Whole-Systems Approach Proves Fruitful

Sitting down and peeling an orange, one realizes that fruit grows from the inside out. A juicy orange, a golden, tart apple and a healthy organization all have this one feature in common. They grow from the inside out.

Orange sliced

On Thursday, May 8th, an expert panel of four OD women answered questions and gave motivating and encouraging insight on the current and future trends in Organizational Development and Organizational Change. In a nut shell, the discussion can be summarized in this way: The whole-system approach to organizational development and organizational change is the wave of the future. This approach is defining the healthy growth and development of companies.

May 8th’s panel included Dawne Carlson, Sr. Director of Organizational Effectiveness for Target; Lori Wall, Business HR Leader of Cargill; Tracy Platt, Sr. Director of Human Resources at Medtronic and Anne Gotte, Director of Talent and Organizational Effectiveness at General Mills.

Looking only at the titles of these four women, the casual observer learns that OD is much more than a single approach, a single model or a single formula that works for all organizations large and small.

Perhaps it’s best to summarize the whole-systems approach by highlighting the key points given by each panelist:

Tracy Platt of Medtronic suggested that Organizational Change is on-going and evolutionary. Medtronic is famous for the pace maker, but that is no longer the largest part of the company’s business. She added that no one change model is effective for all situations and for all time. As the products change the organization needs to change. Platt’s overall message was that change with a purpose is not only inevitable, but it’s necessary to maintain a healthy and vital organization.

Lori Wall says one of her main goals at Cargill is to transform individuals to help them fit the business strategy. Building formal and informal leaders is important in an organization that is undergoing change and development. While it’s impossible for one person to change each individual within an organization, it is Wall’s goal to help create a healthy culture and environment that sustain the growth and maturation of individual leaders.

The role of OD leaders was defined by Anne Gotte of General Mills. She said in her role that she is and she isn’t part of the HR Department. Perhaps the best way to define Anne’s role is that of the central nervous system. She receives the pulse of the whole organization and uses that feedback to give the organization direction. Anne might say that she’s not one entity, but part of the greater whole. Her goal is to help individuals and teams collaborate to achieve a greater good.

Dawne Carlson reminded the audience the important of practical and working solutions. Models and theories give us a foundation and structure. Organizations are made up of individuals with unique backgrounds, not methods of operation that fit molds or models. Finding effective change models is a balance between art and science. The science provides the background and basis. The art comes from experience and practical application.

In the end, organizational change and development start with the people in the organization. Change of the people, by the people and for the people will be change that is sustainable and meaningful. Healthy change, like a healthy and delicious orange, grows and develops form the inside out.

Image courtesy of graur codrin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Recap of the MNODN May 8th "Leadership Panel Facing the Opportunities & Challenges as an OD Practitioner" by Steven Shore, MNODN Programming Volunteer