Orgenogram™: Powerful Insight Into Organization’s Development Patterns

Orgenogram™, “Organizational Genogram”, or “Organization’s Genealogy Tree”, is a graphic representation of the historic patterns of organizational development. Crafting an Orgenogram™ is a powerful team building and strategic planning activity that allows participants to reflect on organizational development patterns and critical internal and external relationships, identify organizational strengths, and capitalize on these strengths.

Genograms have been widely utilized in social work, family counseling, genealogy, medicine, and education for the last forty years. Genograms not only visually present delineation of family members’ relationships, but they also provide us with in-depth insights beyond a traditional family tree. Genograms allow us to identify repetitive patterns of behavior, recognize hereditary tendencies, and capitalize on individual, family, and community strengths.

Orgenogram™ identifies organizational development patterns since the inception of business or organization. Differently than genograms that depict generational levels and relationships between family members, Orgenogram™ is crafted by historic blocks that includes decision makers, products, events, organizational culture, and strengths and weaknesses during a particular time period. Typically, an executive team participates in development of an orgenogram, however some organizations include representatives from variety of employee levels.

During the preparation phase the management and a facilitator review historic data, such as policies, financial and personnel reports, and consumer feedback. The organized data is presented to the participants. The actual process of depicting an orgenogram may last from ½ to 1 ½ days. The benefits of an orgenogram are worthy staff time investment.

Participants have an opportunity to reflect on lessons learned, identify how organization capitalized on strengths and opportunities, and how it overcame threats. Development of Orgenogram™also allows participants to reflect on organization’s historic relationship patterns with its external environment. For instance, utilizing the visual pattern, participants a non-profit may discover that the support of private donors have been gradually diminishing over the last years. Participants also have an opportunity to appreciate the best of an organization and its people, such as employee loyalty during financially challenging time. The process serves as a high impact team development activity that increases participants’ ownership of the mission and their loyalty to organization. The valuable information, gathered during the process of depicting Orgenogram™ can be used as a cornerstone to strategic planning. And, the process can certainly be fun!

Through a development of an orgenogram, the leaders of family owned organization gained an insight about personnel hiring dynamics that was not supportive of organization’s success. An organization has been making hiring decisions based on personal relationships rather than on a level of job candidate’s skills. Through this process the leaders committed that the skill and expertise of potential employees will have more weight than family relationships in a hiring decision making process.

A small nonprofit organization engaged representatives of all employee levels in Orgenogram™ development. While exploring internal processes and organizational culture, and utilizing data of retention of the last 6 years, it became apparent that more involved and more frequent communication from leadership resulted in higher retention and higher staff morale. The current leadership committed to embrace the lessons learned, and build on what has worked well for an organization.

Though a rather new OD tool, Orgenogram™ brings a tangible benefit to an organization. The benefit is not only a visual organization tree, but also the process of crafting such a tree. Through the process participants build teamwork, increase ownership of the mission, and may communicate out critical organizational issues.