Organisational Development in 2020 and beyond

Liz Needham and Steven Berry reflect on developing a space for OD practitioners and consultants to grow (in the midst of a global pandemic).
Organisational Development and Design

In July 2020, I took over as Lead for the CIPD Manchester Branch OD special interest group. With such transitions, we tend to pause, take stock, think about the changes we’d like to make, and how we might build on what’s gone before. For me, this included thinking about how our group wanted to ‘show up’ in the OD space, whom we wanted to attract and, given practitioners’ current contexts, how we might add value. We explored big but good questions in developing a space where OD leaders and practitioners could meet to discuss, share and grow.

As a special interest group lead, I know that we wouldn’t be able to deliver such a lively and varied programme without the support of our Branch Ambassadors. Steven Berry joined me in the summer of 2020 as principal OD Ambassador. I’ve been so impressed with his eagerness, insights and willingness to try new things, while working with me to shape and deliver our programme. 

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Organisational Development & Design

Undoubtedly 2020 was a year when organisations, regardless of sector or size, had to adapt and evolve in response to complex challenges. Who better to be at the forefront of this response than OD practitioners? –experts in systemic organisational change. But with the fast pace of change, it can feel overwhelming to lead this work in isolation, without insights or support from other practitioners.

Steven’s key vision and programme takeaways

Our OD Group responded with a refreshed vision; to be a creative hub where OD leaders could share, collaborate and grow their practice. What better time than now to reflect back on the virtual events of last year, and our plans for 2021.

In our September 2020 event, we asked the question ‘Will your organisation’s culture help it to thrive?Zena Me, Founder of Mamucium, took us through research from the Barrett Values Centre, which explored organisational leaders and employees’ values at the pandemic’s height. We used innovative virtual reality software to visualise how values and corporate cultures had changed.

The highlight for me was taking part in a ‘felt-sense’ exercise. We were able to embody these values and imagine how the world ‘might look and feel‘ from different perspectives.

For me, the experience brought home the importance of:

  • considering personal internal factors when working through organisational change
  • thinking about how we can shape our organisation’s processes
  • what our people do, and 
  • how people think and feel about their work

In October we asked the question ‘What’s happening in different sectors?’ and heard from three HR/OD leaders about their organisation’s response to the pandemic: Michelle Hollewyn, HRPB at Asda; Sheila Lumsden OBE, Deputy Regional Director at the British Council and Carole Imrie, HRD at Marston Holding. Although their organisations are very different, we discovered common attributes critical to their successful response to the pandemic.

Word cloud completed during our online session
Word cloud completed during our online session

It was evident that each of our guest speakers had been able to reconnect their workforce with their organisation’s core purpose. They were able to convey to their people how they could make a difference at a time of national crisis. They followed through by innovating, with new technologies and partnerships that responded to the COVID challenges whilst supporting their purpose.  

‘It was helpful seeing how other organisations have coped with the past six months, and [share] some tips for how we can improve the way we do things.’

~ Participant feedback

Our final event of 2020 aimed to provide an opportunity for OD practitioners to focus on themselves by asking  the question ‘What are the emerging needs in organisations now?’ Facilitated by Zena Me and Julie Drybrough, Founder of fuchsiablue, participants shared how emerging trends and challenges impacted them as practitioners. We had many honest conversations and shared useful self-care strategies, from the importance of exercise to mindfulness and structured routines. I reflected on the need to prioritise our ‘own’ welfare if we were to be able to bring our best-selves to work and help our organisations thrive.

We’re planning a series of events throughout 2021 to explore research and insights, while continuing to provide a trustworthy space for OD practitioners to network and share knowledge and experiences. 

On 28 January, we’ll be looking at Organisational Design with Jaimini Lakhani, Founder of Lumiere Consulting. I’m looking forward to exploring what Organisational Design is, in contrast to Organisational Development, and how the current pandemic and economic conditions impact this field of specialist knowledge. I know that some of the tools and approaches will be new to me —organisational design is not something I’ve been involved in before. However, I know that Jaimini will help us all to improve our understanding and develop some useful design criteria that we can take back to our own organisations. 

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Get involved

If you’d like to get involved in our OD Group, look out for our upcoming events in our monthly newsletter (scroll down to the foot of our CIPD Showcase page to subscribe). Browse and bookmark our digital Programme of activities and of course, keep an eye on our social media channels for posts and discussions. You’ll find all the links in our online programme.

Feel free to email us any time with any questions you may have.  

Further reading

Location Manchester, England E-mail Hours Our hours vary according to our programme.
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