What is the most important thing you have learned in this course? How do you feel about it?
Short answer: I want to continue with OD.
Long answer: I am in the middle of a career change (though not necessarily an employer change.) I’d heard a lot of things about organization development and I wanted to test the waters to see if this is work I would be interested in exploring. Before we hit the half-way point in this course, I knew that I really enjoyed the field of Organization Development.
I’m a fan of Paulo Freire and the discipline of popular education. Popular education raises the consciousness of its learners and allows them to become more aware of how their personal experiences are connected to something bigger. Popular education empowers us to make the changes needed. For me, the parallels with OD are obvious. OD empowers those in the system to make the change they are seeking. More often than not the knowledge we need to make the change already exists in the room, we just need it to come out and be heard.
I think the thing that I’ve liked the most is how I think about OD vs. Change Management. OD is my heart and change management is the brain. Often I just want to get things done (fixed.) Frequently that needs to happen, but it infrequently leads to long term culture change. That is why I know that OD is a better and harder path to follow.
As Paulo Freire said, “Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention, through the restless, impatient, continuing, hopeful inquiry human beings pursue in the world, with the world, and with each other.” It’s up to OD practitioners to actually facilitate the curiosity needed to uncover the knowledge to make organizations better.
What ethical challenges have you faced? (Do not describe individuals or specific organizations but simply describe situations.)
I am sure that I have faced more challenges than memory allows, but I am thinking about 2 separate instances. A previous job responsibility was to administer a company email server. One time a manager called me frantically asking me to “stop an email”. I explained to her that was not possible. Then she told me that she sent an email to a staff person that she regretted. This was before the era of everyone having a smartphone and the manager was confident the staff person had not seen the email.
“Could you log in to their account and delete the email?” I was stuck, because as the administrator I had the ability, but it felt wrong. A superior was asking me to break into a colleague’s email account. Doing so would avoid a lot of stress between the manager and the employee, but it was a huge breach of trust. I was also nervous about telling a manager, “no.” We didn’t have a written code of conduct for technical administrators at that time. Inevitably, violating a space where an employee had some expectation of privacy felt like a serious ethical violation to me.
The second case was when I working for a fairly sick person whose incompetence resulted in company money being used inappropriately. She was an undiagnosed alcoholic, who could not do the job she was hired to do. The ethical considerations were many. She was awful to the staff so it was hard to manage the feelings of “you’re abusive” with “this person needs help, it’s a disease.” Being public about gross incompetence would hurt the company’s reputation and that was not good for customers or staff. This was a very difficult situation with no obvious remedy to an employee with little power.
What values do you believe in? How much do you feel that you are a role model of these values when others observe your behavior?
When I think about values, I think about social justice. I value openness, solidarity, justice, and curiosity. I believe that to achieve a just society we need to be open with ourselves and with each other. We cannot make any necessary changes if we do not reflect on our own selves and are unable to be open about those discoveries with those we trust.
I believe that people must stand in solidarity with one another. Some may call this value “community”, but I think solidarity sets a posture about trusting those around you and knowing they will support you when you need it the most. That doesn’t mean blind loyalty as someone who stands in solidarity with you in the tough times should also give you the feedback needed for personal change.
I believe that it is important for me to be curious about the world around me and I want to surround myself with others who are curious. Obviously, there is a near-infinite amount of knowledge to tap into this world. How can any of us improve if we are not curious about ourselves and the rest of the world?
All of this leads us toward justice. My personal and professional life is completely oriented in the direction toward justice for working people. All of these values come together to form my orientation in contributing to a just society.
What do you believe you do best? Why do you believe as you do? What are your key strengths, and what leads you to believe that they are strengths?
I am good at making people feel at ease. A strength in my professional and personal life is that I am personable and approachable. Why do I believe my extroverted and affable personality is a strength? Well, like it or not, we have a society that rewards extroverts and those who can build networks. I can float between many situations and genuinely enjoy myself. When I engage with others I am authentically interested in learning about them.
A few years ago at work, I took a leadership style assessment. The test identified me as someone who is naturally adaptive. I think that is very true and is one of my strengths. I am able to plan a situation and as changes occur, I often imagine some of the outcomes that the changes may create. I am extremely results-focused as it pertains to the situation at hand, so when I am thinking about finishing a project I do not freeze when something changes. I figure out how to reroute or enjoy the new outcome.
Here are 2 examples of what I am talking about. Once I planned a 10-day hike in the Alps. My husband and I realized we made a mistake and booked a hotel one night of the hike a day earlier than needed. OK, we could lose the prepaid night, find a new hotel, and now recalibrate the remaining part of the trip (6 more nights) or we could hike twice as much that day, get to the hotel and enjoy a free day. It was not what I expected for that day, but it worked out wonderfully as I got a day to relax in Italy. A professional example of being adaptive is when I first started at my job and I realized I was accomplishing my work in much less time than anyone anticipated. I used that free time to create a staff development program for technologists. The importance of staff development for campaign technologists was never considered something of value. Now we think of it as a priority.
Another strength I have is empathy. I think a lot about the people around me in a given situation. I try extremely hard to see where people are coming from and considering how other people’s behavior (including mine) can affect them. I am mindful of this strength because sometimes being too empathetic can be paralyzing.
My strengths tend to orbit around being: personable, adaptive, and empathetic. These strengths work well together as the let me work really well with people. In an earlier blog post about strengths, I mentioned that I am a good team member. I still think that is the case, and I believe I do so well on a team because I am personable, adaptive, and empathetic.
Reflect on your own personal experiences with change. Describe one organizational change and how you reacted to it. How did you treat other people in that process?
I debated on which change effort I wanted to reflect on. Recently, I was one of the people who led a large change effort at my organization to create a new department. However, I thought leading a change process inevitably creates very different reactions than being swept up in a change process. Here is my story of being part of a change process I did not invite or expect.
In 2017, the department I had happily been a part of for 4 years was disbanded. The staff were scattered to other departments and it seemed like there was very little appreciation for the work we had been doing. I have never been more upset about an organizational decision. At that point, I had done some of the best work of my career.
I was bitter, annoyed, and extremely cynical in the time immediately after the department ended. I would commiserate with my former colleagues looking for validation about what a terrible decision it was. Often annoyed, when I realized other people had started to move on. I was sad that some of my former colleagues started to leave the organization.
When I found myself on a new team, I brought in too many opinions about the way “we used to go things,” rather than being open to new approaches to the work. Finally, years later, sadness has morphed into nostalgia about the days of working on such a tight-knit team. I still see my former colleagues and we will reminisce about the old days, but things change.
I am not sure if it was a 4th of 5th level change. It was a departmental change, but it was because of the organization made a change in priorities.
In the beginning, I mentioned a change effort I’ve led since then. I’ve used the change hear to guide me through this subsequent change effort. I’ve tried to be transparent with those affected, not gossiping, but explaining rational. I’ve tried to listen to people when they are frustrated and put a value on preserving positive team dynamics.
What work do you hope to do with OD? What career goals, if any, do you have for OD?
I am trying to make a career change, so I am using this course as a way to see if OD is a field I would like to dig into. Immediately, I would like to use some of the OD things I have learned in this course in my job. I’ve already volunteered to consult on an internal change project at my workplace. My career goals are undefined, but I want to be OD trained enough to help my workplace change for the better.
What do you want to do at the end of this course?
Honestly, I would like to find an OD consultant that would let me apprentice with them on a part-time basis. I would like to see what it looks like to have your own business, get clients, do the work, and move on. I will not be leaving my job, but I would love to find an apprenticeship. I will keep reading materials and I will consultant on a change project in my workplace.
I’d really like to do a t-group. I have looked at courses at NTL and they are a bit expensive.
Do you plan to be in the online MPS in Organization Development and Change (MPS in ODC) degree program?
I do not think I will go into the online MPS program. I have a masters degree already, so I am not super enthusiastic about taking on additional graduate school debt. I am considering applying to a certificate in Organizational Consulting & Change Leadership at Georgetown. I’ve known a few people who’ve completed it and enjoy the cohort structure. I am also considering applying to the Leadership Coaching for Organizational Performance at American University
How well do you feel you work with other people? Describe how you interact with others. For example, are you timid or shy? Outgoing?
We do annual reviews at my workplace and one of the things that I am frequently told is that I am a good team member. I work very well with people. I listen to those I am working with, exert my expertise when appropriate, and try to track team habits that we would like to change. (ie Make a point of asking a man to be the notetaker and/or acknowledging when a female colleague is interrupted.)
I am an extrovert. If you value the Myers-Briggs, I am an ESFJ-T. I lean toward making sure everyone on my team feels comfortable. I like a happy team without much tension. I also believe that struggle can breed progress, so being conflict-averse can lead to some deleterious consequences in the long run. Intellectually, I know that tension on a team is ok and can be helpful, but sitting with that discomfort is something I need to work on.
If someone asked your friends about you, what would they say about your personal strengths and areas for improvement? Why would they say what they say?
My friends would say that I am funny, a bit loud, and opinionated. I think they would also say that I am there for them when needed. I build close friendships with people and I am frequently a holder of secrets. They say this because it is true. I’ve been told as much. I am also a planner for my group of friends. Ready to go on a trip? I am the guy who sketches out the itinerary, makes the group text and coordinates the sleeping arrangements.
Colleagues would say that I am funny and quite personable. People like to work with me and I have credibility in fulfilling my promises. People say this because I have a track record of doing what I set out to do, and because I really can make my colleagues laugh. I like to do my work, but know about how people are feeling as a whole. Few can bifurcate their personal and professional lives, so I link to engage my colleagues as a whole person.
I think many people would say that I do not hold my cards very close to my chest. I am an open book and that can sometimes seem like a less than steady hand. Many times people look for a leader who is calming taking in and analyzing a situation. I can respond quickly and emotionally to certain situations.
How do you feel about change in organizational settings? Why do you feel as you do?
Change is any organization is inevitable. There is no way any organization cannot change. The world is constantly changing around it and all organizations need to adapt to those changes. Our planet, technology, and society change every minute of the day and it is preposterous to believe any successful organization is immune from these currents. As Dylan said, “The Times They Are A-Changin'”.
That inevitable change can be structured and focused to make sure the organization is successful, or it can be slapdash, unsponsored, and completed unintegrated into the success strategy of the organization. I’ve seen organizations reactively change and I’ve organizations proactively change. A proactive change plan is not always successful but more successful than a reactive one.
Change in an organizational setting can be extremely difficult. It requires openness, sponsorship, and some knowledge of a strong methodology to implement the change. I believe organizations should institutionalize their change methodology, a methodology both distinct and respectful of the organizational culture.
I’ve been a part of the change work in my organization. Some people fought it. Some people embraced it, but I had a committee of sponsors that pushed the work forward every day. We acknowledged that the work was going to be hard and take time. This frame put all of us on a good footing to know what we had to do to make a big change in the organization.
Organizations should assume change and rejecting stagnation must be a value of any corporate/organizational culture. I do think it is important to note, that organizations shouldn’t change for the sake of changing. On the contrary, they should change to maintain or increase their current ability to be successful in an ever-changing world.