Valerie and I wanted to thank all the authors and the fabulous production team for their work on this edition of e-O&P. We hope you find this special edition on OD thought provoking and would love to hear what questions and reflections it prompts for you.

 

Tags: OD

Views: 93

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

We would like to know about your experiences of whether it is possible to really develop organisations and whether it is more likely to be an evolution rather than a revolution.

I like the idea of turning the sub-title of your excellent winter edition, 'evolution & revolution', into a question. Thanks for this.  

My reaction to 'revolution' is to think in terms of being both far reaching and rapid. Of course revolutions can have lengthy gestation periods and may not overturn all that has gone before. But there is generally a tipping point (sometimes only visible with hindsight) where the action begins. Are we there yet?

The strange thing about evolution (in a biological context) is that it is easier to recognise with hindsight. Under great environmental pressures evolution can run very quickly. We need to identify those pressures, and the responses that are being tried. Perhaps answers have already been found - but are not yet recognised as the fundamental shifts in thinking that they will become. The clues for us as practitioners will be in the abnormal success that the adaptations generate. Then we will have to work fast to replicate (or improve on!) those adaptations within our client organisations.   

The board of one client organisation are in the final throes of ousting the chief executive and needed to shape a strategy to move forward in an uncertain and challenging environment. So were suffering both revolution and evolution. With just simple interventions from me, they have developed their plans. Plans which include a decision to re-examine, on a frequent basis, the niche (portfolio of services) in which they operate; something of a ‘given’ until now.

So I could argue that I am using the opportunity of revolutionary tipping points to encourage clients to reflect and revise in depth, and then to engage in active-evolution (echoes of learning organisations!) to address uncertainty and rapid change into the future.

Ned

Chair AMED

Thanks for sharing your experiences, Ned.  Does anyone else have any perspectives to share?  

For me thinking about developing organisations in terms of 'evolution' prompts me to look backwards and think about what do we want and need to keep?  And 'revolution' prompts me to ask what we want and need to change?  


Ned Seabrook said:

I like the idea of turning the sub-title of your excellent winter edition, 'evolution & revolution', into a question. Thanks for this.  

My reaction to 'revolution' is to think in terms of being both far reaching and rapid. Of course revolutions can have lengthy gestation periods and may not overturn all that has gone before. But there is generally a tipping point (sometimes only visible with hindsight) where the action begins. Are we there yet?

The strange thing about evolution (in a biological context) is that it is easier to recognise with hindsight. Under great environmental pressures evolution can run very quickly. We need to identify those pressures, and the responses that are being tried. Perhaps answers have already been found - but are not yet recognised as the fundamental shifts in thinking that they will become. The clues for us as practitioners will be in the abnormal success that the adaptations generate. Then we will have to work fast to replicate (or improve on!) those adaptations within our client organisations.   

The board of one client organisation are in the final throes of ousting the chief executive and needed to shape a strategy to move forward in an uncertain and challenging environment. So were suffering both revolution and evolution. With just simple interventions from me, they have developed their plans. Plans which include a decision to re-examine, on a frequent basis, the niche (portfolio of services) in which they operate; something of a ‘given’ until now.

So I could argue that I am using the opportunity of revolutionary tipping points to encourage clients to reflect and revise in depth, and then to engage in active-evolution (echoes of learning organisations!) to address uncertainty and rapid change into the future.

Ned

Chair AMED

I think it has to be revolution to get the topic on the agenda at all, Sharon. 

The trouble with OD is that it lies a paradigm shift away from prevailing thinking about people in organisations.  The usual reflex response is always to try harder, reaching hungrily for mechanistic concepts that seem to fit the need: human capital management, talent management, performance management. 

To discover systems thinking and OD we must be ready to try something completely different – and not just out of idle curiosity either.  We must be desperate, having exhausted our common sense, acknowledging our ignorance. 

I have noticed at times that managers who have been very successful can find it much harder to see the system they are part of, the limited scope they have for real autonomy, the unintended consequences of their own actions and words.  The more successful a manager, the bigger the shock required to expose the flawed assumptions on which the misleading self-image and the incomplete world view stands.  The bigger the shock, the more it feels like a revolution. 

But to return to the question, there are revolutionary processes in nature.  I have been intrigued by the concept of punctuated equilibrium.  I think Ned is referring to this too.  The steady state is one of slow, incremental change.  All niches are occupied and new opportunities have to be won in fierce competition.  When the equilibrium is disturbed by a catastrophe, the established, slow adapters die out and many new niches become available to fast adapting organisms. 

So ... a classic OD response may be appropriate.  Q: Evolution or revolution?  A: Yes ... or possibly no. 

David

Thanks David.  Evolution and revolution are simply two perspectives on the same thing.  It depends who's looking and their frame of reference.

Your suggestion that we need to be desperate before we turn to OD is somewhat more provocative!  

And perhaps an interesting question to consider at Friday's face-to-face session.


David McAra said:

I think it has to be revolution to get the topic on the agenda at all, Sharon. 

The trouble with OD is that it lies a paradigm shift away from prevailing thinking about people in organisations.  The usual reflex response is always to try harder, reaching hungrily for mechanistic concepts that seem to fit the need: human capital management, talent management, performance management. 

To discover systems thinking and OD we must be ready to try something completely different – and not just out of idle curiosity either.  We must be desperate, having exhausted our common sense, acknowledging our ignorance. 

I have noticed at times that managers who have been very successful can find it much harder to see the system they are part of, the limited scope they have for real autonomy, the unintended consequences of their own actions and words.  The more successful a manager, the bigger the shock required to expose the flawed assumptions on which the misleading self-image and the incomplete world view stands.  The bigger the shock, the more it feels like a revolution. 

But to return to the question, there are revolutionary processes in nature.  I have been intrigued by the concept of punctuated equilibrium.  I think Ned is referring to this too.  The steady state is one of slow, incremental change.  All niches are occupied and new opportunities have to be won in fierce competition.  When the equilibrium is disturbed by a catastrophe, the established, slow adapters die out and many new niches become available to fast adapting organisms. 

So ... a classic OD response may be appropriate.  Q: Evolution or revolution?  A: Yes ... or possibly no. 

David

Reply to Discussion

RSS

O&P News

O&P back issues now for sale. 

We have a rich library of O&P issues and individual articles in electronic format going back to 1994, just waiting for you. Full copy issues are available for £10 for Full AMED Members and £15 for Non Members. You can also purchase individual articles, up to 5 back copies,  £10 for Full AMED Members and £15 for Non Members. Copy of order form for back issues of e-O&P in MS Word format.

 

Make sure you can reach the Full AMED Members' page or the O&P Subscribers' page to download the latest edition.

Not yet a member or subscriber?
Click here for synopses of recent editions.

© 2014   Created by AMED Admin.

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service