Boardmember Blog: Jay Galbraith and ODF, a memory and tribute

Jay Galbraith and ODF, a memory and tribute

I always look forward to the Organization Design Forum (ODF) Conference, but this year I am particularly anticipating being in my professional home.  We have lost one of our own, a dear thought leader in our field and I am eager to come together as a community to remember his contribution to our profession.

Jay Galbraith died on April 8th and we are all reeling from the news.  He was as alive a person as you could ever see. He was working with clients, writing books and articles up until his death, and he reminds us that if we do what we love, it doesn’t seem like work.

In 2004 at my first ODF Conference in Chicago, I found myself feeling anxious, while privileged, to be in the midst of the likes of Stu Winby, Bill Pasmore, Paul Tolchinsky, and Dick Axelrod, just to name a few. My colleague, Dr. Craig McGee and I busily prepared to make our presentation on a design project where our approach was based on the Galbraith Star Model (Designing Complex Organizations, 1973). I had been an eager student of Dr. Galbraith’s work while in graduate school and found it a simple and pragmatic organizing framework that was also easily understood by the client.  As I turned around to begin the presentation, Jay had walked quietly into the back of the room and sat down. I couldn’t believe it. There he was! In person! Real life! My voice quaked as I welcomed the group and began to tell the story of a project that is still one of the high points of my career. We had led the leadership team through strategy development and were in the midst of the design work. When I finished and was mingling with participants, Jay took me gently by the arm and said, “Well done. And, remind your client that strategy is never done.”

Ever the teacher, mentor, researcher, learner.

Jay embodied what I love about ODF. We come together to learn, to push each other, to share and to support. Our work can be lonely and difficult. It is a pleasure and a privilege to be among such accomplished and generous colleagues and a relief not to try to explain what we do. We all know what we do and the conversations start at deeper points.

I feel lucky to be part of a profession that was led by a man such as Jay Galbraith. He was brilliant, humble and committed to making our field more accessible and respected. He showed his commitment to ODF by working on our Advisory Board, contributing to our thinking and supporting us when as we worked on ways to meet the expectations of our community members. We are in debt to his trail blazing thought leadership and I look forward to coming together as a community to honor him and renew ourselves in his spirit.

I hope you join us in Charlotte in a couple of weeks. It’s 25 years of ODF this year, and with the news of Jay’s passing it feels the perfect time to take stock and consider his influence on our work and to think about what’s next for our field.

What’s your favorite reason for going to ODF Conferences?

Claudia Murphy, ODF Board Member

  • Kathy Molloy

    Claudia, this is a precious and heartfelt tribute to Jay. You speak for many of us. I look forward to being in the company of my long time colleagues, with people who truly understand the impact of Jay’s loss, as well as the lightness of his being. If I know Jay, he will want us learn, debate, and laugh when we are together again!

    Kathy Molloy, 25-year member of ODF

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