Organization design v organization development

People frequently ask me the difference between organization design and organization development. I had another go at answering yesterday in a workshop. This time I gave the car analogy.

Organization design is deciding first what is the purpose of the car that you are about to design e.g. is it to cross the desert? Is it to win a Formula 1 race? Is it to transport two adults and three children to a party? The second stage is to design and deliver a car that is fit for that purpose.

Organization development is about keeping that vehicle in the condition necessary to achieve the purpose e.g. using the right fuel, having it serviced regularly, teaching the driver how to drive it to maximize its performance, and so on.

Clearly this is not a perfect analogy as an organization is in a constant state of flux unlike the vehicle but it does serve an illustrative purpose and it's one that people can grasp instantly. Another analogy I use is of the human body. The underpinning 'design' of the human body is a given – skeleton, cardio-vascular system, etc. But keeping the human body fit and healthy is the development aspect: nutrition, exercise, learning, managing stress, and so on. This analogy works as the human body is adaptive to things but the underpinning design is not necessarily affected in the adaptation process (apart from aging). Note that when I use the human body analogy I don't enter the territory of what the 'purpose' of it is or conjecture on the original 'designer'!

One of the participants in the room was a Head of Organization Development but to my relief he liked the way the analogy worked.

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