Dealing with shadows in OD LO9667

Doug Reeler (
Sun, 1 Sep 1996 18:02:47 +0000

I have just been invited to attend a week-long retreat ( convened by
an OD organisation in the development sector in South Africa called
CDRA) which has "shadows" as its focus - both the shadows of
organisations and the shadows of our practices as OD
practitioners/consultants. I would like to briefly share a little of
the shadow concept as put foward by CDRA, and invite comment from
the LO community.

The invite states "Together with a range of OD practitioners we wish
to explore those aspects of our work which throw up failures
intrinsic to the very work we are trying to do. These "shadows" of
our OD practice cannot be wished away, nor can they be eliminated
through harder work, or better techniques. However, through exposing
them to the light we may utilise the very tensions they create and
thus immeasurably enrich our practice...

"The shadow is that which we specifically and consciously do not
choose; it is that which arises when our attention is elsewhere...
[as OD practitioners] we try very hard to make manifest our
intentions, to become in reality the image we project... Yet even as
we make this the subject of our striving, the more unseen forces -
which are the dark consequences of our admirable intentions - gather
in the shadows. They hamper our productivity and warp our impact.
The solution...lies in coming to grips with the contradictions and
consciously incorporating certain elements of the rejected
extremities into our reality" (Community Development Resource
Association invite)

One of the principles CDRA speaks about is their refusal to run with
conventional expert wisdom and insisting on facilitating change
rather delivering it as expert consultants - much within the LO
mould. The shadow of these laudable principles could be however that
they are delivering a particular form of expert solution which
"subtly emphasises the stance of 'we believe we know' and diminishes
the content of what we think we know, namely that facilitation is
more important than expert answers..." (CDRA Annual Report 1995/6)

Another more obvious shadow for many OD practitioners is the
denigration of training as useful for sustainable change, as being
superficial and hit and miss in its application. Yet this almost
principled stand may blind its adherents to possibilities that do
exist for the integration of training into change processes.

The CDRA Report concludes that "the answer to the dilemma does not
lie in changing our principles or our practice; nor in denying or
avoiding the dangers posed by our shadow. It is more a case of
owning, of bringing the shadow into the light of day, of becoming
more conscious. In this way we can integrate the two sides of our
nature, and strategise accordingly."

Your insights are invited.

Doug Reeler
New Horizons Development Services

o Show up and choose to be present
o Listen for what has heart and meaning
o Be open to outcome not attached to outcome
o Tell the truth without blame or judgement
Angeles Arrien "The Fourfold Way"



"Doug Reeler" <>

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