Designing the designers: creating an Organizational design and development service in the United Nations

The client

The Executive Office of a major humanitarian organization, headquartered in Europe, manages US $7Bn in operations around the world. The organization is currently facing unprecedented demand for its services in a rapidly changing environment, which has forced a fundamental rethink of how it designs and manages strategy, corporate performance, its operating model and changes to it.

The challenge

The Executive Office has responsibility for overseeing and directing strategic direction, global operations, and corporate and programme results.  In the face of a rapidly changing operating environment and evolving international system, the organization felt that it needed a permanent Organizational architecture and development service to advise the Executive Office on how best to invest limited resources to achieve better change outcomes and more robust corporate performance.

Antylles was asked to deploy an Organizational Development expert to design and present an easy to understand the operating model for a new internal organizational development consultancy unit.

The engagement

The consultancy built its recommendations upon the work of previous organizational reviews, organizational theory, and cross-referenced it with good strategic management and organizational development practices in national public sectors. After a desk review of relevant historical documents, our expert interviewed a range of Director-level internal stakeholders in the divisions and regional offices.

The review and design process culminated in a presentation to senior executives on the way forward, taking into consideration the organizational constraints, politics, networks, and availability/location of potential recruits.  The core of the recommendations addressed how the client organize the proposed internal consulting unit to address the  following functions:

  • Strategic management
  • Corporate performance management
  • Organizational architecture and process
  • Internal regulatory framework
  • Change management
  • Governance of investments in strategic initiatives

The results

The organizational design and roadmap did not set out to be a prescriptive solution but instead guided the design of the organizational development team and its functions, allowing for further adjustments as it was rolled out.  The exercise importantly reconfigured the thinking around the skillsets need for the team, where to source them from, and enable the organization to headhunt the best and brightest professionals to join the new team to move it forward.

Want to design/redesign an organisation, team, or project? Let us help. If you are considering undertaking an organisation redesign exercise we recommend planning for a 5-10 week exercise for a 1-2 person team of senior organizational design and programme experts. The time required is not usually linked to the size of the organization (or sub-organization) being reviewed, but rather the complexity of the strategy, organizational politics, networks and the capacity of the project sponsor, owner and team to maintain momentum. Contact Antylles to help plan for your next review.


Contact our expert with direct experience in this case study: Edward Carroll.