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Organisation Development meets Organisation Design: an ongoing inquiry

At Mayvin, we have been wrestling with the question of how Organisation Development meets Organisation Design in the real world of complex client systems. This blog adds to the conversation by bringing together two lines of inquiry articulated in previous posts. Claire Wightman offered an excellent summary of Organisation Development meets Organisation Design by describing how […]
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At Mayvin, we have been wrestling with the question of how Organisation Development meets Organisation Design in the real world of complex client systems. This blog adds to the conversation by bringing together two lines of inquiry articulated in previous posts.

Claire Wightman offered an excellent summary of Organisation Development meets Organisation Design by describing how the Civil Service brings the two fields together as “distinct but complementary disciplines.” Claire articulated the “weightings” that particular skills have in each field and also mapped the consultancy skills common to both. Of particular note, Claire called out generic capabilities such as curiosity, reflection and systems thinking.

In another post, Peter Lawrence focused on Organisation Design. Peter challenged the commonly held belief that design is all about “working with lifeless forms.” He asserted that “organisations are full of life, unpredictability and potential.”

Peter went on to suggest that a useful metaphor for Organisation Design is gardening. Here he talked about the seasons and “sequential stages…during which time we give space for the unintended and unexpected to take root and grow.”

Whilst not explicitly calling it out, I see Peter’s post bringing together Organisation Design and Organisation Development with sequential design activities being complemented through more emergent, just-in-time development interventions along the way.

Peter closed his post with a call to action: "Organisation Design is disruptive and does not come without cost…why not take the opportunity to dream a little about the often hidden potential..."

Pulling these threads together, I see in this suggestion that we “dream a little” a link to Claire’s articulation of the generic capabilities that cut across the fields of Organisation Development and Organisation Design.

Claire’s generic capabilities of curiosity, reflection and systems thinking could be the spaces in which Peter’s dreaming is stimulated (through curiosity), nurtured (through reflection) and then structured (through systems thinking) for purposeful use.

Organisation Development is sometimes criticised for being too theoretical and ungrounded. Organisation Design is criticised for not taking into account the messiness of complex human relationships. Bringing them together through ‘structured, purposeful dreaming’ may be a way to counter these criticisms and deliver more meaningful benefits for our clients.

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