It’s a cool, rainy Saturday on the Great Plains, which provides time for reflection. I’ve been considering a question asked in an encounter this week, “How do I know which method or process to use with an organization that is having a hard time finding its way?” My first response was that there isn’t a tidy checklist or rule book for people who work with organizations. Organizations are made up of people, and those relationships rarely go by a checklist or rule book.
How then should an organization development practitioner proceed? There are many different processes that I’ve used successfully from Appreciative Inquiry to World Cafe to Strategic Visioning. I’ve facilitated with organizations that were willing to begin with a central question and allow the process to emerge, evolve, and engage the group through our time together. Ultimately the practitioner has to have what David Kelley calls “creative confidence“. I have to be willing to step out into uncertainty, ambiguity, and fog and enter into the organization’s journey.
This isn’t magical. A good practitioner brings along their toolbox. A couple of months ago I discovered a new toolbox from the d.school at Stanford: Bootcamp Bootleg. In it the students and faculty from the Stanford d.school share their mindset along with modes and methods that they use to engage organizations and people when the solutions, and sometimes even the questions, aren’t obvious. They set an example of resilience, of not being willing to give up with the way ahead is uncertain, ambiguous, or wrapped in fog.
To respond to the original question: my personal goals as an organization development practitioner are to sharpen my tools while continually adding to my toolbox – to be willing to start a conversation for change, be willing to fail, be willing to try again – to welcome the unknown along with the known – to practice with creative confidence.