Organisation design the organisation development way

Most weeks I have a few people ask me organisation design questions. This week I had four and here I'm responding to the one from Alex:

I wondered whether you might be able to suggest any org design courses which may be suitable for me. I am keen to get some insight about any intermediate organisation design courses on the market which do design in an organisation development way.

Alex is already working in an organisation design/development role and isn't a complete beginner. A lot of people are in her position – looking to consolidate and develop beyond foundational skills. I guess in the CIPD's Organisation Design Profession Map Alex is looking to become a Band 3 or 4.

The interesting thing about Alex's question is the point about organisation design in an organisation development way. My organisation design orientation is towards organisation development – but what does that mean? A few years ago I came across a useful discussion on this from Fred Nickols of Distance Consulting. He developed a typology that explains Organisation Development (OD) practitioners as 'hard' or 'soft'. Soft OD refers to the classic tools: teambuilding, group facilitation, conflict management, etc. Hard OD refers to the socio-technical stream of OD, including organizational design, process design and improvement, work design and redesign, and large-scale change management. He also categorises them into internal and external consultants. He's now developed his thinking through the addition of another distinction 'that between OD practitioners who focus on people and those who focus on the organization', pointing out that there's no one best type. You can see the updated typology here .

On Nickol's analysis Alex is looking to conduct hard OD through a soft OD lens but there are lots of ways of doing this. So where does she go to develop her skills? I'm not sure that an 'intermediate organisation design course' is the best way to go. (Expensive and time-consuming). I'd suggest in the first instance to get reading.

Alex wouldn't have to become an academic, but does have to form a view on systems and complexity theory, organisational behaviour, design, and strategy. I've found the Oxford University Press 'very short introduction' series helpful for reflecting on organisation design. I suggest she reads through the ones on chaos, choice theory, complexity, design, ethics, information, innovation, leadership, management, organisations, quantum theory, risk, trust, work. All are thought provoking and relevant to organisation design work. And all have suggested further reading.

If Alex is insistent on a course she may draw a blank. Master's degrees in Organisation Design are almost non-existent. (An opportunity perhaps?). But some of the organisation development ones are good substitutes. One of the best that I know of is at the US Pepperdine University Graziadio School of Business and Management . Its course outline gives a good overview of both the hard and soft aspects of organisation development (using Nickols definition) and she could look to teach herself the listed topics if taking the programme is not an option.

In the UK Ashridge Business School offers a master's degree in organisational change which has a small design element to it. Roffey Park has a Master's degree in People and Organisational Development has less emphasis or organisation design but does not preclude it. (I facilitated a session on organisation design to the current cohort earlier this year).

Also in the UK the CIPD and Ashridge Business School offer short courses in organisation design the Ashridge one is more on the 'hard' side and the CIPD one more on the 'soft side.

Then there are other avenues. The Organisation Design Forum and the European Organisation Design Forum have conferences, networking events, and are building a good community of practitioners. The Organisation Design Community is more academic and publishes the Journal of Organisation Design. All three organisations are worth joining and all have a LinkedIn Group. Indeed, search LinkedIn on 'Organisation Design Groups' and a large number appear. See what they're talking about and pose questions to them.

What are your ideas for developing intermediate skills in doing organisation design in an organisation development way? Let me know.

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