Three good ideas and a ‘viral leadership phenomenon’ later ….

Where the hell is Matt?

Matt used to make and play videogames.  After a couple of years he became disillusioned with the demand for nothing more than war and gangster games on X-box and in February 2003 resigned his job in Brisbane.  He used the money he’d saved to go ‘walkabout’ around Asia … until his money ran out. Prior to travelling he made a website so he could keep his family and friends updated about where he was.  A few months into his trip, a travel friend gave Matt the idea of doing a dance and have his friend record it for posting on his website.  Matt had a particular dance … the dance he did as a five-year-old.  And that’s the only dance he can do!

A couple years later, someone stumbled across the video online and passed it to someone else, who passed it to someone else, and so on, i.e. the video went semi-viral.  Someone influential at Stride Gum asked Matt if he’d be interested in taking another trip around the world to make a new video.  Matt asked if they’d be paying for it.  They said yes.  Matt thought this sounded like another good idea.

In 2006, Matt took a 6 month trip through 39 countries on all 7 continents. In that time, he danced a great deal.  The second video that resulted from this trip went a little more viral!

In 2007 Matt went back to Stride with another idea.  He realized his bad dancing wasn’t actually all that interesting, and that other people were much better at being bad at it.  He showed them his inbox, which was overflowing with emails from all over the world. He told them he wanted to travel around the world one more time and invite the people who’d written him to come out and dance too. The Stride people thought that sounded like yet another good idea, so they let him do it. And he did. This is when Matt became a leader. In the words of Derek Sivers (‘How to Start a Movement’ – see, “… what he was doing was so easy to follow … ”

The attached video is the result … and this went totally viral on YouTube … so you may have already seen it.  If you have, I think it’s worth another viewing!

My website contains further resources that may be of interest …

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What was (clearly) not taught at The London School of Economics ….

Here’s a two minute summary of the current financial crisis … enjoy!

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Organization Development – 3.5 The competencies of the effective practitioner

3.5    The competencies of the effective practitioner

It would be overly ambitious to attempt a comprehensive review of the competencies of the OD practitioner.  Rather, what follows are a few pointers that may stimulate thinking around what it takes to be effective.

  1. Familiarity with current thinking and application
  2. Psychological maturity
  3. Sensitivity in listening and observing
  4. Awareness of personal impact on others
  5. Technical background derived from training with an experienced practitioner
  6. Knowledge of both large- and small-system change strategies and creativity in adapting them to felt needs
  7. Ability to express oneself simply and clearly
  8. Ability to confront and be confronted
  9. Ability to demonstrate confidence without being arrogant
  10. Willingness to take risks

These guidelines, along with others you may find researched in the literature or establish for yourself from your own experience, can form the basis for continuing professional development.

My website contains further resources that may be of interest …

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Organization Development – 3.4 Directive vs non-directive practitioner styles

3.4    Directive vs. non-directive practitioner styles

The nature of the OD process, emerging as it does from the applied behavioural sciences, suggests the practitioner should adopt a non-directive style in his or her relationships with clients.  The differences between directive and non-directive styles are illustrated below.

Directive Non-directive
(Practitioner as technical expert) (Practitioner as process facilitator)
The client’s statement of the problem is either accepted at face value or verified by the practitioner on the basis of his/her technical expertise with regard to the problem. The client’s statement of the problem is treated as information; the problem is verified jointly by the client and the practitioner.
Little time is spent on developing the practitioner-client relationship.  The connection is generally short-term and problem-oriented. The practitioner-client relationship is viewed as essential to the process, and considerable attention is given to its development.
The solution to the problem is generally developed by the practitioner and implemented by the client. The practitioner’s responsibility is to help the client to discover and implement appropriate solutions.
The practitioner brings technical expertise to bear on the client’s problem. The practitioner helps to analyse and facilitate organizational processes.
The practitioner is primarily concerned with increasing the client’s knowledge and skill with regard to the stated problem. The practitioner is primarily concerned with improving the client’s analytical and problem-solving skills.
In general, the practitioner accomplishes the job for the client. In general, the practitioner helps the client accomplish the job.

Directive and non-directive consultancy styles summarised

In reality, a mature client-centred approach may recognise the need for occasionally being directive!

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Organization Development – 3.3 OD practitioner orientations

3.3    OD practitioner orientations

As practitioners, we all have our preferences, and these will colour the way we see our interventions – and the world in general.  A practitioner who is comfortable with team building may over-represent this focus during an OD intervention.  Similarly, a practitioner who believes that structural design is the key to producing lasting change may overly focus on job or role development.  Clearly, the more aware we are of our preferences, the less likely they are to interfere in our quest for objectivity and/or a truly client-centred approach.  Being non-directive in our approach (see next Section) may further help.  What is required, in any intervention, is an appropriate migration around, and balance of, different orientations as the OD intervention evolves.  The attention of the practitioner should not, therefore, stray too far away from the understanding that no single orientation is always, or even usually, the correct one.  The best approach is contingent upon a number of factors that include:

  • Client readiness;
  • Analysed needs;
  • Motivation;
  • Resources.

My website contains further resources that may be of interest …

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Organization Development – 3.2 Ensuring follow-through and objectivity

3.2    Ensuring follow-through and objectivity

The establishment of what appear to be realistic action plans doesn’t guarantee follow-through!  Possible causes here include:

  • Incomplete buy-in by all members of the group – particularly prevalent if peer pressure has been a feature of the action-planning process;
  • Inappropriate motivations for OD (refer back to Section 1.3);
  • Inability to gain appropriate control over the resources that are critical to the implementation of the action plan;
  • Insufficient attention being paid to evaluation and revision sessions;
  • A lack of understanding around the amount of maintenance work required to follow-though on an OD effort.

These causes, and their symptoms, may only reveal themselves once an implementation is underway.  This, again, highlights the importance of seeing OD as being composed of ‘… a number of interdependent steps or phases, each of which builds on the previous one’ (Section 1.1).

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Organization Development – 3.1 The quality and use of action plans

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3.     Action Planning – The End of the Beginning


The content of this section is largely based on the experience of the author and the reflections of fellow OD practitioners.  They are included to encourage further reflection – an essential part of Continuing Professional Development for the OD practitioner.

3.1    The quality and use of action plans

It is essential that the action plans that are developed during an OD intervention contain SMARTER objectives at all levels (Specific, Measurable, Agreed, Realistic, Timely, Evaluated and Revised when necessary).

It may take the novice practitioner by surprise to find that the action planning stage of an OD intervention is often accompanied by anxiety and negative reactions.  Potential contributors here include:

  • The client’s realization of the amount of time required to bring about change;
  • The tendency to attempt to address all of the issues that have arisen during the data gathering, analysis and problem-solving stages;
  • The emotional ‘rebound’ that follows the enthusiasm associated with ‘seeing the light’ and having worked through difficult issues.

During this phase, the practitioner must ensure s/he is not part of the problem!  It is essential to ask:

  • Am I getting caught up in the ‘spirit of the moment’?
  • Do I believe the group can deal effectively with all the surfaced issues during the timeframe set?

Beyond this, there are actions the practitioner can take to reduce anxiety and negative reactions.  These include:

  • Allowing a cooling-off period between analysis and solution to ensure a degree of realism that might otherwise be over-ridden;
  • Reminding the group that there will be the usual competition for their time when they return back to their normal working environment;
  • Offering own experience and opinions if it is felt that plans are of questionable quality and feasibility.

My website contains further resources that may be of interest …

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