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Dimensions of Individual Performance
For some reason, getting motivated around this week’s assignment was a particular challenge. Then, I decided to crack open my Winter copy of OD Practitioner (there’s three of them waiting to be read), “The Art and Joy of Practicing OD”. Thumbing my way through the pages, I found the perfect article to pique my interest, and hopefully yours:
“Energetics and OD”, by Alla Heorhiadi and John Conbere, Vol. 40, No. 1, 2008. pp. 36-39
The gist of this article is that it focuses on energies as an essential resource in the OD Toolkit, and provides examples to demonstrate awareness of its existence, and an intervention to create individual and organizational readiness prior to a followup intervention addressing change. Failure to take into account the ‘subtle energies’ can be a key factor in the failure of more costly and time consuming OD / Performance Interventions, which may be doomed to fail from the outset.
There’s a common phrase with a kernel of truth: People plan, G-d laughs.
Complexity theory shows us that there strategic planning and scientific management are discrete points in time, certainly not the answer. Work life, in fact, life itself is characterized by the non-linear dynamic. “Organizational life never proceeds so smoothly that choices are always realized so that chance events have also to be dealt with and this too is part of the management role.” (Ralph Stacey et al, Complexity and Management, p. 7).
Like John Seely Brown’s (the former Chief Scientist at Xerox) metaphorical ‘knowledge iceberg’, where 10 per cent of knowledge is explicit and visible knowledge, and 90 per cent is tacit and invisible, (Brown, 2000) a similar argument can be made for ‘seeing’ individual dynamics and the energies underlying them.
We are Energetic Beings
“On the energy plane, a person is seen as an energetic entity in a web of energy connections between family members, co-workers, even strangers as well as non-living objects.” (p. 38)
In “Energetics and OD, the authors draw in quantum physics where ‘everything is connected to everything’ ~ to shed light on the subtle energies that are always present ~ if these energetic links are unhealthy or blocked, then the person is not functioning at full potential, and these distortions can all but scuttle the best-laid plans. Defining “energetics as the discipline that involves application of the knowledge of the universe supplied by quantum physics and some ancient traditions, to promote individual and organizational healing, the authors note that “energetics deal with the subtle energy fields that underlie physical objects and events.” (p.36)
The authors recommend that in order to be able to work with subtle energy fields, one has to know how to understand oneself in terms of learning how to ‘sense, balance and manage one’s own energetic state’ or health.
They also recommend increasing one’s knowledge and training in ‘reading energy-information’ exchange which ‘allows practitioner not only to discern and diagnose unhealthy [energy] patterns in groups, but also to be consciously in charge of the energy connections with and among others.” (p. 38)
OD practitioners, then, in their in their organizational scanning at the outset of a project look for unbalanced energy flows, as these are the precursors to a lack of people engagement and organizational readiness, even though the opposite state may be present on the surface.
= For “Energetics”
It’s hard to deny what a person feels ~ call it a gut feeling: the uncomfortable energy that one has in the pit of their stomach during a performance evaluation; the slightly-conflict avoidant behaviour when a new system is being designed; or , the tendency to ‘panic’ when your company has been acquired by another with deep pockets, with no visible outward signs to your superiors….
Many alternative health practitioners would tell you that energies and meridians and chakras do exist, and they aren’t visible to the naked eye. “Subtle energies are difficult to detect because many of today’s measurement instruments use electric signal responses, which have much less speed than light speed, while subtle energy fields travel faster than light (quoting Tiller, 2004, p. 36)
In Malcolm Knowles fifth assumption regarding adult learning (Knowles, 1984), he identified that adults are motivated by internal factors, and while he may not have been aware of it at the time, the ‘energy’ that one feels pre-, and during learning, could possibly account for a greater or lesser degree of motivation.
Indeed, a healthy bit o’ self-reflection – analysis and observation is a key component of the OD Practitioner’s Toolkit bolstered by a lot of on-the-job experience and intuition.
= Against “Energetics”
• Slightly new age, touch-feely, airy-fairy. • Consultants trying to make money by developing a new training package. • Flavour of the month feel • Few real-life, organizational examples cited by the authors; largely anecdotal evidence; questionable validity. • Hard to bring up as an issue to one’s boss if you can’t measure it, or see it.
I’m inclined to say that I believe that ‘energetics’ really does exist, and that there are hidden energies that individuals may or may not be aware about. I’ve facilitated groups, where there is a palpable energy below the surface – that precedes Davis’ call to surface and resolve issues – the energetics exist at a cellular level which are dynamically connected to various layers and energy fields.
For the OD practitioner, certainly it means being aware of this in oneself, but also having away to assess and acknowledge that this exists within individuals and groups – before committing headlong into an intervention – which will probably not work, unless these energies are recognized.
I do think it’s an important part of the toolkit ~ and I would make sense of it, in the same way that animals are highly-sensitive to stimuli that human beings cannot see or smell; and that other human beings can be more sentient than one another. To develop sensitivity and understanding with people who don’t believe it per se, I often ask them the following question, in a small office or room: “What would you say if I told you that people were talking to you right now? Would you believe it, or would you think I was loopy? (I regret to say, many think the latter)
Then, I tell them that in reality people ARE speaking to them ~ through the radio (a form of wave energy)… and because they aren’t attenuated on the appropriate frequency, they are unable to hear the voices speaking to them. Then, they get what I’m talking about…
I think that this level of sensitivity and awareness can be of value in just about any situation ~ particularly with the image of the radio….in fact, that could be a really good segue to talk about those hidden energies, and release the negative energies…as a means to creating readiness for a next step intervention.
- Brown, John Seely. 2000. Article: Learning in the Digital Age (http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ffp0203s.pdf) and book: The Social Life of Information, 2000.
- Davis, Larry N. 2000. Pioneering Organizations
- Heorhiadi.Alla and John Conbere, 2008. Energetics and OD, in OD Practitioner, Vol. 40, No. 1 2008. (pp. 36-39)
- Knowles, Malcolm, 1984. Andragogy in Action: Applying Modern Principles of Adult Learning.
- Stacey, Ralph D., Douglas Griffin and Patricia Shaw, 2000. Complexity and Management : Fad or Radical Challenge to Systems Thinking? New York : Routledge.