Contemporary OD Practitioner Tool

OD practice focuses the organizational necessities and employees’ efforts on an organization’s sufficiency and flexibility to adapt to external influences. An organization as open socioeconomic system has to face external threats and internal shortcomings that burden its function in market conditions and intensified competition. Therefore, a company should change its internal organizational composition, transform ongoing processes, fortify planning, and choose proper approach to meet strategic goals and carry out its mission. Organizational transformation requires the choice of appropriate and efficient tool for OD. Application of World Café as OD practitioner’s tool allows obtaining significant contemporary facilitation for the development of an organization.

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Overview of Methodology

The method of World Café became popular due to the global expansion and support of socialization and communication approaches among businesses at various levels. This tool facilitates efficient and creative decision making, hastens solution of long continuous discussion, puts a team closer to the ultimate decision made by the results of collaboration, and disposes to friendly informer atmosphere. This tool is important method for engagement of an organization’s employees in OD process.

In recent years, sufficiently large number of companies has a need for changes in the organization of their processes, structures, and systems. This need is due to various reasons, among which are the following:

  • The acquisition of new assets and businesses;
  • Allocation and sale of non-core assets;
  • The need for an adequate response to the ever-increasing competition;
  • The need to enhance the manageability of a large number of business units and divisions.

This list of rationales is not an exhaustive list of reasons that cause the need to improve the organizational development of a company. Major organizational changes entail both serious direct and indirect costs associated with the lost profit due to the poor performance of an organization during the period of organizational change. The scale of organizational changes is determined by the task to be solved. Setting aside the details, in fact, need to intend to the organizational development of a company follows either already passed or projected changes in the external or internal environment of a company.

However, improving the organizational development rarely appears as the cure of the business problems only, but is an integral part of the combination therapy. The changes in the external or internal environment of a company do not necessarily entail a change in the organizational development. Top management and an organization’s personnel cannot reduce everything only to respond to changes in the external and internal environment of an organization. In some cases, it is about improving the efficiency of a well-functioning organization008). Therefore, application of World Cafe method would be best suited, because it is flexible regarding the necessity of an organization. it can be applied in any stage of its function independently on collaborators, suppliers, type of occupied business, market segment, etc. This method is used to improve communication between the employees and supervisors stuck on certain problems and to boost their understating on the way of total or particular changes.

The methodology of this method relates to the café visit and communication. World Cafe facilitates group discussions, which is of paramount importance dialogue between the parties and the addition of new thoughts and ideas. Technology of World Café has been known for more than twenty years and tens of thousands of people across the planet. It is surprisingly simple, and yet very powerful method for creating a productive dialogue and discussion.

The main idea of World Café is how people communicate with each other and fulfil their words with sincerity, honesty, and openness. Thus, the process of learning is transformed into a comprehensive look at the issue under discussion. The participants are group of 3-4 persons who may sit at tables and penetrate deeper into the whole essence of the problem and the owners, who are invited to the discussion, when a person can move from one table to another). It becomes a tool for creating the context of joint activities.

The founders of this tool believe that it is necessary to create an atmosphere contributing to the growth and development of the creative participants. This method was widely used to improve the corporate culture of various organizations and as a special communicative tool for collaboration of unknown people. Later, it was adapted and aligned to business practice in order to facilitate the complex decision making related to serious organizational events and measures, such as OD. Therefore, the developers of this tool give notice that it would be properly to inform visitors that the workshop will be held in an unusual format at the beginning of the meeting. The room for this meeting should be bright and cozy with the atmosphere reminding a cafe. It is this atmosphere that often born especially valuable ideas in heads of participants.

The basic rules for the effective application of World Cafe as an OD tool are the following:

  1. Set the context of the situation. The main goals and objectives should be transparently described. The number of participants should be determined, while different aspects of the problem under discussion for groups should be prepared and distributed at the tables. A variety of perspectives always enriches the end result. The purpose of the discussion in the format of World Cafe is the joint search of prospects and common development of opportunities and new perspectives. After discussion, people often become more confident as they were able to work with the most urgent and topical issues that are important for each individual and for the company as a whole.
  2. Disassemble those aspects of the issues that are really important. The participants’ attention will be directed at addressing issues really strong, it will have a truly visible effect. Discussion will be open and deep.
  3. Note the idea of each participant. As a number of participants is limited to three or four individuals, keeping silence and sitting aside for someone will be difficult. Participants should respect each opinion, even when it seems wrong, because the tool is applied to discuss and cooperate.
  4. Connect the unconnected things. Participants may value when a variety of distinguished ideas and points of view may interconnect and intertwine. As people are gathered from various professional fields, it has positive effect on the final result.
  5. Generously share successful experiences, insights, and listen carefully to other thoughts. The participants may concentrate on personal achievements and contributions of each of the participants.
  6. Gather together the results of all the groups to clearly present all findings. Sometimes, it comes useful to continue the discussion to form a single large circle, activating collective intelligence and visualizing its power.

The methodology seems simple, but the problems may occur due to organizational and psychological barriers. The main determinants of performance and foreseen success of this method for OD in a particular company is the complexity of the inter-level relations and corporate culture. If an organization allows informal constructive communication, the World Café will successfully contribute to solving the problems of OD. If the corporate culture of an organization is poorly developed, the meeting in cafe atmosphere can increase stiffness of people who are not accustomed to think and work together in a less formal setting. On the other hand, the entire outcome will depend on the behavior of an organization’s leaders and the way of the tool’s application. Only starting from the correct methodology of World Cafe, an organization has a chance to reorganize and improve their processes and structure as competitive advantages.

In-depth Perspective

The perspectives of application of World Café are significantly promising. Initiators and practitioners of OD have confirmed the relevance of methodology of world cafe to improve their organization. Creation of a constructive dialogue through the world cafe tool was a key factor in the area of the world technologies, and then in the rest of the business areas. There are many forms and methods of OD, which put different goals. They depend on the specifics of the business, its resource provision, and opportunities. Therefore, organizations are used to often modify this methodology and take only basic concepts and key points. This method affects appropriately on the results of the tool’s application.

World Cafe was often used by the practitioners in information technology to improve their connections with distant departments in terms of business expansion and global development of economic relations. The auxiliary function of the tool was determined then by the possibility of the head office to collaborate with colleagues in other business units on a wide range of issues. They included a discussion of various problems encountered, the collective decision-making, operational control of the process, the implementation of ceaseless management, quality monitoring, stimulation and motivation of the employees, etc. World Café tool allowed directing the collaborative efforts to consideration of the essential aspects of IT-business. In fact, IT organizations applied it as the most optimal tool for their physical opportunities. Thus, the format of this tool’s application by IT organizations has been changed to an online format in order to save time and money for those business units that were geographically distant to each other.

The results showed that the world café more effectively and efficiently identified the causes of problems of organizations and carried out OD diagnostics. In addition, the achievements of a common understanding of the need for change and the level of motivation have been improved significantly. Resistance to the new changes reduced due to the fact that the employees understood the necessity of these changes during common discussion and adoption of all views that made the results more reasonable.

In addition, many manufacturing and commercial brands worldwide have used World Cafe for external socializing of an organization in the outside environment. The use of World Cafe implied a common platform for the exchange of information on how to improve the quality of service and additional advertising of organizations. The application of World Cafe with a view to improve public relations (PR) and OD met the following goals:

  • Ensure mutual benefit of organizations and the public; carrying out the programs and policies of an organization in the light of the public interest;
  • Show Honesty, truthfulness, and openness when dealing with the public and the media;
  • Implement communication, until a mutual understanding between an organization and its public would be obtained;
  • Implement communication that should be carried out with the use of scientific methods of research of public opinion and interdisciplinary approach and based on the findings of psychology, sociology, political science, and other socioeconomic sciences.

Results of the symbiosis of World Cafe with PR showed that the organization formed better marketing strategies, improved advertising campaign by targeted priority areas, set up a special direction of sales promotion to encourage the implementation of commercial and creative ideas by an advertiser, and optimized direct marketing. A special role of World Café was played in management area, as this tool allowed organizations to determine communication management as one of the most important areas of business practice, to increase the motivation and the feeling of staff’s satisfaction, and to maximize involvement and commitment of employees to a company’s performance.


Organizational Challenge

The use of World Café tool will be initiated when there is a necessity to discuss emerging external threats and challenges. General meeting and the specific technology of its conduct will take place in a particular organizational context. Thus, if there is a necessity to discuss and decide to transform the organizational structure, or change some processes in the organization of the company, World Cafe will raise these issues as the goals and objectives of appropriate measurement. Specific area of application of this tool will be a means of clear and effective results.

One of fairly common strategic changes is the change of organizational structure. Organizational structure, as it is considered in the strategic management, is not something existing independently, regardless of the strategy and goals of an organization. It is one of the important means to implement the strategy in strategic management. In this regard, its evaluation and choice during implementation of a strategy are conditioned primarily by the fact whether the organizational structure contributes to achieving the goals of an organization.

Crisis events forced an organization to reflect on the changes in their production structure and management structure. Consequently, organizational structure may change too. After all, the level of how an organizational structure is well-developed and built up largely depends on the efficiency of an organization as a system. In addition, an organizational structure specifies the content of corporate culture. It is not only the spiritual sphere and paraphernalia. Corporate culture is based also on tangible things and processes, such as a clear assignment of authority and responsibility, the organization of the internal flow of information, the system of financial and business planning, and reporting system of incentives for staff. Therefore, these facts may outline the context of the World Cafe application.

Change Team

To ensure the success of the event and the application of World Café, attracted personnel should include the developers of conceptual positions of an organization, the direct executors of strategic and operating plans, and the organizers of the event as its coordinators and the responsible persons. Engagement of an organization’s leaders will have a positive impact on increasing the motivation of employees, as it will show that top managers listen to their subordinates. Generation ideas are stimulated in such a way. In addition, the role of an organization’s leaders can provide feedback to their subordinates and recognition of the potential leaders among them.

Attracting the direct executors of the basic operations of an organization will help understand the level of readiness of the working teams to the subsequent changes and determine the level of corporate culture of personnel. Employees play an important role in OD, as they determine real vitality and flexibility of a new organizational structure and organizational processes. Therefore, their views will be considered with the same value along with the vision of leadership and top management.

The role of the OD organizers and practitioners is that these people (employees of an organization or the outsourced experts) will manage and verify the correctness of the event. At the end of use of the World Café, OD practitioners will make the management reports by the results of such an OD diagnosis.

Alignment with OD Values

World Café will be aligned with the business mission and values at the preparation stages and final summarizing. If the goal of OD is modification of organizational structure, while the business mission is full satisfaction of the customers’ needs and business expansion, the application of World Café will start from these issues as the criteria that should be met during assessment and discussion of new ideas and the making final decision. If a new organizational structure does not suit business plan of new market capturing or providing the customers with appropriate quality products, then the meeting moved to wrong results that should be reconsidered.

Overall Strategy

The application of World Café should follow the strategy of Action Research as overall approach to the research of problems and their solution. This strategy involves identification of the emerged issue, diagnostics of the rationales, research of the ways of improving, design and introduction of these ways, and control over the changes. These steps could be the functional goals of the meeting supported by World Café application as it allows implementing these tasks.

Challenges and Barriers

Possible barriers and challenges for the application of this tool is the high level of formalization of corporate relations, the resistance of the designated changes, lack of understanding of the proposed innovations, the low level of feedback between leaders and subordinates, low activity of subordinates due to the presence of a leader, and other influencing factors. They inhibit the promotion of working groups and thus OD process.

To avoid, minimize, mitigate, or even eliminate the described barriers, OD practitioners should study the inter-level relations of the leadership and the staff, identify leadership skills of members, and to decide how to conduct such a meeting respectively to the specificity of an organization. In addition, the practitioner can modify the circumstances of World Cafe to improve its effectiveness and to obtain the highest quality and productive results for an organization.


To sum up, World Café represents useful and productive tool for OD processes. Its application in an organization’s environment s caused by the external influences affected managerial decisions on changes. World Café is widely used by numerous organizations. The methodology is simple. Moreover, it can be aligned according to the organization’s specificity. Application of this tool will boost and facilitate successful OD.

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