The Golden Rules of OD
Every discipline has a set of guidelines, rules, values they base themselves on. Think of Medical doctors and their Hippocratic Oath… each discipline has one. ODists although not ever forced to say an Oath live and practice through a set of values which greatly influence the way they approach their work. These are OD’s Golden Rules.
These go back to the 50’s and 60’s when OD emerged and the likes of Beckhard, Bennis and Tannenbaum started reflecting on what it meant to be an OD practitioner. A set of these are nicely summarised in French and Bell’s book on OD (reference at the end), but I would like to highlight some of these core values and how they have influenced my practice and my belief system on OD.
These golden rules are based on a humanistic, democratic and inclusive philosophy:
- People are basically good beings and need to be considered as human beings not resources
- Groups are the foundation of an organisation, therefore groups are the basic units when talking about change
- There is a need for mutual trust and security rather than basing relationships on command/control
- Decision making should not be isolated to one role, but rather in those who hold the information and knowledge
- Group accountability and delegation of responsibility and control
- Collaboration is needed to reach a goal
- Embrace individual differences and understand their value
- People support the things they are involved in
- Recognition of emotions and their role within organisations
- Be willing to take risks
These golden rules influence every intervention (including diagnosis) I work on. As part of the exploration process I try to include as many people in the organisation as possible. I believe people may at first if in a command/control culture may not feel comfortable talking to me, however, I take my time to build rapport and trust to gain the best insight. The more people I talk to, the less research bias.
In regards to my consulting approach, I strongly believe in process consultation and collaborating with the client to find a solution, letting them develop their skills and helping them take risks into the unknown or new ways of doing things.
I also take it as my responsibility as a consultant to facilitate the understanding process of the client. Get them to see how the diversity within their organisation can be embraced and take advantage of having this wide range of views, help them understand employees are human beings and will undergo a range of emotions during the change process, and that like their employees they will too. We are there to support and help them see they do not need to come up with all the answers but just tap into their people who have the knowledge and probably really great ideas!!
Another responsibility I have is to put the greater good of my client as my priority. This means taking risks myself and challenging their status quo and beliefs when necessary. This is a challenge for a lot of internal consultants, but it comes in being authentic to these values and ethical practice.
Some of these may seem simple, but in practice there will always be times when your values are put to the test. Always remember these, I know I do, as these are the values that made me so passionate about this discipline and my duty to help organisations become a better version of themselves.
French and Bell (1995) Organization Development. Behavioral Science Interventions for Organization Improvement. Prentice Hall.