Archive for December, 2010

OD in the Future- Within (for) any Endeavor

December 5, 2010

Drafted 12Dec2010 by William J. LeGray.

This writing is a followup companion statement to “Herb Shepard’s Rules of Thumb for Change Agent” authored in 1974- being drafted (now, in 2010) while still sharing a similar “spirit and mandate.” Both statements followed an inspiration about promulgating findings and and contributions re “Social Theory and Social Structure”, as exemplified by the spirited investigative and authorship quests of Robert Merton (1968)…… There are very high up (elitist) approaches, when conveying helpful thoughts about dealing with human relationships and organizational matters. And, alternatively (for flexibility and effectiveness), there are the approaches of lower down fliers. Their findings, generally, reflect “connecting” closer to ground, and bottomland, levels- where people and organizations must navigate….. Such low flier statements are primarily experienced based findings from within the Applied Behavioral Sciences task groups- which tend to relate less to contemporary positioning and practices,  and more to way finding and paths. And, these findings often seem to endure more across all ages.


OD IN THE FUTURE- Within (for) any Endeavor.

OD is, especially, useful for consultants who provide advisory services by peering into the future- visionaries, scouts, prognosticators, advisors, counselors, reporters, preachers, teachers, designers, creators, inventors, manufacturers, and constructors. OD consulting involves “fresh eyes visioning, way finding, and path finding.” And, these are “core” functions regarding Consultative Methods.

OD is not for everybody. Some like what the messenger brings to the table, and some don’t. So, there can be consequences, and one must be careful about promulgating “fresh thinking regarding future actions.”

OD (meaning and thought) Consulting involves “fence sitting, and/or fence walking”, and the “balancing” necessary to stay atop is much like tight rope walking. The “balancing” required is a high order cultivated skill involving self control within situations of contemporary concern. Quick readiness and responsiveness (for thought and body control), are only two of the many attributes which enable balancing. Much of the skill resource becomes automatic and arises from training and consequent intuitiveness.

There are many attempts and “falls” from the fence, when learning and growing “balancing” competencies. Surviving and sustaining among others- in various life situations, there are always those concerned about what “type” of person someone is. They need to know enough about the other person they are dealing with, in order to be comfortable. Without a basis of trust (i.e. assurances that there are no ill intentions present due to individual differences), efforts for effective human relations can, at first,  be falter. However, such challenging “environmental conditions- early on, in beginning relationships”, can be very significant “learning (rather than win/lose) exercises” for developing one’s “balancing” skills.

One of the first OD Consultants, ever, was highly revered- not for authoring books; but for practicing and articulating effective interpersonal and inter-group, Consultative Methods, and his “Rules of Thumb for Change Agents” provides a particularly insightful, and personal, statement of “social theory, and structure” for anchoring the profession. It is one of the “original” points of view and is readily available for new participants wishing to learn more about the practicalities of “balancing.” Many of the thoughts reflect “finding a path of least resistance”, and obviously this coincides with sustaining one’s balance and effective performance in workplace situations.

But, what about “all” of the abundant continuing data flowing forth- from out of “all” the various situations, and related conditions, i.e. “all” the thoughts, feelings, and actions arising to be dealt with? Data overload? The answer is: “Not really, a necessary reaction.” To state it simply: “There are many, many stated words, and even body language, but- when we “focus, with balancing”, we must endeavor to “put aside” distracting data which interferes with “what ALL our sensory data is telling us.” We must strive to be “good listeners” in any, and every, situation”- so that we can respond more effectively for the present and the future.

For example, because of our various technology specialties, there are certain words and encounters which have especially “loaded meanings, and predispositions for action”- for each of us individually. Arising above “such obstacles” when “visioning, and/or consulting” can moves us towards being and becoming better listeners. Effective listening is innate, and/or acquired. It can be more “natural (t some) based on preconditioning, and can certainly be cultivated by training and development. Especially useful skills are those relating to being empathetic, and also those for improving memory retention.

Cultivating “balancing” competencies requires life long dedicated efforts. Cultivating- for agricultural purposes, or for habitat maintenance- is “primal” regarding our survival and sustenance. And, competencies are certainly most influential in determining effective performances. So, it is not “strange” that there is a particular “key” competency which exists- that of “balancing.”

And, it is not an accident that in earlier societies certain self educated and forward looking persons- such as soothsayers, visionaries, and medicine men or women- have placed and positioned themselves in environments which cultivate their learning experience. And, because of human nature as we know it, it is not unusual that there have been “good and bad” witches and medical practitioners (in the minds of people).

Another appropriate observation may be that, in some instances, competency development occurred by men and women “roaming” the fields, forests, and waters, and “that growth thrived” by being close to nature and reality, i.e. ground floor primal listening and viewing from outlooks high up was worthwhile. So, there appears to be precedents for suggesting that “fence sitting (or standing) balancing” skills will promulgate  “better outlooks” for researching and consulting.”

But, there are more questions yet to be answered about “balancing.” What is the “stuff” of meaning that affects our balancing act? Historically, and from out of several different civilizations, an absolutely excellent “construct of meaning” is to think of two “differently characterized” streams of smoke appearing along side each of us, along the paths we take. Smoke can be vapor, or gaseous/particulate, trails in our life-sustaining atmosphere. Along the path, there may also be many other appearances, and aberrations encountered. But, visioning beyond, with our trained senses, to pay attention to the “two” special “tailings” present can be especially useful. And, there is some sensing for meaning, which is more indicative and functional for “balancing” than others.

Cultivating to facilitate “balancing” is therefore very much a sensitivity training process- involving application of laboratory methods. However, it seems that individual “mindful faculties” which develop in this way are often not well received. The shortfall is that there has been too much (out-of balance) inductive, rather than deductive, learning and growth, for passable acceptance. Such progress is not very measurable and defensible. So, “school faculties” which have evolved with highly evaluative expectations have had difficulties positioning in higher education circles. And, likewise, they have had difficulty conveying their particular usefulness- within areas of societal engagement where “special and extraordinary” performances are required.

But, now, this beginning of espousing Consultative Balancing may seem to be an ending of the matter. But, not so, because the “shortfall” is mostly just the faltering associated with beginning relationships about what higher education for OD Consulting should be like. In fact, while issues and setbacks have occurred, Visionary Assistive Consulting services provided by OD Practitioners being have been, far reaching and widely, applied in our society, already. And, with this foundation of acceptance, there are hopes that this newer “primal” skill of “balancing” will serve to promote OD thinking and application on a more widespread basis.

Many, and varied, styles and subjects for learning have been offered by OD consultants to serve a broad and diverse variety of client needs. These on-target offerings have served to enrich the availability of OD improvement resources. And, now, to supplement this success, “balancing skills, and possibly related procedures” are being suggested to create increasingly greater improvement opportunities for bringing all the OD categorical specialties into a new coordinated approach for excellence.

The new “balancing” skills proposed involve “envisioning” (beyond the present, and rearward, by trainings for elevating our active intelligence), along with “careful estimations” about the presence, and nature, of the “two special trails” which seem to accompany our very existence. And, from many quarters around the world, an especially useful construct for the “stuff” of the two streams (of meanings), we  evoke concepts from the Tao involving two different arrays of life conditions- commonly know as “Yin and Yang” sets of conditions.

Yin and Yang attributes provide us with a “new” thought construct involving different selected conditions. The concepts are foreign to most, and require some study and explanation for acceptance and use. It was difficult for me, but use of the Y-Y concepts has grown and become firmly rooted, mostly because I have reformulated then according to my own terms and basic thought processes. But, this is OK, because that is the only way, I believe adopting Y & Y concepts can work. And, if it can work well for me (on these terms), it is likely that Y & Y thinking may work also for you.

The “companion Y & Y stuff” (we sense, trailing along side) can take many forms and be described by many characteristics of our own choosing. And, our intrinsic learning may include observations about shapes, directionality, movement, content, whatever. However, there have already been a lot people sharing of Y & Y beliefs and experiences, so that there are resources to guide our own formulations (assumptions) about the amount of Yin and Yang elemental forcefulness present (within organizations and workplaces). Basically, when we are integrating the influences of the Yin and the Yang aspects present, we can then rapidly compose a “Y & Y balancing” assessment. So, with some study and attentiveness, it is possible to more quickly learn and adopt the competencies suggested here.

When getting more definitive, and taking these further steps to guide choices for determining Yin and Yang aspects, there are supplemental “secondary concepts” to consider. And, the following “pairings” of key words (listed below) suggest different “windows” for looking at the “two trailing Y & Y streams” tagging along. Consider relationships amongst the following word sets:


Hope (for success)=========—Fear (of failure)

Administrative Science————Behavioral Management

Authoritarian (edict)————–Participative (ethos)

Law & Order———————Crime & Punishment

Truth &————————-Consequences










These concepts, generally, can be applied in our normally encountered human relations situations- at home, at work, etc. The groupings suggest interactive categories of “phenomena of concern” (conditions, substances, and measures of our existence and being), which relate to Y & Y aspects. Being applicable to human relationship situations, they are also the stuff of Human System Dynamics (HSD). a reorientation for OD thought which has occasionally been suggested.

Other useful arrays, which align the meanings of crucial elements affecting OD Leadership, can be referenced when making Yin & Yang balancing assessments. The arrayed word meanings are as follows:


Macro—————————Micro (12-6 o’clock)

Task—————————-People (9-3)

Strategic Vision——————-Customer Service (10:30-4:30)

Membership Potential————–Resource Management (1:30-7:30)




Finally, there is one more additional, particularly salable, construct related to sustaining “consultancy balance.” It relates to the dynamics of bringing about planned” change, and thereby “transformations.” And, it applies equally, when working with small or large-scale organizations. As with any flow process- like the flow of “meanings, and related learning” which happens, transport theories apply with regards to the formation and depositing of “learning” going into and coming out of different places. And, when all is accounted for, the distribution of available talents (for growth and development) can change in the different places considered. And, in places, when competencies escalate, there are generally more contagions for growth inducing interactions. And, the chances for more growth-oriented couplings with neighboring places increase. Similarly, the effectiveness of entire “company workplaces” and “communities” of practice can be enhanced.

Improvements via growth, and progress, begin with the developmental progress made by each individual contributor. Consequently, “balancing” skills are important considerations for everyone. This need is especially true in higher technology situations where special talents are required, and where enlarged scopes of responsibility exist. It may even happen that there will be more formalizing of Yin and Yang assessments using scientific methods.

If so, this proposal to adopt Consultancy Balancing competencies may receive even more attention than anticipated, and the potential benefits of effectiveness, excellence, and sustainability may increase. Certainly, improving “facilitations and recommendations” about future pathways and transformation goals might become more widespread- and universal. However, be cautious. There is the constant underlying reminder that OD Consultative Balancing is not recommended for everyone, as there may be unanticipated consequences- if acquiring “balancing” skills are “taken on” as a personal goal.



1. “Crucial Issues in Organizational Development”, by Paul C. Buchanan, National Training Laboratories, Washington D.C., 1967.

2. “WOBRIC- Work Obstacle Metric; a tool for measuring factors that inhibit effective work performance”, by the U.S. Department of Energy Carlsbad Area Office (CAO) and Waste Isolation Division of the Westinghouse Electric Co., 1999.

3. “Revisioning Organization Development- Diagnostic and Dialogic Premises and Patterns of Practice”, by Gervase R. Bushe and Robert J. Marshak, Journal of Applied Behavioral Sciences, May 15, 2009.

4. “The Consultant’s Journey: A Dance of Work and Spirit”, by Roger Harrison, Jossey Bass Business and Management Series, May 1955.

5. “Social Theory and Social Structure”, by Robert K. Merton, Free Press (Publisher), August 1, 1968.

6. “What OD Practitioners Want and Need for Success”, by Matt Minahan, Carrie Hutton, and Marti Kaplan, OD Practitioner, Vol. 24, No. 2, 2002.

7. “The Yin and Yang of OD”, by Matt Minahan, OD Practitioner, Vol.38, No.1, 2006.

8. “Rules of Thumb for Change Agents”, by Herbert A. Shepard, reprinted by kind permission of Portsmouth Consulting Group, 1974.

9. “Organizations Alive! : six things that challenge, seven things that bring success”, by Jan Yuill, Yuill & Associates, Ottawa, Ontario, 2003.


WJL , 120510