C 1 O 2 N N E C T O R S R P G L A T 7 O G E T H E R
D 3 E V E L O P M E N T I Z A T
P 4 R A C T I T I O N E R S O
B 5 R I N G
35Connectors: Organization Development Practitioners Bring People Together
people involved were closer to each other. As both of us have told many students, part of working as an OD practitioner is being willing and able to move furniture. Simply reducing the physical distance between the people changed the way they interacted, and helped them connect with each other.
Gladwell (2000) expands this connec- tor role by adding two other roles: mavens – those who know where everything is in the organization and who knows what; and salesmen – those who are really good at selling ideas. Cross, Ernst, and Pasmore (2013) expand the connector’s role further still. Their additional categories can be especially helpful in working with loosely coupled systems: » Connector – similar to our thinking and
Gladwell’s. » Expert – knowledgeable organizational
members (similar to Gladwell’s maven). » Broker – serves as a liaison between
individuals and units and facilitates collaboration.
» Energizer – stimulates others with enthusiasm and ideas (similar to Gladwell’s salesman).
» Resisters – those who block change and tend to drain energy from others.
While it is useful for the OD practitioner to perform these roles, it is perhaps more appropriate to find those organizational members who have these skills and encourage them to act accordingly—except for resisters, of course. That can be done through a variety of interventions, includ- ing coaching, offsite retreats, focus groups, and team meetings, especially leadership team meetings. The key is to find a way to work together with the client to ensure these connecting roles are performed.
2 DOWN. A group formed for a particular purpose: O R G A N I Z A T I O N
Trick question time: Where do must OD practitioners work to successfully help their clients? Or to put it more academically, what is the unit of analysis one is to help, if not change? You might be working with a specific team or business unit, but that is
only a subset of whom you are truly serv- ing. You need to be able to connect the peo- ple in the group to the entire organization and its strategy for them to fully succeed. As I noted (Burke, 2005) when comparing “organization development” with “organi- zationAL development” (emphasis added):
… organization is a noun; organi- zational an adjective. Organization development (OD) means the develop- ment of the organization, the entity as a whole. Organizational development means some aspect of development. Organizational is a modifier of devel- opment – modified development, implying that the organization as a whole is not the focus. Instead, the focus is on some part, some dimen- sion, some element of the organiza- tion, not the total system. (p. 1)
In his autobiography, Robert Blake (1992) said that the work that he and Jane Mou- ton did on conflict resolution between and within teams showed them that the mechanics of communication and other basic skills was not enough to reduce conflict. Teams in organizations compete for limited resources. When that competi- tion becomes internecine conflict, what is needed is a shared superordinate goal – an organization-level objective. Only then can the competing groups set aside their con- flicts and achieve a larger purpose.
Recall that Dick Beckhard’s classic definition of OD says:
Organization Development is an effort (1) planned, (2) organization- wide, and (3) managed from the top, to (4) increase organization effective- ness and health through (5) planned interventions in the organization’s “processes,” using behavioral-science knowledge. (1969, p. 9)
Each phrase in that definition has impor- tant meaning. Our interventions have to be carefully constructed (even while improvising, we need to know where we are taking the clients), and must have the welfare of the entire organization in mind. That is not to say that we cannot or should
not work with individuals or groups within a larger system. It is only to say that we have to balance the multiple organizational levels we service simultaneously. You must see the trees AND the forest. Neither one alone is enough. Last, but not least, we work to change the organization’s pro- cesses (broadly speaking) through skillful applications of behavioral science knowl- edge. There is definitely an art to what we do, but that art is supported by many years of research.
3 ACROSS. Gradual advancement through progressive stages, growth from within: D E V E L O P M E N T
The clue above is one definition of the term development from the Oxford English Dictionary (2015). Development involves change, and the emphasis on growth from within is critical in our work, as well as movement through iterative phases, a topic we will address further below. We employ sociotechnical systems change methods to help the people in the organi- zations we serve change themselves. This may involve a minor tune-up or a radical overhaul of the system. The key is that we help the organization change itself. As McGregor and Beckhard were consulting with General Mills in the late 1950s, they had to come up with a term for what they were doing to change work structures and decision-making processes with input from the shop floor. They did not want to call it “bottom-up management,” “sociotechnical systems,” or “organization improvement,” and eventually came up with the term “organization development” (Beckhard, 1997). The idea of development, like the emergence of an image on photographic paper when exposed to the right chemicals and the right intensity and duration of light, is a core part of what we do.