Moving down the mountain

What are the best pathways to move high level ideas into practical plans? And should OD professionals be involved with social and political change? Agi Kertynska shares her views…
The ODN Europe 2016 was my first conference where everything was… organisational development (OD). There was an army of OD professionals passionate about dialogic approaches, OD gurus and open spaces with 15 groups at a time. I was curious, confused but open to embrace the atmosphere, learning and meet like-minded (or not) people.
I left the conference inspired and with new contacts. I also left more aware of the NHS developmental journey and feeling closer to fellow NHS colleagues Karen Dumain, Paul Taylor, Cat Hase, Cath Heaney and Hendrika Santer-Bream. When I began thinking about what I wanted to write in this blog I went back to Gervase Bushe’s suggestion to identify what I cared about. 
Two experiences I would love to share
The first was the open space session I convened. All participants before the conference were invited to share topics they wanted to talk about. In the spirit of opportunism I threw ‘moving down the mountain’ into the pot without much confidence it would be picked up by the organisers.
I wanted to explore how we can translate high level ideas into practical plans. This was very timely for me (and, as it turned out, for other participants) as I'm currently working on the implementation of a clinical strategy. I was pleasantly surprised when five other people joined me, each representing different industries and sectors.
We had a rich, free-flowing discussion during which all of us shared our challenges and ideas.  For example, Jean Neumann from the Tavistock Institute advocated action research. Jean used our metaphor of a mountain and showed us three ways we could approach our challenge:
·         Cascading gradually through different levels of staff.
·         Going diagonally from executive level straight to the front line.
·         Starting bottom up.
         Whatever path you choose at each stage of your work you should ask yourself the following questions: 
·         What have we learned?
·         Who should be involved? 
·         In what way should they be involved?
Our main conclusions from our session were to have a support group and create conditions to hear employees’ voices and involve them in the creation. We also thought that it was practical to start ‘small’, embrace resistance (a great source of information about an organisation) and have an imaginary room 101 (for everything that doesn’t work) as well as room 201 (for all the good stuff that does work).
The other experience which made an enormous impact on me was the first part of Mee-Yan Cheung Judge’s talk. She focused on the complexity of the outside world and the role OD practitioners could and should play in it. I have recently been thinking about the impartiality of OD/HR professionals so I was struck by Mee-Yan’s invitation to be active. She mentioned conflicts and the general political situation in the world. It was a relief for me as up to this moment in the conference we were quite insular. After all, OD practitioners, whose practice is grounded on the principles of humanity, have powerful tools to influence others, even on the global scale.
This got me thinking whether we have a duty, since we have variety of tools, to be more active in the area of social and political change. I want to say yes. However, Mee-Yan challenged us to consider and make sure we are clear on whether what we have to offer is definitely what the world needs. 
My answer to that is that as long as the world needs better conversations, some sort of dialogue and better relationships – then we can and should act. 
Let’s convene an open space about it. Who’s in?
 Agi Kertynska is an organisational development practitioner at Camden and Islington NHS Foundation Trust.

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