Q&A with Lynda Thomson, Head of People and Organisational Development at Scottish Natural Heritage 

Ahead of the CIPD Organisation Development Conference on 24-25 September 2019 in London, we speak to Lynda Thomson, Head of People and Organisational Development at Scottish Natural Heritage, about why she’s excited to attend the conference:




Q: Do you believe there’s a difference between OD and HR?

A: I just participated in a team meeting where I was present to explain a task I’ve designed for all managers to complete in order for our organisation to take a more strategic position on vacancy management over the next couple of years.

During the conversation I was describing the shift in our organisation as I see it. My observation in the year I’ve been in Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) is that our organisation is no longer looking back and working out how to address challenges developed over years. It’s looking forward (at least 10 years forward), defining why it’s here and how it’s going to deliver on that vision. Exciting times!

It occurred to me that that’s exactly how I have experienced OD and HR in my career. HR is a service that predominantly looks back and addresses issues that exist whereas OD looks forward, facilitates the definition and design of the future and identifies the development required to get there. I’m not saying it’s always as clear cut as that but that’s a fair reflection on my experience to date.


Q: Can you tell us a bit about a project you are currently involved in at Scottish Natural Heritage?

A: I am responsible for both OD and HR and in my role. We call the team ‘People and OD’. I am in the process of evolving the (previously named HR) team to this more forward looking service for the organisation. At the same time our organisation is evolving in to something we can’t quite name yet. Many people in our organisation feel as I do in that these are very exciting times. Others are feeling unsettled, insecure and worried about their place and that of the organisation in tackling the global issues facing everyone and more local issues across Scotland regarding our nature.


Q: What does a typical week at work look like for you?

A: My diary this last couple of weeks has involved the following:

  • Internal comms – strategic planning to work more closely on transformation agenda
  • Action learning sets – which topics to choose, how to develop facilitator skills and communicate the opportunity and benefits for engagement
  • Change Partners – getting the group back together
  • Radical change in approach to HR policies – creating a ‘resourcing suite’
  • Portfolio management – developing a governance framework for transformation
  • Script design for animation
  • Shortlisting applications
  • Providing feedback following interviews
  • Team learning needs analysis and design of development programme
  • Leaver – ensuring a positive exit for a long term employee
  • ‘Well-being offer’ consultation
  • Reviewing the new performance management approach (removed annual appraisals a year ago)
  • Inspirational Leadership programme design
  • Coaching managers through a task

On top of that I’ve had business planning activities to complete, some casework conversations, a review of our smarter working implementation in a particular area and the usual catch ups with team members and colleagues.

What a weird and wonderful list of things to think about and do! I feel very fortunate to have ended up doing this kind of work. It’s so varied. It occasionally feels like bedlam (I don’t mind bedlam) which is no doubt a symptom of my work style as much as the actual reality of the situation.

Whenever I’ve started a role where OD is a new concept to the organisation there feels like a great divide. A year on in SNH I see and hear lots of positive energy for the way ahead, ambassadors for the change in approach and excitement about the opportunities the approach brings to individuals, teams and the organisation.


Q: What are you most looking forward to at the CIPD Organisation Development Conference?

A: I am really looking forward to the CIPD Organisation Development Conference to pick up ideas on what I can do better in my role and how I can learn from others experiences for the benefit of our organisation.


Lynda is presenting in the case study titled “Raising the profile of OD to gain buy-in from other departments” at the CIPD Organisation Development Conference which takes place on 24-25 September 2019 in London. Book your ticket today.