I run a bimonthly network meeting for senior OD practitioners in central London. At a recent session, we were each invited to write a brief narrative on an experience that had struck us in some way and which had left some residual feelings and/or recollections that might merit further exploration. We were then asked to reflect on this personal narrative, both ourselves (as we were reading it out loud to a couple of other participants) and those others who were listening to our recollection of the event from an ‘external’ perspective. In this sort of mini learning set, we then talked about what we had heard during the retelling of our story, as part of a process that session leaders Douglas Board and Rob Warwick call "immersed reflexivity"1.
My ‘striking moment' concerned a meeting that I had attended some weeks earlier in support of another independent consultant. Our aim had been to secure a contract with a major organization in the UK. Although the meeting itself was an awkward affair, with the client director exhibiting some behaviour which suggested that any resulting work would be somewhat of a challenge, the initial response was positive. By that I mean that we were asked to design and deliver the first event of a number that we had proposed for the project team, line managers and the Board. As we left, though, we shared our concerns about what, despite the outcome, had been a very unsatisfactory affair. I felt in particular that the main client didn’t ‘get’ what it was that we were proposing – and that he didn’t appear particularly interested in exploring anything beyond the mechanics (timing, attendees, reporting back, etc) of the initial workshop. These were issues that we agreed needed to be confronted sooner rather than later.
On further reflection, the fact that I’d chosen to include this seemingly trivial point in my brief narrative probably reflects my deeper personal frustration about the (metaphorical) sandwiches remaining unopened on some other occasions too!
- Rob Warwick and Douglas Board introduce the notion of "immersed reflexivity" in their forthcoming book, The Social Development of Leadership and Knowledge. Their own reflections on the OD network session can also be found here.