Organizational design (was: Big D versus little d ??)

13 Aug 2007 - 9:39am
674 reads
Todd Roberts

> If so, can a professional working in organizational behavior be a
> designer if they spend most of their time designing the relationships
> as represented in an org chart. BTW - I thing the design of
> organizations is a fascinating application of our skill and
> strategies (as detailed in Meyer & Davis', "It's Alive")
> Mark

Depending on the work being done I think someone determining organizational
behavior could absolutely be called a designer, and in fact I think many
organizations could benefit from a design perspective in many types of
projects. It seems like a twist on service/interaction design from an
internal perspective.

I recently worked on a project to create software to support a specific
evidence-based medicine protocol. I was brought in pretty late in the game
and only had time to do the interaction design while relying on others (a
group of psychiatrists) to inform me on the workflow. That was certainly a
case where everyone designs but not everyone is a designer. The workflow
they described was psychiatrist-centric, as would be expected given the
composition of the group. Thus, the software was optimized for
psychiatrists, which was the goal of the project as conceived. However, in
retrospect, this lead to a suboptimal solution overall as the local maxima
(optimizing the psychiatrist's work) that the project achieved was not
anywhere near the global maxima (optimizing the system).

The psychiatrist's work is only a part of the whole system of service
delivery. If there had been the time (and authority), looking at the project
from a higher level with a designer's eye would have produced a better
result. A good deal of efficiency could have been gained in my case by
re-designing the whole service-delivery paradigm, but it takes a different
way of thinking to even conceive of a project in that way. A designer would
bring a mindset of exploring possibilities that would go beyond current
processes. Of course, this raises new challenges such as getting buy-in for
organizational change, figuring out how to prototype organization
structures, and surely many others. Thought perhaps those issues are already
addressed in the organizational psychology/behavior literature.


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