How do we build the OD practitioners of the future?

Headshot of Paul Taylor

In February 2015 I embarked on a personal and professional challenge when I began a Professional Doctorate programme with Middlesex Business School. Despite saying “never again” after my Masters, I felt excited to be exploring OD at a deeper level.

My research question, ‘How do we build the OD practitioners of the future?’ was not one I wanted to explore alone. An intrepid band of OD practitioners from across the NHS volunteered to form a group and become co-inquirers into the question. The OD Bootstrappers Action Research group was formed and we have uncovered some new and interesting insights into OD practice in the NHS.

Our initial work looked at the practice of OD in the NHS, where we discovered seven themes:

  1. OD in the NHS is emerging into the fog.
    Exploring our practice has been illuminating. The deeper we go the less clear it gets.
  2. How we practice OD is at an inflection point.
    New models of care and new forms of organising call for new models of OD. However, we mustn’t lose the rich history and teachings of OD in an attempt to create something new.
  3. The identity of OD practitioners ranges from imposters to experts.
    Our backgrounds, training and identities are all very different, which has led to some of us feeling like imposters in our roles.
  4. The boundaries of our work are broad and blurred.
    We cover lots of areas in our practice. The risk of being everything to everyone is we become nothing to nobody.
  5. Professionalising our practice needs a shift in mind-set.
    In order to be able to build ourselves further, we need clarity about our purpose, our models and the needs of our clients.
  6. It’s down to us to build ourselves, but CPD is challenging.
    We have to take our future into our own hands and create our own maps.
  7. Our work has shifted, and we’re spanning the gap between internal consultant and systems change expert.
    The needs of the new systems mean we are stepping beyond organisational boundaries and working in the spaces between. But our organisational work still needs to be done.

Our initial findings led us to create a Blueprint for OD Practice – a tool for reflection, sensemaking and action. The blueprint is aimed at OD practitioners looking to map their work and determine the most efficacious methods in a range of contexts. Our blueprint builds on existing OD architectures of Diagnostic and Dialogic OD, adding a new category of Dynamic OD which is more improvisational and experimental.

We were lucky to test the first draft of our work with a wider group of OD practitioners who gave very useful feedback. This helped us to refine and shape our thinking so that we could make it available to everyone. To find out more and download the OD Blueprint Tool please visit A New Architecture of Organisational Development and don’t forget to leave some feedback.

Our work as a group continues. We’ve recently been through an Appreciative Inquiry process to explore how to be a phenomenal OD practitioner. We are even testing out a mathematical formula for OD. Watch this space and check out our website for updates.

This exciting new research is only possible because of the passion, dedication and commitment of the participants. It shows what can be achieved when we create purposeful spaces to explore our own practice. Collectively we are shaping the future of OD.

We invite you to think about how to make more time for your own explorations.


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