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The Intervention Phase

Top-down change management creates the problem of resistance with leaders battling to motivate and engage. OD supports organizational change by utilizing their people resource. Rather than creating barriers and a culture of fear, OD intervention methods should be designed to enable people to speak up.

Once the Diagnostic Phase has been completed, the feedback report should provide the information needed to design a robust action plan for OD interventions that will enable the organization to continue its change journey. By this point the disturbance process should be in full effect and options for OD techniques and methodologies can drive real behavior change as well as change to structure, process, and policy. Interventions can be devised to address a number of organization system requirements sustaining and maintaining some elements, consolidat- ing progress made, building on strengths, or preparing for future changes. Interventions can be limited to examining a single issue or an ongoing program of interventions designed for progressive development. At the core of each OD intervention is the search for existing organizational capacity, which can help progress the organization toward prospective futures.

Based on the theoretical underpinning of OD practice, there are a number of OD tools and techniques available to the OD practitioner. Key questions to be addressed during that the Intervention Phase are:
■ Where and at what level within the organization should the intervention be deployed?
■ What specific areas of change are required and to whom: individuals, teams, functions, or the whole organization?
■ What is the focus of the intervention: task, process, or people?
■ Given the organization culture should interventions be rigorously planned or will the change journey be emergent?
■ What intervention tools and techniques best t the organizational environment and have the potential to deliver the outcome required?
■ Who within the organization will be in- volved in codesigning interventions alongside the OD practitioner?
■ What actions can the OD practitioner take to improve the client’s ability to deal with future problems?

An Intervention Model—Harnessing the Human Resource
OD interventions should engage with the tripartite of thinking, feeling, and being, which is central to human endeavor. Harnessing the Human Resource within the organization requires that each intervention engages with rational logic, awareness and self-awareness, and transpersonal elements of the change process.

OD creates space for individuals to think using iterative methods of action and re- ection. It grants access to the full range of intellectual capacity and knowledge depositories within the organizational boundary allowing for a high-level interchange of ideas and information. Reasoning creates an arena, which allows individuals to utilize the intellectual capacity available within the organization, resulting in solutions that are broader in scope, thought through, innovative, and creative.

The links to behavioral science mean that OD interventions encourage people to watch, notice, perceive, and observe their own behavior and that of others within the organization. Sometimes referred to as emotional intelligence, the act of increasing awareness into how people behave and exploring why they behave in that way in- creases an observance of behavior, which, once noticed, can be developed.

OD engages with individuals to appreciate their own, and others’, feelings, values, and beliefs. This appreciation transcends the requirement to be right, and instead develops a connection even in difference. Clear perception and recognition of how individuals activate their beliefs and values results in greater levels of understanding and appreciation, which enables personal peak performance.

The OD Tool Kit—What you Need for the Intervention Phase
The intervention phase is the beating heart of the OD program and harnesses the human resource in the organization to create a safe environment where ideation, creativity, and innovation are utilized to overcome challenges and pursue opportunities. The techniques and methods required for the intervention phase of the OD cycle are:

  • Acknowledgment of complexity
  • Cultural sensitivity
  • Knowledge and methods relating to adult learning and learning through play
  • Knowledge and skills in employing OD Methods, for example:
    • Community Learning (Fulton, 2005)
    • World Café (Brown and Issacs, 2007)
    • Open Space Technology (Owen, 2008)
    • Charrettes (Lennertz, 2003)
    • Theory U (Scharmer, 2009)
    • Work-Out (Ulrich et al, 2002)
    • Sustained Dialogue (Saunders, 2012)
  • Ability to develop supportive and safe environments
  • Flexibility and adaptability to respond to the ow and messiness of the intervention environment

■ OD supports organizational change by utilizing the people resource.
■ The feedback report from the Diagnostic Phase should provide the information needed to design a robust action plan for OD interventions.
■ At the core of each OD intervention is the search for existing organizational capacity, which can help progress the organization toward prospective futures.
■ Harnessing the Human Resource within the organization requires that each intervention utilizes reasoning, observance, and appreciation.


The Diagnostic Phase

The Diagnostic Phase of the OD cycle provides the data and information with which decisions can be made in regard to moving the organization forward. It is a full exploration and investigation into the historical context of the organization and what is happening in the present circumstance. In many ways the OD practitioner takes on the role of an organizational detective seeking to find not only the answers but also the right questions to ask. It is through the diagnostic process that the OD practitioner will develop a deep appreciation of the organizational situation, developing knowledge of the organizational capability; culture and strengths, which can be developed in order, move the organization forward.

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Both qualitative and quantitative data collection methods can be employed with each method having disadvantages and ad- vantages depending on what needs to be achieved. Working with hard data such as absence and turnover data, it is possible to examine trends and hot spots within the organizational system. Soft data can be collected through action research, interviews, and direct observation and can be designed to engage and connect with the organization. Examining mental models, open communication, culture, social constructs, and sense making are the key components of the diagnostic process. The output from the Diagnostic Phase is a comprehensive report of what change, development, and transformation are required. In addition to data gathering, the Diagnostic Phase is also a disturbance process designed to drive dissatisfaction with the current reality and help participants to begin thinking about possible futures. The diagnosis fundamentally examines the current functioning of the organization, identifying key issues and information necessary to input into the intervention design process. Key questions to be addressed during that the Diagnostic Phase are:

  • What data are required to develop a deep understanding of the organization and provide the basis for decision making and action planning for the OD program?
  • What data collection methods and processes are most appropriate in the organizational context?
  • What political context and power controls will shape the diagnostic process?
  • What similarities and differences exist between individuals, teams, and functions in regard to their perception of the organizational reality?
  • What time and people resources are required to collect and analyze the data and is the organization willing to commit this resource to the process?
  • Who has responsibility and ownership of the data collected?
  • Who has the responsibility to complete the analysis of the data, and do they have the requisite skills to do so?
  • Who needs to have access to the feedback report from the diagnostic interventions?
  • What are the most critical issues identified, what are the symptoms of the system, and what are the causes?
  • Based on the diagnostic report, what revisions are required to the proposed OD program?

The OD Tool Kit—What You Need for the Diagnostic Phase

The Diagnostic Phase can be used to in- crease awareness of the contribution individual employees can make to the change journey and to raise the level of consciousness of each individual as to how their behavior impacts not only on their own performance, but that of their team and the wider organization. The techniques and methods required for the diagnostic phase of the OD cycle are:

  • Dialogue Skills
  • Access to Hard Data and permission to collect soft data
  • Knowledge of collecting and analyzing data (Qualitative and Quantitative Methods)
  • Intervention and activities design skills
  • Facilitation skills: support, challenge, re-framing, and questioning in the moment
  • Knowledge and skills in employing OD
  • Methods, for example:
    • Appreciative Inquiry (Watkins et al, 2011)
    • Search Conference (Emergy and Purser, 1996)
    • Social Labs (Hassan, 2014)
    • Visual Explorer (Palus and Horth, 2001)
    • The Art of Convening (Neal and Neal, 2011)
    • Participative Work Design (Emery, 1989)
  • Knowledge of how to use a statistics package
  • Strategic process design


The Diagnostic Phase is a full exploration and investigation into the historical context of the organization and what is happening in the present circumstance.

Both qualitative and quantitative data collection methods can be employed.
Examining mental models, open communication, culture, social constructs, and sense making are the key components of the diagnostic process.



Contracting – How it Works

The beginning of the OD cycle is the contracting phase, which includes the agreement of terms relating to the OD programme and covers practicalities similar to an employment contract such as budget or fees, time frame, resource, objectives, reporting hierarchy and agreed responsibilities. In addition to the formal and structural aspects of the agreed OD programme, the contracting phase has two further, arguably more important aspects: establishing the psychological contract between the OD practitioner and the programme sponsor and a preliminary investigation of the organizational context.

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The Psychological Contract

OD is a practice reliant on human relationship. Establishing a collaborative relationship between the OD practitioner and the programme sponsor, organizational leadership and key stakeholders in the client organization are an essential foundation to the successful execution of an OD intervention. If such relationships are ignored or fragile then the OD programme will falter and fail to establish the necessary human endeavour required for success.

The focus of the contracting phase therefore is on establishing the expectations that both the OD practitioner and the client have in regards to the working relationship, inputs, involvement and success factors. The psychological contract is based upon trust between practitioner and sponsor, and it is through dialogue that this contract is properly explored and unveiled. The exploration of expectation during this phase will set a firm foundation upon which OD can take place, developing a shared understanding, commitment and amenity between sponsor and practitioner.

Preliminary Investigation

Until the diagnostic phase is completed it is difficult to predict what interventions may be required or what development is needed to help the organization achieve effective performance. It is a journey into the unknown because until the process starts the end point is not yet clarified. From a contracting perspective this creates an issue with establishing boundaries in regards to resource and objectives. A preliminary investigation allows the OD practitioner to establish some of the key systemic issues, challenges and possible opportunities, which are presenting symptoms upon which the OD programme can be directed. Key questions to be addressed during this investigation are:

  • What are the presenting problems and are they real or perceived?
  • How are stakeholders with predetermined ideas about the diagnosis of the problem and predetermined solutions to be managed?
  • What power does the sponsor have to influence the organization to allow change to happen within the organization?
  • Who are the programme sponsors and how should the multiple stakeholders to be managed?
  • How ready for change is the organization, how can it be readied further to the point where change can be sustained?
  • What expertise does the organization have internally, what expertise does the OD practitioner offer?
  • What mechanisms need to be in place to manage confidentiality whilst surfacing issues that may have previously been off limits?
  • How can trust in both the practitioner and the OD process be developed and maintained?
  • What conflicts exist in regards to ethics, value and belief systems?
  • What does success look like and what measures will signal that success has been achieved?

Walking Away

The contracting phase provides an opportunity for the OD practitioner to understand what is expected and whether what is expected can be achieved considering the organization context, change readiness and political will. Where resistance or opposition by key stakeholders exists the likelihood of success is reduced, similar to trying to push a rock uphill, a lack of power from the sponsor to influence the organization to allow change to take place will have a negative effective upon any programme. Furthermore, exploring the psychological contract might reveal wildly opposed values, beliefs and ethical frameworks that would make a working relationship impossible. The contracting phase may very well resulting in exiting an OD programme before it starts. A passion to help organization’s change and achieve sustainable performance, and a belief in of OD as a powerful methodology for change cannot override a situation, which is futile and impossible

The OD Tool-Kit

The more skills or tools that the OD practitioner has at their disposal the better they are able to adapt and flex to situations, react to problems or lead opportunities. The OD tool-kit offers possible resources, behaviour or skills that the OD practitioner can explore further with an emphasis on the practical and competencies required. The techniques and methods required for the Contracting Phase of the OD cycle are:

  • Humanistic and democratic assumptions
  • Social Inquiry skills
  • Personal self-awareness and management of internal responses
  • Partnership with the programme sponsor and agreement of shared goals and intentions
  • Attend to building relationship and trust with key stakeholders
  • Engagement with Senior Management/Leadership team
  • Engagement with individuals, teams and departments to foster support and become part of the on going interaction.
  • Assessment of organizational readiness for OD
  • OD Design Team and/or Steering Committee
  • Agreement of deliverables – what does success look like?

Organization Development – A Tool-Kit for People Led Change

As a discipline Organization Development (OD) is over 60 years old, but the movement towards a more human economy means that the philosophy and approach offered by OD is in tune with what is happening in the wider social, political and economic systems. Knights (2016: 4) stated that, “to expect ‘the leader’ to always come to the best solution alone is unrealistic especially in our modern complex world.” The world of the charismatic leader that always had the answer has been exposed as problematic, and once feted leaders revealed as flawed. Organizations are facing unprecedented pressures on their operations and this environment is often referred to using the acronym VUCA;

  • Volatility: Unexpected challenge over an unknown time period
  • Uncertainty: Unknown causes and effects of change
  • Complexity: Overwhelming interconnection between variables
  • Ambiguity: Unknown, unknowns.

OD can offer organizations tools and techniques to combat these challenges by harnessing the human power and creativity within the organization to deliver sustainable organization performance. It offers a human approach to an industrial problem.

Organization Development: What it is, and why you need it.

Organization Development is variously described in academic terms based upon its behavioural and social science background.

OD is first and foremost a practice informed by theory, and in practical terms the practice of OD encompasses activities, which deliver organizational change through people. Or, simply put, OD is people led change. OD activities influence people to behave in line with their values and beliefs, embracing self and building an organization through using the combined knowledge of the organizational community. OD decision-making and judgement requires high levels of communal communication, which transcends the rational and logical processes preferred by business process engineering. It makes full use of the conscious and subconscious processes of innovation, creativity, intuition, instinct and corporate insight available within the organizational system.  Human endeavour requires a tripartite of thinking, feeling and being to be truly effective. Even the most rational of decisions are in some way informed by human behaviour and the underlying values of the person making the decision.

OD has become more widely acknowledged by contemporary organizations because of the prevalence of change and the need for change methods that work following a failure of change programmes to deliver their promised outcomes. There is a growing recognition that organizations that ignore the people bit of change in favour of the more tangible process reengineering and organizational restructures in isolation do so at the risk of resistance to change, cultural malignancy and a risk to return on investment.

Embedding OD as a way of working within an organization requires that organizational leaders create a safe environment where everyone’s ideas are treated respectfully and trust is placed in their employees’ capability to develop ideas which will help overcome challenges and pursue opportunities. The result is an end to a trickle down of strategic plans and documents, and instead a creative connection between personal values and beliefs with the purpose of the organization. Furthermore, the aim of OD is not just about bottom line profit growth for that quarter, but an approach, which seeks to secure a sustainable future for the organization.

Want to read more?  Coming Soon…


Association of Coaching Conference

1st September 2016 – Kings College London

How we can recognise and operate better within our systems

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This conference brings together different strands of thought around how we can recognise and operate better within our systems. Some sessions are theory based while others are playful and experiential.

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