THE SELF – An OD Practitioner – ‘Doing and Being’

Emergent Organizational Development and Emergent Change® is a registered trademark, 2017. All writings are considered under copyright as per The Institute For Emergent Organizational Development and Emergent Change®, Patrick Trottier and Associates. Written permission is required.

By Patrick Trottier. 2009

Abridged from ‘The Fundamentals of Organizational Development Manual’, by Patrick Trottier, ongoing writings since the 1980s).

Organizational Development is not just a bunch of theories, interventions and technical methodologies.

As part of the ’mastery’ of  the discipline and practice of Organizational Development, one fundamental aspect that makes a key difference in its professional competency is becoming ‘self-aware’ of which is called upon as professional development from time to time.

Aspects of Self:  ‘DOING’ and ‘BEING’

SELF – Unique perceptions of body, mind and spirit. How I see the reality of myself, if at all.

Behavior – Directly observable attitudinal, verbal and behavioural actions and activities.
Practices –Well established repeatable patterns, approaches and methodologies, as well as the development of ‘new practices’ as one develops in their own professional practice.
Skills – continually acquiring knowledge and repeatable technical competencies.

Framing – Assumptions, perspectives, beliefs, mental models, cognitive and emotional filters in use when taking in information, self-reflection, and engaging the world and others. How I see myself, others and my world(s).
Character (Integrity / Authenticity / Self-Actualization) – Congruence of internalized principles and values that drive perspectives, choices, decisions and behaviour.
Alignment – Being conscious and in step with one’s intent, agenda and purpose – internal and external actions relevant to oneself.

Thus, the “self,” spans two big aspects – “doing” and “being”.  It is a combination of how one sees oneself, and how others see you in terms of your unique characteristics of ‘what’ you do, and the unique “you” which is manifested in the way you express yourself, your attitude, your preferences and perspectives both inwardly as well as outwardly in so far as ‘how’ you do it.

‘What you do, and How you do it, shows others who you are…’

The top three aspects:  behaviour, practices, and skills, are all about “doing.”  These aspects tend to be the focus of OD ‘competencies’ in the organizational context.  They represent the skills and knowledge people have practised, and bring to the job.  People have probably learned them in their education and training programs as well as in one’s day-to-day work areas. 

The bottom three aspects:  framing, character, and alignment are more fundamental personal “roots.”  Such forms one’s way of seeing oneself, others, and the world(s) one interacts with, and tries to understand.  Such colour our interpretations, our choices, our behaviours.  They nurture and inform the fundamental principles a person believes in, and such encompasses the spirit of one’s OD practice.

However, many times we get ‘stuck’ in our beliefs and do not explore  in order for new beliefs to emerge to form novel perspectives and concepts about ourselves, the world and about OD in particular. Certainly, there are basic fundamentals of OD in its values and philosophy. However, approaches, methods, perspectives and techniques evolve as we, as practitioners, continue to learn about the human spirit, human dynamics as well about the dynamics of organizations and the world(s) they exist in. This ’emergent learning’ offers practitioners to develop new understanding about oneself, and creates new approaches to OD as organizations and their internal and external worlds evolve.

‘Beliefs can be a closed system,
unless we believe ‘beliefs’ are open systems
that can emerge into new beliefs about ourselves and the world.” (P. Trottier, 1970s)

Dominant Forces

The dominant forces in the world tend to reinforce our addiction to “doing” and emphasize that “successful “or “effective” capacity development practice can be produced by concentrating on the top three aspects – the ‘doing’.  Various forms of behaviour and practice are what get assessed and what “count” when we are compensated and rewarded in many ways.  Although competency development work is not highly routinized, there are many routine and technical aspects of capacity development practice from report-writing through to specific methodologies for facilitating planning and change.  There is no doubt that these upper (and more visible) aspects are important in terms of performance and effectiveness. Many times we ourselves then focus too much on the technical methodologies and fail to focus enough on what really makes a difference.

What really makes a difference…

What really makes a difference as an OD practitioner is to be able to connect as a person, to build a positive and enjoyable relationship with clients and colleagues, and most of all TO BUILD TRUST.

Such is done by supporting others to be themselves, to become a person again in the mist of organizational hierarchical boxes, to break the bonds of title, role and status, and just to enjoy open and real conversations that lead to new perspectives, concepts and thus, lead to gained ‘value’ to that person and the organization.

At the same time, organizations are a business no matter what kind an organization it is – all organizations are in a business of some kind be that the business of caring for children, be that manufacturing, be that government, or be that an NGO business to achieve productive outcomes. To help others to achieve their business goals and ‘experience successes’ is critical to building ‘trust’ in business environments.

“Against the ‘status quo’ of the gurus of OD,
OD is a business strategy’

OD is the ‘ways and means’ to create healthy, productive people
and sustainable organizations as a whole.

This perspective relates OD to any organization.

Such a descriptor of ‘what is OD’ relates to the predilection of Leadership and Management perspectives in order to begin good conversations.” (P.Trottier, 1984)

When things go amiss…

The difficulty is that when the situations we face as OD practitioners do not fit what we “know” or are too complex for our skill sets, we feel threatened, or unnerved.  Instead of stopping to re-examine our mindsets or models, there is a tendency to try and break down and over-simplify things; often force-fitting the problem into pre-existing models, or ideas into the way we think it should be.  First we tend to ‘see’ the situation through our ‘competency box’, then we tend to fit the situation into our known ‘competency box’. This type of approach results in putting our perfectly good ladders up against the wrong walls, are not effective or congruent with the real situation and ultimately wastes time, energy and fail.

Another approach may be to just honestly say to a client, or to a potential client, something like: 
‘I do not have the answers, this does sound interesting though so why don’t we explore it to further to understand it together, and thus come up with some unique suggestions / areas to move forward together, and see what we can co-create. Maybe we can discover things that we have not even thought about.

Thus, when a person openly, authentically and genuinely expresses one’s truly authentic, effective and credible self as effective OD practitioner, and when others ‘experience’ our ways of working with people and systems, everyone can explore and discover a much richer and more complex picture of ourselves, the client and the organization.

“It is important that we do within ourselves, as OD practitioners,
the same as we ask our clients to do.

Thus, we mirror our OD methodology and values, not just ‘practice’ it,
and thus, we ourselves ‘become the ways and means’ of OD.

This IS the distinction between OD and other methodologies in the marketplace.
This is the ‘power’ of OD.” (P.Trottier, sometime in the 1980s)

‘Doing’ and ‘Being’… summary…

The ‘Doing’ emphasizes the methodology, theorems, constructs, tools and technologies of the discipline.

The ‘Being’ emphasizes the continuous development of ‘Who I am’ and the continuous ‘self-refection’ of how I see myself and how I ‘see’ the world through both my cognitive and emotional ‘filters’.

Both influence and systemically integrate with each other. (integral, is a word that comes to mind)


Three pioneers in the field of Organization Development, now deceased, Patrick Williams, Dick Beckhardt and Robert Tannenbaum have constantly emphasized the “Being” as a life-long and constant journey of self-reflection and learning, and as a fundamental aspect in the continuous development of any OD practitioner.

How do exceptional OD practitioners acquire these aspects and attributes?  How do they nurture and develop their “being” so that the quality of their “doing” will also be enhanced? 

Of course they can be learned,  but such are more about practice, reflection and openness to self-learn with acceptance AND without judgment. As we learn to do this with ourselves, we also become able to do such with client organizations and people. Thus, start where the client system is. Start where people are and get movement from there, without judgment and create a space of acceptance.

Here is a thought:  Learning how to “be”, to know how to be, cannot be trained / learned the same way that we can learn how to do. 

Similar to the development of good health, the development of our “being” is not an outcome, it is a state which arises from healthy personal practices. Such is an ongoing process.   Many of such ‘ways of being’ consciously develop what Chödrön calls “unconditional confidence,” a sense of kindness or gentleness towards themselves and others.  I refer to my own term such as ‘conscious discipline’ where a person may slip back into old habits, but then realize one has a conscious choice in any situation and one can make at choice – this is called ‘Self-agency’. As in learning to ride a bicycle, or learning a new sport like basketball or football, one will stumble at first, but after practice, practice, practice, such becomes more natural, and new habits and norms are formed.

Reflection and Inquiry

When we make mistakes the art of self-forgiveness is for the fact that we are human and therefore likely to fail. So what? The same when observing and dealing with others. They nurture their originality and independence of thought by reflecting on their actions and by practising genuine self-awareness through reflection and inquiry.  With these and many other practices they learn to ‘continually emerge’ within themselves and in their relations with others.  With this ’emergence’, people can step into new challenges and learnings, knowing that no matter how the situation turns out, they can continually evolve again and again.


In my experience, ‘acceptance’ is a key fundamental to begin a journey of ‘reflection, inquiry and emergent learning’ in order to facilitate development within oneself, develop new relationships with others, as well as how one facilitates organizations to move into novel forms and new areas of performance.


The other main component to conquer is ‘judgment’.

Self-judgment and judgment of others places ‘layers’, limitations and boundaries to emergent learning, to move into the ‘unknown’, to move into novel forms of ‘BEing’.

Judgment stops curiosity, exploration, imagination, openness, inquiry, dialogue / conversations, trust, shifts in mental and emotional frameworks, etc.,  to develop, and the emergence of newness and novel ‘frameworks’ (thoughts, beliefs, concepts, perceptions) which occur naturally and in real time.


The thing for me is not to expect ‘perfection’ from myself, or others – this would only lead to a high degree of judgment and frustration. Not being ‘perfect’ is one of the most normal and greatest aspects of being ‘human’.

“Perfection’ is an illusion of those that cannot accept themselves
and thus are forever stuck from moving into new ways of BEing.”
                                                        (Trottier, some time in the 1970s)

I appreciate my imperfections – they give me many gifts to learn from.

                                                                                                                             Patrick  :o) 

About Patrick A. Trottier

I am a 40 plus year applied Organizational Development practitioner having honed my craft in the U.S., Canada and internationally. Presently living in beautiful Vancouver, B.C., I am currently developing the next evolution of O.D. termed; 'Emergent Organizational Development and Emergent Change® (EODC)®, and focusing on Emergent OD®, Emergent Change® and the development of Emergent Organizations® within my professional practice.
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2 Responses to THE SELF – An OD Practitioner – ‘Doing and Being’

  1. Camille says:

    I love this article, Patrick! I’m a graduate from Pepperdine’s MSOD program and the integration of “being & doing” is so central to the training.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Patrick, you are right on point! Thank you! Marsha

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