Sustainable OD

A blog dedicated to the wonderfull field of Organisation Development

What do Acting and OD have in common?

theatre-masks-mdI am an actress and an OD professional. Every time I say it to someone else I get 1 of 2 reactions:

  1. Wow that’s great I bet it comes in handy with OD OR
  2. That’s different, how do you make it work?

I used to struggle with both actually as having two careers in my head and heart they were exactly that: two separate careers. I don’t know if it is due to talking to more OD professionals that like the arts or my mentor who knows more actors that have their own businesses, or maybe it is just because I have been lucky enough to go back to training on my acting craft that I now see tons and tons of similarities between OD and acting.

I sit on the bus after a long day at work followed by acting class thinking about how it all makes sense somehow.

  • Acting is about telling the story and understanding the character’s journey– well in OD a very important part of the process is to understand where an organisation has come from and where it is heading, much like a character in a script.
  • The story goes beyond the lines written – in OD we have to base our diagnosis not only on policies, written procedures, or what the leaders say, but we have to dig deeper and find the reality of the organisation much like as an actor when I prepare I have to understand what is written between the lines, what my character is really saying, what the intention is behind the lines.
  • “You can’t act what you don’t know” I have quoted this as it is a frequent saying from my acting coach talking about if you don’t know where your character really is at that moment in time, what they are really thinking, saying, feeling, then the acting would be “acting”. – In OD some consultants “act” they pick a symptom to work on, then do not have the effect they wanted, and the client is stuck with a new problem. Others prepare their part, diagnose, plan, act, review, plan, and act helping the client develop.
  • You need an objective for yourself as a character in a film or play, this will determine how you approach each line – in OD you need to have a desired future, where you are going to, the vision, so you can then plan a way to get there.
  • In OD self-awareness is key – this could not be more true in acting. As an actor I have to be aware of my own biases, knowledge, and experience and be able to draw from it, but I also need to know and observe people to gain their experiences. In OD you do the same by knowing other experts.

In regards to the process, well I’ve already touched upon how OD and acting use a similar diagnosing process. You can say that planning is the rehearsal part of acting, and then implementing would be reading the lines in a theatre show or film. You then review the footage, see what worked, what didn’t and if you need to you re-shoot. If in theatre you review where that got you to, and decide whether you want to tweak anything before the next night. So as you can see the similarities are all there.

I’m glad I’ve realised that both of my passions have these similarities as it will allow me to use the skills I have gained to improve both my craft as an OD practitioner, as well as, an actress.

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