Being invited to speak at a conference has a way of sharpening the mind. Perhaps it’s something about organising my thoughts in such a way that I can articulate them clearly. Perhaps it’s also something about dealing with an underlying anxiety. ‘Have I really thought this through enough before I try to present it to others? Will I be exposed as inadequate in my own field?’
I need to prepare myself, not just the speech. It’s about how I deal with my emotional needs, what images I hold in mind as I approach the conference, how I approach the event with openness rather than defensiveness. These notions of focusing, of organising, of being aware of underlying human drivers and dynamics, are at the heart of organisation development (OD).
I tend to think of OD as a field of research and practice, specifically embedded in a professional function or discipline. This locates OD perspective, expertise, practice in a person, a role, a structure. And I now question this perspective. If OD is a human perspective and process, it’s really what happens in conversations, decisions, behaviours etc. between people.
This challenges how I articulate OD in my own thinking and my own organisation. OD is something we do, not just something I do. It’s about the multiple images, stories and experiences we share, create, construct together on a day to day basis. It’s about actions and inter-actions that merge together and shape, challenge, reinforce how we think, feel and act together.
This perspective influences how I approach the conference. It’s not about bringing definitive answers, solutions. It’s about contributing my best ideas, understanding and questions as part of a broader conversation that we all contribute to. It’s about an on-going process of learning. It’s about trying to be honest and authentic, inviting critique as an opportunity for fresh insight.
It also influences how I approach my work. Do I position myself as exclusive expert? Do I know what my own distinctive contribution is and can be? Do I notice, value and welcome the contributions to OD from other players on the field, e.g. HR colleagues, leaders, staff? Do I discern and celebrate the hand of God as I see what he is doing and achieving in, through and between us?
Nick Wright is a coach and consultant, specialising in reflective practice.