Organizational Effectiveness

It’s all about sustainable transformation. I collaborate with you to clarify your needs, create a leadership team, and determine the best avenues to pursue. My approach is client-centered, cost effective and participatory to get real results and may include coaching, consulting, training and facilitating. Throughout the organization we build community through effective communication, conflict transformation, collective leadership and collaboration.

“We had previously worked with two consultants, but the problems persisted …This engagement was very effective. Individuals gained insight and respect for one another; dysfunctional communication was replaced by clear, direct and timely communication… I recommend Susan most highly, and believe she can make a significant contribution to any work group.”
— Claire Smith, Community Home Health

My Approach to Organizational Effectiveness

As partners, we work to define and then ‘translate’ vision, mission, values and ethics to each level and individual within the organization while maximizing participation and consensus throughout the organization. This includes development of an implementation plan that aligns resources, processes, designs leadership roles and responsibilities, and establishes a set of actions to initiate the organization’s transition to the desired future. Clients are encouraged to invite ‘the whole system’ into the room whenever possible to maximize interaction, connection, and dialogue, which releases creativity and energy to achieve break through thinking.

Client Centered Approach creates sustainable results: I help you develop a leadership team from within that represents a broad cross-section of the various functions and levels of the organization rather than creating a consultant-driven process. The leadership team’s involvement weaves commitment, follow-up, and sustainability throughout all phases of any changes and improvement processes, and avoids dependence on the consultant.

Appreciative Inquiry builds on your successes: We study and learn from your past successes and best practices. This focus on the healthy elements generates energy, excitement and optimism, spurring both the organization and the individuals towards creating the future they desire. Training and skill development in communication, emotional intelligence, and group dynamics is provided to support these changes, using experiential activities, discussion and practice in a safe, supportive environment.

Whole System yields enduring transformation: We break down silos and break through old patterns of thinking to enhance communication and trust across the organization. We involve as many stakeholders as possible, such as other colleagues and departments, staff, customers, upper management, suppliers, the public, etc. And we consider external conditions and long-range outcomes. Working this way helps to see beyond the crisis of the moment to get at root causes in the system so the same old problems don’t keep coming back. Methods include Future Search and Search Conference; Open Space, World Café, and Dynamic Facilitation to reach break through thinking that goes beyond consensus.

Results: This approach shifts the whole system and culture by looking at the big picture and getting at the root of the problem rather than just tinkering with the symptoms. I have helped a number of organizations move from a lengthy period of stagnation, unresolved conflict, and low morale to renewed vigor and healthy relations, improved longevity, productivity, and staff morale. Evaluations are consistently high, and repeat business is frequent, reflecting a strong ability to communicate and satisfy employees and managers.



I help teams join together by discovering shared purpose, celebrating the unique strengths of members, and learning to work effectively across differences in styles and perspectives. We begin by defining agreements and processes to promote trust and collaboration. We surface issues and get to underlying causes and needs. The team learns how to find solutions that work for all; this may call for training in whatever skills are needed, including effective meetings, project planning, diversity, mediation and negotiation. I help newly forming or merging teams coalesce, as well energize and revitalize ongoing teams.

Conflict Transformation

By creating a safe space, a strong container and an effective process, I help groups discover how conflict brings an opportunity to locate and release blocked energy for creative transformation. I offer strong facilitation and support to enable groups to embrace and transform their conflicts thus ensuring team success where creativity is stimulated and collaboration is nurtured.

Leadership Development

Leadership development is personal development. We learn by studying our best experiences as leaders, then by developing and practicing the identified success skills. I help groups and individuals discover the power of collective leadership, experiencing how the more each and any one of us unfolds and comes into our power the more the rest of us can develop. I provide training and coaching to enhance additional skills , such as presentation skills, effective meetings, change management, and negotiation.

Strategic Planning

I help organizations work towards “real-time strategic planning” by using systems thinking, bringing all the stakeholders together, and aligning them with a common vision and goals, which enables them to cope with today’s complex, rapidly paced world. I provide innovative processes to locate and build on the energy within the organization.

Change Management

When “change is the only constant,” survival demands that we move towards a state of continuous, real-time strategic change. This adaptability can only be achieved if the people within the system are supported through their internal processing of the transitions. I coach organizations and teach individuals the skills to understand the nature of change and resistance so they can minimize the inertia and maximize momentum towards desired outcomes.
Meeting Facilitation & Retreat Planning
Like the conductor of a symphony, a facilitator needs to orchestrate and bring forth the talents and contributions of the group. As a skilled facilitator I serve as a neutral observer, offering feedback, provocative questions and approaches to help the group reach below the surface, expose and explore any undercurrents of conflict, communicate fully and tap into creativity.
I also help design and facilitate retreats to provide deeper opportunities for team building and creating community within the organization.

Sample Projects:

  • Criminal Justice Division of the Attorney General’s Office: designed and co-led a 3-day team building retreat for 135 participants to facilitate the merger and reorganization of three departments.
  • City of Seattle Transportation and Engineering Services: helped the two departments plan strategies to work more effectively and collaboratively in carrying out major capitol improvement projects. A leadership team of 12 was trained to interview over 85 participants, identify the five critical core areas to study, and help design the strategic planning conference.
  • Microsoft: designed and facilitate retreat for work team to enhance teamwork and initiate strategic planning.
  • City Auditors of Seattle: designed and facilitated annual retreats over a period of six years to pursue team building, ongoing training, organizational development, and strategic planning. First conducted a transition retreat for this department when it was created via reorganization. Later, facilitated strategic planning, mission statement, conflict resolution, and staff communication to help team become more self-directive in strategic planning and performance reviews and define new ways of shared leadership.
  • Regional Center Northwest (U.S. Navy): provided transition management training to over 240 staff members from four departments that were undergoing consolidation into one region. Designed sessions to provide small group cross sections to help the new group form. Facilitated action planning to enhance and smooth transition.
  • Fremont Public Association: Worked with the Executive Cabinet to improve teamwork, develop a collective vision, and promote system wide strategic planning. Provided coaching and facilitation to improve cabinet meetings. Designed and facilitated a team retreat to address conflicts, restore trust, build relationships and clarify vision of the role and purpose of the Executive Cabinet.


“Susan’s services have proven effective with all levels of our organization, from support staff to upper management. We have also used Susan’s expertise in team building and organizational effectiveness. I have referred her to a number of departments and always hear very positive feedback in terms of her ability to help groups identify and resolve issues, build morale and team cooperation, and improve productivity. She is truly one of the people we can count on to deliver quality programs in all her various areas of expertise. She is easy to work with, organized and always meets deadlines; she exemplifies the traits which she teaches.”
— Joy Huxtable, Employee Development Manager for the City of Seattle

“We had previously worked with two consultants, but the problems persisted. Susan interviewed…facilitated…provided focused counseling…This engagement was very effective. Individuals gained insight and respect for one another, dysfunctional communication was replaced by clear, direct and timely communication. With the understanding that we gained, we could start to rebuild trust and restore morale. … I recommend Susan most highly, and believe she can make a significant contribution to any work group.”
— Claire Smith, Community Home Health

“Susan is obviously a true professional, yet also one able to keep focus on participants * able to elicit relevant information from others, gently adding from her voluminous store of information and doing it casually. Extremely skilled at involving others, unobtrusively guiding them …Watching Ms. Partnow was like watching a true artist do art.”
— City of Seattle Department of Family & Youth Services Administrative Staff Retreat participant

“Thank you very much for facilitating our retreat. It was such a help and you are very good at doing it. Everyone who was there was energized.”
— Margaret Haupman, Seattle Youth Garden Works