Apr 18, 2007

When a client does not get it

Aastha asks:
Others who've become part of an archaic organizational machinery; have no idea why they're doing what they're doing, other than to make money; and visualize their business in terms of financial equations, functions, divides, vaguely related roles, will find it easier to pick out the whole 'make people happier' piece and put it in the overhead column.

As an OD person, this places an imminent dilemma for us: it's immensely satisfying and fruitful to work with the first type of business. But god knows the second needs change a lot more.

It is frustrating for OD people to work with such businesses, where "people processes" are viewed as overhead, because it also says to me that they view their people as overhead.

You know, those people who say "People are our most important asset (and we wish we could save some cost there!)"

These business leaders are the type of people who are typically assholes as Bob Sutton describes them in his new book. Assholes and jerks. People who would not hesitate to demean and humiliate co-workers. Transforming and changing such workplaces is possible, but only if you fire all the assholes. It's not just a behavioral change that we are talking about but an attitudinal change. These views are shaped by a person's own self-concept and the worldview he/she has. It cannot be changed by OD professionals like us in 2-3 months of client engagement.

I was having an email conversation on Prof. Sutton's book with a very senior Organizational Development consultant who's based in Delhi and he wrote:

in my experience an unwritten rule of my practice is for A**h's to get publicly exposed with an opportunity for reform. some do reform partially many end up leaving the organisation.

Thankfully I am no longer part of an organization. In many workplaces jerks are tolerated and even promoted. If you are part of such an organization, then my advice is to quit. Or you'll model your behavior on such jerks and become one too.

Related readings:

Guy Kawasaki's post on Prof. Sutton's book