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Practicing Organization Development: Leading Transformation and Change, 4th Edition by Roland L. Sullivan, Jacqueline M. Stavros, William J. Rothwell

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Chapter NineFront-End Work

Engaging the Client System

David W. Jamieson and Rachael L. Narel

Engaging the client system is the front-end work critical in all service, consultation, and helping roles. It establishes the platform for success with sustainable outcomes as the quality of the relationship and contract drive your influence and the capability of the client to sustain and follow through. When an organization development (OD) practitioner initially enters a client system to facilitate change, several early outcomes must go well as the front-end phase serves as the platform for subsequent OD work. The quality and clarity of the foundation established at the outset will help or hinder subsequent work phases. Often, challenges encountered later in change work can be traced to missed or flawed outcomes during this initial intervention phase.

All OD practitioner relationships require a sound beginning regardless of philosophical orientation, style, or approach. Any helper must contract for the work, create relationships, build rapport, establish credibility, and validate the issues and needs within the organization. This will help clarify what the OD practitioner must do, who they will need to work with, how they will conduct the process, how fast it will need to occur, and what the results should look like.

This phase rarely falls neatly, distinctly, or sequentially between the marketing and closing activities and the assessment and diagnosis work. Because of this complexity, ...

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