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Taken from The Roles of Organisation Development by Annamaria Garden

I was once hired to teach the managers of a company which had just bought out Nokia. The message I had to give them was that they, in the newly acquiring company were, for the most part, to ‘not go near Nokia’. Specifically, to not over-manage them. Why hire me to teach them that? They were already primed to think very carefully about how they manage this acquisition because they had woefully managed a prior acquisition in the US. They winced at what had happened in this latter company. However, they had, at least, been ‘unfrozen’. My task was to teach them a case on this difficult acquisition and then begin a discussion on their new one, Nokia.

The primary reason they wanted this was that there was still an enormous danger of mismanagement because Nokia was small and they were large; they needed a massive cultural shift to do it and they had never achieved that before. Nokia was creative still and the acquiring company wanted to keep it that way. They, used to being a large action-oriented company, needed hearts and minds to be retrained for this new acquisition to be a success. Also, they had to assess the hearts and minds of Nokia for the acquisition to be a success. Action-man managers that they were, they needed to sit still and wonder for a while before doing anything to the new company. They knew that even one wrong sentence could harm the buy-out because of the sensitivities of the smaller Nokia. Each one of the top 200 managers in the larger acquiring company came through the workshop I ran with two others. My session could have been entitled ‘Leaving Nokia to stand on its own two feet’ or ‘Not stepping on Nokia’.

The point was that these managers had to think and act more psychologically and wisely than they were used to. They were used to being micro-managers and, at that stage, were not very creative. What resources could they draw on? Is there a role they could draw on? Yes, I call it the Cultivator. This role is where it makes best sense to train yourself to sit on your hands and wait. Is this what we learn in working with companies? No, – even OD people can become a bit like heroic managers.

As it happened, they were astute enough, particularly with a past failed acquisition as a contrast spurring them on, to be what I would call psychological interpreters/OD people, not just straightforward business managers. Many people would attribute the managers’ actions to common sense. I view these actions from a psychological reference. They were being psychologically intelligent.

The Roles of Organisation Development

by Annamaria Garden is now available from Gower

GARDEN PPC(240X156)path

Dr Garden found that she did not think in terms of formal roles or roles as typically described in the organisational development or management literature. Instead, she described what she did in terms of: the Seer, Translator, Cultivator, Catalyst, Navigator, Teacher, Guardian. These are presented primarily as roles for OD people but managers would be wise to adopt them also. They are current across the world in any organisation.