bitch) about over a beer but will never say in public. Those things which everyone knows, but never discusses. Those are the things which an OD professional must say, give voice to, bring to the top of the table and uncover. We must ask difficult questions. We must give voice to the unsaid. We are the ones who must speak-up when no one else does.

How do you do this?

Build Trust. A level of trust where the C-Level leadership reaches out to you to learn about what they need to do more/less of.

Build processes. That create occasions for truth-telling. That create the space for truth-telling.

Guts. Just plain good old courage. In the face of all kinds of resistance and dissuasion, and OD professional must be able to find a way to tell the truth. Does this

President Bill Clinton with Nelson Mandela, Ju...
Image via Wikipedia

lead to suicide – sometimes. But the key skill is to build an ability to speak truth in a way that people will listen.

3. Synthesis. Our business colleagues are highly skilled at Analysis. Trust me, the breakthrough lies not so much in analysis as in Synthesis.

Synthesis is the ability to look at different parts, and combine them into a meaningful whole. The ability to look at a set of issues, solutions, options, and combine them into an elegant solution. Synthesis is about picking up the unseen patterns in a system or a group and finding the common thread that binds them all, resulting in elegant solutions that achieve greater impact. An example of Synthesis – a blogpost I wrote about Future Organizations

Where Analysis is about breaking down, synthesis is about pulling together.

OD professionals can bring the ability to synthesize to the strategy table, to a business decision, and add tremendous value.

The above 3 are what I believe will enable an Organization Development practitioner to deliver value to the business. Not an exhaustive list, but a definitive one I hope.

And lastly, let me say this, each one of us has to have very high ego-strength and emotional resilience. As people who have to facilitate change, we will face many frustrations and setbacks. Sometimes success will be a long time coming, and there will be many nay-sayers (both overt and covert), our ability to maturely handle stress, delays, setbacks and to continue to keep motivations high, will be critical!

As I move on to the next series of posts, I aim to do the following:

Discuss specific cases/examples

Discuss more about the HOW rather than the WHAT. This, I believe, will lead to building capability and will provide you the tools you can use, to get more done.

I hope this helps!

As always, please contribute. Share your thoughts. Add comments. Share stories of success and failure. We learn for both. And lastly, share this blog. Invite more people to this conversation. The more brains we bring to the table, the richer we are!

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