Development S T R E T C H, anyone?


November 5th, 2015

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When I was an OD Director in a charity a few years back, I undertook the MSc in People and Organisational Development at Roffey Park. It was the most powerful and useful chapter of my learning journey to date. These days, I am privileged to be the programme director for this course so, today I’m putting the word out there – we still have spaces left for the cohort beginning in January 2016 – the twenty fourth cohort of this long established and highly regarded programme. There’s information available here, and I say a bit more below.

Back in my OD Director days, I had a recurring feeling. I knew what I was doing and I was reasonably successful over time in bringing ideas to fruition. But there was a nagging doubt.. What were my initiatives and interventions grounded on? Did I really know? Could I really substantiate the confidence and certainty I projected? It may disappoint you to hear that I still have the nagging doubt. But today, I locate my doubt with more focus and negotiate with it quickly so that I can move forward – perhaps with less certainty and confidence than ten years ago, but with more humanity, clarity and usefulness. That’s what the MSc did for me, and the more I hear about other routes I could have taken, the more glad I am that I took the Roffey route.

Yes, there was input on theory, method and practice and we met pioneering thinkers and practitioners over the two years. That was all useful and inspiring, but the real power came at a completely different level. I was challenged to examine my assumptions about how I saw the world, how I made my decisions and how I acted in the world. If you have encountered the notions of vertical learning (Brown, 2014) or double loop learning (Argyris, 1991), it was these with jangling bells on! Having reflected and had the honour of seeing others go through it now, I think the biggest – and pretty much unique – thing about this programme is its emphasis on actual (not just espoused) self management.

Nothing compared with the cocktail of nervy excitement as I moved from the relative bounded safety of year one’s defined assignments into the vast and flourishing territory of skills development, research and dissertation. “What, you mean I can study whatever I like, combining my own interests with those of my working context, to actually learn about something that matters to me and others?” That was what I asked disbelievingly and I’ve heard many others ask since. Such a radical notion runs counter to most of our experiences of learning and yet surely this is so profoundly essential to freeing ourselves to learn deeply? I hope that one day more institutions will find the courage to take the risk and give learners this scope.

Roffey Park truly does, so if you want to learn in a way that will sharpen your practice immeasurably, come and meet me on 9th December to find out more.


  1. Argyris, C. (1991). Teaching Smart People How to Learn. Harvard Business Revew, May-June 1991 issue. Available here:
  2. Brown, B. (2014). The Future of Leadership For Conscious Capitalism. Interview here.