Sustainable OD

A blog dedicated to the wonderfull field of Organisation Development

Relevance and ODNE: This year’s conference and highlights

It wasn’t really Bolton, but a 5 mins cab ride from a station called Bromley Cross. I was staying at a friend’s house in Manchester so commuted up both mornings to connect with my OD tribe. This year the review may seem slightly biased as I was part of the organisation committee but in reality I feel you never really know how things are going to turn out. Plus I had used Mel Robbin’s 54321 method and had put myself forward to do an offering from the field session; scary and exciting all at the same time.

The theme of this year’s conference was Relevance. All the talks were thought provoking, challenging and even if not all get a huge mention within this blog post. To begin with Dr. Carolyn Wilkins sharing some insights, it was great to have someone from the local community talk about change. My favourite quote from her presentation was when she was telling the story about when Sweden changed some of the roads in 1967 and some of the failures around it, the phrase “Telling people to change isn’t usually enough” really stuck out. This is so true in organisations, relationships and our own individual journeys. I always say that we rarely do what we are told to do, our teenage self comes out, rebels itself against it even if it is a good idea where we may come around later, but in a bit of a hissy fit. Telling people about change isn’t going to drive the behaviour or engagement you want from them. What will? Inspiration, engaging with them (in other words involving them from the get go) and keeping the lines of communication open and truthful.

Then there were some challenging propositions from Naomi Stanford’s Sacred Cow talk. This provided a lot of debate within my butterfly home group. Although we didn’t always agree it was fascinating to see the different perspectives. I personally think a Sacred Cow we must keep is the one were OD is based in humanistic values.

My favourite thing by far was the client session. Why? Because I was so amazed at how much value we could deliver as a community in a space of 40 minutes and without all the facts. Anyone who has ever worked with me knows I quite enjoy the digging deep, finding what’s really underneath the surface, are we talking tip of the iceberg or the really chunky bit at the bottom of the water? I wasn’t sure how we could go deep, and provide some brainstorm solutions to anyone in that period of time, but we did and it worked and from the feedback of the clients they really got value out of it! So yes, the feeling of contribution, pride and amazement were definitely my highlight!


Then came the 1st offering from the field, I decided to jump into the intergenerational discussion with Steve and Lenz. First it proved one of my points and beliefs that we all really want the same thing out of work and life. Second, it opened my eyes even wider to some of the issues of age in our profession. When we talk about being OD professionals I always feel that us, the younger ones (below 40), are still seen as “new”, “less experience”, and sometimes even potentially get questioned about the value we can bring (I know I’ve had that look when looking for contracts as I look younger than I am anyway). It was great to hear the whole set of perspectives of the diverse group we had at the discussion think of the value we do bring and some of the beliefs people automatically have about the millennial ODers. However, apparently in the last few years the other side of the coin has been developing where OD professionals that are reaching a certain age are also finding it hard to land clients and/or jobs due to age because of the “energy” perception. This got me thinking around all the stereotypes we hold in the workplace and how age is not really talked about in such an open way as gender or race or any other characteristic…but from what we discussed is clearly an issue. (kudos to Nick for the pic!)


The Maydays brought energy back in the room with fun, hilarious insights of how to use drama in the workplace and how some lessons of improvisation translate to OD work. My acting self really enjoyed this and of course got on stage!


The next day was my opportunity to share the offering from the field with my new friend and peer Alex Poppleton. Alex and I had never met and from our first meeting it was like we had known each other for years! We talked the same OD language and held such similar beliefs that we chose to mash up our original ideas and see what we could come up with. Our topic ended up being about the creation of a Hyppocratic Oath for OD. The session created amazing debate, ideas and a 1st draft of what this could look like. (Will share soon, but it is still work in progress) I was really proud and happy I had pushed myself out of my comfort zone and found a group of people interested in what I wanted to explore! Can’t wait to see where it takes us.

As the theme was relevance I think out two keynotes really focused on this. Glenda who joined us via ZOOM was interestingly quite interactive. I mean she was on ZOOM and we were all in the room so wasn’t sure how it would plan out in such a big crowd…but it did! She really simplified things, and reminded me so much of the nice and simple Action, Research model and its application in this more constant moving world.

I also made many new connections, which is one of my favourite parts, connecting really connecting with others. We will see what the rest of the year brings. For now that’s all, thanks to the ODNE and everyone who helped put this together.


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