Jan 28, 2007

Stories as diagnostic tools

As OD professionals and consultants, the most important critical skill that we can develop is the skill of diagnosis.

Diagnosis, though, is not just to figure out what is wrong but to get an overall sense of the client organization. Sense of reality is a tricky business. What is visible and stated is sometimes only a part of the whole reality. Organizational realities exist at various levels.

There is the level of reality that is in stated documents and mission statements. These unfortunately is the 'espoused cause and value' that is stated. For example an organization might state that its primary goal is to add value to the lives of the customer, but in reality its primary goal is to garner a high marketshare. Sometimes these two realities, the 'espoused' and the 'actual' might be in accordance, and that is when organizational magic happens. However in most organizations these are divergent and give rise to customer and employee cynicism.

As an OD consultant, there are many tools one can employ to diagnose the reality at work in an organization.

One can do a survey of attitude and behavior in an organization, but we always need to realise as Prasad says that an act of measurement in a complex human system is also an act of intervention.

One can interview stakeholders and client members to find out what is working and what is hindering people and teams to be effective.

One can also observe groups as they work together to observe the processes of decision making, negotiation and conflict management to come to a conclusion if effectiveness can be increased.

One of the most interesting ways to know the 'unexpressed reality' of organizations is to listen to the myths and stories of the organization. Stories and myths are richer, full of emotion and convey an idea better to people than written reports. Listening to what the myth or story conveys and what it also does not say is an important element to determine what is the reality of organizational life at that point of time and space. Shawn has some great examples here.

See the ways and processes to do organizational diagnosis here.