Queen's University IRC

Organizational Design

Learning a Robust Yet Practical Process to Guide Organizational Designers in Making Relevant Design Choices




What makes organizations effective? While having a winning strategy and the right talent are essential, so too is shaping an enabling organization; one that focuses, connects, and equips your talent to flourish.

Flourishing in today’s fast paced and ever-evolving contexts requires a fresh approach to organizational design. Whereas traditional organizations were built for independence, stability and efficient execution, today’s designs must afford both stability and agility, innovation and execution, and independence and interdependence.

In Organizational Design, we explore a proven framework and methodology for guiding design choices. Based on the latest research, our approach includes diagnostic tools, foundational design principles, and action learning to ensure that your design efforts are aspirational yet practical. Recognizing that design is both a social and technical process, we offer a considered approach to engagement, so that people are both architects and cultivators of their renewed organizations


Feb 27 - Mar 03, 2023 Virtual Zoom Link will be provided after registration Feb 24 $3,395
Jun 20 - Jun 22, 2023 Toronto Details will be provided after registration. Jun 15 $3,895
Nov 28 - Nov 30, 2023 Ottawa Details will be provided after registration. Nov 24 $3,895





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In this program, you’ll learn how to design and build organizational structures and teams that foster innovation and collaboration.

a) Introduction to Organizational Design

According to academics Goold and Campbell, a good way to understand organizational design is to think of the human body. The basic skeleton represents the formal structure that allocates responsibilities to groupings and establishes reporting relationships; the connective tissue represents key linkages through which the units relate to one another; and the circulatory system represents the people and culture that bring the skeleton and tissue to life. All these elements comprise a healthy and effective organization. Working on the body of an organization, therefore, is not an ad hoc process but one that involves collaboration and a whole-systems perspective.

In this opening module, learn about: 

  • Gareth Morgan’s six models of organizational structure
  • Differences between mechanistic and organic structures, and the design challenges that each presents
  • The relationship between environmental uncertainty and organizational structure

b) The Organization Design Workshop

A highly engaging half-day exercise will help you and your fellow participants get “real” about the pitfalls of poorly designed organizations and the challenges in determining the right fit for an enterprise’s strategy. The workshop is designed to show how organizational structures enable or prevent information flow, responsiveness, and innovation.

You will play a role as top executive, middle manager, worker, or customer interacting in a fast-paced environment. Apply and discuss practical strategic frameworks, based on the work of Barry Oshry, that will help you connect the experience to your own organization.

c) Building a Model

Good design shapes the right behaviour, facilitates the right pattern of information processing, and achieves benefits of scale. Using the work of Nadler, Tushman, and Galbraith and a variety of case studies as a foundation, you will learn more about three key elements of design: 

  • Groupings: Do you group functions, positions, and individuals by activity, output, customer, or a combination? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each option? 
  • Linkages: What are the formal and informal mechanisms that encourage information flow among disparate groups? What are the consequences of these linking mechanisms? 
  • Processes and Systems: In what ways are groupings and linkages supported or undermined by an organization’s strategic, business, and support management practices? Are they creating the necessary alignment of these practices?

d) Diagnosing the Issue

Even before you get down to the nitty gritty work, you will need to determine the extent of the design initiative, and how narrow or broad it must be. Looking at your own organization, is there a need to modify structural elements, such as reporting relationships and groupings, or can informal means—clarifying values or norms of conduct—achieve the same ends?

Learn Goold and Campbell’s nine tests of good design to help you answer that question and identify the bedrock issues that must be addressed. Apply these tests to a case study of a company that underwent a radical redesign of operations to create a “spaghetti” organization.

e) Following a Design Roadmap

A core element of all of our organization effectiveness programs is grounding in proper process. During this program, learn the 4-D design process:

  • Define: Determine the precipitating need, who must be involved, and the roadmap going forward 
  • Discover: Determine design criteria and issues 
  • Design: Establish groupings, linkages, processes; create and test straw models; decide on the right design 
  • Do: Create the implementation teams and a roll-out schedule, and define who will do what work

You will see how the entire process works by exploring the life cycle of a major redesign initiative. To make the process easy to execute, you will be given tools such as a stakeholder map and involvement scale, a design criteria template, a guide showing how to link design to your organization’s strategic focus, and job descriptions for design team members.


Brenda Barker Scott

Lead Facilitator
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Brenda Barker Scott


Brenda Barker Scott is a groundbreaker with a passion for creating workplaces that inspire, connect and grow people.
Over her twenty-year career in teaching and consulting, Brenda has led ambitious renewal efforts aimed at enhancing innovation and collaboration with provincial governments and agencies, school boards, not-for-profits and private firms.

When working with leadership teams, she combines strong theoretical knowledge with practical methodologies to ensure that the right people are engaged in the right conversations to design robust and workable strategies.

Brenda is co-author of Building Smart Teams: A Roadmap to High Performance (Sage 2004), and is currently undertaking field research exploring the design features of collaborative and high performance in organizations. A graduate of the Queen’s Masters of Industrial Relations, Brenda is also a PhD Candidate with Fielding Graduate University.

Brenda is an instructor on a number of Queen’s IRC programs including Designing Collaborative Workplaces, Organizational Design and Organization Development Foundations.