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Organizational Development English Library

O.D. Institute Newsletter

 March 2006

Do We Never Tire of Marketing OD?

Terry R. Armstrong, RODC

This last month I had two discussions concerning the marketing of O.D.  The first started when a graduate student called to interview me about how I market or sell my OD services and the second had to do with a rather lengthy string of electronic correspondence.  The OD Godparents lists serve on the topic of “Building the Field O.D.”got into the topic of marketing.  The telephone call was from a master’s student writing a paper and the second was an interesting discussion by some “gray beards” or “Godparents” in the field.  My comments weren’t much different from what the “Godparents” had to share.  In fact as I read the discussion I felt they had been listening in on my telephone conversation. Though I enjoyed sharing my experience about how I got started and marketed my services I did not feel that my experience or insights were any more helpful to someone getting started in the field then the comments by the “Godparents.”  It made me realize that we love to share our stories about how we were initiated into the field and established our practice, but I am not sure it has much relevance for those starting out today.

I will spare you my story or what the other “old timers” had to say because if you have been around awhile you have already heard it and if you’re trying to get a practice off the ground today it might just become depressing.  Times are different; the field has morphed into something different from the early days and business and other organizations aren’t faced with the same problems.  Sure, there is a lot of complaining about how “bottom line” business has become and that O.D. Practitioners are selling gimmicks and quick fixes.  In the February 2006 issue of this newsletter I wrote about the Socialization of OD Practitioners that every ten years or so the way practitioners are socialized into O. D. changes.  What I did not adequately discuss was how marketing for O.D. consultants changes as well.  You could go back and read that newsletter and make the connection about how one is socialized into the field and how one markets one’s practice are very similar.

In the early days, 1940s and 50s, people were socialized into O.D. through NTL and the works of people such as Kurt Lewin, Eric Trist, Saul Alinski, Ronald Lippitt, Lee Bradford and Kenneth Benne.  At that time, one was mentored by the founders, and they often passed on a few clients to those they trusted.  During the 1960s many were introduced to the field through social action projects such as the War on Poverty and the Peace Corps.  I got started with O.D. in the Peace Corps and it was the Peace Corps that provided me with my first five or six clients.  In the 70s the concern for productivity in industry and Affirmative Action legislation spurred a demand for people with knowledge about organizational change.  Individuals learned about the field from their work place and many started an external practice by getting a contract from their previous employer.  During the 1980s large management and accounting consulting firms started hiring MBAs and graduates from OD programs but borrowed and relabeled what had been O.D. into branded proprietary products.  A number of people developing their practices during this period took clients with them when they left the consulting firm or become an internal when their gig was finished.  During the 1990s “free market economics” drove organizations to outsourcing and many employees were “fired” or received severance packages.  Many of these unemployed professionals began “reinventing themselves” as O. D. Consultants.  It was during the 1990s that I started getting bombarded with marketing questions.  During the 1990s the employment contract was turned on its head.  We began to be “The Free-lance Nation.”  O.D. Consultants began hiring publicist, did mass mailings and talked to everyone they knew to drum up business.  Now it seems that consultants are putting more effort and money into marketing then ever before.

For the budding practitioner wanting to get hired as either an internal or external consultant it’s becoming more and more difficult.  However, this is true for most new master’s graduates whether they be in communications, marketing, management or O.D.  Careers and entry into those careers have changed.  The paternalistic approaches of the past are gone.  It’s everyone for themselves now.  All the reminiscences of the good old days maybe fun for the “old timers” but people starting out don’t want to hear it.  Besides it isn’t very helpful if you are tying to get started in O.D. today.

When I look at the request for O.D. Practitioners coming into the Organization Development Institute I notice that most of them are for senior people. Entry-level positions seem to be few and far between.  This hardly seems fair, but I guess it can be expected.  If you have ten years of high quality O.D. experience you re not going to find it difficult to get business.  If you are a recent graduate it is going to be tough.  I would suggest you get internships and other non-paying experience while still in school.  I would also suggest you start going to conferences and publishing.  You are going to have to start marketing yourself before you graduate.  I would advise you attend one of the Organization Development Institute's Conferences and send me stuff to be published in this newsletter at as well as other O.D. outlets.  Below you will find another good place to get started.  To sell yourself in this market you have to get started early! 

Practicing-An On-line OD Network Magazine, Dr. David W. Jamieson, Editor

Practicing seeks short articles advancing the knowledge of OD practice… what we know from the experience of practitioners in the OD field. We all learn from experience, but rarely capture that learning in useable knowledge for others. Enhancing the quality of OD practice requires thoughtful reflection on practice, codifying what we know and building the practice knowledge base throughout the OD community.
Emphasis will be placed on useable knowledge… what others can take away and use in their practice. Practicing provides an opportunity for you to share what you feel good about in your work, your reflections on experience and what you know that others can learn from and use.  Possibilities include (but are not limited to):  practical descriptions of concepts, methods, processes, interventions, tools, tips and guidelines that regularly work; ways to effectively handle recurring situations; proven consultation principles and practices; innovative, cutting-edge methods or designs, and thought-provoking essays on practice-related challenges. Visit Practicing at

Submission Guidelines:
Short (800-1000 words), practical articles written in simple, direct conversational language. Bulleted lists, limited graphics and short sections with subheads help the ease-of-reading and accessibility of content with lower word counts. Include a short (50 word) author bio. Submit Microsoft Word electronic copies only to: Include your name, US mail address, phone and fax numbers and email address.





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