Can software be used to do Organizational Development and Improvement?

Well yes and no. It can be one tool but it will never do this alone. Think about the following and how silly that could sound when you consider what really makes people change behavior. 

Many managers, and even CEOs continue to make the mistake of believing that telling people to do things makes them happen. In fact it almost never does. People must be trained, incentivized and coached through any change process. Hence Organizational Development (systems an infrastructure of the company) require Management Development (Training and coaching of the people) to succeed. In the 1980's "Reengineering of the Corporation" was a big deal. More than 80% of those initiatives failed for the reasons listed below. In fact organizations need to constantly evolve to adjust to both internal and external changes. We call this culture a Darwinian Meritocracy(TM). 

Firstly it is important to understand that neither software nor policies will inject proper philosophy or best practices well into an organization. 

Software just frames and enforces policies, sometimes on a micromanagement level.  Call up any cable company and watch software in action. It is structure so poorly that even the simplest things take many times what they should and any deviation requires an act of congress to fix. Software can give and collect information (behavior or results), it will not really provide the skills or experience. If it did no software training would exist.

It is possible, though I am not sure it has ever been done well, to embed some context sensitive training inside software but I think that may require an innovation or break-through that we may not yet understand. I believe there are break-through opportunities to be discovered.

We blend some work of others like the Adult Learning model of Malcolm Knowles, as well as the model Malcolm Gladwell created on levels of learning. Both of these models apply to Organizational and Management Development and there are new neuroscience principles that may create a better process/system. Neither of these two ground-breaking models has been properly applied in the corporate space yet. David Rock with Bersin-Deloitte has also done some thought leading work here in his Neuroleadership Institute.

Dripping training to people, just-in-time, as appropriate may be part of the solution too. Business rules (or possible AI) for that are likely complex to design, though may be simple to automate once the design is done. As such I think massive success and rapid adoption of new organizational design and principles will be a function of how well a company can embed Management Development, People Development (non-managers) and Organizational Development (Organizational Systems, policies, processes) inside the organization's normal operations and cadence of management. By this I mean the daily operational procedures, weekly management oversight and other monthly review cycles that allow an organization to benchmark its own performance and constantly improve.  Organizations without this are like ships without rudders. Organizations without professionally design dashboards and metrics are like ships without a control room full of equipment to monitor progress. Neither a ship nor an airplane would start a journey without these but many corporations fly blind for years, losing huge opportunities, or often running up on the rocks.

Without improvement and use of best practices no framework for communications, reporting and measurement is useful. Organizations need an institutional feedback loop and cycle to improve. Ideally this is checked and adjusted monthly. Our AirTight Management includes a platform for OD, MD and motivating use of best practices in management and leadership. With these things embedded in regular operations improvement is constant and both managers and individuals "own" the philosophy of Constant and Never Ending Improvement (CANI), or what the Japanese call Kaizen. This will drive much better success and results for any organization.

I believe far better results will come if the company's management system “pushes” best practices and employee development somehow. Our hybrid Organizational and Management Development program to improve corporate performance includes a recipe of consulting (design), training and coaching. 

I cannot see OD or MD being successful without some real one-on-one coaching, mentoring and selling of these concepts to people. Use of gamification and other technologies and innovations will become common in the coming years also. The shift towards “Continuous Learning”, JIT and LMS capabilities is a long-term trend. It is unlikely to reverse and likely to increase due to more knowledge and specialization with each passing year, but also generic skills that will never change. 

Programs like reengineering initiatives have an 80%+ failure rate because companies make these mistakes:

1.      Underestimating the resources needed to drive habit change (managers and other have 5-10 years of habit formation to overcome)

2.      Underestimating personal resistance and agendas of people who want everything to stay the same for personal power and other reasons. i.e. silo information and control and maintain personal leverage via that power

3.      Not understanding the motivation of employees to drive learning and commitment to the change and growth of people too

4.      Insufficient corporate commitment from the top of the organization – As MBO research demonstrates you get 56% improvement with top level support and only about 12% without it.

5.      Lack of experience and “ownership” in the art of implementing change via OCM, BPM, BI, selling the “new” solution and WIIFM of each individual


a.      In my experience only one-on-one hand holding through these habit shifts can make it successful. This means a “coaching” component to the change process and selling each individual based on the benefits to them to have 100% buy-in and commitment.


Call (619) SCALE06 today to get a free consultation and custom proposal to prepare your company for more rapid growth and success.

Bob Norton is Founder and President of AirTight Management. He has trained thousands of CEOs and executives since 2002 and helped hundreds of companies prepare to scale their businesses and increase their growth rates dramatically, often by 100% to 200%. 




The AirTight Organizational


      Development Program


                    Build a World-Class SMB Team


In the last century the science of management has evolved dramatically. In the industrial age old school Theory-X (1960s), for factories and the industrial age with strong hierarchy and command and control worked fine. As the information age blossomed Theories Y and Z (1981) for managing a higher mix of professional and white-collar workers was needed.


In the last three decades management has evolved further by using more technology, not just for communications but also to allow for more virtual organizations, globalization, outsourcing and real-time project management. In addition we now have proof of the effectiveness of collaborative management and many other High-Performance Team (HTP) best practices.


Combining these methods properly can dramatically improve organizational effectiveness, growth rates and create sustainable competitive advantage. Also approaches like open source software and even collaborative content development (I.e. Wikipedia) have created new ways for organizations to tap the collective wisdom, knowledge and skills of larger and more dispersed professionals.


Benefits of Our Integrated Development Program


a)      Create a culture which is consistent with the company’s strategy, mission, value proposition and brand

b)      Improve manager performance, which has high ROI and leverage when using proven High-Performance Team (HPT) best practices

c)      Increase average tenure of the top people who need to grow professionally to move up and stay long-term

d)      Increase ability to attract top people who see a career path, not just a job

e)      Avoid political issues and group think by using an outside vendor who has no other interests or focus and can manage the program


These programs must have full support from the CEO down, with long-term commitment to succeed. We will not accept any engagement without a one year minimum term and the signature of the CEO of the organization because there is a high likelihood of failure without this level of support. This must be a commitment to change and constant improvement of the culture and company. It is working “on”, not “in” the business.

A growth company, or any company that wants to be a market leader, must invest in developing both its managers and the organization’s infrastructure to support growth. Favorable market factors always change but a high-performance culture creates sustainable competitive advantage by capitalizing on innovation and people.

Phases to Develop a High-Performance Culture

r  Evaluate the culture and plan the desired result. This will depend on the company, industry and situation but always have elements of meritocracy which attracts and keep the best people. We call the ideal culture a Darwinian Meritocracy™

r  Evaluate each individual manager and determine the gap that exists between current skills, desired skills today and target skills and abilities for 1-2 years out. Note that skills can be developed through learning but more complex arts require years of practice.

r  Design a custom plan for each individual with blended learning that includes a combination of study (basics and foundation), mentoring, coaching and their favorite learning modalities. Knowles is the state-of-the-art on adult learning.

r  Execute each plan, test, report and improve quarterly – This includes a mix of training, coaching and consulting to raise the level of each key person.


The Deming Wheel, or cycle of constant improvement



Organizational Development is a never ending process because both internal corporate and external factors will always drive some change. Also because there is always both employee turn-over and a need for refresher courses and product/service evolution.


Developing and controlling the culture is normally possible only in SMBs and departmental areas with focus. It becomes exponentially more difficult with groups over 100-200 people. It is critical to set up as early as possible. Larger organizations therefore must be have separate programs for each area, or line of business.

Every business with at least three managers should begin a rudimentary Management Development Program (MDP).  MDPs are focused on the individuals and their professional development. Budget - Typical budgets can be from 3-6% of the manager’s combined salaries. If CAGR is under 15% then a budget of 3% is usually sufficient unless there are serious problems or “overwhelm”. Growth rates over 15% would likely need to be on the higher end of this range to be effective and keep up with rapid growth.

Organizational Development Programs (ODPs) are broader and more holistic and focus on the abilities of the organization as a whole. ODP includes internal management systems, strategic and management processes, succession planning and preparing for the future of the organization. Think of OD as the skeleton and the executives and managers as organs in the body performing their specialized functions. At AirTight Management we call all these functions combine Human Capital Acquisition and Development (H-CAD).

OD is more about supporting organizational readiness to meet change and constantly evolve (Darwinian).

OD is not training, personal development, team development or team building, human resource development (HRD), learning and development (L&D) or a part of HR. That is MD. This is often misunderstood. OD develops processes, systems and internal management structures. Of course the two have some overlap.


Each organization will receive a custom plan
within the defined budget.

Some Tools of MD/OD

ü  Gap/Dysfunction analysis, 360 Evaluations, DISC tests and personality profiles

ü  Professional development training, usually supported by a Learning Management System (LMS) which acts as a growing repository of corporate knowledge

ü  Mentoring program, using institutional knowledge and people to develop and acclimate newer employees

ü  Coaching from external executive coaches

ü  Job rotation and other cross-training and empathy building to enhance interdepartmental communications and cooperation. Even company social function play a role here.

ü  Business process workflow analysis and optimization (BPM)

ü  Systems and policies for constant feedback, accountability and managing by the numbers (KPIs) to enhance management leverage

ü  An executive education program including self-development, reading, seminars, conventions, leadership training and development and other skills appropriate to the specific executive


Foundational Skills Managers Must Master

a)      Goal setting and accountability

b)      Hiring, firing, coaching and developing employees

c)      Managing and motivating employees (5 styles)

d)      Budgeting and planning in advance, not reactively

e)      Managing by the numbers, dashboards and KPIs

f)       Project Management and Product Management

g)      Innovation and constant improvement (CANI/Kaizen)

h)      High-Performance Team (HPT) techniques

i)       People skills, EQ

j)       Managing up, reporting and writing skills

k)      Negotiation and selling skills, internal and external

l)       Fiduciary responsibilities, ethics and corporate governance

M)    Leadership skills - Gateway to the Executive level


Our Proprietary OD & MD Process is Guaranteed to Produce Results


Our process incorporates over two decades of experience in developing organizations. We created AirTight Management to simplify creating world-class organizations by using standardized systems and proven best practices. In fact all Six Systems could be called the basic foundation, or skeleton of an organization. They are an organization’s framework for growth.


Each manager needs fundamental skills training and a shared language with other managers. We developed our Video Training Library (VLT) to provide this in a consistent and cost effective way. Any MD program needs to address the needs of each individual manager to develop then into an executive over time. Executives can manage managers (i.e. VP, GM, COO).

Consulting & Design

Design of an individual MD plan for each manager requires vast experience.  Only very experienced executives and consultants are capable of both identifying the needed skills and creating a program designed for each individual.  Our experts will get it right for you the first time instead of you doing trial and error for months or years. We will also bring outside perspective as well as benchmarks and ideas from many other industries. 


Training alone never works! Training is just information, or a foundation for building skills. People must use these skills and force out older, less effective habits, not consistent with best practices. A good coach is an expert manager and executive and connects this knowledge with actual needs and supports the person in their behavior change. There must be commitment and trust.



Create a World-Class Company Using Proven Systems and Best Practices

for Organizational and Team Development



Other AirTight Systems – Click each for more information. Performance, Accountability and Merit System (PAMS)

Dashboards and Metrics to Drive Higher Performance      Strategic Budgeting           
Process ManagementHuman Capital Acquisition and Development (HCAD)


Call: (619) SCALE06 for a free business assessment.

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AirTight Management and Bob have a perfect 5-Star scores at both third party consulting sites where we offer coaching and consulting services.
You can read other 3rd party testimonials on his LinkedIn profile here:

Here are a few examples from satisfied clients:


 “We were able to improve our management of the business and see things we never saw before as a result of AirTight’s help. I recommend it to any business that wants to grow.”

n  CEO of $4MM B2B Service Company

 Craig has run one technology company as its CEO and helped Kiva Systems, a robotics company, be acquired by for hundreds of millions after working with Bob to design its dashboards.


Bob has even been mentioned in the same paragraph as Richard Branson and Tony Robbins in a book acknowledgement by a CEO and Author client here:


I had been working on a problem for many years and solved it within a day of working with Bob.

n  CEO and CEO Boot Camp Attendee


David is an Ex-IBM Senior Executive and previous investor in one of Bob’s Companies turned CEO.

Is Culture Always the Problem in Any Business?

 It is becoming common to blame "culture" for everything today. I guess this is because there are so many people selling solutions to culture in the form of Performance Management (PM) systems, Business Intelligence (BI) systems and other software solutions that frame and measue these issues but almost never solve them alone. Much more is needed to change a culture thatn software.

We could state this claim more broadly. Most management teams, CEOs and companies "do not know what they don't know", which includes several invisible battlegrounds. Consultants would have no business at all if his we not true, because clients would understand and prevent the problems in the first place before they became painful enough to bring in an expensive hired gun. 

Generally when you go into a company as a consultant the actual (root) problem is 2-3 levels away from what they think the problem is before you arrive. For example, they say "sales are slowing" (symptom not problem) so we think we need to improve our sales process and they hire a Sales Process specialist. Oops! Not the root issue but the Sales Process specialist certainly is not going to turn down that busienss and they will find some things to improve. However, if the client knew they did not understand the root problem they would bring in a generalist consultant to do the "Discovery" part. Which is figuring out where the real, or root problem is located. There could be several contribuing factors too.  Typically a really good consultnat will find out they have 3-4 other systemic issues that allowed this symptom to fester and grow for the last 6-24 months. Given that much time it developed into something urgent (pain point). In actuality the root cause(s) might be defunded product development and the product aged itself into obsolesence, or  customer service is bad and/or the sales process needs to evolve due to outside factors like competition. There could be 1, 5 or even 10 root issues but internal people cannot see them because of cogitative dissonance, lack of perspective (scope) or lack of experience.

You can always argue culture (people) are at the root of any problem, or success too. Not having the "right people on the bus" is always going to drive lots of problems eventually. So the statement of "culture" being the problem is both meaningless and hard to argue with at the same time. It is a catch all excuse. It does not help understand and solve any problem. 


After twenty years as a CEO, and five as a CEO Coach and Consultant I came to the conclusion there are only six "root causes" of problems and six systems that prevent (not solve) those potential problems.


One is exactly what is being said here, culture. We call the solution to that Human Capital Acquisition and Development (HCAD). That is a set of best practices and processes for recruiting, hiring, ad developing people and also managing the culture.

You can learn about this here. The other 5 Systems are:

a) A Strategic Planning Process which decides the correct "what to do" long-term

b) Management Best Practices and styles to manage the people day-to-day well

c) Dashboards and Metrics to run the business by the numbers and enable more leverage and delagation via Management By Exception (MBE=autopilot)

d) Strategic Budgeting - The process to decide on innovation investments and opportunities which the finance department, accounting and accountants do not do well

e) Process Management - The process or convention to document, train and improve processes constantly (also innovation)

In my experience these systems prevent all the problems preemptively. You could always subdivide them further but this becomes a very manageable and teachable model with Six Systems. It creates a path for managers to grow through in their careers and to be able to analyze and enable critical thinking and diagnosis. This can get them thinking about and understanding, root problems, not just symptoms. 

We training and certifying consultants in these Six System and have over 100 training videos online to use with clients during engagements. Contact us if you want to have one or more of these Systems in your tool box as a Consultant or Manager. 

We can't solve problems by using the same kind of
thinking we used when we created them.

Bob Norton, Founder of AirTight Management, has been designing dashboards since 1992 and trains and certifies all AirTight consultants and coaches. Bob Norton has been a CEO since 1989 and a CEO Coach, Consultant and Thought Leader in Leadership, Management and Systems since 2002. He is also the creator of The CEO Boot Camp and hundreds of training programs for executives and managers.