Welcome to MSOD Voices of Change, an ongoing project that showcases the diverse community of expertise of the Master of Science in Organization Development faculty through in-depth interviews.
Interviews conducted and edited by Kim Kokich.
Matt Minahan, Interim Director of the AU MSOD Program
INSTRUCTOR: I hope that students examine their beliefs about themselves and the world. And so what I'm hoping in this course, is that they examine those beliefs and decide, is my perspective on the world correct? Might there be other ways to see the world?
So, an example of that, should an OD consultant be working on a downsizing project? If, in fact, we believe OD is about organizational performance and individual development, are we willing to sacrifice individual development for the sake of organizational performance? Is there an ethical imperative that an OD person contribute or not contribute to a downsizing project?
What do we believe about the role of the organization development specialist in putting these questions on the table? What do we believe about the role of the OD specialist in confronting the organization with its own beliefs and encouraging the organization to consider other possible ways of seeing the world, which then, would enable the organization to see other possible ways of doing things.
There are two elements to all of our teaching. We're teaching content and we're also teaching process. And every university program teaches you content. It gives you theories. It gives you models. It gives you books to read. It gives you assignments. You've got to do thinking. You've got to do integration of intellectual concepts. A cohort program adds the additional dynamic of the social relations among the people in the class. And that is such an important part of organization development that is not captured in many OD programs.
When you're just in course on Tuesday and Thursday nights with a bunch of different people each course or when you're online with a bunch of different people in an online program, you're not having the experience of the social system. And, by the way, intervening in the social system is the primary thing that OD people do. So by creating a cohort, we are creating a container for dynamics that the individuals can experience and explore and understand what's going on with themselves and with the cohort.
And learning occurs when we're all together. But, real systems experience departures and additions and inclusions and omissions. And, so having a student withdraw from one cohort and apply or get reinstated into a second cohort just provides more learning opportunity for the cohort. The job of the cohort is not to be the most cohesive team, the least disturbed, the most cohesive team on the planet. The job of the cohort is to have the experience of being in a social system. And departures and arrivals are just another experience, another element of that learning.
This program has a long, deep history and connection to the founders of the field and particularly to the behavioral sciences and to human interaction. Other programs touch on these elements but the AU MSOD Program, particularly, is grounded in those beliefs and those values. And that's where I think the future of the field is headed. And that's why I think the program is so spot on.
Matt Minahan, Ed. D., is Interim Director of the AU MSOD Program and President of MM & Associates, an international consulting firm specializing in strategy, structure, leadership development, and communications. Matt's clients are in the private and public sectors, implementing enterprise-wide change programs, including business strategy, mission, business process simplification, new structures, and communications. He is the past Co-Chair of the Board of Trustees of the OD Network, an active member and volunteer for NTL Institute. He teaches in the MS and Key Executive programs at American University, the MS in Executive Coaching program at Queens University and is a guest lecturer at Benedictine University and the University of St. Thomas. He presents at regional, national, and international conferences, has published numerous articles in the field of OD, contributed to the NTL Handbook of Organization Development and Change, and is a contributing editor to the Handbook for Strategic HR, 2012.
Heather Berthoud, MSOD and Dr. John Bennett, Adjunct Professor
[00:00:00.00] INTERVIEWER: How is the title Use of Self descriptive of what you do here?
[00:00:04.73] HEATHER BERTHOUD: So the notion is that we are always using ourselves, that who we are, our strengths, our challenges, our perspectives, our experiences, the ways we view the world are always at play. And for many people, most of that is unconscious. So the word that's often missing from the conversation is conscious use of self because use of self is always happening.
[00:00:41.02] So what we do here is try to help folks get conscious about the selves that they are using, and, therefore, be more choiceful about what they do when they're doing it and in what context. So how do they know themselves in as much of their totality as possible, recognizing that none of us knows everything about ourselves? How do they choose to deploy those skills and assets in whatever situation they're in?
[00:01:20.85] And, most importantly, I think, for people in our program, how do they know who they're serving when they're acting in those ways? So are they supporting their prospective clients? Are they supporting the people that they lead or manage? Or are they using those situations to some way further internal needs that they haven't identified?
[00:01:50.23] INTERVIEWER: How many years have you been teaching with Heather?
[00:01:52.94] JOHN BENNETT: So I got involved with the program beginning in Cohort 59, which was the last time it was held in Bethel. And I got involved-- to go back a bit to that-- I was a student at Fielding. And Charlie was one of my faculty members. Later, Charlie and Edie became both participants in my dissertation research, which was on how lived experience influenced the work of scholar practitioners. And they were two of five people that I studied.
[00:02:28.40] And I had taught with Charlie some and done some things with him, in particular, and, certainly, knew Edie. And, again, as the transition was occurring of trying to find some backups, that relationship led to being involved there. So we did a trial run, I think, and found that we could work together, the four of us.
[00:02:51.76] So we taught the course together a few times. And then Charlie and Edie moved into a less involved role and then, ultimately, not being involved. And so Heather and I have been working together however long that is, since 59, and we're at 76 today.
[00:03:10.11] INTERVIEWER: Do you remember what year that was?
[00:03:12.32] JOHN BENNETT: 2008 or '09, something like that, somewhere along in there, 12, 15 times now.
[00:03:20.53] INTERVIEWER: Right. How do you approach a cohort when they first get here? And either one of you can start.
[00:03:27.62] JOHN BENNETT: It is fascinating how we stand on the shoulders of giants, in many ways, and Kurt Lewin being one of those. And Charlie's grandfather hired Kurt Lewin. So I always say that we're two generations away from Kurt Lewin, which is a nice lineage to have. I had the opportunity of going to his birthplace and working with the Lewin Institute in Poland a few years ago and being connected with them, and then connected with Charlie and Edie in the development of the Lewin Center here in the US.
[00:04:04.85] We approach the groups where they are, as best we can. Each one is different. They come in, in their own way differently. Our job is to help them move in their own awareness and use of self-development of themselves in service of the relationships they have, in the relationship to the cohort as a whole and, ultimately, in their professional practice, whether that's as an OD practitioner in a formal way or as an OD-oriented leader.
[00:04:36.52] And so we do some things at the beginning of the course to help them know themselves better and for us to know them individually and collectively. And as we said at this interview today, we're in the midst of that process with them and a lot of data collection. And part of what we do is the course is designed using Lewinian principles of action research. So there's a sourcing what's the information, feeding that back to the group.
[00:05:05.33] And we also do a lot of partnering along the way and create a dynamic environment that says, we know the direction we're headed, but the exact path to get there varies. And so we have to have this tight, loose structure about us and draw on a variety of knowledge, and skill, and experience. But the course is truly an experiential course.
[00:05:31.76] INTERVIEWER: Why is it residential? That's the second question I often get.
[00:05:35.48] HEATHER BERTHOUD: Well, there's a depth that you can go to in a residential course that you're just not able to get to in a nonresidential course. And what you get in the space outside the class is at least as important as what happens inside the class.
[00:05:52.50] INTERVIEWER: Would you give me an example of that?
[00:05:55.13] HEATHER BERTHOUD: They are going to have some conversation between here and lunch that applies a theory, that challenges an insight, that questions a dynamic they've experienced. We've already seen it. Somebody reported this morning about an insight she thought she had that somebody else named differently. And that happened last evening.
[00:06:23.81] That's not available, that kind of informal exchange that's fed by the formal class work is not available if you scatter to the four winds at the end of class. It's not merely cognitive. It's not only what does the theory say, but how is the theory lived and experienced by each of us individually and collectively. And that really takes some massaging. It allows for the epiphany in the shower or the epiphany on the walk around the pond. That's why it's residential.
[00:07:11.62] INTERVIEWER: So use of self is unique to our program. It is what sets the MSOD program apart from other organization development graduate programs. What is its value where it's placed in the program? And once we think about that, what is the value once they graduate from the program and go out into the world?
[00:07:36.46] JOHN BENNETT: Well, I think it's unique in that it is a single course. Use of self is a key part of OD in any program of study, so learning about yourself, and your use of self. But having this single course in a concentrated way, the value is that the learning doesn't stop.
[00:08:02.17] And I would suggest that the laboratory experiments that we have show up in the residency, both in the classroom and outside, whether it's sitting with us at lunch-- we're in this experience from before people arrive until long after they leave, and that means 24/7. We try to help the students become aware of the opportunities they have to take full advantage of the learning.
[00:08:31.11] But once they leave, my hope is that they not only have learned it, but they learn how to continue learning, this development continues. It's about teaching all of us to be reflective practitioners, helping us have the curiosity and the resources, developing the relationships, and the value, and the understanding of how to work in the relationship, whether it's with clients or with colleagues, to continue to learn. Because we do a lot of that. We've been doing this for a long time.
[00:09:04.88] HEATHER BERTHOUD: So where it's placed in the program is roughly a third of the way in. And my understanding and expectation is that that is because that gives people enough time to get acclimated to the program before it's too late to have the influence of this course. So John said we want them to continue the development of their use of self.
[00:09:36.92] We don't have an expectation that this is a class they learn and check off, but that this is a class that establishes the practices that they continue for their own self-directed development throughout the program and beyond. And that there, then, become opportunities for them to apply what they've learned in subsequent classes but, also, again, beyond the program.
[00:10:04.46] JOHN BENNETT: And a key part of that place of application is in the experiential residence of the international experience that comes later. So, in a way, this is preparatory for the rest of the class experience and preparation for that international experience and beyond.
[00:10:21.44] INTERVIEWER: Is there a perfect size for a cohort? Does it matter whether it's small or large? How does that affect the dynamic?
[00:10:32.26] HEATHER BERTHOUD: Well, every group is different. So they can be small and unruly. They can be large and calm. So I think the larger the group, the more possibilities of mixing and matching individuals in small groups. There's just more to work with.
[00:11:00.75] But, on the other hand, in a small group, each individual gets a deeper attention than they might if they were in a large group. But if you're in a large group, you have more opportunity to experience and experiment with large group dynamics. So I wouldn't say there's a perfect size. I think much below 9 or 10 is probably too small, and up above 30 is probably too much.
[00:11:36.71] INTERVIEWER: What do you want a prospective student to know about this course?
[00:11:43.02] HEATHER BERTHOUD: One of the things that often comes up for people is the sense of mystery. We've spoken of it here. Ooh, that's a mysterious course. And I think rather than be either put off by it, or even excited by it, there's some that just have some curiosity about it. This is an opportunity to do learning about you, in ways that may not have been done before, so that you can be more effective in your professional role.
[00:12:23.99] All those pieces are important. And that it's also an opportunity to explore, and experiment, and engage in ways that we often don't get to in either regular classes or, certainly, in professional life. So, in some ways, it makes sense that it's a residency, that it's pulled away. Because it's also a bit of an oasis. Think of it almost like a watering hole. You come to get your fill and then you can take that back in ways that you might not have been able to before.
[00:13:02.17] INTERVIEWER: Your thoughts?
[00:13:03.42] JOHN BENNETT: I think you said it very nicely, this idea that, come with a curiosity and come, also, with curiosity about yourself and a curiosity about others and how you can be impacted and can impact. And so that's a learning mindset and that openness that comes with it. And it's not just about coming to be filled, you've got something to offer as well.
[00:13:33.46] So come prepared not to sit in a chair and be fed all week, but to come and contribute to others. And, sometimes, that may be comfortable and, sometimes, that might be uncomfortable. My belief is that it's in the discomfort where we have the opportunity to really challenge ourselves and, perhaps, learn, and grow, and shift, or solidify what we're already doing. And so that kind of open mindset is a good place to start.
[00:14:05.31] HEATHER BERTHOUD: Can I add?
[00:14:06.49] INTERVIEWER: Mm-hmm.
[00:14:07.85] HEATHER BERTHOUD: The other thing I think for students coming to this class is to make it your class, is to come with a sense of something you want to learn rather than be told what you need to learn.
[00:14:25.76] INTERVIEWER: Thank you both very much. Yeah. It almost makes me want to take the class.
Heather Berthoud, MSOD and Dr. John Bennett, PhD co-teach the residential Use of Self in Professional Practice course in the AU MSOD Program. With over 25 years of experience as an OD practitioner, Heather Berthoud specializes in nonprofit and community change. A graduate of our MSOD program, Ms. Berthoud is a featured presenter at regional and national conferences in areas of diversity, change leadership, and strategy, and has authored numerous articles in practitioner journals. John Bennett, PhD is a practitioner, academic, and educator who earned his MA and PhD in Human and Organizational Systems at Fielding Graduate University as well as his MPA at the University of NC-Greensboro. He serves on the Council of Advisors for Harvard's Coaching Institute, Board of Advisors for the International Consortium for Coaching in Organizations and Executive Committee of the Graduate School Alliance for Executive Coaching. As a consultant and coach, Dr. Bennett works with individuals, team and organizations to help them prepare for, excel through, and improve from change. His current research interests include executive coaching readiness and coaching styles.
Dr. Robert Marshak, Distinguished Scholar in Residence Emeritus
Dr. Marshak taught organization dynamics and change leadership in SPA since 1977. His areas of expertise include: organizational change and development, dialogic organization development, organizational discourse, and organization theory and behavior. He has received the OD Network’s Lifetime Achievement Award, the Organization Development and Change Division of the Academy of Management's Distinguished Educator Award, the OD Network’s Communicating OD Knowledge Award, and is the author or co-editor of 3 books and more than 90 publications on consulting and change. Dr. Marshak's paradigm shifting work in Dialogic OD has pushed the boundaries of the field and challenged traditional change mindsets. He has also held senior executive level positions in policy and management analysis in the US Government.
Enrique Zaldivar, Adjunct Professorial Lecturer
Originally from Mexico, Enrique J. Zaldivar is co-founder partner at a top-tier international OD consulting, leadership development and executive coaching firm. He is lead faculty for the Diversity and Cultural Competence course and a member of the renowned faculty team leading the international residency component of the MSOD curriculum. His roster of consulting clients ranges from some of the largest global corporations to the United Nations, and the US Government and various nonprofit organizations. He has worked in over 48 countries on 5 continents. His multi-national business experience base, combined with over 30 years teaching experience, and his proven effectiveness with mid-career MSOD students, makes him a strong role model, instructor and coach.
Anastasia Bukashe, Adjunct Professorial Lecturer
Dr. Anastasia Bukashe, Executive Director of the Wilgespruit Fellowship Centre outside Johannesburg, South Africa, is a part of the renowned faculty team leading the International OD Consultation course in the MSOD curriculum. Dr. Bukashe is known worldwide for her work on peace-building, dialogue, systems change and reconciliation in South Africa. A member of the NTL Institute, she is a successful international consultant, trainer and facilitator, with a specialization in Appreciative Inquiry and strengths-based approaches to organization change. She consults to clients such as PACT Ethiopia, the South African Local Government Association, and the Institute for Democratic South Africa. She has received honors and awards from organizations in the United States and South Africa.