rossword puzzles present a good metaphor for the work we do as OD practitioners. We look for clues that will bring together the people in organizations who need to be connected.”
By Eric J. Sanders and W. Warner Burke
This article extends the celebration of two anniversaries: 50 years of building a community of organization development practitioners by the Organization Develop- ment Network (ODN) and 100 years for the crossword puzzle (Chaneski & Kagan, 2013). There is a connection between these two events, as what we do as OD practitio- ners is bring people from different parts of the organizations we serve together, just like the clues in a crossword puzzle.
Making connections is indeed how the idea of this article came about. The authors are the first Executive Director of ODN, Warner Burke, and one of the present ODN Regional Connectors, Eric Sanders. We first met at Benedictine University several years ago, and had the pleasure of talking a bit more in Novem- ber 2013, as Burke visited Benedictine again and Sanders provided transporta- tion from Burke’s hotel to the campus. When I (Sanders) picked Burke up the first evening, he was sitting in the hotel lounge, sipping a martini and working on a crossword puzzle. He said that was his usual way of relaxing at the end of the day and we chatted for a few minutes, and then went to the university. Later it occurred to us that crossword puzzles present a good metaphor for the work we do as OD prac- titioners. We look for clues that will bring together the people in organizations who need to be connected. In that light, let’s examine our work.
1 ACROSS. Individuals who join things together through intervention: C O N N E C T O R S
In an interview on NPR, Shane Mueller, a psychologist at Michigan Tech, talked about research he did regarding the mental func- tions used when people solve a crossword puzzle (Cole, 2013). The key to success was not vocabulary or seeing patterns, although both of those skills are clearly useful. The key was the ability to make decisions quickly. The best crossword solvers can see what the outcomes of a decision might be, choose a path, and follow it.
Ultimately, what we do in OD is much like that. We hold diagnostic sessions with our clients, jointly make decisions about how we might best help them help themselves, mutually carry out the agreed-upon actions, and then evaluate the results. Generally a large part of whatever intervention we offer includes facilitating conversations—making connections— between individuals and/or groups. These are people who work together and ought to be speaking with each other, but frequently do not. In a recent project, a client of mine (Sanders) observed that one of the key values I added was serving as a liaison between the business people and the technical people in the organization. Part of that work was simply rearranging the conference room during a meeting so that
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