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Why OD? - Carolyn knew what she wanted to do, but it was 15 years before she found out it was called OD

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In this episode we share an interview with Carolyn Norgate where Claire asked her how and why she got into OD?
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This is the 6th and final interview in our Podcast mini series - Why OD? In this episode we share an interview with Carolyn Norgate, Principal Consultant, about how and why she got into Organisation Development.

Carolyn came to OD through a pretty traditional HR route, but OD was "a bit weird" at the time and she had to be a little covert about it to start with.

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Transcript of the Interview with Carolyn Norgate

Claire Newell 1:38
Hi, okay. So I am here with one of our principal consultants, Carolyn Norgate. Carolyn do you want to say hi, and introduce a little bit about you and your role?

Carolyn Norgate 1:50
Yeah, sure. Well, hello, I'm Carolyn, yeah one of the principal consultants here at Mayvin. I've been here about three and a half years. I consult mostly in the public sector. My background is 30 years public sector before I came to Mayvin, mostly NHS, some civil service. So a lot of my practice is in that area.

And I'm also really passionate around developing the craft I guess, of OD. So I do a lot of work around our development programmes there, and particularly our master's programme. And look after that. We've just finished the first year of the first programme that we've run. So that's been great.

Claire Newell 2:35
Yeah. So if you could tell us, I guess when you first became aware of OD as a thing and how you started getting into it? And how that all kind of happened for you?

Carolyn Norgate 2:48
Yeah, well, I suppose probably almost a third to halfway through my public sector career. I think I was always looking for a job in OD. And OD often sits in HR, certainly in public sector organisations. So if you looked at my CV, it might seem like quite conventional route. But I don't think. I couldn't have planned it, if that makes sense.

So I started off as an HR generalist before they were called business partners. But I guess that's what I did. Move towards L&D. And that's when I started to understand OD. But if I go back even further as to why I ended up in HR, or started my career in HR, my first experience of big organisations was going to university.

I grew up in a relatively small town. So my high school wasn't that big. And it was, for me a positive experience. So I was sort of, I think, I went to university, slightly wide eyed, assuming it's a place of learning and it'll be a positive experience.

You know it's there to develop students and for the betterment of society more broadly. And, yeah, it was quite fascinating, because some of it was brilliant. And some of it I loved and some of it really quite poor. Like, the quality of the teaching was poor, the experience was poor. People, not everyone seemed very happy in their jobs. You know, it was a really, it was my first exposure to a big, complicated and complex organisation.

And my degree was in English and Philosophy. So as a joint degree student, I guess I had also an experience of two different departments and do different cultures, and the good, the bad and the ugly of both of those. So I was kind of fascinated by, you know, how come this bits so good, and this bits so awful? And how do you navigate it as a student, you know, working in two different departments?

And what's the job that would help make organisations more consistently good and enjoyable? Either as a place you know, as a, I mean, you didn't talk about students as consumers in those days, but you know, from the university experience? For the lecturers, tutors, researchers, but also for the students who go there?

And I couldn't really figure out what that job was other than HR. That seemed to be the obvious one, because that was about people in organisations. So yeah, I ended up on an HR grad scheme in the health service, and discovered it wasn't exactly that. It wasn't exactly what I thought. It was sort of that. But it was a bit more policy based and recruitment and employee relations.

So being a generalist in those days meant doing, you know, supporting recruitment, supporting employee relations. And doing a bit of development, employee development. And that's how my CIPD HR qualification was split into those three areas. So the development stuff I really liked.

And after a few years of different generalist jobs, I managed to find my way into an L&D job, and was leading learning and development at Guys and St. Thomas's. So I thought, Oh, this, this is more what I want to do. This seems to be more about making the organisation. Helping the organisation work better helping people enjoy their jobs, having people be good at their jobs, fulfil their potential.

And I kind of thought, oh right, I found it. That was what I was trying to do. And then after a while, it was like, well, sort of was my, I guess, my assessment of is this the job I thought it was? Because it was sort of doing that from an individual perspective. So you know, you run an impactful Leadership Programme, that, you know, maybe in one year 36, people would go on three cohorts, and your organization's 8000 people. Is the culture really changing?

I suppose I was a bit impatient around. What else do you do to try and help an organisation change? And I started getting involved in a few more things that had a bit more of a sort of strategic impact or sort of whole system impact. And we took the organisation through Investors In People. You self assessed and got inspected on a range of criteria that were basically around management and good development of people.

It sat in L&D, and we did it like a department at a time. So it took about three years to go round a whole big teaching hospital. It was a really big cultural change for the organisation. And I really enjoyed it. And I was also starting to do a bit more stuff with teams, rather than leaders going on programmes. So leadership teams, and intact teams, and that seems to be making a bit more difference.

If we worked with the whole therapies leadership team, then that was going to have an impact in OT, and physio and speech therapy and… So I didn't still know what OD was, but I was kind of moving towards, as a lot of people say, and colleagues have said, it's sort of, I found it and it found me gradually. Probably, you know, 15 years into my career.

And started to hear more about internal consulting as an approach. Some of the stuff that was going on at Ashridge. Reading a bit more, there was a bit of stuff. Mee-yan Cheung Judge ran a session for health service HR people. A whole day thing on OD. And I just started looking at master's programmes.

So I went to that and had a chat with Mee-yan about doing a master's. And was that the right thing to do? And she encouraged me bless her. So yeah, so I did a Master's in People in Organisational Change, and was looking around for jobs in OD. And there weren't many in the kind of bits of the health service I was working in, I think only mental health. My boss at the time was from the States. And they've got a slightly longer tradition of OD, it's where Mee-yan had originally studied.

She had the L&D function, which I was running and a transformation team that was relatively new. And we'd started doing work around values and culture in the organisation. And she could see that neither team had quite got the space to focus on what the organisation needed to do around improving the culture.

So in a very under the radar way, she created two posts, which we all called OD, behind closed doors. But were called Change Managers. Clearly she had she had the support above her to do that. But there was no big fanfare, it was very quietly done. So it was probably slightly too quietly done. I mean, I'd been in the organisation a long time and as had my colleague who started with me, and a few times we'd bump into people and they'd say, What are you actually doing now?

So and we decided not to overdo the word stuff around culture, because it wasn't. It was a bit weird at the time, and we didn't call ourselves OD, I said, but we had a values framework that we'd agreed and a behaviours framework that went with it and it was kind of our calling card. So we quite quickly figured out that pushing it to the organisation wasn't working.

But we went to the areas where people were interested. And they were sort of internal safe clients that they were a receptive context. We started working with Mayvin in fact, just after Mayvin set up. We were doing all this potential OD work. You know, I'd done my master's by this point, we'd got a lot of experience between the two and then three of us. But no one else in the organisation had got any sense of what OD was. We had quite a lot of keen managers and leaders who wanted to work with us and wanted to do stuff around culture.

There was a merger going on that we were working on. And we kind of thought, at the moment, no one in the organisation is challenging us and saying, is that really OD? There was just a lot of hunger for help. So we we looked out at what about must have been around while - just trying to think. We were one of Mayvin's first clients. So yeah, 2011 probably and we put a little spec out saying we need some OD supervision and coaching.

And we kind of wanted to gear shift from doing lots of work with local teams to being a bit more strategic. And being able to actually say we're doing OD and being being a bit being okay with using the language of OD and, you know, in a way that served the organisation. So yeah, so I sort of gradually we got to being called OD, and I guess, I guess it became more palatable.

For sad reasons, really. In my experience, certainly in the public sector OD fares well, when there's an ill wind. So the Francis Inquiry into the failings of Mid Staffordshire trust came out in 2013. And there were hundreds of recommendations in there. But the the big theme of the report was that culture, culture had failed at Mid Staffs. And if organisations didn't pay attention to culture, then there would be failings.

And at that point, our board, yeah, a fair amount of our exec directors who really supported. But the broader board kind of looked over his shoulder and went, ahh, that's why we're doing pretty well on the culture. We've got an OD team, and the NHS as a whole set up a network around OD and started promoting OD and the language of OD became okay to use. So then we became, we'd been doing it for some time, but we came badged as OD.

I think the other thing was in the public sector, definitely there was a culture of, rightly so. But it's the shadow of that culture. The culture is the patient comes first or the citizen comes first or you know wherever you are local government, for example. The shadow of that is, therefore we don't invest in our staff and our own culture. And that's not okay to talk about that.

So I remember being in a closing session for a leadership conference once. A leadership programme that had gone on for like nine months, and you know, one of the directors was talking, and actually said, look, I know it's heresy to say we put our staff first, but if we don't put our staff first how we're going to put our patients first.

And I just remember feeling really sad, that they had to caveat with saying we, you know, we can't really say we need to put our staff first because obviously, we put patients first than. Where we got to, and I think the public sector is much better at this now is that it's not about one or the other first. It's about if you invest in developing a good organisation and a healthy culture and in your staff, then you're whoever you're in service of, let's say patients if it's a health service, we'll get a better service. And research shows that.

So it's it's not a binary, it's not one or the other. It's one in service of the other. So I think things like him talking about culture and talking about OD became more palatable, when some of the research was more obvious to show that, that wasn't in. You weren't doing that the expense of patients or at the expense of you know your beneficiaries of your third sector, organisation or citizens.

So yeah, so it was a, it was a sort of long and interesting journey of doing lots of work around trying to build healthy. Helping an organisation be healthy and fun. And a place where people could do their work well. Especially with, I grew up in a family of kind of people who worked in public sector. So it's kind of why I gravitated towards hospitals from a sort of values point of view.

And most people who work in that area, have got a sense of vocation. They don't go in it for the money. So you're working with someone who really wants to be a nurse or a doctor or support the health service through working in payroll or whatever it is, then why would you not want to make their work as friction free as possible?

Why would you want to make it harder for them to do their jobs when they're showing up every day and doing amazing work? So, yeah, so kind of gradually figured out what that job was over time. And then at the point, I guess I was thinking of, gosh, I've been in the health service for some time. I've got a really great OD job. And I work in an organisation where there's always some interesting work going on. But you know, am I really being stretched? I guess, was the question I was asking myself.

So I was sort of looking a little, you know, gently looking over the parapet to see what was around and noticing that there weren't that many jobs that on paper looked as good as the one I got. And Mayvin, were already working in the civil service doing an OD development programme. And mentioned to me that there was a vacancy in the team that looked after that programme, and did cross government consulting. So I applied for that, and not realising that it was the early days of that level of job, even having an external ad. The senior civil servants or any advertised internally, up until about 2015 2014 I think

Claire Newell 16:06
So was it Mayvin that told you about the job?

Carolyn Norgate 16:08
Yeah, yeah, that was quite nice. So I still got to I got to work with Mayvin, because they were writing the programme and I'd got to consult across a whole range of government departments. So big delivery departments, small agencies, bits of the military, you know, just very different operating models.

Sort of a broad civil service culture, but very different micro cultures, which was incredibly different to the NHS, which is probably got, you know, four or five main operating models. You know, they get replicated all around the country.

And yeah, so I guess, after four years or so, in the civil service, had the opportunity to come here on secondment. So the thought of coming to Mayvin was the chance to work more in the third sector, which I had some exposure to when I was in health, but not loads and go back to work in the NHS as well and continue longer term work with the civil service.

So it just kind of broadened scope and to do more on the development side. Which was always the tricky thing to do as an internal. So yeah, it was a great fit. And I suppose linked back to all the stuff that I was originally motivated by when I was an undergraduate thinking, why is this organisation both brilliant and frustrating?

And, you know, it's probably a lot of conversations I have with clients around, there's some stuff we're brilliant art and some stuff that's really frustrating and means we're not performing and how can we, you know, what are the conditions that are going to make things work better around here and how do we lead in a different way? Or, or how do we just shift gears slightly with this change happening? Whatever it is and not stop all that brilliant stuff happening. So all that stuff, is what still motivates me and why I do it. Yeah.

Claire Newell 17:52
Nice. Okay.

Carolyn Norgate 17:57
Probably enough, isn't it?

Claire Newell 17:58
Yeah. Perfect. Good. Really good.

Carolyn Norgate 18:00
Lovely series. It was really good idea. All right lovely to see you.

Claire Newell 18:04
Yeah. Thanks, Carolyn. Appreciate that.

Thank you. Bye. Bye.

Thank you so much for listening to us today. And we hope to see you next time. Take care. Bye bye.

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