Working at depth in organisational and leadership development

Hello - and welcome to the site!

I’m often asked to describe the work I do.

At one level, I’m a leadership and OD specialist. But that’s a description fitting a great many people working in broadly similar areas.

One way I differentiate my consulting work – which spans more than 20 years – is that I engage with depth, to help people build common understandings on the challenges they face and advance change.

Getting to a “different place” with tough issues

Whether I’m working with an organisation, a team, an individual executive, or a group of individuals, they’re usually trying to get to a different place; for example, to move beyond “stuckness” in implementing change, to build greater engagement, to foster collaboration across business groups, to encourage innovation, or to develop a more genuinely customer / client-focused culture.

Most often there are complex issues in play. I use the term “tough issues”. Not only are these perceived differently by stakeholders, there’s also commonly “heat” involved, emotional intensity. Ordinarily, organisations and individuals tend to deal with such issues through what I term “management-mode” responses. They tend to step around the tensions, and focus on fixes and technical solutions. These might need to be part of the mix, yet they can only take us so far.

Working with icebergs – above and below the surface

A starting point for me is that issues have two sides: an explicit side and an implicit side. Think of an iceberg. The explicit side is above the waterline. This side is more concrete, tangible, and capable of being observed. The implicit side is below, hidden from view and subtle – but capable of enormous impacts on what actually happens.

People in organisations usually focus mostly  on the explicit, above-the-waterline, side of an issue. Doing so reduces threat and anxiety. It also means any “solutions” will likely be confined to symptomatic fixes. Yet, there are potentially rich mental resources for supporting and advancing change below the waterline, if only we can access them.

This is the area I specialise in. And, with this work, I follow a consistent process, involving three practices. These are Working from Observation, Attributing Reasonableness (allowing that others are reasonable), and Speaking with Authenticity. The practices go by the name “OBREAU” for the first two letters each of the pivotal words, Observation, Reasonableness and Authenticity.

The OBREAU Tripod

Together the three practices form a Tripod, the OBREAU Tripod, a structure for supporting conversations for shared meaning and action on tough issues.

As well as providing a structure for my own work, the OBREAU Tripod is increasingly being used by others, in Australia and internationally, including in healthcare, education and organisational development.  The Tripod is available for use by anyone under Creative Commons licensing. You can find out more on the OBREAU Tripod pages.

Also on the site

The OBREAU Tripod is based on concepts first described in my 2008 book, In the Leadership Mode. On the site you’ll find summaries of the main ideas in the book. The book also introduced the ARIES framework (Attending, Reflecting, Inquiring, Expressing and Synthesizing). ARIES, which also has its own section on the site, can best be thought of the “long form” structure for thinking about and engaging with tough issues, whereas the OBREAU Tripod is the short – more accessible – form.

In addition to these resources there’s a separate Articles and resources page where you can access articles I’ve written and other resources.

I trust you’ll find these materials interesting and helpful.

If you’d like to contact me directly, please send an email via the contact page.

Best wishes

Don Dunoon