Interview with an Organizational Development Practitioner


Interviewwith an Organizational Development Practitioner

Interviewwith an Organizational Development Practitioner

Thepersonal perspectives of an organizational Development (OD)practitioner essentially disclose their personal perspectives ontheir career and the field in general. Furthermore, the interviewdiscloses character of OD as a career that entails the establishmentand maintenance of interpersonal relationships between them andmembers of an organization. Finally, the interview provides a uniqueopportunity to understand some of the recent developments in OD thatentails the inclusion of organizational theory, line managers,industrial psychology and other related disciplines that facilitatethe enhancement of the organization’s capabilities. The followingis an interview of Mr Hughes Orlando (a hypothetical name), an ODprofessional who shares his reasons for choosing the OD as a careerand hisperspectives on the learning organization, the implementationof the management process, implementing organizational developmentprograms, and the ethical issues that face OD practitioners like him.

Interviewer:Manypeople, including organizational leaders and employees, may not havea clear understanding of OD as a profession. So, Mr Hughes, could youbriefly explain who an OD practitioner is?

MrHughes: Thankyou very much for having me. That is a great question. OD as aprofession is quite multifaceted than people think. There are threesets of OD professionals: those whose specialties are in OD as aprofession and a career, those who specialize in roles related to OD,and experienced organizational or corporate leaders who have becomecompetent in OD issues and can apply them in their specific workareas. I am an OD professional and I will explain its meaning basedon my case. A professional OD practitioner is a consultant hired oremployed by an organization to provide professional services toclients, employees, departmental heads and even the top management onissues such as personal growth, employee involvement, opencommunication, and managing change(McLean,2005). An OD practitioner has special training and skills in socialprocesses of in organizational set ups.

Interviewer:What are the specific areas of study that OD practitioners keepimproving through continuous learning to improve their competence?

MrHughes:For an OD professional to be effective they must possess dynamicknowledge in forces that shape group dynamics, decision making, andall the aspects of communication that a modern organization must use.

Interviewer:What are core competences and skills for OD professionals? You cangroup them into broad categories?

MrHughes: TheOD field demands that practitioners are competent in interpersonalskills and personal features, articulate on issues aboutorganizational behaviour, possess data collection and analysisskills, strategic interventions, business and management areas,training and development, and general professional skills.

Interviewer:Are there any emerging trends that you know have impacted on yourprofession and OD practice in general, any specifics?

MrHughes:Thereare very many issues that have caused a shift of concern from thetraditional values and skills needed in typical corporateenvironments to contemporary concerns. Let me dwell on the mostimportant issues such as organizational competitiveness, strategicpositioning, technical and structural changes, bottom-line results,and organizational effectiveness to name a few. You will notice thatthe modern organization does not just derive value from profitsalone, but also other issues that enhances its strength in marketcapitalization.

TheInterviewer:What are the causes of the trends you have just mentioned?

MrHughes: Pressuresin the market that originate from increased competitive demands,globalization that has led to expanded markets, and of course a morerobust regulatory regime than ever before in corporate history.

Interviewer:What is the role of a modern OD practitioner in guiding organizationson management processes?

MrHughes:Inessence, the OD professional’s work always revolves around change. Change is the most important aspect for all processes that go oninside an organization. For management processes, the ODpractitioner basically focuses on management change to enhanceefficiency in decision making through proposing the changes,engraving in the proposed changes in the organization’s strategicchange, and address issues that impede effective implementation ofthe planned change.

Interviewer:Do organizations often face leadership problems when it comes toimplementation of planned change in the management processes?

MrHughes:They do and that is precisely where OD practitioners are veryimportant. We focus on the sequence of activities, which differ fromone organization to another, the processes and the leadershipadjustments that improve the effectiveness of management processes.

Interviewer:What are the values that guide OD practitioners?

MrHughes: Our foundations in behavioural science support values ofparticipation, development in addition to performance and competitiveadvantage, and human potential. OD ensures that knowledge and skillsare transferred from throughout the management process in theorganization and also to future employees and the management so thatit is able to manage change in the future.

Interviewer:Have you had cases where an OD project fails? If so, what are thecommon reasons for such failure by OD practitioners?

MrHughes:It is not unusual for an OD project to fail. OD professionals oftenfind it difficult to identify a relevant client. For example, I hadan assignment to guide a manufacturing plant in improving itsproductivity. The project failed not because the proposals I madewere not strategic or ineffective but because I failed to realizethat company was unionized. As a result, I did not include unionofficials in the entering and contracting process. The managementalso deliberately failed to inform me about it. Hence, union leadersin the company and unionized employees withheld their support andcommitment to the OD process and it failed.

Interviewer:Did you salvage the situation?

MrHughes:Yes. We turned around and realized the exclusion and I immediatelyrecommended an amendment to the membership of the execution team toinclude union representatives. The OD process later succeeded and thecompany doubled its efficiency rate in productivity.

Interviewer:Whatare the processes of involved in implementing organizationaldevelopment programs in the scope of the professional advice providedby OD practitioners like you?

MrHughes:The first step if to carry out research to identify the problem area. The second step is to apply various interventions to resolve theproblem. Some of the areas of change include improving employeemorale, improvement of product quality, or improvement ofproductivity. The third step is to identify specific people thatwill implement the needed change. The fourth step is to createrelationships through policies, processes, norms, organizationalstructure, and improving its culture so that it fits the neededchange. Let me also point out that the organizational developmentprocess is continuous. The programs are implemented in the short-termand in the long-term.

Interviewer:Wheredoes the buck stop in the implementation process of organizationaldevelopment programs?

MrHughes: The management and the OD practitioner(s) have the finalresponsibility to implement OD programs. They are referred to asfacilitators. The have two roles to play, first improve thefunctioning of employees. Teams, and affect the overall improvementin the organization. Secondly, they have the responsibility toensure that knowledge and skills are imparted so that theorganization achieves the desired level of efficiency.

Interviewer:whatare the ethical issues that OD practitioners face?

MrHughes: Ethicalissues come in terms of dilemmas. You have two or more competingalternatives to use in resolving an organizational problem. Any ofthe alternatives have far reaching implications on the organizationand the OD consultant. One dilemma emanates from misinterpretationyour capabilities, skills, and experience by organizationalofficials, especially those you have never worked for. As a result,client system managers may misrepresent themselves and the scope oftheir problems because they are reluctant to let the consultant,other managers or competitors know much about their weaknesses. Secondly, data collection has always presented OD practitioners withethical dilemmas. Data for OD purposes is collected underconfidentiality and voluntarism. Any violation of either condition,even in circumstances where it is necessary, amounts to a breach ofethics. Finally, the client system usually has cases where peoplewant to manipulate or coerce the OD professional.

Interviewer:Whatis the future of OD? Will the role of OD practitioners change?

MrHughes:ODpractitioners who will succeed in guiding their organizations intothe future will be those who understand and apply business strategyhave a comprehensive understanding of the corporate future, recognizeproblems before they occur and adopt strategic solutions in advance,be able to recognize, recruit, and train future executives and thosewho have the ability to deal with diverse people.

Interviewer:It was great having Mr Hughes to share with us a lot that youunderstand about OD through your experience and knowledge. Thank youvery much.

MrHughes:You are welcome. I am always glad to share my passions withothers.


McLean,G. (2005). Organization development: Principles, processes,performance. Berrett-Koehler Publishers.