Diagnostic Interventions Through Language

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Whenever choosing a method of Organisation Development Diagnostic data collection it is important that the OD practitioner consider the objectives of the research. This is also important for structured or in-depth interviews if they are to be successful in providing the practitioner with the data they need.

Understanding the structure that the interview should take is important. Having an understanding of existing data surround the interview topic is essential if the OD practitioner is to build key questions and uncover interesting areas of discovering based on what the interviewee response is.

In market research an interview would be highly structured and formalised, but in OD they will need to semi-structured to allow for as yet unidentified areas to be explored and understood. However, if the conversation lacks all structure the ability to gather information from the data collected fort he purposes of diagnosis will be highly complex, and possibly make the interview data unintelligible in regards to aiding diagnostic outcomes.

Questionnaires may be more appropriate if a large population of employees need to take part in the diagnostic process due to the time consuming nature of interviewing, however, a carefully prepared set of questions, which have been tested on a pilot group and refined can provide a rich source of data which can inform the organisation development and change management process.

It is important that the OD practitioner follow a line of questioning and makes choices in regards which rabbit holes to avoid, and which lines of inquiry to continue to investigate if they are to understand and make sense of the themes that develop through the semi-structured interview process. Building a framework which acts as a checklist to keep the OD practitioner on course is a useful tool, but should not bind the diagnostic process if an interesting line of inquiry emerges during the process.

Although the OD process is an open process, during the semi-structured interview it is important that the practitioner guides the process in order to achieve clarity regarding the interviewee’s perspective of what is happening within the organisational setting.

Face to face interviews provide further information regards non-verbal clues, such as tone, facial expression and posture which may provide key information in interpreting what has been said.   If investigating issues which are difficult to prove and there is little evidence for example an employee using company hardware to browse inappropriate websites, interviews are an essential step see note below.

For a successful interview the OD practitioner will need to have the skill to engage on a personal level and gain trust with the interviewee in order that ‘good’ data can be obtained. Collecting data in this manner is as much as OD intervention as it is a diagnostic gathering event, using the creative process of shared communication will enable the OD practitioner to gain an understanding of the world according to those they interview.


Author investigated a series of events in a large pharmaceutical company where several employees from the IT department had set up a small business using anonymous torrenting services to download pirated movies.  Due to technical skills of employees, there was little evidence available however several admitted the behaviour in one to one interviews/