The DNA of a Successful Organization


The DNA of a Successful Organization

By: Ragland Thomas G, Vice President – Global Organization Development & Strategy

As the winds of change sweep across the business landscape, it is not the strongest that survive. But it is the most flexible and adaptable that survives. This was articulated by Charles Darwin long back when he said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” While responsiveness to change is very important, I wonder what should be in the DNA of an organization to be successful in times of dynamic change. I was reflecting on the acronym of DNA and have identified a few critical areas which are important for an organization to be successful and also how to make each of the DNA successful

Let me begin with the D in the DNA and in my model, D stands for Diversity. Organizations that are successful are those that have Diversity in their DNA. Diversity is the core feature of humanity and it is well articulated by Jintao Hu “Diversity in the world is a basic characteristic of human society, and also the key condition for a lively and dynamic world as we see today.” If organizations are made of people and reflects a slice of the society, then Diversity is the reality we face. The first step is to accept this fact that Diversity is a reality in organizations and the best step forward is to nurture and cherish it. Diversity is not about gender alone, but it’s about everything that’s different in an organization of people. It can be diversity in thinking, personality, leadership styles, generations, culture, languages, ideas, suggestions, education, hopes, dreams, values, beliefs and the list goes on. But the focus is on how the organization can leverage all the diversity to become a strong force to help the organization survive the dynamics of a changing environment. Organization Development’s core value is to be democratic and participative and ensure all voices are heard and all hearts & minds are taken along. OD supports Leaders and organizations to become value driven and put the spotlight on the people side of the organization. An OD Mindset in the Leaders and organizational members strengthens the commitment and drive to cherish diversity. When Diversity is cherished and nurtured, then the organization has a chance to be successful.

The next critical feature is to be able to create or adapt to the New Normal. An organization should be able to define or find its new normal if the organization wants to be sustainably successful. Given the speed of change, it’s just a matter of time before a product or service or idea becomes obsolete or overthrown by competition. So organizations should be able to nurture a culture of innovation and be able to generate ideas or products or services that are able to make their own offerings obsolete or be able to create a new standard or need in the industry. Organizations should be focused on being ahead of themselves and in their respective market to know what’s ahead and what they need to do to be sustainable. The first step in creating the new normal is to increase the organizational self awareness of where they are and where they need to go and it is about charting the A to B journey and execute the relevant plans to get to B. Organization Development uses Action Research to systematically collect data, feed it back to the system and take relevant actions or alter the variables in the system. Action Research is highly collaborative, leverages collective inquiry, iterative with a cyclical sequence and depends on scientific method of fact finding and experimentation to problems. Action Research skills can support Leaders and HR Practitioners to continuously focus and work on helping their organizations move from A to B to C and further on and manage dynamic change effectively.

The third critical factor is for the organization to have Appreciative Leadership. Appreciative Leadership is about using Appreciative Inquiry to focus on what the organization is doing well and creating the environment and support to sustain or multiply that. In the words of David Cooperrider, “We need to discover the root causes of success rather than the root causes of failure.” While we could see merit in finding and fixing what’s broken, there is greater advantage in focusing and multiplying the strengths of the individual or the system as that strength could be a result of the unique combination of the people, process, technology, ideas or other components of the system. This unique combination will be important as that could be the competitive advantage for the organization. While technology, process, ideas can be copied or replicated, the unique competitive advantage cannot be replicated entirely as it is interweaved with the leadership and people elements.  So it’s a leadership approach which appreciates what’s going well and takes steps to support more of that, it’s a leadership style which appreciates and nurtures the diversity in the organization and its a leadership code which is focused on researching what’s the new normal for the organization and taking the required actions to move the organization towards that direction.

So if we ask what’s the DNA of a successful organization, it is D for Diversity, N for the New Normal and A for Appreciative Leadership. There could be many other factors but in my mind these would be the three most critical and we can certainly add other factors to create a unique combination to make the organization sustainably successful. In all these three areas I see Organization Development approaches and models playing a key role to build the capability of the leaders and empowering them to lead and sustain results in an inclusive manner especially in a multi generational & dynamic business environment. If you see any other factors playing a critical role in ensuring success of an organisation feel free to add and if you want to know how Organization Development can help you and your organization to strengthen the DNA and to become successful, you can reach out to me.

IOD offers online Organization Development Certification Programs to help participants gain skills to advance in their career in the field of OD.  If you are new to OD, you will benefit from the OD Process Consulting Certification Program (ODPC).  If you have been in the field for several years but lack formal OD training, the Organization Development Certification Program (ODCP) will provide you with the tools and skills needed to advance in the field of OD.

IOD’s OD Certification Programs are offered online over 8 months, meeting 3 hours per month.  Each session is delivered through go-to-training.  Our expert faculty provide interactive discussions, examples, tools, guidelines, and resources to enrich your learning experience.


This certification program provided me with the resources and tools I needed to practice OD.  The structure and process helped me to be more confident and focus on helping the client achieve their goals. The practical experience I learned during this program gave me the confidence to support organization change management initiatives.  I used the skills to transfer my knowledge immediately after each session.


Ragland Thomas G, Vice President – Global Organization Development & Strategy

Ragland can be reached at  For more information about our certification programs and short courses, visit our website


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