Confronted with the dismal reality that nearly two-thirds of change efforts fail, David Bradford and W. Warner Burke ask honest, provocative questions about the decline and, possibly, demise of organizational development (OD) in Reinventing Organization Development. In a compilation of thoughts by leaders in the field, including Jerry Porras and Chris Argyris, the book offers a compilation of flaws in the practice that have led to this discouraging state of affairs:
OD has become too technique driven, with practitioners just fitting the tools in their kits to every situation. It now focuses too heavily on human processes, with many interventions devolving into touchy-feely encounter sessions addressing no business need or resolving any present problem.
“OD people” lack credibility with management and everybody else: They aren’t business people, they don’t talk like business people, and they don’t understand business issues.
But Bradford and Burke say there is hope, but OD needs to seek alignments within its own systems. OD needs to start guarding itself, with those involved in professional organizations establishing standards, those in research and practice aligning their interests, those in academia monitoring programs to ensure they are teaching sound practice, and those in the field guarding against one another. The book is a great, surprisingly entertaining read, with its quasi-conversational tone and honest, kick-in-the-seat-of-the-pants talk. I imagine someone had to fight to include the edgy chapter, “The future of OD, or Why Don’t They Take the Tubes out of Grandma?” and I admire the authors for it. —J.B.
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