Her question encouraged me to write this blog with building blocks, criteria and useful websites, which I hope, will help you to make a well-considered choice when developing a coherent intervention plan for change.


What are ‘interventions’?

From organising a barbecue to strengthen the team spirit, to facilitating an intensive week retreat to develop a new organisational strategy or again to setting up a Management Development Trail to ensure continuous professional growth: the range of possible interventions in change processes is much wider than the preferred list you may have as a consultant or manager working on change processes in organisations.

When I talk about interventions in this blog, I mean interventions for organisational development (OD). An intervention is ‘one or a series of planned change activities aimed at helping to increase the effectiveness of an organization. They are conscious activities, undertaken by one or more change agents, in order to bring about changes.' (Caluwé, L., Boonstra, J., Intervening and change. Looking for meaning in interactions, 2006.) This is the most comprehensive definition that I have found. Activities, in this definition, can be understood as facilitation methods and techniques, which makes the definition more concise.


Building blocks for effective interventions

What do you need to take into consideration when you think about an intervention? According to Leon de Caluwé, one of the authors of the book Intervening and Changing: Looking for Meaning in Interactions, there are ideally six building blocks to be attentive to:

  1. The history or events that preceded the intervention; the context in which the intervention takes place. It is also the cause of the intervention: no intervention comes out of the blue.
  2. The outcome is about what you want to achieve. What are the intended effects? What do you want to achieve immediately? What conditions do you want to create?
  3. Roles are about who coordinates or directs. Who are in the stands and are spectators?
  4. Phases are about the ordering in steps or sub-processes. What comes first and what comes later?
  5. Communication and meaning. People talk about it; they receive and send messages. How do you involve people? How do they give meaning to what is happening?
  6. And finally evaluation. How do you steer? How do you adjust? What do you learn from it?

These six building blocks are part of each intervention and could be different for each intervention you choose.


Another way to look at designing interventions is to take the three criteria for effective interventions in mind, described by Cummings and Worly in their classical handbook Organization Development and Change (2005). According to them, you have to take three criteria into consideration for effective interventions:

  1. the extent to which it fits the needs of the organisation
  2. the degree to which it is based on causal knowledge of intended outcomes
  3. the extent to which it transfers change management competence to organisation members

How often actually, do you ask yourself the question about the relevance of the intervention you choose for the organisation? Do you know sufficient about the functioning of the organisation, its ambition and dilemmas? This refers to the first criterion. And what about the effect that the intervention has on the intended target group? What do we know (scientifically) about the results? When does a certain intervention has the desired effect? These questions refer to their second criterion. The third criterion relates to the question of double loop learning. Does the intervention enable the organisation to react adequately in the future to new challenges and opportunities in the context of the organisation?


How to choose an intervention?

There are several ways to structure interventions. One order is to do this according to the intended target group: the individual, the group, the organisation or cooperating organisations. Getting back to the examples of interventions mentioned in this blog: the barbeque to strengthen the team spirit is an intervention focussed on the team; the intensive retreat to develop a new organisational strategy focuses on the organisation; the Management Development Trail to ensure continuous professional growth, is focused on the individual.

Another way to structure your interventions is to look at the kind of OD process that you are working on. Ruijters and Veldkamp distinguish seven organisational development processes.  I give you an overview of these processes, examples and possible interventions for each process.

Organisation Development Process



Decision making

Planning processes, negotiation

- Debate
- Interview
- Mutual gains

Social Cohesion

Networking, culture

- Bowling, barbecue, etc.
- Improvisation theatre
- Outdoor activities


Creation, product development

- Brainstorm sessions
- Disney Cycle
- (change) labs


Research, vision, strategy

- Future search
- SWOT analysis

Personal Development

Leadership, development

- Coaching
- Learning history
- Socratic dialogue


Education, development

- Corporate Academy
- Community of Practice
- Peer assistance

In our course Organisational Development & Change, we give large attention to these seven Organisational Development processes. We discuss their characteristics, give real examples from our consultancies and will go in depth into your cases. With a good understanding of these OD processes, you get a clearer picture of the change process you are working on. We will experiment with several interventions appropriate to these OD processes, with the aim to get a better feeling and understanding why some interventions do work in a situation and why others don’t. This allows you to choose appropriate interventions for your own (organisational) ambition for change.


Last but not least: a library full of interventions 

In recent years, many new interventions have been developed by advisors, change managers and academics. These interventions focus on bringing people together to either clarify their situation, to develop a shared vision and to take joint action to promote innovation.

For your inspiration, we have collected some useful websites with examples and explanations of interventions. We hope you discover new ones, try them and enlarge your toolbox as OD practitioner!

World Café, Workshop, Sociogram, Training, Quick scan, Practicum, Open Space, Brown paper session, Expedition, Mapping, Master class, Festival, Clinic,  Ambition Search, Field Visits, Picture stories, Think Tank, Experiment, Reflective practicum, Model building, Schematics, Studium Generale, Visualisation, Videoconference, Simulation, Retreat, Wisdom council.







Based on: “Drie, vormgeven aan organisatieontwikkeling” by Manon Ruijters and Ingelien Veldkamp, Kluwer 2012