Organizational Design | Queen's University IRC

Queen's University IRC

Queen's University

Organizational Design

AHR 301
3 Credits

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

Organizational design is becoming an essential competency for the OD practitioner. As organizations strive to manage constant change, designs with steep hierarchies, centralized authority, and narrowly defined jobs are hopelessly outdated. Participants will explore the building blocks of good design and learn a process to explore design issues, options and solutions from a fresh perspective.  

Tour of the Program

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.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the week, you will be better positioned to:

  • Apply the theoretical building blocks of organizational design
  • Select your design team and develop the most efficient and effective approach to engaging stakeholders
  • Apply the ‘good design tests’ for a coherent approach to diagnosing design issues and developing design criteria
  • Develop design concepts that incorporate the principles of a high-performance culture: open communication; decentralized decision-making; collaborative relationships; diversity
  • Link design to your organization’s strategy and value discipline


Organizational Benefits

  • Successful restructuring based on a proven process and rigorous tools
  • Wide-scale alignment of how organizational goals are aligned with capabilities, resources, relationships, leadership and people talents.
  • Significant savings by bringing the design creation process in-house

Takeaway Tools

  • Designing Organizations Workbook and Toolkit
  • The Good Design Tests
  • The Design Concept Template

Who Should Attend

Design team members including managers, HR/OD practitioners, and consultants.

Facilitators and Speakers

Lead Facilitator(s)

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...

Read the full bio for Brenda Barker Scott

Guest Speaker(s)

*The roster of speakers is subject to change.

Venues and Accommodations

Jun 7-11, 2021(11am-3:30pm ET): Virtual Seat

Queen’s IRC will deliver this program virtually, via Zoom, and all participants will attend the program live as it happens. Plan to use video, as appropriate, and have a dedicated working space to participate and engage with the class.

Nov 22-25, 2021 (11am-3:30pm ET): Virtual Seat

Queen’s IRC will deliver this program virtually, via Zoom, and all participants will attend the program live as it happens. Plan to use video, as appropriate, and have a dedicated working space to participate and engage with the class.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I register for a program?

You can register online, call us toll-free at 1-888-858-7838, or email us at Once you register, we will send you a confirmation by email. Information about the program location, check-in time, and the agenda will follow.

How do I pay for the program?

If you are registering online, you may pay by Visa or MasterCard.  You may also choose to be invoiced first, and pay by cheque (payable to Queen's University) or credit card. You may also wish to call us with your credit card number to make the payment.

If your organization is tax exempt, we will require a copy of your tax exemption certificate.

Do you offer discounts?

We offer an Early-Bird discount for in-person programs. If you register 60 days before the start of a program, you will save $300 on the tuition of four- and five-day programs, and $150 on two- and three-day programs. Virtual programs are offered at approximately 15% less than our in-person rates and are not eligible for an Early-Bird rate.

If you register three people from the same organization in the same program at the same time, you will receive a 10% discount on program fees. If you register five or more people in the same program at the same time, you will receive a 20% discount. These discounts apply to both in-person and virtual training.

If you know you will be pursuing a Queen's Certificate and would like to remit tuition in one payment before your first program, we offer a 10% discount on program fees. Contact us at for more information.

Please note that only one discount may be applied.

What is included in the registration fee?

Program fees include tuition, workbook materials, lunches, and some dinners. You are responsible for transportation, accommodation, and some meals.

Once I enroll in a program, may I cancel without penalty?

Substitutions are permitted with no penalty 8 days or more from the program start date.
Substitutions 7 days or less before the program start date will be subject to a $500 charge.
Transfers and cancellations are permitted with no penalty up to 15 days prior to the program start date.
Transfers and cancellations 14 days or less from the program start date will be subject to a 100% charge of the program fee.

Where does the program take place?

Our programs typically take place at a hotel. This information can be found in the tab above, called Venue and Accommodations.

I would like to make my travel plans.  What are the start and end times for the program?

The Organizational Design program starts at 8:30 a.m. on the first day. (Registration runs from 8:00 - 8:30 a.m.)

The program finishes at 3:30 p.m. on the last day.

If I am working towards a Queen's IRC Certificate, which course should I take first?

You may take the programs in any order that reflects your learning needs at the time. Our certificates feature a core program or programs that introduce you to what we consider the core competencies of the field. The remaining programs offer a deeper exploration of each area. For this reason, we find that participants in the certificate stream benefit most by taking the foundational program first.

My level of expertise is above the foundational program for the certificate I am working on. Do I still need to take that program to earn a certificate?

Queen's IRC offers participants maximum flexibility to customize their individual training needs. Upon request, participants with advanced expertise may skip the foundational program, and choose another program from our entire program lineup, for credit towards a certificate. Participants must earn 12 credits to earn a certificate.

How long do I have to complete a certificate?

We attach no timeline for achieving your certificate. Once you have earned a credit, you have earned the credit. We do recommend, however, that participants complete their certificate within one to six years. Most people earn their certificates within three years.

What if I want to take one of your programs but do not want to pursue a certificate?

That's fine. All of our programs may be taken individually, and you can mix and match the courses in labour relations, human resources and organization development, depending on your learning needs. At the conclusion of each program, you are given a certificate of completion.

I have taken a custom program with the IRC.  Will this count towards a certificate?

Yes. Participants who take an IRC custom program may also use their training days as credits towards a certificate.

If I have other questions, who may I speak with personally?

For a program registration query, please feel free to call us at 1-888-858-7838 or 613-533-6628. To reach the Director and staff members, consult our online directory. To reach one of our facilitators, please contact Stephanie Noel at 613-533-6000 ext. 77088 or