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Mapping Organizational Development

About 10 years ago, I took a one day “Learning Lab” workshop with the Institute of Cultural Affairs Canada ( The course was called “The Organizational Journey”. It was a miracle of a course for me. I do not have University training in organizational development but over the last 25 years I have taken a number of workshops that have helped me think about this topic. In addition, my work with hundreds of organizations from all sectors over the last 15 years as a professional facilitator has given me glimpses of how organizations begin and evolve over time. The Organizational Journey course was insightful because it gave a framework and a language to talk about so many different parts of an organization. In 2006, ICA Canada gave me permission to teach this course for the first time in the United States and we had over 25 participants. Sometimes, I forget to use the mapping tool that the course provided. In the last two months, I have had the lovely synchronicity of using the tool several times with a for-profit client as well reteach the tool at the latest monthly facilitator café. I’d like to honor ICA Canada for their incredible insight in developing the organizational development mapping tool. In this newsletter, I’d like to intrigue you to think about either the organization you are working in and/or reflect on all of the organizations you have had the opportunity to work with as a facilitator/consultant.

The organizational development map can be purchased from ICA Canada and further below is an example of the mapping tool so you can refer to it as you read.

The beauty of this tool is that on a single page you see the phases and functions of every organization that has ever been created. ICA Canada, after much research and merging of many models, reduced the map to include four phases and eight functions of organizations. They assert that organizations can be in several phases simultaneously but there tends to mainly find themselves in one phase or another at any given time. When I mapped all the organizations I have worked with, over the last 15 years, most of them called me in to help them move Phase II (Institutional Organization) to Phase III (Collaborative Organization). These organizations have focused on good customer service, planning, recognizing contribution and setting up job descriptions. They find themselves less motivated than in the past, and sometimes in tension with others in different layers (hierarchies) of the organization. For example, the top leaders (executive) of the organization may want to cultivate a partnership with the supervisor level and even some of the workers, and they don’t know how to break the barriers between themselves and others. Perhaps they are experiencing communication problems and it turns out that those who are not at the executive level are still operating at an earlier phase and have not caught up with the senior management perspective. This sometimes happens when an organization has in the recent past been through downsizing, bankruptcy, or reorganization. The workers and supervisors experienced such trauma in the earlier difficult times that they do not trust or respond to efforts by leaders to engage them in dialogue and decision-making.

This mapping tool creates a safe and neutral framework for different levels of employees to understand the dynamics that are going on in the organization. For example, one large organization I used this tool with was a Department of Education. We gathered together 100 of the key leaders from different levels of the Department for two days. On the first day we presented the organizational development map to them and had each of them, in their various levels of authority, assess what phase they were in. They placed “sticky” dots on the map according to how they viewed themselves. (See image below of an example of placing sticky dots of different colors). Once all the dots had been placed on the map, they could see where they had agreement and where they saw the organization differently. This allowed them to have a discussion on their differences in a way that evoked “aha’s” rather than finger pointing. The next step of the event was to have the group members place dots on the map about the ideal phase in which they wanted the department to be in 5 years. We ended up with one map with dots that highlighted where they were in the present time and where they wanted to be in 5 years time. We then built an action plan to help them implement the shift in manageable task sizes.

Here is an example of a smaller group which did a similar exercise. Green dots represent where they are now and red dots represent where they need to be in the future for best chances of maintaining their market edge.

More recently, I worked with a small business who wanted to create more of an “atmosphere of learning from and laughing at mistakes” which is a characteristic the collaborative phase. They also wanted to gain more connection and collaboration between the different layers of leadership. We used the tool in the same way in several short sessions and they have decided to focus on making the shift from a Phase II to Phase III organization initially only in the two functions of leadership and communication.

Here are some questions for your own reflection.

  • Where am I (in which phase for each function) on the map in my life? In my job?
  • Where is someone else who I have difficulty communicating with?
  • What does this tell me I might do differently?

You can email me to find out more. I am in the process of seeking permission from ICA Canada to make more information on this topic available for purchase on our website.
If you are interested in taking the full day workshop to learn how to test whether your organization or your client group is ready for a culture change and how you would both create and sustain the change, please contact us.