Organisation Development

by Rosie Stevens

Employing OD consultants

Find someone (or an organisation) who does actually offer OD as a specialism or has a background and/or a qualification in Organisation Development. There is a range of masters degrees that are related to OD and it is likely that most people with a background in leadership development and/or learning and development will have some grasp of OD, although on a sliding scale, from minimal to vast. Even if someone appears to have held an OD post, it is wise to check out exactly what this meant in practice and investigate thoroughly the extent of their involvement in diagnosis and strategy development and implementation. There are a number of good external consultants with a wealth of expertise in OD, but there are, sadly, some who claim to have such expertise and don’t!

If you are appointing someone internal, as a career development move, you will need to ensure that they are adequately prepared and trained for such a demanding role. Most of the well-known management schools and universities offer OD consultancy as well as OD programmes/masters programmes, network groups and/or conferences and workshops, which are normally well worth attending.


Roffey Park Institute run an excellent MSc in People and Organisation Development, as well as the ‘OD Practitioners’ Programme’, which is a three-modular programme spread over a six-month period. They also run highly engaging international OD conferences and workshops.

Ashridge Business School runs a Masters in Organisational Consulting, while Lancaster University offers a Masters in Management Learning and Leadership and Cranfield offers ‘Leading Learning and Change’ and ‘Managing Organisational Performance’.

Whoever you decide to appoint, remember that an external consultant (unless they are an existing partner who knows you and the organisation well) will want to conduct their own initial diagnosis, so if you have any supporting documentation or information, it would be helpful to share that with them. It can also be helpful to appoint someone in the organisation to work alongside the consultant if you want to develop internal capability. Think about who are the best people for them to speak to, bearing in mind that it is best for a range of people to be seen, some of whom will be very positive, while others will be less so. It is important, however, to help the consultant get a realistic picture at the start of the process.

Be very clear about defining expectations and roles. The absence of this can often derail a project and can lead to a whole set of inaccurate assumptions on either side. Agree realistic timescales and timings for different phases and set them out separately: for example, Diagnostic phase, Analysis phase, Design phase, Strategy development and so on. Be clear about what you will be charged for each phase and ensure that any additional or unanticipated work is added and negotiated separately to the main contract. Be clear about cancellation charges.

Try and set up the arrangement so that there is ongoing mutual benefit to both parties. If both are contributing to and enjoying the work, there are likely to be greater spin-offs than there would be within a more stilted and formal working partnership. Agree how you are actually going to work together and support each other. Agree specific dates for informal and formal reviews of progress.

Ensure you build in mechanisms to obtain feedback from your internal customers, in terms of working relationships, helpfulness, expertise, facilitation and developing internal capability.

Ensure that you agree to surface and deal with problems, conflicts or disagreements as soon as they arise. Ensure that the consultant (internal or external) is clear who is leading the project on behalf of the organisation and ensure they have a named, senior contact to go to should they need to resolve any internal conflicts or difficulties.

Be clear from the start about confidentiality clauses and intellectual property.