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Defining organisation design, deveopment and change

Venn diagram showing organisation design, development and change

Our community can get a little obsessive about defining these three intrinsically linked practices. Sometimes that’s helpful and sometimes not so much.

To our clients, who sometimes struggle to define what they need, a practitioner that understands the whole landscape, their own personal strengths (and weaknesses), and an artfulness of applying the right blend of practices is what they need. This sweet spot is shown in the diagram above as where all three practices intersect.

Organisation design

For me, an Organisation Design is the configuration of the parts of the organisation you can observe. And doing Organisation Design is thoughtfully configuring those parts. Naomi Stanford defines it as ‘arranging how to do work necessary to effectively and efficiently achieve the business purpose and strategy while delivering high-quality and customer experience.’[1]Stanford, N. (2018). Organization Design: The Practitioner’s Guide (3rd ed.). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.

Organisation Design is underpinned by systems thinking and a need to consider psychology of workplaces (a need for human interaction, time and places to concentrate etc).

Organisation development

Fiona, a colleague of mine, ones said “you can do design without development but you can’t do development without design.” These wise words come not from an academic but someone who has really practiced doing integrated organisation design, development and change work.

There are multiple definitions of Organisation Development about, such is the messiness of the field, it’s hard to pin down exactly what it is. We know it’s a field of practice that started to take form after the World Wars and it includes whole system thinking, behavioural science and a mindset that values humanity. We know the field is heavily influenced by the thinking of Kurt Lewin, Abraham Maslow, Edgar Shein and Peter Senge (I’ve no doubt missed some). Take a look at the video from Roffey Park below.

Change management

Change Management is about ‘supporting planned change that is delivered through a formal project – often a technology-based one.’[2]Stanford, N. (2018). Organization Design: The Practitioner’s Guide (3rd ed.). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. I’ve ruffled feathers when delivering training on Organisation Design and Development to ‘Change Managers’ by so narrowly defining what they do. “We also use behavioural science!” and “It’s not just about technical process!” are just some of the retorts I receive. Here’s another helpful video from Prosci on explaining how they see change management.

I’m so glad that these change managers don’t see their role in supporting organisations (and the people within them) through change. As I started out by explaining and have articulated in the Venn diagram above, we need to artfully apply the right blend of practices to best support our clients.

References and notes

References and notes
1 Stanford, N. (2018). Organization Design: The Practitioner’s Guide (3rd ed.). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.
2 Stanford, N. (2018). Organization Design: The Practitioner’s Guide (3rd ed.). Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.


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