Organization development (OD)

OD's history is long, starting with the first workshop Kurt Lewin, a German immigrant teaching and doing research at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), conducted in 1946 in Connecticut, USA. The concept of group dynamics, the change process, and action research impacted three of the first workshop's participants, Kenneth Bern, Leland Bradford, and Ronald Lippitt. In 1947, the three created the National Training Laboratory (NT) in Bethel, Maine. The name NTL later evolved into NTL Institute for Applied Behavioral Science. Since these early days, OD has gone through many phases.

Fast forward: What is OD?

In his book, The Process of Leading Organizational Change, Donald L. Anderson defines OD as "The process of increasing organizational effectiveness and facilitating personal and organization change through the use of interventions driven by social and behavioral science knowledge." Harvey & Brown (1992) define OD as "a long-range effort supported by top management to improve an organization's problem-solving and renewal processes through effective management of organizational culture." They conclude: "organization development efforts are planned, systematic approaches to change. They involve changes to the total organization or to relatively large segments of it. The purpose of OD efforts is to increase the effectiveness of the system and, also, to develop the potential of all individual members."

Richard Beckhard gives us another definition of OD as follows:

"Organization development is an effort:

  1. Planned

  2. Organization-wide

  3. Managed from the top

  4. To increase organization effectiveness and health, through

  5. Planned interventions in the organization's processes using behavioral science knowledge."

Whatever definition one may prefer, a common thread in all organization development efforts is:

OD is an organization-wide effort to improve the organization's effectiveness.

OD facilitates organizational change.

Therefore, the change process focuses on three areas:

  • the individual,

  • groups (formal and informal),

  • the structure of the organization.

The OD practitioner must have a clear understanding of the needs to change before he or she can assist the organization through the change process, and most important: the organization must be ready for the change process. In short, OD focuses on real issues or problems facing the organization.

The OD process will be our next discussion.

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