Evaluating organization design

The Roffey Park Institute has just published a report 'Best Practices in OD Evaluation'. In this case the OD stands for 'organization development', but the discussion and recommendations hold just as much water for organization design.

In organization design work there is often little appetite to evaluate the success of the redesign. Companies who employ an outside consultant to assist with getting to the new design and then implementing it are reluctant to invite the consultant back 6 months or a year later to see whether it is achieving the intended outcomes.

Nevertheless getting an evaluation would be a sensible thing to do and the report outlines several reasons why:

• It focuses the project scope and the design work in the context of the business strategy, because it forces answering questions like 'why are we doing this?' 'how will we achieve the return on investment in doing it?' and so on.

• It defines success in both qualitative and quantitative terms, and ties it closely to achieving business objectives in best cases using measures that feed into the overall organization performance measures

• It puts the design work in a timeframe and helps the client see what results might be quick wins and what results will take longer to achieve and measure

• It places accountability for success in the hands of the client/sponsor – which usually means a close eye is paid to progress and quick decisions are made if called for.

• It fosters sharing of learning on successes and failures in organization design work – a neglected activity where evaluation is lacking.

• It enables issues to be identified and action taken as needed.

The report rightly points out that sound evaluation is not necessarily easy, but gives some useful ideas on how to approach it.