My Approach To Traditional Organizational Development

© By Patrick A. Trottier

Before we begin:
This write-up relates to the traditional Organizational Development methodology rather than the Emergent Organizational Development (EOD)® Platform generally referred to on this site.

To begin:

What is Organizational Development?

Organizational Development is a business strategy to achieve an organization’s Purpose and business goals through the enhancement of organizational, team and individual performance.

Using ‘OD talk’, OD is the appreciation, development and integration of organizational dynamics, processes and elements (such as people, business processes, strategies, organizational design, systems (IT/IS), relevant environments, business models and culture (to name a few)), into a systemic, integral whole in order to achieve its ‘raison d’être’ – its Purpose, and its desired business goals.

Organizational Development is the process of:

1. Building organizational capacity to become more emergent, adaptive and effective with its rapidly changing environments…

2. Mastering strategic and operational capabilities to overcome the increasingly complex challenges in accomplishing its desired business goals…

3. Enhancing an organization’s ability to create and sustain its organizational and business vitality and viability…

4. Creating an ‘Emergent Living Vision’ (Trottier, 1995) so people experience, and are engaged in the ongoing development and evolution of the organization…

5. Creating an ‘Emergent Living Culture’ that fluidly adapts to changing norms, beliefs, and values in its internal and external environments, as well as manifesting consistency and congruency between those evolving stated ‘values’ and day-to-day experiences.

On Culture – a key and critical focus of OD:

A key consideration in developing an organization’s culture is to embed its mission, vision and values into the development of people, its structures, job design, its technologies, processes and systems… as well as its business model, strategic focus and its organizational design. ( see: Culture As A Core Business Strategy – an Emergent Approach To A Living Culture; )

Simply, ‘culture’ is what people (internal and external) ‘experience’ as patterns on a continuous basis when interacting with an organization.

For the sake of a common understanding, let’s define culture as:

‘Influencing patterns’ that people consistently and congruently experience over time which emerge as the norms, beliefs, values and practices that guide people in their perspectives, attitudes, decisions and behaviors’. (Trottier, 1996)

An ‘influencing pattern’ is a contingency of interdependent patterns that begin to emerge and form into something which has an inherent capacity to influence persons and events. (Trottier, 1995)

OD Is A Whole System Perspective

OD focuses on developing the organization as an integrated, ‘whole system’ to create organizational capacity, viability and vitality.

From a ‘whole systems perspective’ a change in one part may have a dramatic ripple effect on the whole organization. To appreciate such, one then has to ‘see’ the organization ‘as a whole, integrated, systemic system’ – which also includes its community, environments, supply partners, stakeholders and customers.

Thus, OD takes a ‘whole system’ perspective in order to understand how the parts (both inside and outside the formal organization) work together to enhance systemic integration of its functions aligned to its mission, vision, values, and business goals.

On Customization

Traditional OD sees an organization’s mission, vision and values as acting as a foundation to its strategies, decisions and actions.

I think we would all agree that each organization needs to develop their own unique mission, vision and value statements.

Thus, I believe an OD approach needs to be fully customized within an overall OD approach because every organization is unique based on its own history, values, culture, issues, strategies, goals, performance levels, and where the organization is at in its stage of development as an organization.

The OD ‘steps’ mentioned below allows for such customized OD designs to ‘fit’ that organization.

Three Levels Of Change and Development

I view three levels of change and development in an OD approach:

1. Incremental Change and Development – To improve effectiveness, efficiency and continuous improvement aligned to current critical success factors and strategic focus. (Stay the course, increase performance to achieve business results)

2. Transitional Change and Development – Organizational alignment. To enhance adaptability and alignment of the organization to changing environments, strategic directions and business goals.  (embeds 1.)

3. Transformational Change and Development – Cultural transformation within an adaptive, emergent paradigm – designed to  evolve and embed the values, attitudes and beliefs (VABs) of your organization within your structures, systems, processes, decisions and behaviors to support your long term business strategies. (embeds 1., 2.)


‘Action Research’ serves as the traditional overall ‘framework’ for most OD approaches. (Kurt Lewin, 1944)


Within the Emergent Organizational Development® Platform, traditional Action Research has emerged to the following:

EAR - updated final

As OD itself further evolves, there is greater emphasis on the integration of more current approaches / platforms like Emergent Organizational Development (EOD)® ( which has emerged through the understanding and practices of such methodologies and concepts as:

  1. The Fundamentals of Organizational Development (Emergent Action Research).
  2. Chaos Theory. “Out of chaos emerges form.” (Patrick Trottier, 2015)
  3. Complexity Theory. “Out of complexity emerges simplicity through form.” (Patrick Trottier, 2015)
  4. Process and Emergent Consultation approaches.
  5. Human Development and Naturalism.
  6. Emergent business structures, systems and processes.
  7. Open, integrated IT/IS/AI system designs, information streams, continuous loop feedback and pattern display interface.



OD is like a ‘recipe’ with different designs and ingredients to achieve on-going development specific to THAT particular organization – with its own, unique history, culture, issues, strategies and goals.

Fully customized approaches are called for to be effective – as well as creating the necessary degree of ‘readiness’, ‘ownership’, ‘effective engagement’ and a shift in ‘mental and emotional frameworks’ for effective change and development to take place.

OD integrates concepts, tools and applications of behavioral science and applies relevant methods for the overall development of an organization.

An OD Approach

The ‘recipe’ in a dynamic traditional OD approach are predominately:

1. Entry – Exploratory Interviews (What do you really want?) and Contracting (How we are going to work together).*

2. Forming A Powerful Guiding, Supportive Coalition,
Engaged Leadership (not exclusively ‘positional’) at all levels, A Meaningful Mission / Purpose, Vision, Values Statements and Strategic / Operational Business Focus (throughout the organization).*

3. Design An Initial ‘Draft’ of an Organizational and Development, Dynamic Approach with the client organization (in partnership).*

4. Create Understanding and Effective Engagement (a felt need) Throughout The Organization (in partnership).*

5. Joint Assessment, Feedback and Diagnosis (in partnership).*

6. Strategy, Design and Action Planning (in partnership).*

7. Interventions – Implementation on different levels to form an integrated approach to developing the organization (in partnership).*

8. Evaluation
– Continuous Feedback For Continuous Change and Development (in partnership).*

9. Reinforcement  – Shaping – Adoption / Internalization – Actualization  (new norms, making it real).*

10. Continuous Maturation / Adaptation / Evolution.*


* IMPORTANT NOTE: Every aspect of an OD approach must mirror the desired mission, vision, values and strategic focus, as well as the desired culture, giving people a different experience than the ‘status quo’ that is desired to be changed.

Simply, the approach must mirror that which you want to create
in the organization.

Side note: How many times have I witnessed some ‘change management’ or OD (?) approach that reflects the current approach to things and then people say;  “Well, that was a good luncheon, but it all seems the same to me.”

What is the ‘message’ given to people in this approach? It seems to me that in their ‘experience’ during the ‘change program’ they are given the same message of that which needs to be changed in the first place – go figure. Duh.

And I don’t get such terms that are used such as ‘program’ or ‘initiative’ or whatever in trying to describe what is going on.

I say – don’t call it anything… don’t make a big deal about it… just do it.
Just give people a different experience – and most of the rest will take care of itself.

I also say that when ‘change management / change initiatives / OD is outside of one’s normal day-to-day functions, it becomes a ‘project’ – another ‘thing’ to put on the lists of ‘to-dos’. Well, good luck on that. LOL

*Again, a main attribute of the above OD process is the emphasis on creating the necessary degree of readiness, ownership, a shift in ‘mental framework(s), and effective engagement throughout the OD process. The value of such is to ‘make it real’, to reduce the 70% change and development failure rate while at the same time to lower resistance to the changes desired.

The following ‘FIT’ model illustrates the degree of certain individual and organizational dynamics appropriate to and needed based on the type of change and development desired.

Summary Model

A write-up on the four basic consultation models in the diagram (expert, medical, process, emergent) can read at:

This article has now been read by over 30,000 people in 64 different countries -go figure…


I hope this gives you some idea on how I view and approach the practice of fundamental Organizational Development.

OD is not ‘change management’ (CM).
OD has a distinctive and a very different philosophy, values, fundamentals, perspective, methodology, approach and business value to the client than CM.

OD is the continuous, on-going development of an organization as a whole system.
CM is a project, an initiative of sorts to move parts of the organization from A to B.

OD is an approach which is distinct.

There are many approaches to ‘Leadership Development’.
There is an OD approach to ‘Leadership Development’.

There are many approaches to Business Process Improvement.
There is an OD approach to Business Process development.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

All comments are appreciated.

Have a great day!


© Patrick Trottier and Associates, 2012 (All rights reserved)

About Patrick A. Trottier

I am a 30 plus year applied Organizational Development practitioner having honed my craft in the U.S., Canada and internationally. Presently living in beautiful Vancouver, B.C., I am currently developing the next evolution of O.D. termed; 'Emergent Organizational Development and Emergent Change® (EODC)®, and focusing on Emergent OD®, Emergent Change® and the development of Emergent Organizations® within my professional practice.
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1 Response to My Approach To Traditional Organizational Development

  1. Very interesting blog.

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