Here’s an invitation to people who do what we do: Let’s put ourselves out of business by teaching our clients to do what we do. What do you say? C’mon, it won’t hurt anything but our pride to stop acting like experts and empower our clients. After all, they always were the experts.
What our clients ask us to do is to take a look at their organizations through a meta-lens – to see the forest through the trees, and decide how to intervene to make things better. Like the millions of other OD practitioners in the world, we’re hired to optimize the best patterns of performance in an organization while minimizing or resolving the areas where performance is low.
But wait, isn’t that the job of every leader? You bet!
Our work should be about helping leaders develop the traits that enable them to operate like organizational development experts. Is this approach novel? Not really. Is it popular with businesses? More so all the time. “Organizational Development” is being replaced by what we call “consultative leadership” .
Consultative leadership is the art of assessing what IS and knowing how to involve, engage and otherwise influence the people involved in the process to sustainably improve it. By implementing change in this way, the people involved learn new skills and develop the muscle that makes the process generative. Consultative leadership is the opposite of the leader-as-hero model where leaders parachute in to problem situations in their business and, through a series of expertly ordered dictates and decisions, singlehandedly transform a process or problem. Parachutist leaders work well and quickly – but no one learns or develops in the process. Organizational Development doesn’t happen.
To bring about the death of OD in organizations, I recommend we start doing the following:
- Measure a leader’s effectiveness as much for How they achieve results as IF they achieve results. Are they mentoring , coaching and otherwise developing their replacements while simultaneously posting great results? It’s possible to do both. In today’s environment, it’s necessary.
- Raise the bar on your expectations. Delighting the customer isn’t exceptional anymore. It’s standard. Are teams able to work without the full time involvement of their leader, or are they addicted to having a heroic leader who wears a big parachute lead them? Hold your management team accountable to build capacity, not just solve problems or delight the customer.
- Spend more time helping your leaders to see the meta-picture of your organization. Once their vision has improved, start encouraging them to develop management practices that engage their people in designing and implementing change.
- Be ready to reassign people to play to their best strengths. Some leaders won’t be able or even willing to make the change from an expert parachutist to a consultative leader. If they can’t or are unwilling to, help them find a role that will serve the business, and your customers, better.
Put us out of business. If you have your own OD department, put them out of business, too. Imagine how much you’ll save! There are plenty of other things we can do with our time (like helping other clients learn how to do what you’re doing). Who knows, you may have some highly capable consultative leaders in your OD department who are itching for a chance to manage a piece of your business.
The competitive advantage of having an agile and self-sustaining organizational culture will eventually be the new norm. Between now and that undefined point in time when it is, the organization that develops OD capability will have a huge leg-up on their competitors. Ask Google. Ask the new HP. Ask Herman Miller. Ask IDEO.
Define the new norm. It won’t be cheap, but neither is hiring us.
Let me hear from you! – Jim Morris