Change is a longterm condition - Paul Taylor

ODIII - Paul

26 / 5 / 2016 2.26pm

Paul Taylor is Assistant Director for Organisational Development at NHS Employers

It’s hard to single out specific experiences from the ODN Europe that were “the best” because there are so many. I loved seeing Mee-Yan Cheung-Judge’s powerful keynote and Gervase Bushe’s fantastic session on Dialogic OD. Both seemed particularly pertinent to the work of OD practitioners in the NHS. Gervase said something that has really stuck with me, “You don’t have to succeed, you just have to learn”. 

It got me thinking about what we’ve learned during the first three years of Do OD. Most obviously, we’ve consistently come across three questions.

  • What is OD?
  • Where should OD sit in the organisation?
  • How do you measure return on investment?
They are good questions, however they are quite closed in their nature. They all have potentially simple answers that don’t necessarily open up a conversation.  Gervase Bushe’s work on dialogic OD talks about generatively and how conversation can change core narratives. Recently we’ve been testing this out and trying to influence the core narrative about OD by changing the conversation and asking different questions.

  • Instead of asking 'What is OD?' how about 'When is something OD, and when is it not?'
  • Try replacing 'Where should OD sit in the organisation' with 'Who is doing OD and how can the organisation support and stretch their development?'
  • When someone asks 'Whats the return on investment', let’s also ask 'What’s the intention behind our OD intervention and how are we measuring the return on that?'
As Mee-Yan illustrated, organisations and systems are shifting rapidly. The pace of change is increasing and the problems we’re tackling are more complex than before. I would love our OD community to lean into this shift and push our thinking further into the complex space. Simple solutions don’t work with the kind of complex problems we’re working with. 

I was reflecting on work I did over a decade ago on Long Term Conditions (LTC) Management. As the health needs of the population shifted from simple to complex, models of care had to adapt and respond. I wonder what it would look like to shift our models of OD in a similar direction? The LTC Triangle, familiar to many, is an interesting concept. Could we apply it to our practice? If organisations were more ‘self caring’ in their OD work (for example where “non-OD” folk are equipped with OD tools and skills) it could unleash capacity into the system and accelerate the pace of change. If skilled OD practitioners focused our efforts on ‘complex’ problems it could significantly help with large scale change challenges. What could ‘OD prevention’ look like? It’s a model I’d like to explore further, and hope that others might be interested too.

Do OD Kaiser triangle

Email me if you’d like to be part of a conversation about it.

The nature of change has changed. Change is no longer an acute episode. Change is a long term condition. How we pro-actively respond to and work with change is vital to the health, wellbeing and survival of our system.  Our amazing NHS OD Community is well placed to experiment with and adopt new ways of working in service of our organisations and patients. Mee-Yan asked “How ready are we to be future ready practitioners?”. I’d like to put that to the test.

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