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Organization Development Brief

Purpose of this document

This document gives further information about Organization Development (OD) and also provides information on the types of OD work we do.

Document contents:

  • OD defined
  • Characteristics of OD projects
  • OD process
  • Organization assessments
  • Strategic visioning
  • Organizational change
  • Project management support
  • Communications and conflict management
  • Team development
  • Facilitation
  • Training and workshops

Organizational Development defined

Organizational Development, OD, as it's commonly called, is a broad term applied in many ways. We define it as the systematic process for applying behavioral science practices and principles in organizations to increase individual and organizational effectiveness.

In practice, we use the research and theory as resources to develop a customized approach for the client. We have two major goals: (1) to increase the effectiveness of individuals, teams and the organization as a whole, and (2) to teach organization members to continually improve their own functioning. Often the process of "plan, act, measure" is iterative with each successive loop gaining additional results.

Characteristics of OD projects include:

  • Systemic thinking, understanding interrelationship of elements
  • Focus on values, culture and processes, making them explicit
  • Planned implementation of change
  • Strong collaboration between consultant and client
  • Focus on both task and process throughout the project
  • Action research process (explained below)

We help organizations clarify their goals and identify resources and the best process. Our staff works with leadership to manage the process and ensure that we achieve the results.

In my practice, I work beyond the traditional OD interventions in that I also help to develop competencies, systems and processes. This broader approach and the addition of expert resources from my partner network allow me to help clients achieve their most critical goals.

Organizational assessments

It is often difficult for leaders to determine what's working and what's not from the perspective of people within the organization. We can administer commercial organizational assessment instruments, or we can design tailored surveys to gather specific information. The purpose of any data gathering effort is to identify sources of problems and support the plan to take improvement actions. The Assessment Introduction provides further information about assessments.

Strategic visioning

We help organizations envision their future by focusing on their strengths to develop their strategic intent. Our work is influenced by Cooperrider's work on Appreciative Inquiry and Buckingham's work on strengths and talents. We often help organizations reinvent themselves in anticipation of and in response to market changes or internal issues.

Organizational change

Change is the most common umbrella term for the work done in organizations today. We help organizations apply the body of research on effective change. Work from systems thinkers like Peter Senge and practitioners like Daryl Connor and John Kotter have influenced our practice. Ciela developed this useful formula for understanding change:

D * V * F > R

The energy provided by:
Dissatisfaction with the current state times
Vision of the future times
First steps
must be greater than the
Resistance to change.

We help clients understand each of these elements and manage them to effect organizational change.

Project management support

Projects are a way of life within organizations and yet, sometimes the tools and process are missing. We provide support to prioritize projects based on the company's mission, then assign resources, set goals and evaluate results. The tools we offer are tailored to the scale of the projects and the resources of the organization.

Communications and conflict management

We accomplish goals by working well together. Effective communication is key, and conflict is a guarantee. Effectively managed conflict can actually provide energy and passion for delivering results. We help clients develop the capacity to communicate effectively and to productively manage conflict when it arises.

Clients may wish to scan the Workroom for additional information on theories, processes, and favorite books on communications and conflict management.

Team development

Much of the work in organizations is done in teams. We offer support for this work including understanding of the stages of group development, cross-functional team management, alignment of goals, establishment of responsibility and accountability. Through collaboration with members of our partner network we also provide outdoor learning experiences for teams.


We provide design and facilitation for meetings, retreats and other group experiences. Through our partner network we can offer graphic facilitation and real-time mind mapping.

Training and workshops

We offer training as needed to reach organizational goals. Samples of training we've offered include alignment to the vision, communications skills, decision making, and leadership training.

We can help organizations assess their training needs and find training available in the marketplace or develop training in partnership with the client. We also offer two workshops developed by the Hudson Institute of Santa Barbara: Planning for Change and Making Change.

What is a typical Organization Development process?

Our Organization Development projects typically follow four phases. In the first phase, Definition and Data Gathering, we clarify what we're trying to accomplish. Together with the client, we ask what does success look like? To deliver initial insights we typically gather organizational information, conduct interviews, and collect and integrate 360-degree feedback for the leader(s). We may also decide to conduct an organization-wide assessment to give broader context. We offer a variety of commercial instruments as well as assessments tailored for the client.

In the second phase, Design and Planning, we use the data we've gathered to develop a plan to move from the current state to the desired state. This involves work undertaken by the leader, team members and members of our staff. We also set the goals we will use to measure our performance.

The third phase of the project, Implementation, is aimed at taking action and measuring results. We frequently make changes to the plan as we gather information about what needs to be done. This phase typically involves coaching and other consulting methods, and it continues until we reach the goals set for the project.

The final phase, Evaluation / Support Structures, involves measuring results, celebrating success and setting up the framework to sustain the changes. This phase may include follow-on coaching, feedback systems, ongoing measurements or other techniques to ensure sustained change. Most importantly, we help the leader identify and engage the additional resources needed to support long-lasting change.

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