OD in the NHS III conference - blog by Jane Keep


03 / 8 / 2015 10.56am

Jane provides her reflections on the conference and OD

Throughout the day I could feel there are a number of what I would call, tensions for those working in OD, where a balance is always required, but may shift over time for example:

  • short term operating context versus long term such as the 5 year forward
  • reactive and responsive OD versus proactive future focused OD
  • painting a picture of the possible future versus the real state of the nation such as the muck and bullets of daily work in the NHS
  • linearity, programmatic OD versus organic and doing what needs to be done when don’t know the outcomes until you get there
  • one foot in the organisation and one foot out to maintain perspective and see the bigger picture, at the same time as a precise attention to detail. Also being able to see that the root cause of things, which isn’t always obvious and may be a system issue or the ripple effect of something else.

Every OD practitioner working with these and many more tensions needs a solid foundation. Each of us either stands on a solid foundation of self-care and steadiness, or we wobble, react to the environment and feel worn out. Self-care is a fundamental part of the quality of how an OD practitioner works. Also in that foundation is self-responsibility, self-awareness, insight, willingness to learn, being open to possibilities, self-honesty, humility, curiosity and, an ability to work in groups and make relationships and group work core not only to OD work but all work.

Organisational health and staff health are needed in equal measure for a steady organisation, and OD has a role in both.  In the future we may integrate OD, and health and wellbeing services - as you can not have one without the other.  If both organisational and staff health go hand in hand, what a powerful combination and foundation for any organisation that could be.

And what if in the future we turn the organogram upside down and enable organisational leaders, top teams, executives, senior managers and the OD team to be totally of service to those directly providing patient services, so that the leaders, and OD are behind and side by side with the front line services.

What also struck me was the richness of practitioners of all ages in the room. Those who have been working in the field for over 20 years who I would call OD elders and the new fresh OD practitioners.  Neither offer less value, but both offer a true opportunity for sharing perspectives of their learning so far and also reflecting and observing and bringing in new creative ideas too.

On a final note I loved the session on Evaluating OD and and a wider discussion could be had about how we make the intangible tangible, how we realise the difference OD makes and the ripple effects OD has in so many ways. 

A perspective from Jane Keep, Head of OD, Great Western NHS Foundation Trust, Swindon.  

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