Business savvy OD consultants

Day 2 of the Organization Development program raised a lot more questions from the participants. The deep interest in the topic from the group members is fantastic, and really caused me to think more about the content of the program. Three questions I thought might merit a whole session in any revised version were:

How do you get OD work as an internal consultant? Oddly, this question was raised by a colleague of mine a couple of weeks ago. What the questioner wanted to know was should he wait for line managers to call him because they had a problem or opportunity that they thought he could help them with, or should he go out into the organization and actively search for work. And if the latter how do you do this?

My tack has always been to go out and search for work within the organization myself on the basis that if I find work, and do a good job, then others will hear about this and I will eventually get called on. And, in the course of events, this has been what happens. Opening this up to general discussion we talked about the skills of marketing, and selling OD services within and organization and the type of knowledge you'd have to have to be convincing and credible.

Oddly marketing skills are not one of the competences commonly associated with internal OD consultants. The CIPD HR Profession Map does not mention them, although they are mentioned in the OD Network's list of competences as follows:

An effective organization development (OD) practitioner can . . .
1. Be aware of systems wanting to change
2. Be known to those needing you
3. Match skills with potential client profile
4. Convey qualifications in a credible manner
5. Quickly grasp the nature of the system
6. Determine appropriate decision makers
7. Determine appropriate processes

The next thing the group came up with as a necessary competence was a deep knowledge of the business: its operating context, the pressures and constraints it faces, the opportunities it could seize, and so on. It's unfortunate that many OD consultants lack this business savvy coming typically from a background in HR, learning and development, or social sciences. But in this case the CIPD's HR Profession Map is clear that this is a required competence, whereas the OD Network's list is silent on business savvy.

So the CIPD tells us that an OD consultant must:

Know how the organisation makes money, how it is structured, who its competitors and customers are and how the teams work together to optimise performance, and is conversant with the range of products and services provided by the organisation.

Have a good understanding of the organisation's strategy, performance goals and drivers, and understands the sector in which the organisation operates and the market factors that impact performance, including customers, competitors, and so on.

Have a deep understanding of the organisation's strategy, performance goals and drivers and understands the sector in which the organisation operates and the market factors that impact performance, including customers, competitors, globalisation, demographics, and so on.

Understand and speak the 'language of the business'

Realizing these two skills – marketing and business savvy – are essential to developing credibility, participants wanted to know how to develop them. I remember years ago when I worked at Prudential going on a sales course (I won't go into the sales v marketing discussion) – one that the Prudential sales force took – and learning a lot from that. So taking a course is one option. Discussing this with the group one of them came up with an action to get herself seconded to a sales team for a three month period so she learn what it was all about.

A related question to "How do you get work?" was "How do you sell the concepts and practical value of organization development to skeptical line managers?" This question is one that is hard to answer and even when you think you know how to do it can be a hard sell (even with good selling skills!) as OD work is very rarely measured or evaluated in ways that make business sense, or that are expressed in return on investment terms. Any pitch that doesn't include some reference to financial reward is likely to fall on deaf ears as this example, I came across later in the day from the REEB Mobility Marketing Playbook illustrates

Corporate real estate says to BU Manager

1.We will redesign your floor plan to create new collaborative synergies!
2. We'll cater our approach to your needs!
3. We'll help you relax constraining policies on who works where and when!
4. You'll enjoy better talent attraction and retention among the new generation of workers!

BU Manager hears
Your workspace will be disrupted by a serious remodeling effort.
2. We'll disguise our one-size-fits-all model.
3. We're going to introduce anarchy into your employee management.
4. We're going to install a couple of football tables and some funky lamps.

So two things to consider putting into any revamped Organization Development program, which might mean cutting out something that's currently in there. I've got time to think about this as the next program isn't till sometime next year.