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About Action Design

At Action Design, we help people build working relationships that sustain high levels of trust, commitment, and learning so that they are able to master their toughest challenges.

We believe the work of leadership at all levels is accomplished in the context of relationships. In today’s organizations, achieving outstanding results depends increasingly on:

  • Encouraging initiative and creativity
  • Learning from different perspectives
  • Discussing “undiscussables”
  • Finding value in conflicting ideas
  • Partnering across boundaries

Many espouse these capabilities. We help people develop the skill to put them into action––that is our distinctive competence.



Action Design is a partnership formed in 1992 by Philip McArthur, Robert Putnam, and Diana McLain Smith. Its roots are the learning and working relationship that began when we were graduate students at Harvard University during the 1980's. Read more about our history…

We work with senior leaders and their teams to help develop relationships strong enough to master their toughest challenges. We offer coaching and consultation services and customize development programs for client organizations. We teach in executive education programs offered by leading institutions and conduct our own open enrollment programs. We draw on an extraordinary group of associates to help us in this work.

The work of Action Design has grown out of our immersion in deeply rooted practice traditions that combine intervention and scholarship. A distinctive feature of the approach we have built on these foundations is that it integrates three domains: how people interact and form relationships, how organizations function, and how individuals learn and develop. We believe that integrating these three domains is essential to helping people create more effective organizations. Read more …

We are committed to creating, testing, and transferring ideas that have practical value and powerful impact.