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Beware of OD - are you?

  • 07 August 2013
  • Posted by Marcella Bremer

Mid-Summer in the Northern hemisphere. It seems a natural point to take a break - to relax and reflect on the first half of the year. Just before summer recess, I attended one of the bi-annual conferences of the International Society of Organizational Development & Change (ISODC). Approximately fifty OD professionals traveled to Amsterdam from all over the world for a conference with pre- and post-conference workshops. The program covered a wide array of topics (by different presenters) such as global leadership development, e-learning, women development in Rwanda, global OD, management on the mat (yoga and management), trans-cultural competence, cultural dilemmas, servant leadership, innovation, fostering cultures of creativity, health and vitality in organizations, change programs in the digital age, open space for societal change - and whatnot.

Jet-lagged or not, participants engaged in multiple sessions from 8.30 in the morning until 6.30 PM, meanwhile answering phone calls, checking email or writing pieces or proposals in the breaks - and networking while touring downtown Amsterdam in the evenings. Do you get the picture?


I joked that OD stands for Over Dose instead of Organization Development. There might be some truth in that. Beware of the overdose...! For myself and my fellow OD-practitioners and leaders: I recommend we read the article about Greg McKeown’s book Essentialism in issue 10 of Leadership & Change Magazine. Let’s check: What are the essentials? How can we focus on what matters most and make a difference? How can we stay healthy and bring our presence to a situation - and thus truly facilitate change and development? Doing one meaningful thing mindfully at any point in time...? With full attention? We have a rewarding but very demanding profession. Essentialism and mindfulness are continuous points of development for OD & Change professionals, as well as leaders. By the way – if you want to know more about this – subscribe to our free member’s area to download my E-book about Making Your Difference!

Everything at once?

And it’s not just the pace of our lives and work, but also the overwhelming variety of topics we deal with. In a way, OD is about “everything”. When working with people in organizations, you’re working (consciously or not) with individual psychology, health and energy, human interactions, products and quality, accounting, technology, strategy, systems, sustainability, education, service, sales, marketing and markets - communities, society, the world... So how do we focus and set boundaries on what we can or cannot do in a given situation? How do we take on the “provocateur’s role” in change - instead of pleasing our clients and promising too much - out of fear to lose the assignment? With good intentions of wanting to “fix” everything at the same time? As a reminder and refreshment for all OD-practitioners and leaders alike - read this issue’s article on the Provocateur’s role in change by Daryl Conner. Set your boundaries clearly, firmly and kindly. Don’t over-promise and dare to say NO!

Making a Difference

Another thing that stood out for me at the conference is that OD & Change practitioners are very open-minded, smart, good-willing people who would like to make a difference - not just to organizations but in the world as well. It made me feel very much at home. Some of us make their difference while leading their organizational projects (and teaching people reflection and communication skills for instance), while others take on voluntary projects in society. I enjoyed case stories about 350 pre-schools that were founded in the slums of Los Angeles with hardly any drop-outs: teaching kids and developing the neighborhood at the same time. Some of us arranged an open space / world café in Kiev, organized within 4 weeks, that held the space for 250 people from both sides - and created mutual understanding as well as a declaration of desired changes that both parties agreed on (which is sent to the Ukrainian government). A beautiful story - that is not over yet. Others visited South Africa during apartheid or worked with Russian people during the Cold War. We are on a joint path to create social change as well.

I like this level of caring and consciousness. To keep up the good work, it’s crucial to not exhaust ourselves and more importantly, not to discourage ourselves. We sometimes do this, when we see how much work still needs to be done. Slowly, but surely, we’re making a difference. One baby step at a time, but in the tiny “fractals” of change, we tickle the whole to start reflecting those fractals or bubbles of development and kindness.

Beware of OD – BE YOU!

So, leaders and change-practitioners, keep up the good work! If you want to make a difference, maintain your focus and presence. Because WHO you are defines HOW you practice your expertise: the WHAT you offer. If you are mindfully present, you’ll engage people. Nothing can make a difference but being present and connecting from who you are. So: don’t spread yourself too thin! Don’t major in minor things… Focus on essentials and BE there – to lead and guide change. By the way – if you want to know more about this – subscribe to our free member’s area to download my E-book about Making Your Difference!

Marcella Bremer
Editor, author and change guide
Co-founder of Leadership & Change magazine and

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