During MSOD 620 I was involved primarily in two main projects: Red team Paper and

Huasheng Agricultural Products company (aka tomato company) intervention. The
objective of this paper is to summarize my learning while answering the questions for
reflection posted on the syllabus.
When reading the assignment, the question that made me smile the most was the one
asking what system were we (or was I) involved in. It just reminded me when in closing
session we had to list the stakeholders of OD: everyone, the whole world. Trying to
narrow my answer, I shall say that the most obvious (and influenced) systems were my
MSOD cohort, including faculty, and the tomato company. The first one had the task to
complete a paper which would guide an intervention within the second system through a
smaller team I was part of; and learning ought to come out of the experience. That was
for me the objective of the intervention. As from the client perspective, according to what
we heard, their objective was to get their managers exposed to “how we do it in
America”. This loose perspective made me think their “real” objective as more in the
lines of maintaining a relationship, “keeping face”, promoting international relations, and
other broader management and marketing benefits.
The first project, the red team paper, had a very structured plan and it was very clear how
a TS was being mimicked. The process was very well structured, very organized and in
theory perfectly designed to run smoothly. Needless is to say that things didn’t run as
smoothly as we planned them to be. However, I do want to say that real learning
regarding this project consolidated through the closing of the session, once time had
allowed us to understand exactly what had happened. Dr. Worley’s presentation helped
me to understand things such as the differences between cooperation and collaboration,
the role of a referent organization and negotiated order. I guess this project was the most
academic and the easiest learning to explain.
Our tomato company intervention was really where most of my learning came from.
Indeed, I would say that 60% of my learning came out of the consulting engagement
(30% came out of my interaction with the culture and 10% out of the red team paper).
The assignment was kind of described to us weeks before we arrived in China. Long
story short, we did not prep while in the US. As a group of fully functional and
competent adults, we were sure we had enough capabilities within our groups to complete
the consulting task in the time given in China. We had done it before in all other
practicums. So we were pretty confident we could do it again. And we did it. And the
client was satisfied. And once we were done, I realized we had done it in the most painful
way we could, and we were not really concerned about bringing the best of us to the
table. As I played the film over and over inside my head of what had happened, I found
many critical moments in which norms were built and other moments in which behaviors
were reinforced, and not necessarily the kind of behaviors that would help us succeed.
Not surprisingly our most productive moment was our debrief session. We had finally
come together as team.
My practice point of view (PPV) is around education. I firmly believe in its power. My
passion for it comes from a mix of my background, my preparation, the political situation
of my home country and the sense of service that naturally comes to me. In my job, I am
accountable for the whole company’s talent development, so I need to fully understand
how people learn in order to better develop the workforce. In that context, I remember a
conversation I had with Chris Little around how I just didn’t understand workshops that
focus specifically on things such as team building, or team communication, or trust
building. She replied very softly, as she always does, something like this: “teams and
trust are built while working towards your goal; you don’t stop to build a team, you build
a team while you do your work; you don’t stop to communicate, you communicate while
you do your job”. As the Tomato team, we made a few calls to build our team, our trust,
our norms, and then decided not to really talk again until we met in China. We never did
anything together before to create that trust or built a team. So when we got to China and
wanted to hit the ground running, we couldn’t, because we had never worked together.
We had to use time, our most limited resource, to try to do all at the same time. That is
why I bring up the conversation I had with Chris Little. Because apparently I didn’t really
got it until now. We tried to build a team with a teambuilding call, but didn’t really work
together before China. That was what prep work was for, it was not the prep work in it of
it self that was valuable, (although it would had been helpful and more professional to
had done it); the real value was what the prep work would have done for us: it would
have set us up as a functioning team.
Back to my PPV, I know that people learn by doing, by getting involved. Now I transfer
that knowledge to change, which is also shaped by people doing. Doing things, small
things, differently, in alignment with the goal. As a team, we expected norms to be built
in one phone call, trust to be built spontaneously, but never worked together in order to
build our team. So with no action, no change, no learning, no team was formed before
arriving.
If I had to do it all over again, I would do it all differently. But that would only happen if
I knew what China has taught me. There are so many other things that the experience
taught me that are applicable to my practice, but I only have three pages here.