Source: Practicing OD, December 2003
The age of the HR/OD practitioner is here. In today’s organizations, human resource professionals are being called upon to go beyond traditional elements of their job to engage strategically in organizational efforts that drive business cultures and results. This shift in the HR function requires a different set of skills: in addition to the more transactional competencies that have historically been valued, it requires a deeper facility for personal impact, emotional intelligence, and conscious use of self. HR leaders who recognize the value in developing themselves and who take steps to do so will sit as equals with other key decision makers in a company’s leadership.
There are No “Ten-Step Answers”
Too often, individuals practicing OD—particularly those new to the discipline—look for the ten-step answer to an issue. But OD is not like that: there is no step one, two, three to “doing OD.” There are approaches, tools, and models, but it is a discipline that is highly influenced by the style of the practitioner and the culture in which an initiative is taking place. What works in one organization may not work in another. Even within the same organization, initiatives may not work from one department to the next, and certainly not from one country to another. As the facilitator in any OD effort, you are the turn-key element. You have the ability to tailor initiatives to suit a culture and the people within it. Outcomes achieved depend upon your awareness—of your impact, of others, of the dynamics in the organization, and of the demands of the marketplace. You must, therefore, begin to see yourself as being as important to any OD initiative as the models you reference or the tools you employ.
The Art of OD
Being a skilled human resource practitioner in this day and age is part science, part art. It requires you to possess both technical knowledge of the tools and methodologies available, as well as the ability to position them internally and implement them successfully. Development opportunities to give HR professionals deeper OD skills—when they happen at all—often focus on the mechanics of "doing OD." This approach misses the primary tool of any OD initiative: the self. The goal of any development opportunities, therefore, should include practical tools and techniques that allow you to focus on the art of OD: namely, to increase your level of awareness and your ability to consciously choose your actions as an HR/OD practitioner.
Developing the Self
Given the importance of the practitioner in OD initiatives, HR is a field that can no longer afford to take the need for self-reflection lightly. Indeed, Geoffrey Bellman believes (1990), “For us as consultants, be internal or external [sic], it is especially important to understand who we are and what we bring to others…This means staying in touch with the primary tool of our trade: ourselves.” Developing your capacity as an HR/OD practitioner begins the moment you realize that you are your own best tool. Going further, recognize that your currency is in your interactions: your ability to interact with everyone from top management to frontline workers, and to leverage those relationships to achieve business objectives.
As the role of the HR/OD professional grows more significant with the increasing complexity of our work worlds, the need for talented practitioners escalates exponentially. Development efforts that spark the art/science connection and grow HR professionals' capacity to use themselves as tools in their work should be on the agenda of every head of human resources, especially as they look to deliver on their function's promise of becoming true, strategic business partners.
© 2003, Mindy Hall, Ph.D.