Category Archives: organizational development

Human Development (HD) Can Benefit from Organizational Development (OD)

human development
Image by ElisaRiva from Pixabay

Human development is our greatest challenge as a species no matter how technically advanced we become. Digitalization beckons our human development. How can we improve human race relations? Businesses have organization development (OD) to improve relationships and human performance within organizations. If the general human population placed as much emphasis and resources as businesses do on achieving organization development goals, human development would take giant leaps forward. Humankind would benefit and prosper.

Achievable human development goals

How wonderful would it be for humankind to achieve human appropriate OD goals? Below are generally accepted organization development goals. I replaced two words. I changed the word “employees” to humans and “organization” to humankind. Let’s have a look and see how these achievable human goals would read.

1. To increase the level of inter-personal trust among humans.
2. To increase humans’ level of satisfaction and commitment. (In the original form commitment is about the organization’s mission and values. Here it refers to the greater human good—posterity).
3. To confront problems instead of neglecting them.
4. To effectively manage conflict.
5. To increase cooperation and collaboration among humans.
6. To increase humankind’s problem-solving ability.
7. To put in place processes that will help improve the ongoing operation of humankind continuously.

Sounds good to me!

Humanship: Achieving goals that benefit humankind

How committed are we as a human race to achieve these goals? Look closely at each goal and think globally about where we stand today. What comes to mind? How would you score the world on each point? It becomes quite clear that organization development specialists could easily make a career shift to become human development specialists if such positions existed. Maybe governments should consider it. There would be high demand worldwide! A whole new job market. One that requires high emotional intelligence (EI). A job that cannot be easily replaced with artificial intelligence (AI).

I name the process of achieving these human evolutionary goals as “humanship”. You can read more about it in my blog post titled, “Relationship: How the word undermines itself”. According to the OD objectives, whether in business or society, human development is hampered by a lack of trust, funding, value, ethics, conflict resolution skills, emotional regulation, problem-solving skills, mentors, models, and social incentives to develop collectively as a human race. How are the essential human skills needed to achieve these seven goals incorporated in education and training curriculums?

Business development models hamper human development

Why do we struggle as humans to collectively achieve goals 1-7? What impedes human development in addition to what was mentioned above? We mistakingly apply the business development model—profit and market growth—to the human development model. Herein lies the problem.

Businesses achieve profit and growth when other businesses are not as successful in achieving their financial and market goals. Humans, on the other hand, do not profit and grow when other humans are not successful in achieving their goals.  That is the difference. On the contrary, social, economical, and political inequalities promote jealousy, envy, hatred, greed, corruption, crime, and conflict. Unfortunately, to the detriment of our collective well-being, we have primarily adopted the business model of growth and profit as the model for our human development.

Human evolution is not a zero-sum game

The prevalence of consumerism preached daily through media and advertisement has brainwashed us into believing that humans should develop like businesses. Here is what we are told. Humans need to build capital. Humans need to continuously enlarge their market share by amassing assets. We need to become more financially profitable. This is a zero-sum game as there is only so much land, resources, and wealth to go around. The more one acquires the fewer others have. This model may work for business development, but for humans, it can be catastrophic.  The global economy is continuously expanding. As it becomes more interconnected a business model based on the zero-sum mentality becomes even more possible. This too is dangerous when too much influence falls in the hands of a few players. Human evolution works best and is sustainable when we all collectively benefit. Businesses tend to grow at the expense of others, humans do not.

Organization development goals can and should be human development goals. If OD goals can improve human collaboration and performance in the workplace they can also do so in local, regional, and global communities. For this to happen, the terms growth and profit must be redefined for human beings. Humans must view growth and profit as a collective benefit. Businesses grow and profit by monopolizing resources and taking away sales from competitors. Humans grow and profit by sharing resources and giving to others by not seeing them as adversaries but as allies.

About the author

Jean-Pierre is a Human Systems Facilitator specializing in Conflict Resolution, Intergenerational Dialogue, and Psychological Safety. He accompanies organizations in fully integrating their human resource potential by facilitating group processes that foster authenticity, intention, and collective wisdom. He is the creator of the EPIC Model of development and the author of What You Can Learn from Your Teenager: Lessons in Parenting and Personal Growth.

Relationship: How the word undermines itself

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Relationships define who we are

Relationships are vital to human existence. They take on numerous forms in families and partnerships and exist in all systems. We are essentially in some degree of relationship with somebody at any point in time. Much of how we define ourselves and others is through relationships.

Here is an example: I am a mother, wife, sister, vegetarian, painter, swimmer, and writer. Some of these categories describe what the person does. However, all identify her as someone similar to others. At least one other person is like her in some way and sometimes that has more meaning than the activity or classification itself. We even conceptualize and make decisions about experiences and objects with one another, whether buying a consumer product or deciding where to go on holiday.

Hierarchical relationships can lead to injustices

Human relationships can be hierarchal and have certain responsibilities associated with each person or group involved. The level of hierarchy and degree of responsibility is subjective. Outside influences such as culture, race, gender, or tradition usually have a significant influence on this decision as well.

Look at the definition of relationship by Oxford Dictionary. Complications can arise with definition 1.2 which reads as follows:

“The way in which two or more people or groups regard and behave towards each other.” 

Herein lies the potential for maltreatment between individuals and groups. How one party regards the other will influence how that party behaves towards the other. Likewise, how one party is being treated by the other will influence how it regards that party. Here are some examples of relationships where hierarchies do or may exist:

parent-child              teacher-student               employer-employee     doctor-patient          prison guard-prisoner             clerk-customer              wealthy-poor          educated-non-educated      

With real or perceived hierarchy, either party can easily lose sight that both are human and have shared needs. By putting aside how they are perceived through title and status, each is better able to see the other as a person. This makes the obvious visible. Perceived or real abuse of power quickly diminishes the ability and need to relate and understand one another as humans.

Relationships are first and foremost human

We often forget that our most basic relationship to one another is human to human. We tend to make it relational by making it title to title, status to status, or label to label. Forgetting this simple fact puts any individual and group relationship at risk of unjust treatment. Our humanness always exists in any relationship regardless of the nature of the relationship.

A new word like humanship or personship needs to replace the second part of definition 1.2–how we behave towards each other–to help remind everyone that our most fundamental connection is human to human. This is necessary to minimize unhealthy and harmful relationships. How are you humanly treating the other person in the relationship is the more important question. This question minimizes the harmful impact of real or perceived abuses of hierarchy. It can help stop the abuse of power or the mistreatment of others in dysfunctional relationships.

For example, a wealthy person may feel superior to someone of lower economic status, purely because of the definition of the relationship, which differentiates between the amount of accumulated wealth and purchasing power ability. The definition of the relationship alone points out differences of status which can influence unjust attitudes and treatment of one another. Another example could be a school principal seeing her role as more important to the janitor due to the differences in job title, position on an organizational chart, and responsibilities. In both cases, the relationship does not diminish the fact that each person has their value in the system.

Limit the definition of the word relationship

The word relationship should just describe how two people or groups are connected and not describe attitudes and behaviors towards each other. Why? Because of the differing roles and duties—more so when hierarchy exists—inherent in relationships can diminish one’s ability to regard and treat the other as a person. One can be easily consumed by how the roles in the relationship should be played out according to societal norms, disregarding the human element. Let’s revisit some previous examples by replacing the word “relationship” with the words humanship/personship to describe how one regards and behaves towards the other.

Using humanship/personship to clarify humanness

My relationship to Mary is that she is unemployed and begging. I pass by her each day on my way to work. What is your personship to Mary? My personship to Mary is one of acknowledgment and concern as she is a person with the same human needs as me. I greet her and occasionally give her some change.

What is your relationship to John? John is our school janitor. How is your humanship like with John? My humanship to John is appreciative and respectful. His contribution to the school’s maintenance and cleanliness is imperative in creating a positive learning environment. I tell him that often.

For the sake of all relationships, the word we use to define how individuals and groups regard and treat one another needs to stress commonalities and humanness and not denote differences or hierarchy. The word relationship, by its definition, undermines that goal as people and groups are in numerous forms of relationships where differences, not similarities, are highlighted. The words personship or humanship keeps our fundamental connection to one another as person to person or human to human. This helps improve any relationship by ensuring positive regard and proper treatment of one another regardless of the relationship. Using either personship or humanship removes the hierarchical status inherent in most relationships and with it superior attitudes and behavior that may arise.

We are always behaving to fulfill shared basic human needs regardless of the relationship we are in when doing so. Next time you are asked “What is your relationship like with …..?” begin your answer with “My personship/humanship with….” Notice if there is a difference in how you conceptualized the relationship. How did your attitude and behaviors change toward the person or group?

Basic needs bind us all regardless of our relationship to one another
Basic needs bind us all regardless of our relationship to one another

Conflict Resolution — A fresh look

Approach conflict resolution like you would crossing a river
Image courtesy of Yodod /

Why do you encounter the same conflict over and over? Probably because you are using the same strategy you have been using many times before. Conflict resolution is not achieved because for you it is. Conflict resolution works best when those involved can identify the particulars that make this situation different from the last.

Successful problem solving requires you to look at all situations with a fresh perspective no matter how similar they look. The hiker above may have crossed the stream from the same point a hundred times, but he has never crossed it the same way twice. Why?

Water flow and levels are in constant flux due to rainfall. Water temperature varies with the weather. The stones on which the hiker steps on are weathered or not in the same place. These are but a few of the changes that exist each time the hiker crosses the stream even if it is at the same point.

It is futile to imagine crossing the river in exactly the same manner. Similarly, there is no point in looking at the same student, child, or employee sitting before you in the same regard as the last time you were in a conflict resolution situation with them. No matter how familiar a conflict feels, there is always something different about it.

What is different this time? How can this difference play a key role in resolving the issue? How can you get those involved in the conflict — possibly you — to see how these key nuances could get you to a resolution, just like the hiker has to roll up his pant leg higher because the water level is a bit higher than the last time he crossed due to the excessive rainfall the day before.

For more tips check out Conflict Resolution Strategies

Negotiation is like a spinning coin

A spinning coin represents a successful negotiation
Spinning coin represents a successful negotiation

Negotiation is a process used often at work or at home and can be solved by spinning rather than flipping it. Flipping a coin when an agreement cannot be reached is not always an option, nor is it the preferred way to resolve an issue. Furthermore, the outcome of only one winning is not sustainable if both parties are bound to abide by the resolution. The long-term impact of a successful negotiation will increase if both sides come out feeling they have gained from the agreement.

Fortunately a coin has three sides and not two! It is the edge that connects both sides and actually allows both parties to see all interests when it is spun on its edge. The edge is usually not as ornate as the sides but its purpose is not to be showy. What does the edge of your coin represent in your particular negotiation?

Focus on the edge of the coin and spend less time wishing for heads and not wanting tails or vice versa. You will only be disillusioned and disappointed if you are hoping to be the sole winner. A sustainable negotiation has neither a winner nor a loser. Although both sides are hoping to gain something, the aim is to keep the relationship in balance to prevent the coin from falling on one side.

When a coin is spun on its edge, one has the impression that the coin is in a perpetual state of heads and tails, with no predominant side showing. The end of a successful negotiation will feel the same. A spinning coin means both sides are equally represented at all times. A spinning coin, however, requires constant attention or else it will fall to a favored side. What will it take for you and the other stakeholder to keep the coin spinning so that the outcome from the negotiation may last?

Changing Your Focus Creates New Possibilities

Screen Shot 2014-05-07 at 12.01.36 PMIt is not what we look at that bothers us, rather it is what we choose to focus on. The young woman has an object of interest in her sights and is now focusing more closely on a particular aspect of the subject. What she focuses on will determine the outcome of the impression she makes. Another photographer may focus on another part of the subject giving it a new perspective and new meaning.

The Greek Stoic philosopher Epictetus stated that people are not disturbed by things but by the view they have of them. So is the case when leaders are confronted with organizational issues with subordinates or when a parent is working out a problem with a child. Contention arises when we neither make an attempt to focus on mutual interests nor seek to understand other perspectives.

When this occurs with organizations that service young people or in the parent/child case, the young people feel the brunt of the stalemate or battle. In the former, a worker’s strike or contemptuous attitude to spite administration or workers could adversely impact services causing quality to diminish. An organization’s mission could be compromised. In the latter case, a parent may use punishment or restrictions until the child concedes or the child may become defiant and obstinate if needs are not heard or met.

Those effective at problem-solving have a knack for looking at something from all perspectives, broadening his or her level of understanding, therefore allowing greater possibilities to find a resolution where all parties are satisfied. My upcoming book, What You Can Learn From Your Teenager: Lessons in Parenting and Personal Growth, offers parents the possibility to minimize these setbacks and negative impact on the parent/child relationship by changing how they look at their teenager. The book gives parents an opportunity to focus on all aspects of their adolescent, resulting in a more balanced and healthy relationship. And as a bonus, the parent may even learn something about themselves in the process.