Several years ago, as an in-company OD manager, I attended a series of inter-company meetings in central London. These had been set up to enable practitioners to share their experience of dealing with a range of common issues relating to organizational design, management development, leadership practice, and so on.
We began each session by summarizing what we were doing in our own organizations to address the particular topic under review. Without fail, and regardless of the theme being discussed, a picture emerged of people either doing, about to do, or having done and given up, what everyone else was doing, about to do, or had done and given up.
It seems to me that little has changed in the intervening years to suggest that anything other than these same general responses would be found today. So is it inevitable that, despite their continuing disappointments, managers will remain locked-in to this ‘love-it-hate-it’ cycle? Or will they join those who have begun to take seriously the real-world ‘wiggliness’ of organization that they find themselves dealing with day in, day out?
Getting on... by getting off
Those who do get off this merry-go-round of fads and fashions recognize that the seemingly disjointed and fragmentary nature of their day-to-day (inter-)actions is not a sign of dysfunction or substandard performance. It is the very essence of their role. In finding their way through the challenges that they face, they pay little attention to the neatly packaged prescriptions that offer superficially attractive but ultimately illusory promises of sure-fire results. Instead, they rely on their own practical judgement and that of their colleagues. It is also through these same day-to-day interactions that the meaning and value of their individual and collective practice emerges and that they continue to develop their craft.