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UK Civil Service

UK Civil Service: Organisation Development and Design Capability Building

Since 2013, Mayvin has been running a major Organisation Development and Design (OD&D) capability programme across the UK Civil Service. Demand for the programme is high, with delegates representing a wide cross-section of departments, agencies, roles and specialisms. Alumni report being able to make an immediate difference in their roles by bringing an OD&D mindset and know-how to their work. “The right balance between theory and practical, useful materials that I can adapt and use again, excellent support from knowledgeable tutors – who challenged me (in such a nice way) to look at situations differently and develop new skills." - Programme participant


Over the past 10 to 15 years, the Civil  Service Organisation Development and Design (OD & D) Specialist Partnering function has developed an integrated practice of OD & D, based on the needs of the Civil Service system.

To reflect this integrated practice, the OD & D function commissioned a programme that would bring the fields together in a ground-breaking new programme. The requirement was to design foundational Practitioner and Advanced Practitioner programmes.

Rather than developing these programmes in isolation, the intention was for this work to be an intervention in its own right, changing the way the Civil Service does change, through the development of an impactful community of practice.


Mayvin was already delivering Organisation Development ‘Core Practice’ and ‘Advanced Practice’ programmes within the Civil Service. Building on these successful programme structures, we partnered with the OD & D function faculty to create the new, truly integrated, development and design programmes.

Central to these new programmes is a bespoke model that illustrates the key themes brought to life in both the Practitioner and Advanced programmes.

We continue to work with our academic partner, the University of Chichester, to accredit the programmes. We use an ‘OD & D Question’ method, created by Mayvin Associate Dr Richard Hale, based on the principles of Action Learning. Completion of both programmes leads to a Post Graduate Certificate in Organisational Development and Design Practice.


The programmes have proven even more popular than the previous Organisation Development-focused versions. Through integrating OD and Organisation Design, with the additional focus areas of consultancy and mindset, participants are being attracted from across the Civil Service in both specialist and operational leadership roles.

Participants have found themselves taking a more politically astute, systemic and relationship-focused approach to their work. Critically, the combination of development and design has allowed participants to better support their clients for whom change in the real world is about simultaneously paying attention to both structural and cultural dimensions.

Carolyn Norgate, Deputy Director, Organisation Development and Design Specialist Partnering, commented on the impact of the new programme:

“The impact this is having is a shift in mindset from being an expert to holding an ‘inquiry’ and collaborating with the client to help them work things out. It is also confidence. The way that we run the programmes enables participants to reflect back on their practice. Intellectually people get it, but it is the ability to practice it and reflect. The academic side does bring that extra reflective loop. They are bringing different conversations into the organisation. This is not just about having more conversation with this leader or that, but a shift in the quality of thinking across the board."

Alumni from the previous programme commented on having more tools at their disposal, greater confidence to ask difficult questions of senior leaders and an improved sense of self that allows for a more inquiring, less subjective approach.

"I observed the value of having a few tools in [my] ‘toolkit’ when working with clients. More importantly, it has given me confidence to use them and adapt them as needed rather than letting the tools determine what [I] do."

"They [a group of leaders] were talking about the leadership competencies that were needed [in the department]. And I asked them a question: ‘How will you role model this?’ There was what felt like at least ten seconds of silence. But they started to discuss this. I thought they would hound me out of the room, but it was as if they reluctantly accepted this was the type of question I should be asking. I am not sure if they took it on board, but it certainly made them reflect. It made it more personal."

"The quality of my thinking I feel has evolved. I am thinking differently about how I question and acknowledge the ability to distance my personal views and judgements from those that are shared with me, remaining objective."

Alumni of the current Practitioner programme have commented on that:

"The OD & D practitioner programme had a huge impact on both my professional and personal life. It provided me with practical tools and the confidence to use them. I found the focus on reflection and self as instrument really great as it has enabled me to continue to build on and develop my practice now that the course has finished. Having the support and interaction with my Action Learning Set colleagues was a big benefit"

"For me the added value of this course was the ALS, these created both personal and professional support and really enabled the practitioner element of the course to come alive. These networks are ongoing for our group and have made real impact in a lot of areas from sharing expertise and offering coaching to each other."

Download our free resource of the Civil Service's Organisation Development and Design Capability Model.

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