Organizational development has come a long way through history to become an important practice in modern organizations. The field of organizational development, and therefore the associated concepts, traces its origin to psychologically related research at the dawn of the twentieth century (Beard, 2000, p. 124). Cummings and Worley (2009) defined organizational development (OD) as a planned approach to increasing an organization’s effectiveness and draws from a range of theories and technology from the behavioral sciences. The OD process is systematic and involves three major stages: diagnosis, intervention and evaluation but may be expanded into the following steps: diagnosis, feedback, planning change, intervention and evaluation (Cummings & Worley, 2009). A diagnosis of the existing condition of the organization is the starting point of this process.
Through diagnosis, areas of inadequacies within the organization are identified. Data is collected and analyzed to establish areas of priority that call for intervention. This feedback gives reason to plan for change as strategies are developed. Interventions are then designed and implemented. These, according to Cummings and Worley (2009), may involve team building, survey feedback, workshops, or third-party development. Finally, the evaluation of both short-term and long-term change is affected. There is need for regularly monitoring the progress to identify if the desired results are being achieved.
There are multiple theories that are associated with OD. Organisationdevelopment.org identifies five individuals as being the founders of OD theories. These are Kurt Lewin, Rensis Likert, Edgar Schein, Bob Tannerbaum and Richard Beckhard. The theories include the five core theories of OD that include the systems theory that was introduced by Bertalanflfy; Lewin’s action research theory and the change theories of group dynamics, three step model and the field theory; the social constructionist theory that was first introduced by Mead and Berger; as well as the complexity theories, which are a collective contribution by key individuals such as Stacy, Wheatly, Black and Morgan. According to Organizationaldevelopment.org, there are other key theories in OD besides the five core ones, which are important in understanding the OD concept.
Organizational change and development is likely to succeed if certain conditions exist within an organization as follows (Cummings & Worley, 2009). First, commitment from top personnel is a key factor. Top level managers provide the impetus necessary to drive organizational change and development. There support is a necessity as far as this process is involved. Second, it is imperative that all the personnel involved in various roles in the organization maintain strong links through which collaboration and cooperation can be achieved. Third, the organization should have adequate resources to expend on the initiatives, as well as the willingness to put them to use. A lack of resources can be a big setback as regards the success of OD programs. A fourth key condition for the success of these initiatives is the availability of expertise. An OD effort requires expert knowledge at various stages, without which the program would be likely to falter. The involvement of an external consultant should be considered where concerns over expertise exist. Finally, an OD process is carried forward to the long-term and the need to strengthen internal resources regarding knowledge in this practice is important. Such an initiative will help ensure that the long-term goals are achieved.
Beard, M. (2000). The New Organizational Frame. Employee Assistance Quarterly, 16 (1-2):
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Cummings, G. T. & Worley, G. C. 9th Ed. (2009) Organizational Development & Change. New
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Organizationaldevelopment.org (n.d) Organizational Development. Retrieved from