Facilitating OD Conversations

By Katie Bersamin
October 24, 2022

One of the most important skills that an OD Practitioner should master is the art of facilitating organizational development conversations – to listen, understand, appreciate, and give a voice to everyone involved. Facilitation skills are used during data gathering, meetings, planning, developing employees and leaders, resolving conflicts, and for cultivating a culture of good communication in an organization.

A good facilitator:

  1. Draws out thoughts and ideas from the participants, and guides them in moving through a process together,
  2. Focuses on how people participate in the process of learning or planning, not just on what gets achieved, and
  3. Is neutral and never takes sides.

Every OD conversation is different, depending on the context and questions that must be answered. However, while context matters, we found some general core principles that support successful conversations, especially where the complexity is high.

Start With WHY

A lot of people have the tendency to start conversations with “what” instead of “why.” For change to become successful and sustainable, the purpose must be a shared one. An OD practitioner must be able to get everyone involved from the very beginning – not just leadership teams but also those who stand to be impacted by the change. We can do this by helping participants understand why there is a need for change and helping them figure out why it matters to them. “Why?” must be the first question as it establishes the purpose and inspiration for a change.

Establish the current state and envision the desired state together

Before an organization can achieve its desired state, we must first be able to co-define what the current state is and what the desired state will look like, as well as understand how far apart they are from one another. This particularly holds true for larger organizations, where it’s much easier to lose sight of the bigger picture. As OD practitioners, it’s our job to ensure that there is a common definition and understanding of what the transformation journey is going to be and what success will look like when we get there.

Approach communication from different angles

People have different interests, motivations, and ways of responding to change. This is why it’s important that OD practitioners must be able to facilitate conversations on the many aspects of an organizational development initiative – from expectations, apprehensions, commitment levels, to capabilities. OD practitioners can design a meaningful, impactful engagement process by considering all relevant angles. Depending on the scope of the project, this process can include co-creating and implementing a communication plan, developing the capacity of change champions to design and lead the process themselves, and building open communication systems that allow people to put forward their thoughts and ideas.

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