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Jeroo (Consultant, India) July 2006

I was intrigued by your website, which I think is excellent - also it is great to experience a feminine outlook on management of this standard.

I find that so many management students, even those from the best institutes, are theoretically well versed, but unable to operate in a practicality-based enviornment. I am trying to help them understand how best they can do this. I try to be as versatile and interesting as possible, and hope I am succeeding! For instance, apart from Stephan Covey's original 7 habits, I also value his son's work, 7 habits for highly effective teenagers - so many of its precepts work for executives also!

In my self-fulfilment lectures, I quote Pygmalion (the original Greek story), My Fair Lady (GBS's adaptation), and the theme from Space Jam - I wish I could fly. I also quote the instance of the bumblebee who flies (all scientifical arguments to the contrary) simply because he thinks he can! (Incidentally, I am 62 years young, and have a son and daughter who are professionals too - one in the hospitality industry and the other in HR)

I would love to know how I can expand my knowlege of OD - could you take some time to help me with suggestions? I hope I haven't taken up too much of your time, but it was fun writing to you.

Jeroo, Consultant, India

Dear Jeroo,

It was a pleasure and an honor to receive your email. I am glad you noticed that I wanted to bring in a young, feminine perspective to the management consulting field. In fact, I truly admire you as a teacher. One of my goals is to teach at university if I can manage to get myself into a doctoral program in the U.S. sometime within the next 2 years.

Your observation about students not being able to get practical success in OD is a very common one. My opinion is that they must stand out enough to get themselves hooked on to a mentor who is experienced as an OD consultant and learn from them. No amount of theory is going to prepare them for practical application. Initially it will be tough for them because they will have to work for free in order to assist world-class consultants, but let them know that the struggle is worth it if they can find the heart and strength to stick with it. As a faculty member, if you could organize mentoring programs by asking consultants to offer their guidance to high-potential students in exchange for free or school-sponsored assistance, it will secure the next generation of consultants. The field of OD also needs its own succession planning.

Students need to look at the world in highly realistic terms, i.e. to really study human nature and behavior as it really is. This is what practical success in OD boils down to. They need to be heavy into the latest research, which unfortunately is not available as there is so little of it done in OD. But the main issue facing the success of OD today I believe is the ability of individuals to deal with contradictions. For e.g. an OD consultant needs to be able to look at an issue as objectively and realistically as possible, realizing that they should be aware of their own agenda, and stop themselves from subconsciously promoting it, be it a social, religious, or political agenda. OD starts with the individual. Tell your students that success lies in the discipline of seeing situations without bias, and to determine next action steps based on the highest standard of ethics. They must be skilled at drawing the line between what they want and what is actually needed for the organization. So the first step to being a consultant is for them to explore their own biases, their inner conflicts, and to connect with their own philosophy of life. If this sounds silly to them, then they will simply need to reconsider their career choice. As a consultant, their goal would be to transform organizations and this often needs to be preceded with self-transformation.

The most practical advice I could give you is that you need to model a good consultant in your classes. So, change the way you teach. Drop the whole classroom model. Change! You probably need to structure your classes in such a way as to simulate actual organizational situations that they could face in the future as consultants. By this I mean do unconventional things that would get their attention and inspire them to look at situations beyond themselves. For instance, have them sit in a circle instead of desks and chairs, allow a lot of noise and chaotic discussion, and let there be analytical but fun games and incredible energy! Let them come up with what they think leadership means instead of you yourself quoting from Covey and others they’ve head a 100 times before. Replace lectures with inviting their ideas to come out. This is what OD is about because the client must realize that all the solutions lie within their own systems and minds. The most important message of all is what my partner tells me all the time: the consultant is no more considered an expert who comes in and gives out a one-size fits all solution for the company’s challenge. The consultant is now a facilitative guide responsible for creating an environment that is safe and powerful at the same time, so that the ‘solution’ comes out from the depths of the people in the system. Quoting the likes of Covey is very common in the lecture format and students might not think out of the box this way. The world is changing and teachers ought to teach by getting students to find their own answers. Traditional lectures must make way for high-power interaction, instinctive but critical thought, and connecting with the self.

If you’d like to expand your knowledge in Organization Development, I highly recommend joining the Organization Development Network at www.odnetwork.org. Also, I suggest reading Practicing Organization Development: A Guide for Consultants, a book edited by my business partner and associates, Mr. Roland Sullivan and Dr. William Rothwell. You can review this book at www.practicingod.com. In addition, I’d like to draw your attention to GODS (Global Organization Development Summit) which is to take place from the 18th to 21st of September 2006 in Mysore. More information is available on the conference website at www.odsummitindia.org if you and some of your students and colleagues are keen to attend.

Please let me know how you are getting on with your students and if you would like my feedback on structuring lessons.


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