Over a two-day period (June 17-18), the board of directors met for the annual board retreat.  This year we wanted to have more touch points with our community, so we opened two sessions to our members, and we hosted our annual Margaritas with Members happy hour.

As is the tradition in the MSOD program, we started with a check-in: “Where are you in the world today on a scale of 1-10?”  Then we talked about the vision of our retreat’s design, which was based on Appreciative Inquiry’s 4-D model.  Each session of the workshop tied directly to one of the Ds, with the end goal to design a plan that would enable us to reach our new future.  The design of each session, as well as the facilitation, was shared among the board members.

Matteo Becchi (Cohort 67) graciously shared his graphic recording skills to capture the weekend’s discussions.  Several photos in this post are from his work.  Thanks, Matteo!

Matteo Becchi, Scott Blanchard (Cohort 29), Syreeta Evans (Cohort 68), Ross Grübel (Cohort 59), Christina Scott (Cohort 69), and Rosalind Spigel (Cohort 51) were present.  Unfortunately, Astrid Emond (Cohort 69) was unable to join us due to a family trip to France (we were very envious!).  Two members also joined us (see Dream and Deliver sections below), and many students, alumni, and faculty imbibed in our happy hour on Saturday evening.


After check-in, we explored who we are as a community.  This was especially helpful, as Scott and Christina are our newest teammates, and hearing about the Association in this container brought us closer together in our knowledge about the past.  Using cards with diverse images on them, each participant selected an image that drew them in after reflecting on questions about who the Association is and what the Association could be.  After selecting an image and reflecting on the questions, we shared our thoughts with the team.


During this session, members were invited to join us, and Karen M. (Cohort 63) was onsite to bring her insights and wisdom (thanks, Karen!).  Here, we had the opportunity to think about how we envisioned the Association in 5 years through a meditative exercise.  We were free to share any idea about this new future, which we captured on the wall.

Several ideas seemed to fall into a few categories, which we then drew on a flip chart to help us organize our thinking.  Then, we each had two votes to select which dreams were most energizing for us, which led us into the design phase.


Two strategies surfaced during the retreat for our direction towards a new future during the voting activity; this was like the metaphor of building a bridge from today to our new future.  After discussion and reflection, we agreed to

  1. focus on creating a reunion-style event in 2018 to bring our community together, and
  2. design a process to include 100% of current students as members in our community.

The reunion event will allow students, faculty, and alumni of the MSOD program (in all of its current and past forms and names) to connect with each other, learn more about the practice of OD, and grow their networks and capacity.  We are working on the details of the event’s purpose and vision and then will invite you, our community, to create an event design.  Doing this, we can tap into the creativity of our community to mold the event’s design, as well as engage more people in the shaping of our Association in the process.

Secondly, we concluded that the continued growth and success of our community is only as strong as our membership.  To ensure a steady stream of incoming members, we want to include all students in our community while they are studying.  This benefits the students, who have access to our seasoned OD practitioner alumni and faculty network; in addition, our community will prosper with new and fresh ideas from student contributors.  This also requires more coordination on our part to connect with students in the program to become aware of our mission and vision as well as the resources and networking that the Association offers.


Our last step in the process took place on Sunday, after we had a chance to discuss the work from the previous day with students, alumni, and faculty who joined us at Guapo’s for happy hour.  Members were invited to help us with the work, and we were lucky to have Jen W. (Cohort 72) with us.  She decided to join our Board of Directors, too (so exciting!).  During our deliver phase, we focused on the two strategies from the design phase to create a sort of project plan.  Using sticky notes to break down the two design strategies into task-level detail, we began analyzing the work ahead in different levels:

  • Which tasks belong together (category cluster level)?
  • Which tasks are realistic and which are nice-to-have (necessity cluster level)?
  • Which tasks can we achieve in the allotted time period, and which are prerequisites to others (timeline cluster level)?

We married the Myers-Briggs “P” perspective of sharing ideas as they came, and the “J” perspective of ordering them into a deliverable timeline.  These different viewpoints helped us to see our design in new ways that we had not yet thought about, and several participants had “aha” moments about project planning that could help them in their OD practice.

Help Us Reach Our Dreamed Future

The outcome of the retreat is just the beginning of an exciting 18 months ahead of us.  Making this dream a reality will be easier and more rewarding when our community works together.  We’re looking for volunteers to help us out.  More details about how to get involved will be posted soon, but in case you’d like to get a head start on the action, send us a note.

Special thanks to American University for hosting this year’s retreat.  It was so much fun to be on campus again, and to be able to see the new MSOD space in the renovated Spring Valley Building!

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