OD Practitioner as Agents of Social Change

The OD Practitioner invariably plays several roles during the lifecycle of an OD project.

The roles of OD practitioners may also be viewed from the lens of the position held by them in the client organization, that is, as internal OD practitioner or the external OD practitioner. The few roles which any OD practitioner plays during any OD and Change Management project include:

As Consultant: In the role of a consultant, the OD practitioner utilizes his/her core consulting competencies and acts in consultative mode. She would dedicate time and effort in understanding and analyzing the ‘as is’ position of the client system vis-à-vis the problem for which she is hired and in making sense of the organizational issue at hand, then present the analysis and her perspective on the issues facing the organization. In a consultative role the consultant acts as an adviser, who presents perspectives and suggestions regarding the possible solutions to the problem. She applies her experience, understanding and specialized knowledge of OD in suggesting the solutions, making recommendations and specific advice to the organization. As a consultant, the practitioner assesses the organizational issues with subjectivity and objectivity, while managing their personal subjective biases, in the better interest of the client organization, while remaining completely neutral. Also, the practitioner is in a consultant role when she engages in contracting and negotiating the agreements.

As Expert: The OD practitioner is usually engaged, by the client, for her expertise in understanding the organizational issues and facilitating the implementation of the best possible solution. While it is recommended that most of the OD process be facilitated in a collaborative manner, with the members of the client organization putting forth adequate participation in every part of the process; yet, it is inevitable that the practitioner’s discretion as an expert is sought to move ahead on the project. At such junctures, the practitioner has to act as an expert and help the client take the necessary decisions and actions. As an expert the practitioner has to, not only make recommendations, but specifically prescribe the solution or action plan. While being prescriptive is more commonly adopted and accepted practice in all other consulting, most of the OD consultants practice it only sparingly, keeping in mind that the OD approach is a participative and collaborative approach to change and improvement.

As a facilitator and Trainer: The OD practitioner, during the lifecycle of the project, takes up the task to train the organizational members in executing the OD project. Since an OD or change project required participation of the members of the client organization and the team identified to work with the consultant may not be equipped with the nuances of the OD practices, the team members may have to be first trained. The OD practitioner acts as a trainer and conducts training programs and workshops to impart necessary conceptual knowledge or practical skills to the team.

Also, since any OD project is taken up with intent to bring about a change in the organization or part of it, it becomes imperative that the organization members are taken through several sensitizing workshops and recalibrating sessions facilitated by the OD practitioner. Right from the diagnostic phase of the project, the practitioner facilitates data collection, analysis, feedback, solution finding, so on and so forth. The facilitator role of the practitioner prevails throughout the OD project. It is most important role that the practitioner plays while the client system goes through the phases of unfreezing, change and refreezing. As a facilitator, the practitioner facilitates the client system in making self-discoveries, accepting the realities discovered and new perspectives that emerged, finding and implementing the solutions. Since most part of the OD work deals in behavioral aspects and people dynamics, related to change within the organization, a facilitator should have a deeper understanding and expert skills in facilitating human behavioral processes.

As a Coach: The OD practitioner acts as a coach to the organization’s leaders and change agents. The underlined approach of OD is to build the problem-solving capability and enhance the competency of the client system, so that the organizational members don’t remain dependent on the consultant to solve similar problems in future. The practitioner acts as a coach to the change leaders and the change agents in the organization engaged in the project can depend on their organic resources to solve future issues.

Also, The change leaders and the change agents within the organization (or the team member involved in the change project) working on the project, have to deal with dynamic situations of the change process on an everyday basis; it takes enormous amount of pressure, stress and dilemmas that they have to face. The practitioner acts as a coach helping them develop capabilities and competencies in dealing with the pressure and managing through the dilemmas themselves, while the practitioner provides support and facilitation. She acts as an effective sounding board, asking effective questions to help the coachees reach the desired decisions themselves. She becomes a support system for the organizational member and the change team as they move through the change process effectively.

As a mentor: The practitioner acts as a mentor to the team involved in the OD project, imparting skills related to OD and Change process, so that the teams can manage the change even after the project is closed. It is important that the practitioner transfers the skills and knowledge by gradually mentoring the team as the changes implemented ought to be institutionalized and carefully monitored post completion of the projects as there may be possible fallouts of the changes implemented. The practitioner guides, advices and teaches the team all the required skills, so they are able to manage the future implications organically.

As a Researcher/inquirer: Especially during the initial phase of the OD project the practitioner acts in the spirit of curiosity and inquiry. The practitioner adorns the hat of a researcher and inquirer in order to make sense of the organizations’ climate related to the problem and of the current problem itself. During the entire data collection and analysis phase, the practitioner’s researcher role is activated. Even after the diagnosis phase is over, since most of the OD projects are based on action research approach, the researcher role of the practitioner remains activated.

As an Influencer: The OD practitioner leads the organization members and the client system through the OD project, it requires her to adapt the role of an influencer and the practitioner utilizes all the other roles to influence. The practitioner will act as an expert at times to influence, while at other time, she will act as a coach or mentor or facilitator or simply as consultant. The team benefits from the consultants influencing role in order to execute the project successfully.

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