THE ROOTS OF ORGANIZATION DEVELOPMENT, PART 1

(C) copyright 1995 by Robert H. Rouda -- all rights reserved

This story originally appeared in the Spectrum, a publication of the American Society for Training and Development, Southern Minnesota Section, in April 1995. It also appeared in the Minnesota ODN Newsletter, a publication of the Minnesota Organization Development Network, in April 1995.

Every year in the Spring, my parents told me a story. As their parents told it to them. And each year, the story was updated and reinterpreted in light of the environment of the times. Let me tell this story to you:

It's about the first OD Intervention in recorded history, and it's probably the largest and most successful developmental event ever. Talk about large-scale strategic change -- six hundred thousand people gathered for this 3-day meeting. Really!

These people had previously been employed in an old-fashioned company famous for its unresponsive, top-down management structure, which strongly suppressed attempts at individual empowerment, creativity, or self-directed leadership. (Actually, it was like they were all working for the government.) The company produced useless products and promoted pyramid schemes. Things were so bad in this sweatshop that there are at least ten recorded cases of suspected serious industrial sabotage. Then there were retrenchments, downsizings and layoffs -- all disguised as reengineering, of course.

With the help of a skilled change agent (who had internal credentials combined with outside experience) they all proceeded to pack up and move out. Remaining was out of the question and there were no other employers in the area. The group spent the next 50 days in total confusion and were just plain lost. The twelve Intact Teams realized that they had to stop competing and agreed to let the change agent design an appropriate intervention. They chose a site somewhere in the desert at the foot of a mountain -- not the best accommodations, but at least everyone was away for an uninterrupted period.

The large scale event was an outstanding success. (Some likened it to a religious transformation.) From this chaos they developed one of the most famous Vision Statements in history. Simply put, they decided that together they would agree to "repair the world", to work to finish the work of Creation and bring the Aquarian Age to reality. And not only did everyone buy-in, they promised to continue the work until it was completed, no matter how many generations it would take.

As a start, their organization became the dominant commercial power in the region, although it took a generation. The strategic plan was long on vision; and we're still working out the tactics a hundred generations later. Thanks to the recent organized development of Organization Development, we're now in a time of great leverage and expect to make significant progress towards our goals in the coming decades.

Oh, yes. The internal consultant and the External Consultant eventually got around to writing up the Proceedings and expanded it into a series of five books which have been on the best seller lists ever since. In fact, these books became the foundation of an extremely large library of derivative papers and commentaries.

That's what I'm going to tell my children this year. As usual, we'll have a big dinner and invite the relatives.


-- Bob Rouda, April 1995