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A new Organisational Diagnostic Framework

As a psychologist I am passionate about helping people live good lives where they can live in a way that is true and aligned to their sense of self. This thinking is important at work – we spend so much of our lives working, we need to ensure we are working in ways that support our wellbeing, growth, and development. 

My belief has always been that the way we treat people impacts the bottom line. Examining this idea within the setting of organisations, I mapped out the key factors that can constrain or improve behaviour in organisations depending on how they interact with internal and external forces, for example preferences in ways of working by different national cultural or community groups can be a good ‘fit’ with the organisational structure and responsibilities of team leaders, including leadership style, or not at all. These factors – leadership, national culture, and organisational design and structure are useful to understand in order to determine what is best suited to individuals. Factors identified in the model include values, strategy, structure, leadership, organisational resources, preferential ways of behaving, and industry or client expectations for example. These are factors within many OD models – the difference in this framework is (i) the focus on context in international and diverse settings, (ii) its work around the structures and behaviour within organisation dynamics, and (ii) its visualisation as a metaphor of performance as a living organism that can cycle through periods of ill-health and wellness depending on how it cares for itself – through low and peak performance. It is useful to produce a visualisation or ‘blueprint’ of an organisation to see how the organisation and change can best be strategically considered.

What is the Organisational Development Framework?

The following factors have been identified as major determinants of behaviour in organisations. Knowing how to set up an organisation (it’s processes, resources, and development) will enable more productivity and better performance.

  • National culture, community and context
  • Industrial and Organisational Logics (structure, behaviour, systems and dynamics)
  • Resources available (such as training, intervention, communication and facilities)
  • Individual or workforce perception of risk and their overarching motivational needs, and
  • Leadership (style and impact)

The Framework has several subfactors relating to each main factor and includes a consolidation of challenges and approaches that practitioners have taken to reduce loss. Developed in global multinational business settings, the Framework accounts for the factors that a business or major project of this scale would face – either through constraining behaviour and causing dissatisfaction or improving the preferential freedom and responsibility (way of working) of the group. When used as a guideline for understanding what processes, variability, organisational design, resources, contractual and stakeholder relations the Framework ensures that all areas of the organisation are considered, and leaders can construct an organisation in which people feel supported at every stage of the business growth and lifecycle. It is recommended to be used at the project setup stage or  in considering mergers and transitions although it can be used at any stage – the preference is sooner rather than when financial, safety or productivity loss is experienced. 

How was the model developed?

From my experiences working as an Organisational Development Practitioner in large multinational companies, the research has developed through qualitative and quantitative analysis with practitioners operating globally. My own desire within the work and throughout my work experience is to find a sustainable way of addressing root cause issues that may not be obvious but are coupled with psychological theory and practical application towards improvement. My desire is to assist in setting the stage for more managed and considered growth – financially, individually and with wellbeing and inclusion at the heart of all actions.

Through my 6 year Doctoral research, Masters research and several years of working in various businesses across the world, the Framework is underpinned by my experiences and observations in learning and development, health and safety, and management to ground it in real organisational practices and solutions. 

Why is the OD Framework unique?

The Framework takes into account factors that allow full variability of people and their preferences and needs, and sets out a path of problem-solving and growth to ensure the right ‘fit’. A people-first approach has underpinned the development of the Framework, and the intentions and outcomes of the Framework are aimed towards improving how people (their whole selves) and business interact. 

With the ability to scale with businesses and tailor to any industry, company-specific issues or areas of development, the Framework really comes into its own as a tool not just for organisational health diagnostics, but also for providing a working document that addresses challenges, their psychological and emotional basis, and provides a working document to aid in capturing lessons learnt so that organisational re-learning is reduced from project to project, from site to site or through natural evolution processes. It is particularly useful for international projects, business mergers, and improving HR, leadership and workforce practices. The Framework allows the creation of a ‘blueprint’ for an organisation, that can be followed for best practice and the development of strategic design. 

Where can it be used in a business?

Using the Framework has the most impact when used for the following:

  • Planning an international project
  • Ahead of a merger or acquisition
  • Leadership changes 
  • Company restructuring and groundwork level changes
  • Setting up a new business, venture or start-up
  • Strategic re-alignment and design 

As the Framework is designed to help understand the behaviours, contexts and influencing factors that may impact an organisation from reaching its full potential for success, you will get the best results if it is employed at the start to guide the foundation of the project or business. However, the Framework can also be used as an ongoing tool for organisation health checks, addressing specific challenges, and through capturing best practice or change.  

Who would benefit from using it?

Any business, regardless of size or industry, can benefit from engaging with the Framework. It is an excellent tool for use by Organisational Development practitioners, HR managers, senior leadership and C suite teams, project managers and management teams, and any staff who are involved in decision making that impacts people and behaviour. 

The Framework is particularly useful for startups, as it ensures they can scale and grow in a manner that is sustainable and helps to avoid some of the common issues startups may hit when they grow to a certain size. By drawing the ‘blueprint’ of a business with help from the Framework, startups and new ventures can be assured their business is scaling correctly and to the benefit of employees. 

Bonus: Why is it nicknamed the Jellyfish Model?

While researching and exploring the idea of organisation as living systems that are born, grow, thrive, survive and die, I came across an interesting creature known as the Immortal Jellyfish, or Turritopsis dohrnii. This unique, tiny jellyfish no bigger than your smallest fingernail has the ability to grow from an immature polyp, to a juvenile, to an adult, and cycle back through the development stages as needed if it is injured, sick, or old.  It can then go through the ‘growing up’ phase all over again, agile in its whole system, and with the potential for this cycle to carry on infinitely, unless the jellyfish is eaten or injured beyond repair. 

Just like the jellyfish, businesses go through this cycle of growth and regression as part of their nature. By being prepared and able to manage big and small change in a considered and focused way, an organisation is able to manage change more effectively and maintain growth in the long term. 

I also noticed in the design of the Framework that with its circular appearance bears a resemblance to a jellyfish, making the nickname for it even more appropriate!

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