A day in the life of an OD consultant

During the training courses in Shanghai last week I was asked what a typical day in my working life was like. Given that I was classifying myself as an organization development consultant I thought I would see if I could describe one of my days taking Monday November 15 as a 'typical day'. It was typical in that I was not traveling anywhere and I had the normal number of scheduled meetings.

I began the day with a self-reflection exercise as I'm enrolled on a month of self reflection with the To Do Institute. It's interesting in that it has the same underlying premise expressed by Peter Block in his book Flawless Consulting. In this he says 'An authentic consultant, is not any oxymoron, but a compelling competitive advantage, if unfortunately a rare one.' Block talks about authenticity in terms of 'simply being honest with ourselves and being direct and honest with others.' The self-reflection program is partly about developing that authenticity.

I then went to the new office to see how the people who had moved over the weekend were doing, and chatted to them about any traumas of the move (none to speak of) and the excellent service provided by the IT department in getting everyone up and running the moment they reached their desks. Kudos to the IT team.

Once at the new building I participated in two meetings one after the other, both about the move. The meetings had very different feels, one informal with just three of us, and one much more formal with several people in the room and several more dialing in from other locations. I left at lunchtime to go and work from home but during the afternoon I dialed in to two other meetings, one on teleworking and one on communication.

These different meetings caused me to think about whether some meeting forums were better than others. (In one of the meetings we also discussed Telepresence). Is it 'better', i.e. more productive to have face to face or dial in meetings. What is the value of the face to face-ness? This is a substantive question as we are ramping up teleworking (mobile working). I'm wondering if there are any criteria that can be applied to help people decide this. In what circumstances does 'presence' in a physical sense add value to a meeting? A quick interrogation of Capella University's extensive on-line library, that I have access to as an adjunct faculty member, showed me that there's a significant amount of research on the comparison of team effectiveness in virtual with face to face stuations.

Two articles that I skimmed through on the topic were The Impact Of Team Empowerment On Virtual Team Performance: The Moderating Role Of Face-To-Face Interaction. By: Kirkman, Bradley L.; Rosen, Benson; Tesluk, Paul E.; Gibson, Cristina B.. Academy of Management Journal, April 2004, and Individual Swift Trust and Knowledge-Based Trust in Face-to-Face and Virtual Team Members. by Robert Jr., Lionel P.; Dennis, Alan R.; Hung, Yu-Ting Caisy. Journal of Management Information Systems, Fall2009, Vol. 26 Issue 2.

My challenge is to convert the various academic findings into practical and relevant recommendations for managers who are wrestling with building a sense of community accountability and productivity among their work teams who are increasingly working off the office site.

Leaving that aside I started prepare a one day workshop on the topic of teleworking. Getting the balance of behaviors, skills, and technologies for confident teleworkers was the order of the day. The program is being developed for intact work teams, not for individual teleworking though that forms a part of the section on organizing yourself for teleworking.

A couple of 1:1 phone calls had similar themes – in that in both we were reviewing presentations to check that their messages and approach would, as far as we can judge, work with the stakeholder group. Getting presentations right is a real art. At the training program last week I gave out a piece on how to construct an effective 10 minute presentation that seemed to go down well with the audience. The slight disconnect is that the narrative on how to do a good presentation is wordy and densely packed – the opposite of what the writer says a good presentation should be, nevertheless it has useful pointers.

Additional phone calls were a) to discuss the logistics for the telework training b) to ask someone to send some info regarding a meeting I didn't get to last week c) to check on a policy. In all cases I made the decision to call rather than email or IM – why? It was the quickest and easiest method in the time and resource (not by my computer at that moment) – assuming the person I needed to speak to answered and they all did!

Beyond the meetings and phone calls I answered in the order of 50 emails on a range of topics including an office community garden, conference room booking protocols, meeting scheduling, coasters for the conference rooms, and leadership development programs.

So another typical day passes. One of the fascinating facts in the ToDo self reflection course is that the average lifespan is 30,000 days. One of the questions to reflect on is how do you want to spend the number of days left to you. I'm pondering this as I reflect on my typical day.