What would you put in a 5 day internationally appropriate organisation design and development training programme, aimed at practitioners who have a basic view of the disciplines and who want to extend their skills, knowledge and confidence in these?
My task is to develop the outline for such a programme, and now I’m taking the first steps, eating my own dog food – as the saying goes – in doing this.
The first step, according to my new book (Chapter 4), is ‘Starting’ – blindingly self-evident yet easier said than done. Each of the actions (recognising the triggers for the design work, meeting the client, agreeing the contract, finding out the context, getting commitment for the work, writing the case for it, starting the stakeholder engagement and risk management) takes time to complete. In our case, they began 5 months ago in February. However, we’ve now completed them and we’re into the ‘Designing’ phase.
This phase starts with the design criteria and I’ve roughed them out for the programme. I’m now incubating them pending improvement and discussion, but here’s what they currently look like – with some questions I’m pondering shown in italics.
The course design must:
1 Be clear and simple in language, style, and content in order to work for people who do not have English as a first language.
(Note to design team: how will we test this? Do we need a text analyser, or someone specialized in English as a second language on the design team? Will we allow for activities to be conducted in the native language although the course will be in English – or will it be? Could it be designed to be delivered in other languages – how would we train facilitators?)
2 Show the relationships between organisation design, development and change management clearly throughout the 5 days in order to demonstrate that although they are independent disciplines they are interdependent in design work.
(Note to design team: we discussed 2 days of design, 2 days of development and one day of integrated case study, but is this right? It feels too compartmentalised – maybe we need to show interdependence almost from the start, once we’ve discussed the different theoretical frameworks of each. There’s lots of info in Chapter 2 of my book we can draw on).
3 Balance the required level of theory with relevant/pragmatic practice and application in order to meet the needs of both the accrediting body and the day to day practitioner.
(Note to design team: this needs thought. Are we going to follow the 10:20:70 approach – or is it too ‘folklore to formula‘? We don’t want to spend too much time on the theory/theoretical frameworks as we know people want a ‘how-to’ guide but we do want to be academically rigorous and thoughtful).
4 Provoke participant (and facilitator) inquiry, reflection and conscious awareness of what they/we are learning and what insights are being revealed about their OD & D work in order to provide opportunities for applied learning and continuous professional development.
(Note to design team: Critical reflection, on the theory and practice from an ethical and professional standpoint is essential. Research shows that ‘‘learning from direct experience can be more effective if coupled with reflection—that is, the intentional attempt to synthesize, abstract, and articulate the key lessons taught by experience … [and] the effect of reflection on learning is mediated by greater perceived ability to achieve a goal (i.e., self-efficacy). Together, these results reveal reflection to be a powerful mechanism behind learning, confirming the words of American philosopher, psychologist, and educational reformer John Dewey: “We do not learn from experience … we learn from reflecting on experience.” How can we build reflective elements into the design? What form would these take? How much do we think practitioners also have to be able to ‘teach’ reflective skills to clients who want a quick ‘solution’ to OD & D issues?)
5 Be readily adaptable to the VUCA environment in a range of international contexts and cultures in order to equip participants with up to date, relevant skills for their work.
(Note to design team: We briefly discussed how we could make this work well – a modular approach, supplementary materials, ‘slot-in’ case studies and examples for the different countries, etc. – and will continue this discussion. We didn’t discuss but we can talk next time about how we keep up to date on the use of new/emerging technologies in organisations and how these are impacting organisational operations e.g. AI doing work allocation instead of managers doing it. On this, see ‘Should there be a computer on your organisation chart?‘. These technologies are also increasingly being used in ‘doing’ organisation design/development work. There’s a good article, by David Green, that looks specifically at organisational network analysis (ONA) who references a podcast on this topic that I just listened to. It’s an interview with Michael Arena , author of a new book Adaptive Space. Keeping the programme continuously fresh and relevant over the coming 3 years or so is a challenge we’ll have to meet).
6 Offer a range of organisation design and development methods and approaches in order to demonstrate that there is no one right way or prescription to shape the design or development of an organisation.
(Note to design team: Are we going to introduce notions of service design , design thinking , agile, lean, customer experience design , other types of design? If so, how much weight will we give them? If not, are we missing opportunities for ‘joining-up’ or connecting a wider design community that exists in most large organisations?)
The criteria listed have to work within certain non-negotiable constraints. Constraints we have considered so far – the length cannot be extended beyond 5 days, the target participant group is the ‘doers’ of design work – those who will see it through implementation and evaluation, the programme assumes a basic knowledge of some of the theories that underpin organisation design e.g. systems theory, complexity theory, contingency theory. It also assumes some knowledge of organisation development e.g. theories of change, culture, behaviour. In other words, it is not an introductory course.
Once we have nailed down the non-negotiable constraints and the design criteria we can start on a high-level programme design.
What would you have as design criteria? What do you think of those listed above? Let me know.