An Approach To Fundamental Organizational Development

By Patrick A. Trottier

Emergent Organizational Development and Emergent Change® (EODC®) , Emergent Organizational Development® (EOD®) and Emergent Change® are under registered trademark, 2017. All writings are considered under copyright as per The Institute For Emergent Organizational Development and Emergent Change®, Patrick Trottier and Associates. Written permission is required.(The Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property. As of January 2019, the Convention has 177 contracting member countries).

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.

The thoughts here are based on over 40 years of private OD practice using many of the fundamentals of OD.

To begin, for common ground:

What is Organizational Development?

‘Organizational Development is a”business strategy” to achieve an organization’s purpose and business goals through the development of an organization’s culture,  people, business systems and processes, technology, etc. as a whole, interrelated systemic organization. OD manifests human-centered, healthy, performance-based organizations.’  (Trottier, 1980s)

Using ‘OD talk’, OD is the appreciation, development and systemic integration of organizational dynamics and an organization’s interdependent components forming a systemic, integral whole in order to achieve its ‘raison d’être’ – its ‘Purpose’… through enhancing its vitality and viability.

Every person to whom I mention this phrase, ‘OD is a business strategy’, has many curious reactions. Curiosity is a good thing.

Lets explore…

Let me try to clarify why I use  the term ‘business strategy’. Two reasons…

First Reason:
These are the words that organizations, and Sr. people, understand and relate to in the worlds of organizations and business. No matter if they are ‘for profit’, government, a community organization, or a non-profit – they are all in the ‘business of something’.

The ability to ‘relate’ creates a potential for ‘connection’ and the possible development of a potential ‘relationship’ forming. The ability to ‘relate and connect’ starts many good conversations.

A good conversation is a good conversation (PT)

Open, real, meaningful conversations are a place to inquire, explore, reflect, connect, and share diverse perspectives, and maybe even ‘re-frame perspectives’ and understandings. We use the term ‘generative dialogue’. 

Now, would not that be something? Having ongoing conversations and people getting comfortable with letting go, forming new perspectives of how we see ourselves, others, our organizations, and our worlds.

Now, would that be not a revolution of sorts?

On The Practice of Open, Generative and Meaningful Dialogue

“Suppose we were able to share ‘meanings’ freely
without a compulsive urge to impose our view
or to conform to those of others and without distortion and self-deception.
Would this not constitute a real revolution in culture?
— David Bohm, Changing Consciousness, 1992
(See – ‘Generative Dialogue’ and Emergent Change‘)

The key message here is in creating a ‘space’ to relate, connect and start building a trustful relationship, within which such may manifest the opportunity of ‘shifting / re-framing’ one’s traditional mindset to see things anew which then, in itself, continually emerges as an open system.

So why is that important?

Two core concepts of EOD®:

“What we see is what we create” (Trottier… early 1990s)

“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change,”       (Trottier… sometime in the early 2000s)

Second Reason:

As our clients develop their business model and their strategic and operational focus,  the outcome is simply ‘the what’ of the business.  What do we want to achieve?

The next step is then to explore the ‘ways and means’.

The ‘ways and means’ is simply ‘how’ the organization will manifest their business model, its desired culture, etc., and achieve their strategic and operational focus and goals.

This is where an OD approach (without saying the term OD) comes into the ‘conversation’ to develop the organization as a whole, and to align the ‘ways and means’ to achieve the business of the business.

Those are my two reasons why I contend that:

Traditional Organization Development is optimally a ‘business strategy’,
and needs to be positioned in such a way… Patrick

Emergent OD® is optimally a ‘business strategy’,
and is positioned in such a way… Patrick


To continue onto traditional OD…

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 naturally emerges to the changing norms, beliefs, and values within its internal and external environments, as well as manifesting consistency and congruency between the evolving stated ‘values’ and one’s 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, structures, job design, 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:

An organizational culture consists of ‘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)

An organization’s culture can be healthy and productive, or unhealthy and non-productive.

Remember, ‘an organization performs exactly as it is designed to perform’,
be that unhealthy and non-productive, or healthy and productive…

The most critical and core job of leadership is to ‘form’ an organization that is human-centered, healthy, and productive. Within an ’emergent learning process’ this is how leaders really develop ‘leadership’- not those nice ‘one, two day workshops’ with nice lunches that are sold by the millions in the marketplace. I mean with billions spent over the last 100 years, where are all these real and effective leaders?

Leaders learn to be leaders by doing the core work of ‘leadership’
within an emergent learning process. (PT)


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, external environments / markets, 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 (a gestalt) 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 believe an OD approach needs to be fully customized 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 use of ‘models’ are somewhat applicable. However each  ‘model’ needs to be aligned to the organization, customized to ‘fit’ the organization, and eclectic enough to continually adjust and emerge during the developmental process depending on what is needed as the organization itself ‘continually learns‘ along its developmental process.

Co-creating with the client organization, fully customized approaches creates:

The necessary degree of;

  • Shifts in mental and emotional ‘frameworks’.
  • ‘Readiness’,
  • ‘Ownership’, and
  • ‘Effective engagement’
    within the organization for effective development to take place.

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

An old law of OD: ‘Start where the organization is, not were the organization should be – and get ‘movement’.

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 focus of the organization to enhance the alignment of the organization to its Mission, future Vision, strategic direction, and set business strategies and goals. Changing from ‘A’ to ‘B’. (embeds 1.)
  3. Emergent Transformational Change and Development – Emerging organizational ‘forms’ as related to its configuration, people, norms, values, purpose, goals, strategies, systems, etc. The organization becomes capable to become comfortable with its rapidly changing and increasingly complex internal and external environments in real time, in order to manifest its Purpose, Living Culture, Living Vision, human capabilities, emerging goals and strategies. (embeds 1., 2.)


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


The key to traditional Action Research is that people along the feedback loop process challenge their own beliefs and assumptions related to the feedback, their strategies what they want to achieve.


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 itself emerged through the understanding, integration and practices of such disciplines, methodologies and concepts as:

  1. The Fundamentals of Organizational Development.
  2. The Dynamics of ‘Emergent Change’.
  3. Chaos Theory. “Out of chaos emerges form.” (Patrick Trottier, 2012)
  4. Complexity Theory. “Out of complexity emerges simplicity through form.” (Patrick Trottier, 2012)
  5. Process and Emergent Consultation approaches.
  6. Human Development and Naturalism.
  7. Neuropsychology.
  8. Effective and emergent business systems and processes.
  9. Emergent Organizational Design – integrated, collaborative, value-driven network forms.
  10. InfoHumanics©; IT/IS/AI information technology systems and processes designed to support, augment and facilitate human information processing and the ‘human experience‘. Marked by humanistic values, and a devotion to human and our planet’s well being. Human performance centered. (P.Trottier, 2013)


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

An OD approach emerges as the organization emerges into new patterns of performance.

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

Again, the OD function is to create the following ‘attributes’, through effective ‘facilitation’, working with an individual, a group, an organization to create:

The necessary degree of;

  1. Shifts in mental and emotional ‘frameworks’.
  2. ‘Readiness’,
  3. ‘Ownership’, and
  4. ‘Effective engagement’
    throughout the OD process described below for effective change and development to take place.

Role of an OD Practitioner – A Facilitator’s Role

A ‘Facilitator’ is a neutral servant to the organization to support the organization to look at itself, to create its own approach for development, and to continually emerge as a different, healthy, performance-based organization. An OD facilitator focuses on co-creating ‘a process’ for the organization to move through, where the process itself emerges as the organization continually learns. An OD consultant is eclectic with many ‘tools in one’s toolbox’. The content, analysis, understanding, developmental implementation and results are the responsibility / accountability of the organization itself. OD practitioners do not take on the responsibilities of the organization.

I personally approach an organization with a ‘blank slate’ so that I am listening fully without biases, judgment, or pre-established thoughts about what to do, what to think, or what is needed.

An OD practitioner does not fit an organization into a prescribed model. The OD approach has to ‘fit’ with the organization, not the other way around.

Start where the organization is – not where it should be.

Traditional OD is not ‘training’ (vs. ‘ongoing development’), or some form of ‘event gathering’. OD is not a ‘program’. OD is an ongoing, emerging eclectic approach for the continuous development of the client organization.

A Traditional OD Approach

1. Entry / Preparation Phase – Exploratory Interviews.
2. Forming A Powerful Guiding, Supportive, Active Coalition – A Network.
3. OD Process Design; Co-Design An Initial ‘First-Step Draft’ of a OD Process.
4.a. Create A ‘Felt Need’ Through Effective Engagement Throughout The Organization
4.b. Organizational Assessment Design – Implementation, Feedback and Diagnostic Process.
5. Strategy, Design and Action Planning.
6. Interventions – Implementation.
7. Continuous Feedback / Evaluation / Development.
8. Reinforcement  – Influencing – Shaping – Assimilation / Internalization – Actualization.
9. Continuous Maturation / Exploration / Emergence.


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

1. Entry / Preparation Phase – Exploratory Interviews (What do you really want? What are you going to do about it?), Contracting (How we are going to work together) as well as an Initial Engagement Process to begin to create ownership, readiness, a shift in mental and emotional frameworks and distinctions between ‘was is’, and ‘what could be’ different to experience ‘success’.*
Note: Generative Dialogue: 
This is where a good conversation through ‘exploratory, generative questions’ begins to just explore the current state of the organization and to just explore what would make a positive difference. ‘Generative Dialogue’ occurs throughout the engagement with an organization to support ’emergent change’. See ‘Generative Dialogue’:

2. Forming A Powerful Guiding, Supportive, Active Coalition – A Network:
Engaged Leadership (not exclusively ‘positional’) and key ‘influencers’ at all levels throughout the organization – a network.* (possibly, an integrated steering committee / an integrated support network of sorts…) Develop an ‘overall framework’ to the OD organization’s developmental process and facilitate the 4 aspects previously mentioned above.

3. OD Process Design; Co-Design An Initial ‘First-Step Draft’ of a OD Process with the client organization (in partnership).* This ‘process design’ will continually emerge as the organization develops and continually learns (emergent learning). ‘OD Process design’ is a key competency of an OD practitioner.

4.a. Create A ‘Felt Need’ Through Effective Engagement Throughout The Organization (in partnership).* Co-create ownership, readiness, a shift in mental and emotional frameworks through effective engagement of everyone throughout the organization by ‘effectively’ engaging them in the OD process of 4b.

4.b. Organizational Assessment Design – Implementation, Feedback and Diagnosis Process (in partnership).* The organization needs to develop the assessment tool /process, the data management / feedback process and, ‘what is the data telling us’ (diagnosis).
The OD person facilitates this at every level of the client organization to also create:

  • Shifts in mental and emotional ‘frameworks’.
  • ‘Readiness’,
  • ‘Ownership’, and
  • ‘Effective engagement’
    for effective change and development to take place.

Note: The OD process within 4b. is a good ‘ways and means’ to create what is written in 4a. 

5. Strategy, Design and Action Planning (in partnership).* Further develop the initial process design draft and create specific steps to take along the developmental process.

6. Interventions – Implementation on different levels to form an integrated approach to developing the organization (in partnership).* An eclectic tool box to ‘fit’ the needs / wants.

7. Continuous Feedback / Evaluation / Development
– Continuous feedback loops for continuous alignment, integration and emergence of the organization’s development process (in partnership).*

8. Reinforcement  – Influencing – Shaping – Assimilation / Internalization – Actualization  (new norms, making it real).*

9. Continuous maturation / Exploration / Continuous unfolding of new experiences – an emergence of sorts.*


Every aspect of an OD approach must mirror the desired culture, relationships and the ‘ways and means’ of working together, 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 state of the organization and how people usually do things in that organization, and then people say;  “Well, that was a good luncheon, but it all seems the same ‘thing’ to me” or, “Here we go again…how are we going to survive this one?”

What is the ‘message’ given to people / what is the ‘experience’ by people within the same approach to things as they are use to?

It seems to me that if their ‘experience’ during the ‘developmental process’ is the same ‘experience’ of that which needs to be changed in the first place, then they are experiencing that nothing will really change.

And I don’t get such terms that are used such as ‘program’ or ‘initiative’ or whatever stagnant term is used 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’ – just 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 heighten the desire and actions relevant to the organization that is desired.

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

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 55,000 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), nor a project, nor a series of ‘events’.
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 and other ‘event initiatives’ is a project, an initiative of sorts, to move parts of the organization from A to B.

OD is based on ‘an emerging process design’,
not a prescribed, static model to ‘do it to them’ approach (buy-in / sell job).

OD is an approach which is distinct in its own right and dynamics. OD works with the tangible as well as the things that happen in the ‘white spaces’… in the wilderness… the ‘unknown’.

There are many approaches to ‘change’, and there is an OD approach unique onto itself and stands apart from the rest of the prescribed models and approaches. (‘change’ vs. ‘development’)

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.

I hope you have gotten something out of this brief write-up.

Have a great day!

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

6 Responses to An Approach To Fundamental Organizational Development

  1. abdul Hameed Khan says:

    great work and efforts .very informative .

  2. sharon says:

    the piece was awesome i enjoyed gaining knowledge from it

  3. Angelique v. Rensburg says:

    Love the work you do Patrick!

  4. Thank you Patrick… most insightful and helpful!

  5. Glen Fahs says:

    This will be useful for a series on “Fundamentals of OD” that Cascade Employers Association and the Oregon Organization Development Network are offering for a second time this fall. Thanks.

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