Organisation design masterclasses

One of the frequently asked questions I get is about organisation design training.  Where to get it, what it’s about, is it accredited and various similar things.  I’ve written about it before,  but it seems timely to add a bit more to the topic, especially as I’ve been asked to facilitate a series of organisation design masterclasses.

I paused for a moment as I typed the word ‘masterclasses’ wondering if it is a gender-neutral word or is there some equivalent that is more politically correct if it is not gender neutral?

The pause extended somewhat as read a few things on the topic of gendered language – some of it completely incomprehensible e.g. this extract from Feminist Visual Culture:  ‘It is about the language of public critique, where there is a Deleuzian libidinal economy at work which values the process of reaching different plateau in design, in contrast to the prevailing emphasis on the orgasmic end-product, or what Akis Didaskalou has called the ejaculatory mode of the design masterclass.’

I’m fairly certain that the design masterclasses I facilitate will not be in the ‘ejaculatory mode’ but …

Moving on.  We’re planning a series of seven two-hour sessions (I’m now avoiding the word ‘masterclass’ just in case) that build on the foundation of a two-day overview of organisation design of the sort many providers run.  (See the CIPD one here).   Each session is designed to take a closer look at a specific aspect design work, building more knowledge on an area that is usually only touched on in a foundational course.  Here are the topics.

1: Skills development for organisation designers

Organisation design is about understanding how people, processes, work, and culture interact within and across organisational boundaries.  Much of this interaction is mediated though technologies including social media, automated processes, and robotics.  This session looks at three skills and knowledge areas – design thinking, data analysis and interpretation, behavioural science  – that organisation designers should develop to help them design with these complex interactions in mind.  (We’ve assumed some systems theory knowledge).

2: Designing across organisational boundaries

As organisations becoming interdependent – through supply chains, contractual agreements, technology platforms – it becomes harder and harder to know where the boundaries of an organisation are.   Design work must, as Rob Cross notes, ‘be virtually continuous and requires the ongoing creation of direction, alignment, and commitment within and across organisational boundaries.’  This session explores organisational boundaries:  the technology of organisational network mapping, using data to see patterns of interactions, and identifying the business processes that cross organisational boundaries.  Being able to ‘see’ workflows in operation leads to better design and design outcomes.

3: Networks and why we need to think about them

Organisations comprise numbers of different networks of people both formal and informal.  These networks are not visible in a standard organisation chart but their health or ill-health are critical to organisational operation.  This session discusses the social networks found in organisations and proposes that organisation designers need insights into network theory as applied to social systems in order to understand and improve the organisation’s design.   Participants will learn how to apply these insights into their work.

4:  Self-managing teams their design and organisational value

Changes in social structures, access to information, technologies, and other factors are challenging traditional organisational hierarchies, based on hierarchical leader power and authority.  Self-managing teams are increasingly being seen in organisation.   This session examines what they are, how they work and the reasons for introducing (or not) self managing teams into an organisation design or redesign.

 5: Designing and redesigning culture

It is hard to know whether culture can be changed by conscious design, or whether it can only be nudged, or shaped by design work.  This session looks at the question ‘Can culture be designed?’ And, if so, what aspects of it to focus on.  Should it be the behavioural aspects – language, norms, values, and practices more commonly associated with organisation development, or should it be the business processes, systems, policies, and rules, related to the formal organisational architecture, or should it be both?   Participants will look at the various ‘levels’ of culture: organisation, business unit, and day-to- day and consider six conditions that foster the likelihood of designed culture change succeeding:

 6:  Developing credibility

External organisation design consultants are commissioned to work on design projects largely because organisational leaders feel they do not have the internal capability to deliver the work.  Thus external consultants come to an organisation already credible and perceived to have expertise.  However, internal organisation design consultants, often have to earn credibility, in order to be commissioned either to do the work, or work as equal partners with external consultants.  This session offers some techniques and insights to help develop credibility.

7: Organisation design toolkit

Any craft requires the tools of the trade, and organisation design is no different.  There are a bewildering number of models, approaches, inventories, diagnostics, ‘canvases’ and assessments.  Additionally, these are available for myriad different ‘audiences’ – leaders, executive teams, board members, managers, supervisors, front-line staff, and others.  The difficulty for a practitioner is knowing what tool to choose for the purpose in hand, and then how to apply it in order to get a successful outcome.  In this session there will be opportunity to review a number of tools, skim some useful resources, and learn how to build a personal toolkit.

What masterclasses would you offer organization designers?  Let me know.

Image: Masterclass icon

One thought on “Organisation design masterclasses”

  1. Hi Naomi,

    Great article! From a systems-thinking perspective, I am interested in knowing what are the foundational elements that would be most useful for people leaders in a large organization.

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