Mayvin_Organisation Development meets Organisation Design

Where Organisation Design meets Organisation Development

A year ago, Claire Wightman started a new role in the Civil Service Expert Organisation Development and Design team. During this time she has been reflecting on what it means to be an Organisation Development and Organisation Design Practitioner. To what extent are the two fields integrated? Is there an ideal blend of skills? Here, Claire shares her thinking with us in her first guest blog for Mayvin.



What do we mean by Organisation Development and Organisation Design? To an extent, these terms will always be essentially contested. Within the Civil Service OD&D team, we use these working definitions:

Mayvin_Organisation Development and Design definitions

In other words, we believe they are distinct but complementary disciplines. We rarely use one without the other. Often our clients will ask for our support in thinking through changes to structures, systems and processes, but in doing so, they will surface challenges linked to culture, behaviours and ways of working.

But, this is not the end of the story. We also believe that OD&D overlaps with wider disciplines, such as Business Architecture, Service Design, Software Development, HR, Finance and many, many more. So OD&D is fundamentally an enabling function, understanding business needs, connecting different teams and often relying on a blend of expertise to help achieve the outcomes required.


Secondly, what type of skills should Organisation and Organisation Design practitioners have? In designing our future learning model, we have reflected on this question deeply, adapting the American Army’s leadership model of  Be, Know and Do.

Mayvin_Organisation Development and Design skills


Here are our summary conclusions:

1. It depends
OD&D capability needs will depend on both the organisational context and the nature of the role. For example, the blend of skills required from an SRO leading a transformation programme, an HR Business Partner supporting an internal change and full-time OD&D consultant will be considerably different.

2. Common to both
Mindset and behavioural qualities tend to apply to both disciplines. E.g. curiosity, emotionally intelligent, self-aware, reflective, analytical, challenging, ethical, action-oriented, adaptive, confident, resilient, focused, committed to lifelong learning habits, impactful, collaborative, and a systems thinker.

3. Organisation Development
There are some skills weighted towards Organisation Development. E.g. Coaching, Inquiry, Process Consultation, Individual Development, Group Development, Leadership Development, Large Group Interventions and working with Culture and Behaviours.

4. Organisation Design
There are some skills weighted towards Organisation Design. E.g. Business Strategy, Data Analysis, Operating Model Development, Process Mapping, Development of Design Options, Development of Governance Models, Alignment to Performance, Pay and Reward Systems, Transition Planning and Transition.

5. Consulting skills
There are some generic consulting skills that seem to underpin all OD&D work. E.g. Research, planning, stakeholder engagement, workshop design and facilitation and evaluation.

What this means for me

Taken together, it has been an interesting journey. Whilst the points above make logical sense, developing a sense of identity as an OD&D practitioner has not been a linear or neat process for me – and I wonder whether it is for anybody?

When I first joined the CS OD&D team, my professional background was in leading large/complex organisation design projects. My new job involves advising the top tiers of government on issues linked to organisational change and developing OD&D capability across the Civil Service. Apart from prompting lots of reflection (and a fair bit of anxiety), it also led me to focus on my organisational development skills. This has had a profound impact on my understanding of my role as a Senior Leader in OD&D and how change happens in a large and complex organisation like the Civil Service. I now think that we need to strike an appropriate balance between formal approaches to change (which give us a frame to work within and delivery assurance) and delivering people-oriented interventions (which will enable the corresponding cultural shift).

I don’t think there is an ideal blend of skills for an OD&D practitioner. It will always depend on the organisational context and need. However, based on my experiences to date, I do believe that OD&D interventions work significantly better when practitioners adopt all of the mindset and behavioural qualities mentioned above.

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