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5 Phases of Organization Development

Originally Published in Coaching for Transformation

Coaching is often the entryway to organization development (OD) work. Stages of OD work include:

  • Entry and Contracting
  • Sensing and Discovery
  • Diagnosis and Feedback
  • Planning Interventions and Action
  • Evaluation and Closure

As organization development consultants enter organizations to collect data, diagnose the organization’s needs, design interventions and evaluate progress, we can also build internal organizational capacity to do the same. Each phase of the OD process serves a distinct purpose. So let’s see how this works.

Entry and contracting
Authenticity, presence and empathy are the vital components of the entry process. During the initial conversations, we build trust by listening non-judgmentally and offering support. Rather than glossing over or censoring the issues, this approach allows the underlying concerns and opportunities to surface. By listening deeply, understanding the client’s issues and establishing the alliance, we uncover the goals and deeper desires. Desires take us much deeper than goals. By tapping people’s passions, we get clarity about personal and organizational expectations. Once we’re connected with their hearts, we co-create desired outcomes, determine roles and responsibilities and establish business terms.

Sensing and discovery
While relying heavily on our intuition, we also collect information based on hard data. Dialogue, surveys, interviews, assessment tools and focus groups are used both to collect information and build relationships. Throughout this process, the emphasis on building relationships means we’re much more likely to generate trust, which helps us get to the heart of the matter.

Diagnosis and feedback
We come in looking for what works and what we can leverage. Instead of a pathological approach to diagnosis, we can help members of the organization identify the life-giving energy in their work experiences and then discover their needs and wishes. A summarized report of the information and shared analysis acts as a catalyst for deepening awareness, inviting choice and stimulating action. Many organizational cultures have a preference for hard data, a scoring system for analyzing the current situation and a way to measure progress. When accompanied by anecdotal data, the impact can be very moving, heart-connecting and inspirational. Analyzing the data for the client can be highly informative, but isn’t as empowering as a joint analysis. Collectively, we can explore a gap analysis between the current situation and the desired situation.

Planning interventions and action
We end up with one-way communication and minimal buy-in unless we intervene with authentic feedback. Feedback leads to a blueprint for change and collaborative action planning. Action plans are broken down into small steps with accountability structures, including who is taking responsibility and agreed-on dates for completion. Implementation of the action plan can include a wide range of organization development interventions: individual or group coaching, training, leadership development, team building, diversity dialogues and conflict resolution are some of the processes used to support the change initiative.

Evaluation and closure
The measures of success established at entry are derived jointly. Evaluation can include fi nancial measures, such as the bottom-line impact (profitability or return on investment) or stakeholder satisfaction (quality-of-life or employee retention). Organization development work is an intimate process that calls for an empowering closure. Instead of celebrating once a year at the company Christmas party, we advocate for continuous celebration. We not only celebrate successes; we also celebrate new insights gained from disappointment or failure. Both provide opportunities for heart connection and stimulate dialogue that leads to new opportunities.1

1. Lasley, Martha (2010). Facilitating with Heart: Awakening Personal Transformation and Social Change. Discover Press.

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