The Schar School of Policy and Government celebrated the 25th year anniversary of the Master’s in Organization Development and Knowledge Management (ODKM) program on Saturday, August 29, with a day-long, virtual “learning community” event for nearly 280 attendees. The program was called “25 Years—Looking Back, Looking Forward: Practical Skills for the OD Practitioner,” and the event was true to its title.
George Mason University Interim Provost Mark Ginsberg and Schar School Dean Mark J. Rozell congratulated Tojo Thatchenkery, the program’s founding director, on his leadership with a 25-year legacy of preparing self-aware leaders, culture-builders, innovators, business advisors, strategists, advocates, and process designers for the region’s workforce.
“Creating a sense of direction and prioritization, creating a sense of organizational destiny is an important imperative for leadership,” Ginsberg, noted. “It’s never been more important for organizations to reach deep to become inclusive and high-performing, and to create a new world that is recommitted to issues of equity, inclusion, diversity, and justice.”
“The Schar School really does prepare students to be leaders and managers who solve problems, lead change, and advance the public good in all levels of government and the private sector, in the United States and around the world,” Rozell said. “For true organizational and social transformation to take place, we have to address the resistance to change, and that’s where organization development, its many practices, approaches, methodologies, frameworks, competencies, and presence all comes in.”
Thatchenkery reflected on how the “OD” and “KM” fields have changed over the 25 years, and where OD is headed. The field has pivoted from problem-solving to considering an organization in a more organic way.
“They are change masters, they create change,” Thatchenkery remarked about the program’s graduates. “They care about the environment, they care about social justice, and they do this in a way of reframing how they think about their thinking. They ask themselves, ‘How can I create more reflection in people around me and in organizations?’ So this program has been transformational in many ways for me, and our graduates.”
Peter Senge, author of the widely-acclaimed The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization, also recognized the value of organization development practices. In delivering the keynote, “Organizational Learning and Systems Leadership Evolution: Where Are We Today?,” he noted that the pandemic affords us “a chance to reflect, to look directly at aspects of our societal reality that we would just assume we would not want to look at,” such as sustainability, equity and wellbeing issues. He pointed out how the field of OD cultivates a capacity to reflect, and “to look at reality beyond rose-colored lenses…as we can see things more and more as they are.”
After the keynote, notable organization development practitioners from around the globe partnered with participants to explore new approaches across a wide range of social and organization change topics, including engaging with the creative forces of resistance and change, fostering resilient leadership and inclusion, critical conversations in social justice, equity, and inclusion.
The next ODKM virtual learning community event is scheduled for November 14.