Consultant Spotlight – Jim Ehlers

I wanted to feature a spotlight on a consultant in the OD field this month. Therefore for January, the spotlight is on Jim Ehlers. Jim has been a professional in the OD field for decades – before most of us ever heard of OD.

Here is my interview with Jim:


You are an OD professional. It seems like a difficult field to enter and in which to gain proficiency. What initially attracted you to the field? Was it a conscious choice or did you slowly end up with your profession? 


I did not consciously decide to go into OD.  I always wanted to work in IBM’s management training department.  However, while working at The Coca-Cola Company, I got the chance to work as a consultant in their Learning Consortium.  The Learning Consortium was working on creating a “learning organization” and building capabilities and capacities. I learned then that capabilities involved more than just the people skills. The work processes, the measurement systems, the knowledge management, and the cultural environment were all equally important to sustaining a business or individual capability.  This OD concept really meant something to me and I have enjoyed learning more about it ever since. 


Is there a particular type of OD work that interests you more than others? If so, why?  


I still enjoy working with managers to improve their abilities, especially new managers.  But when given the chance, my choice would be to help a company understand the value of assessing their capabilities holistically and designing and implementing the appropriate development programs. Being part of helping a company or team that plans for and sustains success gives me a really satisfying feeling. 


Yours is a field that is necessary to the growth of organizations but can easily be cut out during budget cuts. What do you say to organizations that are considering cutting this critical element from the budget to save money?  


This is obviously a difficult conversation.  However, I think that if you can get to a discussion on exactly what is keeping the organization from meeting or exceeding their goals and objectives, some interesting opportunities will surface.  Getting to the “root cause” of their problems will point to some area or areas of a needed capability that must improve.  Getting clients to approach problems in this manner is not easy.  You must get past the budget conscious leaders and have the discussion with the people that run the operations part of the business. 


How do you stay busy as a consultant in your field?


I try to keep in touch with the OD community, my personal network, and continually look for business opportunities inside or outside of OD.  We all have skills that are not defined by our specialty.  Keeping an open eye to all opportunities keeps me going.

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