(Emmanuel Escalante)

Organizational Development: An Introduction


Before we define organization development, let us first examine its evolution and its growth. This growth has come about primarily as a response by American companies and organizations to tremendously accelerated changes that they experienced. These changes result from technological, communications, political, scientific and institutional progress in the society. Technological and culture change are inevitable. As a response to these continuing changes, and change is generally irreversible, new ways of helping organizations adjust to accelerated change becomes inevitable.

Most people and organizations are riot prepared for the vastly accelerated pace of change. OD appears to be one of the primarily methods for this. Organization development rests on three basic propositions (Bennis, 1969).

1. Organizations change forms throughout the age. The changes taking place in that age make it necessary to revitalize and rebuild organizations.

2. The only real way to change organizations lies in changing the "climate" of the organization – the of life," a system of beliefs and values, an accepted form of interaction and relating, It is more important to change the climate of tile organization than the individual if organizations are to develop.

3. The third basic proposition is that "a new social awareness is required by people in organizations," since social awareness is essential in our current world.

In short, the basic thrust behind OD is that the world is rapidly changing and that our organizations must follow suit.

There are at least five areas of rapidly accelerating change that heavily influence organizations today.

These are:

  1. The Knowledge Explosion - It has been said that more than 90 percent of all the scientists who have ever lived are still living. The amount of technological change in the last 20 Years has exceeded that of the 200,000 years before. These scientists continue to create new knowledge that is eventually applied and impact on our lives. Our own knowledge quickly becomes obsolete. Organizations can become obsolete just as quickly.
  2. Rapid Product Obsolescence - As new knowledge is acquired old knowledge and products quickly become obsolete. Greater efforts and resources are poured in research and development resulting in even newer products. As a result, the changes come about even more quickly. This is true in all fields, like medicine, electronics, construction or education. There is always a new, cheaper, more complex instrument, rendering the older ones obsolete to some extent at least. Since product obsolescence is rapidly accelerating, organization must be able to shorten their turn-around time. Only the more flexible organization are likely to survive and to continue providing jobs for their workers.
  3. The changing composition of the Labor Force – Now, more people are living in the cities. Many people get better education. More people demand even more and better education. The work force age is also changing whether growing older or younger. The number of workers entering the service sector and white-collar jobs are growing rapidly. While those in the blue-collar jobs handle more sophisticated tools Cities equipment. There is growing evidence that future employees will not accept outmoded styles of management.
  4. Growing Concern Over Personal and Social Issues - The workers are more aware of social and environmental issues. They expect more opportunities to apply what they know. They have a higher need for psychic satisfaction and expect more flexibility to do their work. They are also more mobile; seeking new jobs is they are not satisfied with their present work. Increased job dissatisfaction is not a myth but a reality that poses challenges for management. Managers have to explore explore new ways to create excitement, challenge and social relevance as well as security and money in the workplace.
  5. Increasing Internationalization of Business- As organizations become larger, they also become more and more internationalised. This means that organizations will have to increasingly deal with adaptive and open approaches to other cultures. Internationalisation is having an increasing impact on societies and organizations. Some of these are the communications explosion the increase in professionalism, the changes in the relations between line and staff, including the establishment of the specialists; and the unionisation of workers.


Many people equate OD only with sensitivity training or similar approaches that focus on close interpersonal relationships. OD is far broader and more complex than this. As a result of the rapid expansion of OD, together with the rapid development of new technologies and approaches, there exists no single definition of OD to which all productions would agree.



A poll conducted by the American Society for Training and Development (AST) asked several hundred OD professionals for their definition of OD. The most agreed-upon definition was developed by Beckhard:
"An effort (a) planned, (b) organization-wide, (c) managed from the top, to (d) increase organisation effectiveness and health through (e) planned intervention in the organisation’s processes, using behavioral-science knowledge."

According to this definition, OD is planned, since it requires systematic diagnosing, developing an improvement plan, and mobilizing resources to carry out the effort. It is organization-wide, since it involves the entire system but not necessarily, the entire organization. Planned interventions are the strategies an organization develops for using behavioral science to help it better understand its current methods of work, its norms and values, and to help it examine alternative methods of relating, rewarding its members, or working. Beckhard also feels strongly that top management must have commitment to and be knowledgeable about the goals of the program and must actively support in the management of the effort.

This definition is broad enough to include almost any technique, policy, or managerial practice used in a deliberate attempt to change the individuals in an organization or the organization itself to accomplish organisational objectives. Interventions ranging from operations research and plant layout analyses to personal growth experiences for- selected members of an organization could be considered OD.

In addition to examining definitions of OD, another way of understanding OD is to examine what it is not. OD is not management development is focused on a particular manager or group of managers to change individual managerial behavior. OD is focused on the broader system of which the manager is subsystem.

OD is not a specific technique such as sensitivity training, job enrichment, group team building, or management by objectives. OD may use specific techniques, but only after the relevance and utility of a specific technique basis been clearly demonstrated by careful diagnosis.

OD is concerned not only with "making people happy." Rather, OD is concerned with organizational competence including both effectiveness and efficiency'.

Perhaps the simplest way of describing OD (Lundberg, 1974) is that it answers two questions. . .'Where are we 'Where would we like to be?, and offers a variety, of ways in which members can move their organizations toward the desired state.

OD is a process for change and that OD efforts can benefit not only the organization, but its members as well. It is obvious therefore, that OD change strategies can be of many types and can assume various forms.


Organization development is intended to increase the health and effectiveness of the organization. OD is concerned with introducing change for the purpose of improving an organization's effectiveness and health. Effectiveness to setting and attaining appropriate goals in a changing environment. Health refers to the motivation, utilization and integration of human resources within the organization.

Beckhard mentions the characteristics of the Healthy, organization

There is a distinction between organizational effectiveness, which is the accomplishment of the objectives of the objectives of the organization and organizational efficiency, which refers to the amount of resources an organization needs to use in order to produce units of output. Our concern is to make our organization competent, that is, it is both effective and efficient. But we must also be equally concerned of the proper use, growth, and development of human resources in an organizational setting.

Huse and Bowditch mention that to attain organizational competence, an overall systems approach is necessary. For them, the concept stresses taking an overall systems approach to the organization and includes examining the organization from three different perspectives:

  • structural design (organization)
  • flows through the system (process and procedures), and
  • concern with human resources (people)

Structutal design is the way in which the organization and/or its subsystems are structured to fit the environment of the system or subsystems. Recent research indicates that a contingency approach is needed to consider organizational design, that is. there is no "one best way " to design an organization. By examining the information, work and related flows through the organization, it may, become apparent that the organization needs to modify or change its flow perspective to improve its competence.

Both of' these profoundly, affect the human resources of the organization. Therefore, optimal organisational effectiveness and efficiency can be attained only if all three perspectives are considered concurrently. In addition, the objectives and goals of the orgainzation must be integrated with the goals and needs of organisational members at all levels of the organization. There is clear evidence that improperly designed organisational reduce members' opportunities to grow, develop, and achieve a sense of competence; properly designed organisation by contrast increase members' opportunities for challenge, growth, and competence.

A systems approach to OD can reduce the conflict (actual or potential) between the needs of the organization and those of the individual (Argyris, Whyte, McGregor).

It seems clear that the concept of the traditional assembly line provides little opportunity for individual growth and development. Widespread work redesign prefects such as those taking place at Saab, Volvo, General Foods, Proctor and Gamble, Cummins Engine, and Ralston Purina lend growing evidence that work can be redesigned to more adequately fit the needs of both individuals and organizations. However this means changing the organisational structure and flow of work rather than changing people.

Indeed, studies indicate that changes in the design of work and the work place can and do, have an effect on personal psychological growth and development. Huse and Price noted an increase in the psychological maturity of workers when they were given greater opportunity, to exercise more judgement and assume greater responsibility on the job. But there are also some specific types of organizations, the traditional. bureaucratic structure that allows more personal growth and acquisition of competence than it would if organization were to suddenly, be transformed into an open, organic one.

The envolving discipline of OD is founded on a long-range attempt to help an organization become more competent by increasing both its effectiveness and its efficiency, with heavy, emphasis on reducing the conflict (actual or potential) between organizational requirements and human wants and/or needs. OD is an organization wide process and is certainly a long-term effort to improve the problem-solving and renewal processes of the organization. This differs from many other approaches: most management development programs, for example, focus on attempting to change the individual manager.


Greiner identified what he considered to be the seven most commonly used approaches to change.

  1. The Decree Approach. This comes from the top and is passed down through the organization with "one-way" communications.
  2. The Replacement Approach. In order to bring about change, one or more individuals, usually in high-level positions are replaced by others. The basic assumption is that personnel changes bring about organizational changes.
  3. The structural Approach. In this approach ‘change is brought about by modifying the structure of the organization and the required relationships of subordinates in the situation. By changing the nature and structure of organizational design and relationships, organizational behavior is also affected
  4. The Group Decision Approach. This involves group members participating in the selection and implementation of alternatives specified by others. Others identify the problem; the group agrees on a course of action from available alternatives.
  5. The Data Discussion Approach (Survey Feedback). Information is obtained about the client system and feedback is given to the client system by an internal or external change agent. Organization members then develop their own analysis of the data to identify and solve problems.
  6. The Group Problem-Solving Approach. In this model, problem identification and problem-solving occur as the group generates its own data with the help of a change agent external to the group.
  7. The T-Group Approach. The group is trained to understand the processes of individual and group behavior. Changes in work relationships and patterns of work are assumed to follow from the changes in interpersonal relationships. This approach focuses first on the interpersonal relationships and then works toward improvements in work performance.

These approaches follow a roughly descending order from unilateral power, to collaborative power, through shared influence as represented by the T-group. Generally, OD interventions fall in the range between level 3 and 7.

OD stresses the collaborative relationship between the change agent and the client. OD stresses the need to use a diagnostic to OD. The key aspects of a diagnostic model include:

  • Diagnosis (data gathering, preliminary diagnosis)
  • Planning (feedback and discussion with the client group, joint action planning)
  • Action, and
  • Rediagnosis

The importance of proper diagnosis cannot be overstressed. If the consultant is not highly sensitive to the prevailing climate of the organization, its readiness for change, and its expectations, he may impose his own value system on the client system with resultant problems. There has been many cases of OD programs that failed because of an inadequate and incomplete job of understanding the current climate and readiness for change in the client system. Similarly, involving the top of the organisation stresses the importance of sensitivity to climate.

This cyclical process of diagnosis, planning, action, and rediagnosis makes it clear that the change agent operates differently from other consultants. In the more traditional mode, the consultant enters the organization. analyzes problem, make a diagnosis, writes a report containing his recommendations, and then leaves, having accomplished his task. In the OD process, by contrast, the change agent seldom, if ever, writes reports. Rather, he tends Faith some exceptions, such as suites, feedback, to work on ongoing problems, serving as a resource person to assist the organisation to grow and develop so that it can stand, ultimately, on its own.


OD draws heavily from a number of traditional disciplines, including psychology, sociology, and anthropology,. The theory and practice of OD draws on such areas as motivation theory, personality theory, learning theory, group dynamic, general systems theory, research on leadership and power, and research and experimentation on organization design. As a result, it is based on relatively well-established principles about individuals, groups and people in organizations.

Principles Regarding Individuals

1. Individuals have needs for personal growth and development that can be satisfied in a supportive and challenging environment.

2. Most workers can take more responsibilities and make greater contributions to organizational goals than is prevented in most organisational environments. Therefore, the job design, managerial assumptions, or other factors frequently "demotivate" individuals in formal organizations.

Principles Regarding People In Groups

1. Groups are highly important to people and most people satisfy their needs within groups, especially the work group. The work group includes both peers and the supervisor and is highly influential on the individual within the group.

2. Work groups are essentially neutral and call be either helpful or harmful to the organization.

3. Work groups, when working together collaboratively, can greatly increase their effectiveness in attaining individual needs and organizational requirements. Group members can become more effective in assisting one another including the exercise of leadership functions.

Principles Regarding People In Organizations

1 . Since the organization is a system, changes in cite subsystem (social, technological. or managerial) will affect other subsystems.

2. The culture of the organization tends to suppress the expression of the feelings and attitudes of most people; adversely affecting problem solving job satisfaction, and personal growth.

3. In most organizations, the level of interpersonal support, trust, and cooperation is much lower than is desirable and necessary.

4. Although win-lose strategies call be appropriate in seine situations, many win-lose situations are dysfunctional to both employees and the organization.

5. Many personality clashes between individuals or groups are functions of organizational design rather than of the individuals involved.

6. When feelings are seen as important data, additional avenues for improved leadership, communications, goal setting, intergroup collaboration and job satisfaction are opened up.

7. Shifting the emphasis of conflict resolution from edicting or smoothing to open discussion of ideas facilitates both personal growth and the accomplishment of organizational goals.

8. Organisational structure and the design of jobs can be modified to more effectively meet the needs of the individual, the group and the organization.


A brief overview of die history and development of OD may help us to put the term into better perspective and to understand seine of the problems and confusions that have surrounded the development of OD. OD comes from three different stems. The first is the growth of the National Training Laboratories and the development of training groups, otherwise known as sensitivity training or T-groups. The second basic stem comes from the early work in survey, research and feedback. Kurt Lewin was instrumental in the development of both of these stems and was also an important influence in encouraging groups to process their own data. The third stem is the socio-technical approach, originally, developed by the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations in London.

The Laboratory Stem

National Training Laboratories emerged in the summer of 1946, when Kurt Lewin and his staff at the Research Center for Group Dynamics at MIT was asked by the Connecticut Interracial Commission and the Connecticut Interracial Commission and the Community Interrelations for help in research and training for community leaders.

A workshop was developed, and the community leaders were brought together to discuss problems. The first T-group was formed as people reacted to data about their own behavior. As a result, the researchers were able to dram two conclusions about the experiment in this first T-group: (1) feedback of data about group interaction is a rich learning experience: (2) the process of "group building" apparently has a great potential for learning that could be transferred to "back-home situations."

As a result of the original experience, a permanent program for NTL within the National Education Association was formed in the 1950s, three trends emerged. The first was the emergence of regional laboratories. The second was the expansion of the program sessions to sessions year-round. The third was the expansion of the T-group into business and industry, with NTL members becoming increasingly involved with programs in industry like Esso.

The Survey Research Feedback Stem

This approach involves the use of attitude surveys and the feedback of the data to participants started by the Research Center for Group Dynamics in 1945.In an early study, Mann reported on the success of administering a company-wide study of management and employee opinions and attitudes conducted at Detroit Edison. Over a two-year period, three different sets of data were given back: (1) the viewpoints of 8000 non-supervisory employees toward their supervisor, promotion opportunities, work satisfaction with fellow employees, etc,: (2) similar reactions from first- and second-line supervisors., and (3) information front higher levels of management.

The process that finally evolved was an "interlocking chain of conferences." The major findings of the survey were first reported to the top management and then progressed down through the organization. The feedback sessions were conducted ill task groups, with each supervisor and his immediate subordinates discussing the data together. The researchers intuitively felt that this was a powerful process for change.

The Socio-Technical Stem

Much of the work on the socio-technical approach to CD stemmed from early work done at the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations in London. Traditionally, industrial and other production operations (including banks and insurance companies) have been seen as a closed technical system to which human beings are forced to adapt. A key Tavistock concept is that of the "open socio-teclinical system" which considers neither the human nor the technical dimensions of work as being paramount but instead focuses on the interaction and inter-relatedness of the two.

One of the earliest Tavistock projects was begun in 1948 at Glacier Metal. a British company making anti~friction metals and industrial bearings. Later, Tavistock researchers found that work could be restructured in such different areas as coal mines in Great Britain and textile mills in India."

The Institute had much greater influence in the Scandinavian countries, particularly Norway and Sweden. Rather than the focus on management or on individual job enrichment, as in the United States, the focus has been on collaboration between the management and the union, particularly in the area of redesigning work systems on the shop floor, especially autonomous and self-governing work groups. In the mid-1970s, three of the better known projects included Saab and Volvo in Sweden and the Games pet food plant of General Foods in Topeka, Kansas.


One indication of the growth of CD is the expansion of the CD Network, which began in 1964, had 200 members in 1970 and in 1995 had over 3,000 members. Since 1968 when the American Society of Training and Development set up an OD division, it currently has well over a thousand members. CD is now being taught at the graduate and undergraduate level in a large number of universities.

Many different organization have undertaken a wide variety of CD efforts. Some of the larger corporations that have engaged in organization development are General Electric, General Motors, Union Carbide, Exxon, Corning Glass Works, Texas Instruments, American Airlines, Du Pont, The Hotel Corporation of America.John Hancock Insurance Company, Polaroid. Ralston Purina, General Foods, Proctor and Gamble, IBM, TRW Systems, Bank of America and Cummins Engine. Much of what is currently being done is held as highly confidential and is not being released to the public. CD work is also being done in schools, communities, local and state government, and at the federal level including the armed services. In the U.S. army, such approaches are called Organizational Effectiveness (OE). Schools and university have been using both group training and survey feedback relatively early in the history of OD.

There has been all internationalization of OD, which has been applied in Canada, Sweden, Norway,Germany, Yugoslavia, Japan, Australia, the Philippines, Israel, New Zealand, and the Netherlands.Finally, OD is no longer concerned primarily with the interaction of individuals and groups. Much more work and emphasis has been placed oil the proper structure and design of the organization.

In addition, OD practice and research is giving more time and attention to interfaces between organization, including working across organizational boundaries. Such activities include working with a number of different schools of' thought and holding a series of dialogues bringing together the disadvantaged with the members of economic and social elite of a community.


We have examined the concept of organizational competence and the need to accomplish both the goals of the organization and the needs and goals of the individuals within the organization. Organizations can be helped to achieve competence through the use of OD, and it appears that the use of OD is increasing at a rapid rate, covering a wide variety of techniques, organizations, and cultures. Available evidence shows that OD is both a systematic body of knowledge (although still fragmented) and a process for change.


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  5. Beckhard. "The New Pressures on the Corporation." Paper presented to Innovation Group, 3rd Conference. Harrison House. October 3, 1971.
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