What is an organizational architect?

When people ask me “what is it I do?” I tell them I help leaders and organizations be more effective. I see myself as an architect because my work is about envisioning and building strong resilient leaders and organizations that are dynamic and sustainable.

Like an architect, my approach is grounded in a discipline or specialty trade. In my case, my work is grounded in organizational development research, systems theory, industrial psychology and the social sciences. Each client is unique. My approach with clients is therefore, highly creative and innovative, while also being rigorous. I help leaders and organizations understand the context and environment they are operating within, and then I design a blueprint with their input for how to build or transform their organization.

Why would I use an organizational architect?

There are all sorts of reasons why someone might engage an organizational architect. It might surprise some people, but often I am called on to partner with leaders when their organization is experiencing growth and success. Organizations, like people, have life cycles. They are not static and as a result, the organization needs to evolve and adapt. For instance, I have helped organizations that have grown quickly and lack the systems, tools and practices that help liberate the staff to make decisions, provide clarity of role and responsibility, and ensure the organization continues to provide quality programming. In other instances, I have helped design and facilitate processes that clarify the vision and theory of change that underlies the organization’s strategy and business plan, and enable the organization to remain relevant. Most importantly, if you or your organization need help addressing people issues – the cornerstone of your enterprise – that is a time to enlist an external partner to help you understand and transform those dynamics.

What can I expect if I work with you?

First and foremost you can expect to feel heard and understood.  I can forecast that you will feel relief that you have a partner that “gets” you. You can expect that I will be honest with you, but you won’t feel judged. While these are qualities of the partnership that you can expect, you can also anticipate that we will engage in an inquiry process to better understand the context and set of issues we are seeking to tackle. I will bring a systems perspective that helps you and your team understand the dynamics that are helping and hindering the team and/or organization from performing at its best.  Together we will design a blueprint that proposes a set of activities, sequencing of those activities, as well as, who needs to participate and buy-in into these recommendations to support organizational change.  I will accompany you and your team as a partner as you implement these activities. Depending on your needs I will provide coaching and strategic counsel or I can facilitate and project manage as we build a new set of muscles and way of working.

Do you do the work yourself?

I am the principal consultant which means I am the person you are working with directly. In some instances, I am the Chief Architect of the intervention, and I am helping you to source and select other consulting partners that bring particular expertise to the project. In these cases, I will provide coaching and project management to the leadership team as the work is being implemented. I will collaborate with the selected partners to ensure there is a shared understanding of the project aims and outcomes, as well as, to support integration and onboarding of these consultants. After working in this field for over 20 years, I have an extensive network of trusted colleagues who bring their unique expertise and share similar values and principles about supporting organizational change. Because transformational work is not linear, I help clients weave together a planning design, as well as, the partners to ensure there is alignment around the goals and aspirations of the project.

What does success look like?

The short answer to this question is… you will feel that you and/or the organization have been liberated. You will see evidence that your organization’s potential has been unlocked and that the enterprise is working more effectively.

Because organizations must continually evolve and each consulting blueprint is different, the indicators of success will vary. I hope you will click on this link to learn more about my framework outlining the characteristics of a high performing organization, and that you will read some of the case studies included under Projects. After 20 years of doing this work, even with the organizations that have felt very challenged when faced with implementing this work, they have been profoundly appreciative of going through the process. Some of them have thanked me for saying “the hard stuff that they didn’t want to hear,” and a few of my clients have sent me pictures, testimonials, and forwarded other stories from the field that are evidence the work took hold. And still others have experienced sizable investments from funders after taking the steps to address obstacles or barriers that were limiting their success.  

What are the critical success factors you have observed?

This is a really good question and a sensitive and difficult one to answer briefly.  I am very proud that after 20 years there are less than a handful of projects that didn’t go as well as we all expected. When I reflect on those projects there are few common elements that were present. The first, we overestimated the appetite for change and underestimated the muscle strength for the process that is required to change. It is why each project now begins with an inquiry where I seek to get input from a diverse set of representatives of the organization and why I share these findings with the leadership before we commit to a plan. The other common flaw that I observe was the leadership wasn’t able to hear and integrate challenging feedback. They either weren’t capable of a courageous conversation about their own strengths and weaknesses and/or weren’t able to integrate that feedback to change their behavior. In those few instances the foundation of the project was undermined. For these reasons, I actively assess the leaders’ readiness for the change they are seeking and often embed executive coaching into the blueprint.

What are some examples of the work you are most proud of?

First, I would like to say that I am incredibly privileged and blessed to work everyday with people who are committed to making the world a better place. Because I am curious and always wanting to learn, I am lucky to learn from my clients about their particular field, expertise, and approach. I believe this cross-sector exposure has been invaluable to helping me hone my craft. Additionally, I hope that my response to this question keeps changing as the work with my clients evolves. That said, I am particularly proud of the opportunity to coach a group of emerging leaders in an organization, three of the five are now CEOs in other organizations. I am proud of the fact that 10 of the organizations I have partnered with received the New York Times/Nonprofit Coordinating Committee top honor, nonprofit of the year. Finally, I am proud of the courage and hard work that many of my clients have done to make strategic choices about what they do and don’t do. Often these choices were painful and confrontative. I enjoy hearing from previous clients who will sometimes let me know years afterwards what impact I had on the organization and how it helped unlock them and lead to greater impact and sustainability.