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The Diagnostic Phase

The Diagnostic phase of Organisation Development covers the second stage of the OD consultancy cycle.  It’s primary aim to provide the organisational leadership and the OD practitioner with data, and a clear basis for decisions regarding what OD interventions are appropriate going forward.

It is during this phase that the OD consultant can develop a deep understanding of the organisational situation, what issues the organisation is facing and what strengths the organisation possesses in order successful achieve any OD intervention.

It is the diagnostic phase which provides the platform from which the organisation is able to highlight what cultural, economic and capability shifts the organisational is able to make and how those shifts can be made and embedded for sustainable organisational performance.

The diagnostic phase is a series of interventions which are intended to engage and connect orgnaisational stakeholders in the change process and begin the process of examining mental models and provide a forum for open communication and sensemaking.

It must be remembered the the diagnostic phase is part of the OD cycle and as such is intended to be more than just a data gathering stage, it is a disturbance process, and should be designed to get stakeholders to begin to question the current reality, and begin thinking about what could be.

Key questions that the Diagnostic phase seeks to answer include;

  1. What data do we need for the OD programme?
  2. What methods and processes should we use for data collection?
  3. What politics and power controls will impact the way the diagnosis is carried out?
  4. What resources are required to collect the data?
  5. What time and resources are the organisation willing to commit?
  6. What data is needed to support the organisation in its decision making and action planning?
  7. Who owns the data?
  8. Who will analyse and make sense of the data once it is collected?
  9. Who needs to have feedback from the diagnostic interventions?
  10. Having collected the data what revisions are required to the proposed OD programme?

It is important for the OD Practitioner to obtain current relevant data about the organization and to develop a diagnosis of the organization’s functioning and major issues. However, the scope and process for the data gathering and diagnosis may have to vary considerably for different projects. Fundamentally, a diagnosis is a description of how the organization is currently functioning, particularly what is not functioning well, that provides the information necessary to design change interventions. A diagnosis should:

  • Be based on current, relevant data
  • Result from joint involvement of both consultant and client(s)
  • Make use of appropriate models of organizational functioning and dysfunctioning (although all are simplified approximations of reality)
  • Deal with feelings in the client system (e.g., anxiety, defensiveness, fear, hope…)
  • Focus on key, underlying problems
  • Energize the client to act in ways to improve the organization

There are many methods of data collection, each with different advantages and disadvantages. For modest-sized teams, the most common methods are individual interviews and direct observations of meetings and other interactions. For larger organizations, questionnaires and surveys may be necessary and useful. All of these differ in richness, efficiency, flexibility, validity, opportunity to establish rapport, etc.

In analyzing data, it is important to look for:

  • Similarities and differences in the understandings and perceptions of various individuals, especially about goals and roles
  • Variance (differences) between public and private talk about important issues – issues that are “off-limits” or “undiscussible”
  • Distinguish between symptoms and causes
  • Be selective in identifying the most important (critical) issues for attention

It is vital to provide appropriate feedback of data to those who participate in providing it to:

  • Ensure that the recipients/clients see the data as meaningful and relevant
  • Help the client understand the data
  • Transfer ownership of the data from the consultant to the client
  • Energize the client to use the data for actions to improve the organization