Vol 43, No 3 (2011)
For many years OD practitioners have been developing approaches that view organizations as dialogical and meaning making systems. Organizations are considered to be constructed and reconstructed in the diverse, complex, and evolving relationships and conversations among the people involved. Variously called discourse, narrative, dialogic, and complex adaptive systems, these approaches focus more on how people are relating and communicating and on fostering change through transforming conversations and realigning relationships rather than fitting the organization to a particular model of what a well functioning organization should be. This issue of the ODP brings together articles that champion these approaches with articles that offer ways to change the conversation in order to change organizations.
Robert Marshak and David Grant summarize and present a range of theory and research and offer implications for how change agents approach organizational change with an understanding that language in its many manifestations is constructive and central to the establishment, maintenance, and change of what is and what could be. For the change agent it is important to foster attention to: how the day-to-day conversations reinforce preferred ways of thinking established by historical, organizational, or other contexts; and what are the most salient or powerful discursive phenomena with respect to organizational change efforts: stories, metaphors, official documents, emails, discursive contexts, rhetorical tactics, power processes, and so on.
To facilitate significant, transformative changes in organizations we need to make a profound change in how people interact. Lisa Kimball describes a liberating structure framework that can foster conversations that cross boundaries between departments, between roles, and between parts of the organization that do not ordinarily talk to each other. The liberating structures framework opens possibilities for engaging everyone in new ways of solving problems and creating potential solutions whether meetings are large or small, formal or informal, routine or special. What if people were intentional about the mico-actions they displayed every five seconds in their interactions with others? Using the metaphor of micro-blogging when relating to others in organizations, Bauback Yeganeh and Darren Good provide a way to be aware and intentional of thoughts and behaviors within smaller time segments. This opens a new space to approach change and development. It enables individuals to mindfully focus on small, time-limited thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.
Mentor relationships are of great benefit to both the mentee and mentor. Judy Vogel and Susan Finkelstein share the results of an interview-based project to discover the attributes, beliefs, and behaviors—what they call the Seven Strategies—that draw accomplished others into the special relationship that is called mentorship. They also share recommendations for how HR and OD professionals can integrate the learning drawn from this exploratory project to enrich their thinking and support their efforts to create powerful leadership development and talent management initiatives and resources within their organizations.
Much of management development teaches leadership apart from the place where it happens. Henry Mintzberg describes how he and his colleagues have been developing leadership learning that is community-focused and connected to the collective experiences in the workplace. By bringing the conversation of the workshop into the workplace we can develop better organizations in the process of developing better managers, rather than just hoping that this will happen as a consequence of having developed them.
Our society has increasingly embraced the language of data and measurement at the expense of self-awareness. Perhaps no professional sector has felt the impact of this shift more acutely in the past decade than that of education. Mary Jensen speaks for the need to keep self-awareness in the conversation about quality education. She presents the results of her study of the impact of self-knowledge on leadership practice and how a specific educational program contributed to that self-knowledge.
In an effort to deepen and infuse conversations in organizations with what is present and often unspoken, Audrey Seidman shows how the fields of Spiritual Direction and Organization Development share many features. SD and OD both offer the process of companioning individuals or groups as they strive to become more of who they are and want to be. Both practitioners use their presence, but minimize their interference, to support a process of unfolding. They are skilled in asking graceful and perceptive questions to encourage others to dig deeper into their own wisdom. They both strive to create a metaphorical container known as "safe space,” and develop expertise in listening for more than is actually said. Finally, both practitioners seek to foster the capacity of the directee or organization to sustain the work of transformation and that both are expected to engage in their own process of ongoing development.
As the first in occasional articles from the ODP archive, Warner Burke’s Who is the Client? A Different Perspective (1982) appears here with a 2011 epilogue by Burke. Burke changes the conversation about who is the client by proposing that our client in OD consultation is never one individual, regardless of position or role, or any particular group, team or subsystem of the organization, or any combination thereof. The client is therelationship and/or interface between individuals and units within and related to the system. This in-between-ness is the main subject of his consulting.
Finally, Therese Yaeger and Peter Sorensen’s Case History deals with the need to be sensitive to processes and metaphors that people in different settings use to construct their societies and operate in organizations. The responders to the case about an organization expanding in Africa include: Chiku Malunga, a seasoned consultant with African and European NGOs; Betty Nanor Arthur, faculty at the Business School, GIMPA (Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration), Accra, Ghana, in Western Africa; and Dalitso Sulamoyo who has spent several years studying, publishing, and presenting on OD in Africa. I look forward to receiving articles about applied research, theory and evi-dence based practice, innovative approaches, and case studies. Email your proposals and articles to me at email@example.com.
John Vogelsang, Editor