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Organisation Development and Design is not just an intervention

If we look closer into the life of organisations we can clearly see that besides the big Transformation, Re-organisation, Organisation Development and Design efforts they are evolving and changing constantly. In most cases by focusing more attention on what works in the constant on-going adaptation could drive companies forward in a light, self-developing way without big painful re-organisations. Let’s go beyond the classic understanding of organisation development and design!

As I learnt from Nora Bateson: “it takes more energy to keep things as they are then to change them. “ So then why to waste that energy? Direct it into the evolution- into the learning. Be aware that a moment you are able to shift your paradigm and you can imagine things can be done differently: you are also creating new lenses for yourself, and trough those lenses you might be able to notice the patterns, signs of progress where already there, and you can start directing the spotlight on those patterns, and they will just start to grow even faster.

What do we mean by going beyond Organisation Development?

All sorts of big companies in hope of becoming more adaptive embark on a transformation program to become Agile. Niels Pflaeging (in his book Organize for Complexity by BetaCodex Publishing) describes that there are three realities of every organisation, and besides the formal structure, and the informal structure there is a value creating structure - or reality, how I like to call it. Imagine that as of tomorrow you start to shine the warming spotlight, the company attention on the value-creating reality: the awards you give and even your performance management system too on the peer to peer interactions (not functional peer, but the constantly changing value creating peer!) and creating platforms where those working on a same topic, same product or service can create ways to communicate and learn together about how they work together (ups- you have just created a “squad” without drawing a squad into your org-chart!). By the learning we mean learn lessons from what they did and how they did it and what worked best.

We all know that change is life and life is change. What does not change, does not adapt dies. So why do we assume in companies it is different? Why do we try to treat change and development as an intervention in organisations? Show me an organization that did not change, does not evolve and is still functioning! The markets are changing, customer needs are changing, and people are coming and going. Every little change is a piece of the puzzle in the evolution. Sure while this evolution was very slow, we could had the (false) impression, it is not there- that we need to initiate change and catalyse the speed of it.

We need the internal work (r)evolutionists

Working as an external consultant we are easy to assume, that things only change, when we are aboard: having the opportunity to work inside a big company proved me that change, adaptation and evolution is on-going. Not just more frequent- on-going.

The real question is: besides or instead of interventions- how do we support the evolution of work: the learning about how do we organize ourselves? How do we have the right conversations, forums, ceremonies, platforms, that allow us, those working together to align these continuous trial-error efforts: so that the lessons are learnt and adjustments are made- continuously.

This is a promise Agile brings to many companies- as long as you are ready to go with is: not just treat it as a one time transformation, but take on the biggest asset it provides: the continuous learning about how we work together.

Everyone can become a work (r)evolutionist

Today it is not just the top executives’ job to initiate change- if you are waiting for that, you (as a company) are too slow, or you are in a slow industry (are you rally?). Not every company can have a big internal OD team, but today everybody can be a work (r)evolutionist, as everybody in a system has an impact on how a system evolves.

Taking the Agile example, imagine that you start searching for people, teams, who were already experimenting with agility in some ways. Trust me: you will find them. How about learning from them, who started within your company, knowing the difficulties but also having the passion, and the experience of what helped- and what would help even more. Find your internal constructive, positive deviants and let them lead the way of learning.

Yes-yes, I can hear you saying, but this is too slow- to let a company evolve this way. And I say, yes, but when your transition plan is ready and you start implementing it, you are missing the point of continuous development: while being too busy to implement your plan and change-manage it- you miss the opportunities that rise on the road from constantly learning- together.


If you would like to know more about how can you support your company’s evolution and your clients to embark on this evolutionary road- check out our Go Beyond Organisation Development and Design courses:

All our programs are based on our real life experiences and discoveries- we teach what we have tried and what worked. Special thanks for their ever inspiring thoughts to Nora Bateson and Niels Pflaeging, and many more of you I had the opportunity to work with and have meaningful conversations.

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