Cath Heaney gives her overview of the ODN Europe conference


03 / 6 / 2016 4.47pm

Cath Heaney is organisational development (OD) manager for Frimley Health Foundation NHS Trust.

I went to ODNE to engage with current thinking on OD research and practice and gain inspiration as well as practical examples to use in my trust. I was also excited to hear from experts in the field and connect with colleagues from across the country. 

The first challenge I encountered at ODNE was where to focus my attention and spend my time - every session was so tempting! The richness of the space both exhilarated and overwhelmed me at times. 

I feverishly shared as much as I could with our OD community through live tweeting and taking lots of photos. The following is what I captured during the conference and what I was left thinking about how to translate my learning into practice.

My learning from ODNE

I began with the keynote from Professor Gervase Bushe entitled 'Dialogic OD in action. You can find out more about dialogic OD here.  What resonated most for me was Gervase's assertion that - language profoundly matters. It left me wondering what 'OD speak' we recognise as practitioners and what I particularly use myself (knowingly or otherwise!). I was curious about what elicits a response in others when they hear 'OD speak' and how positive the nature of that response might be. I resolved to consider how I might use language more effectively to foster connection and meaningful conversation with those I serve in my role at Frimley.

The next session was a demonstration of a dialogic OD intervention called the organisational kaleidoscope. This was also led by Gervase Bushe and delegates volunteered by taking turns to be case study clients to work with. The clients were asked questions from people sat in the chairs around them, each one representing a different OD lens. No answers were required. There was an additional empty chair which onlookers could approach and sit in to offer a question from yet another lens that had not previously been considered. 

The photo below shows the organisational kaleidoscope and captures the moment where Paul Taylor took up the empty seat to offer a question.


As the organisational kaleidoscope progressed, I noticed the increase in frequency and humour of the lenses and questions offered from this empty chair. One in particular was the 'stereotypical man down the pub' lens. How many of us use that one on a regular basis? It connected my thinking back to the point around 'OD speak' in Gervase’s keynote.

In the open space sessions that followed, my feet took me to Dr Maxine Craig’s session. I am curious about how I can work with teams more effectively. I was drawn to the work Maxine was sharing around Professor Irv Rubin’s assertion that, 'what goes wrong in teams is the inability to give feedback'. I have resolved to learn more about the feedback techniques Maxine shared and practice this with our healthcare teams. These are some of the questions I noted down to explore further.

  • Why do people not speak out against poor behaviour?
  • What practical approaches can you offer to equip people to challenge this?
  • What is the intention behind feedback?
  • When is feedback most impactful?
  • What are push and pull styles of giving feedback? 
  • How can you get better at giving feedback?
On the second day Dr Mee-Yan Cheung-Judge gave a keynote about impact and influence. She spoke about how context is everything in OD and identified a number of challenges for us as practitioners in our impact and influence in the world of work. This is the list of challenges that she shared.

  • Our identity - conditions shaper vs. expert
  • Style – low touch vs. high touch (recognition)
  • Power – operate in the margin vs. in the centre
  • Control – working with emergence vs. being plan-ful
  • Visibility - focus on the middle vs. the top
  • Expectation of our role – work with whatever that are available vs. fixed formula
  • Recognition and credit – team/collective contribution vs. individual contribution
  • Passing on vs. holding on - building capability of members to work for their own system vs. showcase what HR/OD can do
For me passing on through building capability is what I’m passionate about. It’s the topic I’ll be working on with the NHS Do OD team this year.

To wrap up the conference I visited Inky Thinking’s graphical representation of everything we had covered.  I had many a fascinating chat with Tom about how they use graphics to make the complex simple.

For me the perfect summary of what we aspire to in the wonderful world of OD is in the wavy line in the top right-hand corner of this image… 'Building Healthy Human Systems'.


Latest Tweets

Why Register?

Great reasons to register with NHS Employers

  • A personalised website
    Manage your profile and select topics of interest to you
  • Access your dashboard
    Bookmark useful content to help you quickly find what you're looking for
  • Get involved
    Contribute to our Talking Points discussions, comment on and rate our webpages
  • Keep up to date
    Receive the latest newsletters and media summaries

Sounds great, what next?

Register Now

Not now, I will register later

Log In