Frequently Asked Questions

What is organization development, anyway?

It is a facilitative approach for creating positive transformative change in organizations, based on their strategic mission and the shared vision of the organization's participants and stake-holders.

Can I work and attend school at the same time?

We schedule classes in the evening to accommodate working students--usually Monday and Wednesday nights. There are some all-day Saturday meetings also, about once a month. The OD Program is for mid-career people rather than students with no work experience. But it is also an intensive and demanding graduate program, requiring significant preparation outside of class, including student team meetings and supervised client engagements with real organizations; these most often meet during the day. Working less than full time and having schedule flexibility is ideal. You should also talk with your family and friends to get their support for this significant involvement for two years.

What are the chances of getting a job when I graduate?

Our interns and graduates have received excellent acceptance from employer organizations. There is no guarantee that everyone will get the job they want. Our alumni are working at places like:

  • Sola Optical Company
  • Becoming Independent
  • Kaiser Permanente
  • Medtronic
  • Pacific Telesis
  • PG&E
  • Xandex, Inc.
  • Yuba Community College
  • Willow Creek Treatment Center
  • Coca Cola
  • City of Santa Rosa
How is the program at SSU different from other programs in the Bay Area?

This isn't a standardized field, and every program is unique. Our strengths are our emphasis on field experience and mentoring. We were featured as an exemplary program in a recent issue of Vision/Action, the Journal of the Bay Area OD Network, because of these characteristics. We also have a strong emphasis on personal awareness and interpersonal competence as a core of effective professional work and leadership.

Can I start the program in the second year and the next year complete the first year?

No. The program has a definite and important sequence. Each cohort group works through the sequence together.

How often will I attend class?

The structure of class meetings has evolved and will continue to change to make the best use of student and faculty meeting time. The current pattern is as follows:

The first three semesters require class meetings two nights per week, plus one Saturday (all day) per month. Semester IV requires one evening meeting per week plus one Saturday per month.

How many hours am I expected to study and work with other students, etc.?

You should plan for 20 to 25 hours of required preparation per week, in addition to class meetings.

Is there a thesis required for completion?

No, but there are culminating requirements that are more relevant to your future as an OD practitioner.

Is there an internship requirement? If so, how many hours?

Yes, there is a lot of emphasis on learning by doing--in the second semester student teams carry out a semester-long consulting engagement in a real organization, with supervision in two seminars. In the third and fourth semesters, there is an internship requirement totaling 180 hours.

How is OD different from HR?

Human Resources is primarily about managing the recruitment, selection, training, and compensation of employees. Organization Development is about leading whole organizations in self-managed improvement areas such as strategic change, competitive effectiveness, innovation products technology, responsiveness to changing markets social environments, etc.

How is OD different from training?

Training is aimed at increasing the ability of individuals to perform job-related functions. It is often part of an OD project. But not all problems are solved by training. Often people know how to do the work, but they don't do what they know. Other factors get in the way, such as work flow, technology, organizational structure, the reward system, and the corporate culture. OD addresses these as well.

Are there any famous or well-known OD interventions at well-known companies to be aware of?

Too many to list. OD has been used to improve organizations since the 1960s. One of the pioneering efforts was at TRW Systems, in Redondo Beach, California. Another was at Esso in Texas. A third was at the State Department in Washington DC. Today, most large corporations and many medium-sized ones have an internal OD function or use OD consultants, though they don't always call it OD.

What if I don't want to be a consultant?

OD knowledge and skills are equally useful for internal staff specialists and for managers who have leadership responsibilities in organizations that are changing--and in today's world, all organizations are changing!

How is OD different from Management Consulting?

Again, these terms are not universally defined. OD consultants often work with managers (and others), so they are management consultants. Their work often results in improved management systems and methods, as well as other changes.

But there are many management consultants, business consultants, and others, whose orientation and methods are very different from ones used in OD. They use a "doctor-patient" approach, in which the client tells them what the problem is, and the consultant performs some kind of analysis, delivers recommendations, and leaves.

OD uses a Process Consulting approach in which we join with members of the client organization to define the goals of the work, and then we guide a participative sequence, including joint data-gathering, problem-solving, action-planning, implementation, and assessment of the project. "We don't just feed the hungry--we also teach people how to grow their own food."

Do OD practitioners work inside or outside an organization?

About half and half. Some work externally on a contract basis, others work internally on a salaried basis--often as part of an internal OD function.

Can you give me examples of the kind of work graduates of this program are doing?

Yes: Please see the alumni page for a partial list of alumni and their current employment.

Is there a business administration aspect of this program?

None of the classes in this program focus primarily on the business aspect of organizations--such as accounting, finance, or marketing. That is more typical of an MBA program. Our goal is developing understanding and skill in guiding self-directed change in organizational settings, including businesses, non-profit organizations, schools, hospitals, etc. We do require a foundational understanding of the business aspect of organizations through employment experience and course work as a prerequisite for admission.

What is the structure of the program?

Each cohort group of students takes all classes in the same sequence. The first semester emphasizes core skills and knowledge. In the second semester teams of students apply that knowledge in a supervised consulting engagement. A class on interpersonal and group process dynamics spans the first and second semesters. In the third and fourth semesters, students participate in classes focusing on advanced theory and practice, and carry out internship work. An analytical case study is due at the end of the first year, and a publishable quality professional paper is due at the end of the second year.

Would I have an advisor? If so, how available is s/he?

In addition to class-related advising during office hours, each student works individually with a faculty advisor on the culminating paper.

Are the opportunities for this kind of work primarily in business?

No. Graduates from this program are employed in businesses, non-profit organizations, schools, government agencies, etc.