landc10cover384x512OD might stand for OverDose instead of Organization Development. Beware of the overdose…! If you want to make a difference, you need focus and presence. Because WHO you are, defines HOW you practice your expertise: the WHAT. If you are mindfully present, you’ll engage people. Nothing can make a difference but being present and connecting from who you are.

So: don’t spread yourself too thin! Don’t major in minor things… Focus on essentials and BE there – to lead and guide change.

Beware of OD – BE YOU!

I attended one of the conferences of the International Society for Organization Development & Change (ISODC). Approximately fifty OD professionals traveled to Amsterdam from all over the world for a conference with pre- and post-conference workshops. The program covered a wide array of topics (by different presenters). Think of global leadership development, e-learning, women development in Rwanda, global OD, yoga and management, transcultural competence, cultural dilemmas, servant leadership, innovation, fostering cultures of creativity, health and vitality in organizations, change programs in the digital age, open space for societal change – and whatnot.
Jet-lagged or not, participants engaged in multiple sessions from 8.30 in the morning until 6.30 PM. Meanwhile, people were answering phone calls, checking email or writing pieces or proposals in the breaks – and networking while touring downtown Amsterdam in the evenings. Do you get the picture?


I joked that OD stands for OverDose instead of Organization Development. There might be some truth in that. Beware of the overdose…! For myself and my fellow OD-practitioners – I recommend we read Greg McKeown’s book Essentialism. Let’s check: What are the essentials? How can we focus on what matters most and make a difference? How can we stay healthy and bring our presence to a situation – and thus truly facilitate change and development? Doing one meaningful thing mindfully at any point in time…? With full attention?
OD stands for Over Dose instead of Organization Development Click To Tweet
We have a rewarding but very demanding profession. Essentialism and mindfulness are continuous points of development for OD & Change professionals, as well as leaders.

Everything at once?

And it’s not just the pace of our lives and work, but also the overwhelming variety of topics we deal with. In a way, OD is about “everything”. When working with people in organizations, you’re working (consciously or not) with: individual psychology, health and energy, human interactions, products and quality, accounting, technology, strategy, systems, sustainability, education, service, sales, marketing and markets – communities, society, the world.

So how do we focus and set boundaries on what we can or cannot do in a given situation? How do we take on the “provocateur’s role” in change – instead of pleasing our clients and promising too much – out of fear to lose the assignment? With good intentions of wanting to “fix” everything at the same time? As a reminder and refreshment for all OD-practitioners and leaders alike – read about the Provocateur’s role in change by Daryl Conner. Set your boundaries clearly, firmly and kindly. Don’t over-promise and dare to say NO!

Making a Difference

I also discovered how OD & Change practitioners are very open-minded, smart, good-willing people who would like to make a difference – not just to organizations but in the world as well. It made me feel very much at home. Some of us make their difference while leading their organizational projects (and teaching people reflection and communication skills for instance) while others take on voluntary projects in society. I enjoyed case stories about 350 pre-schools that were founded in the slums of Los Angeles with hardly any drop-outs: teaching kids and developing the neighborhood at the same time. Some of us arranged an open space in Kiev for 250 people from both sides and created mutual understanding as well as a declaration of desired changes that both parties agreed on (which is sent to the Ukrainian government). A beautiful story – that is not over yet. Others visited South Africa during apartheid or worked with Russian people during the Cold War. We are on a joint path to creating social change as well.
I like this level of caring and consciousness. To keep up the good work, it’s crucial to not exhaust ourselves and more importantly, discourage ourselves. We sometimes do this, when we see how much work still needs to be done. Slowly, but surely, we’re making a difference. One baby step at a time, but in the tiny “fractals” of change, we tickle the whole to start reflecting those fractals or bubbles of development – and kindness.

Who you are matters most

The conference was a co-creation of many presenters, each contributing their lecture, speech, case study or workshop/exercise. That in itself is entertaining – it’s a bit of everything. Remember we discussed the three levels of “what, how and who” before?

WHAT you do or present is your expertise – it’s information. But HOW you share it with the group – makes the difference for the audience. This HOW is not just a skill; it’s energy that reflects WHO you are as a person. It’s your style, personality, openness, the level of energy – it’s how much of yourself you’re willing and able to show.
To keep up the good work, do not exhaust and discourage yourself Click To Tweet
If you’ve developed WHO you are (meaning: you did your homework and got rid of fear, shame, pride, and you’re clear on your purpose), you are a much better presenter. Then you can be yourself in front of an audience, fully present, alert and aware of what happens in the room. You hold the space, and the audience is tied to your lips, fully engaged. As are you, responding and adjusting your contribution to impact the audience…and magic happens in that space. It’s beautiful to see when this happens.
You can have an important What, but if How you present is monotonous and Who you are remains hidden while you read your speech from a paper, avoiding eye contact – you lose me.
While you can present a “What” that I didn’t expect to be interesting – but if your How entices me – and Who you are is fully present… then you engage me! And I learn something new.
I think we should look for those Who have developed themselves – both in conferences and change and leadership positions – because they make the real difference. They energize, engage and empower everyone they work with.

By the way, you can join the International Society for Organization Development & Change (ISODC).

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