#OD – Nothing but pragmatic 

It was the CIPD OD Conference yesterday so I got to hang about with some OD types and talk. If you don’t know what OD is then I’m going to let you Google that all by yourself and then once you come up out of the rabbit hole with a big grin in two years we can chat. 

There were a few thoughts I had on the day….

Organisational Development vs L&D was one of the discussions –  as though it was a West Side Story ‘Jets and Sharks’ situation in some organisations. An interesting discussion was where L&D became ‘strategic L&D’ and then OD. My view is they are all needed – and that continuum, if it is one, shouldn’t be viewed as a hierarchy. If your OD and L&D teams can’t find a way to work productively then I’d suggest (brutally but honestly) that they aren’t yet equipped to start talking to anyone else about improvement. Physician – heal thyself… There is an interdependency between OD and learning that means you are fighting yourself if you aren’t able to find common purpose. 

About that common  purpose… One delegate basically suggested that people come to work for money so this ‘shared purpose’ stuff is basically HR and leadership nonsense. Firstly – I respect them saying it out loud and there is some truth in that. Secondly – my belief is that just because people have to come to work for the money doesn’t mean we can’t provide them with more. It doesn’t mean they can’t be helped to find purpose, friendship and satisfaction in work. We still have control there. 

Finally… Pragmatism. OD and L&D are, for me, relentlessly pragmatic disciplines. If you aren’t making a difference then your thinking is worth absolutely nothing. You are the input, you are the catalyst for the output. There are no points available for the ideas that didn’t happen. There is no shareholder, customer or organisational benefit to you navel gazing. Quality thinking only effectively manifests when it becomes action. Or in the words of Mee-Yan Cheung Judge ‘the best theory is that which works in practice’. 

My commitment to this can make me seem an impatient OD practitioner – less reflective and more impulsive than others. That’s probably true – I bring impatience for performance with me. But I figure I’ve always been paid to make a difference and that involves decisions and action. So create thinking environments by all means – but then translate those thoughts into action. 

That’s what OD is… It’s development, not thinking about development. Go do stuff. 

6 thoughts on “#OD – Nothing but pragmatic 

  1. Well said David.

    OD and activism (with intellect of whatever sort we define – IQ/EQ/SQ) go hand in hand.

    You research, analyse, involve, think some more, draw out the design and then you EXHIBT and use the art to create reactions and bring things to life. I GENUINELY don’t give a fig about L&D into / versus OD. They’re development just with different perspectives.

    Do OD is the best way to describe it all so the genius that is Paul Taylor (NHS) will be forever known for that.

    I really enjoyed reading this chap.


    1. Cheers Mr Timms. Interesting twitter chat with Paul about this post this morning. I’m not anti-thinking, but learning by doing is underrated and you can’t fat the calf just by weighing it…

      On Wed, 5 Oct 2016, 15:47 101 Half Connected Things, wrote:



  2. Great post David. I think your rogue delegate is strangely right, and most people have to go to work to pay the bills, sadly. Trust me, I have worked on enough production lines in my life. That said what motivates, drives and enthuses people whilst they are actually at work is a quite different thing. That is much more about their working environment, culture, team colleagues etc. and in my view their level of energy and engagement is what results in good business productivity, or not!


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