Are You Doing OD? Training? Consulting? Coaching? All of These?

Sections of this topic

    OD vs. Training – Or Is It?

    I’ve watched over the years as various fields and professions form firm interpretations of others. For example, many Organization Development practitioners almost look down on training as scoped to working only with individuals and not the broader context of organizations as does OD (by the way, we OD’rs prefer that you capitalize the name of our field 🙂

    Yet when asked for definitions of OD, they seem loathe to scope the role of OD at all. If definitions of OD are offered, they usually assert that OD is based on changing systems, especially through use of systems principles. They’ll even assert that OD can include training, as well as many other “interventions,” such as coaching and facilitating.

    Coaching vs. Consulting – Or Is It?

    Similarly, many coaches see consulting as being limited to giving advice. When asked for definitions of coaching, they assert that coaching is always being other-directed and based primarily on questioning. They might add, “So coaching is not consulting. It’s coming from people, rather than at them.”

    Do We Tend to Glamorize Our Own Work?

    Yet trainers are some of the most systems-based people I know – those skills aren’t limited to OD. Effective trainers in a group setting can transform a group of people. So, if the trainer is especially effective, is the trainer now an OD practitioner? Also, OD can include training, but does that mean the practitioner is no longer doing OD when he/she is merely “training”?

    Similarly, an effective consultant can have a big bag of tools, just like an effective coach. A consultant can use questioning (“coaching”?) and advice (“consulting”?), depending on the needs of the client and the context of the project at the time.

    I’m not claiming we always have the wrong definitions of these fields. I think the ongoing exploration of each field is to advantage of ourselves and our clients.

    However, I am suggesting that we be as fair when describing other fields as when describing our own.

    What do you think?


    For more resources, see the Library topics Consulting and Organizational Development.

    Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD – Authenticity Consulting, LLC – 800-971-2250
    Read my weekly blogs: Boards, Consulting and OD, Nonprofits and Strategic Planning.