Helena Clayton | Exploring Organisational Development (OD) and Love
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Exploring Organisational Development (OD) and Love

29 Sep 2019, Posted by Helena Clayton in Work as Love in Action

On 4 November, I’m running a workshop exploring the relationship between Organisational Development (OD) and Love.

I’m part of the Faculty of Roffey Park’s MSc in People and Organisational Development and I also work regularly with OD practitioners supporting them in developing their practice. So I have a live and abiding interest in OD – from an intellectual but mostly a deeply pragmatic place.  And of course, you probably know I have a particular interest in love.

As I start to think about designing and shaping this workshop, here are few initial things that I’m wondering about, and that we’ll almost certainly explore in the workshop:

Why does love matter?

What are you seeing right now in your organisations that make you think that love might matter? If more love were present, what difference might it make? Where does love already have a strong presence in our organisations and how can we build on that? In what ways are our organisations loveless places and where are we paying a price for that?
What models and frameworks are you currently using or drawing on in your OD practice?

I’m thinking the workshop will be an opportunity to learn from your peers about models they use in their OD work – and be introduced to new ones, or be reminded of those you’d maybe forgotten. One of my practice supervisors, a few years ago, always said ‘we need to be able to name what ground we’re standing on and name the models or philosophy that inform or underpin our work and the decisions we make when we intervene’. Can you name yours? And I’ve been revisiting this question for myself too.

And then we can ask:

Which of those frameworks have scope for love?

An initial ask-around of some of my colleagues found that love didn’t appear directly in the models they used but that some, more than others, seemed to offer space for us to bring love in in some way. We can explore those models together ( I think we might end up doing a mini ‘map of the field’ of models) and look at them through the lens of love. And then ask how might our clients or the organisation (or ourselves) benefit if we used them from that perspective.

What are the values of OD (and what about your own values) and do they include love, or a form of love?

This is where we can explore what we mean by love and especially what we mean by love in relation to the workplace, to organisations and to the practice of OD. Can you use the word love itself? Or is it only ok for you to use compassion or empathy in your work? What about kindness? Are those strong enough – powerful enough – or do we need to take a stand for love?

The word love itself

Mmm, talking talking explicitly about love … is that a step too far, would it make us look too weird for our clients and stakeholders? What’s at risk for us to work more from love? How would be begin to introduce the word – to techno-rational people? To senior people? To people we need acceptance from? It’s a risky and provocative word to use and yet if, as OD practitioners we are asked to bring into the system what’s missing, then surely we need to be brave about that.

The responsibility of OD

I was recently running an OD Practitioners programme and a key theme was that their organisations are increasingly looking to the OD function to solve tough and intractable problems. What do we think about that? What are the boundaries of our role? What CAN we do? What SHOULD we do? And should we be even be thinking about adding love into the mix – a step too far, maybe, not our job…?

What would it be like (sound like, look like …) if, as OD practitioners, we actively and proactively worked from love?

We can start to get practical here. What does love look like in practice? Let’s explore love-as-a-verb …what are the things we do and could do that would be loving and yet still be a considered an OD intervention? What would a love-based practice involve? What would be in a love-based practitioner field guide?

I’m in the divergent thinking-things-through phase for this workshop. So let me know what you think of the above – and what else you’d like to explore if you were to come along. And please share if you know of others who might be up for this workshop.

If you’re free on 4 November between 10-4pm in central London you can find details here – and you don’t need to be an OD Network Europe member to sign up.

And my blog page with other love-related pieces of writing is here.

P.S my research on Love in organisations recently won the Roffey park Research competition so that will be available to read soon 🙂

Helena x

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