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: Or

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.


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