Clearing Up Terms and Language About Organizational Change and Development

© Copyright Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD, Authenticity Consulting, LLC.
Adapted from the Field Guide to Consulting and Organizational Development and Field Guide to Consulting and Organizational Development with Nonprofits.

When a topic (for example, organizational change and development) becomes very prominent, it often takes on many different interpretations and meanings. The advantage is that topic becomes very accessible, interesting and enlightening to many. The disadvantage is that it's also increasingly vague and difficult for many to make practical. To make this topic of organizational change and development useful, we should reference some common definitions.

Even if not all people agree with the definitions, we at least have some definitions in common to disagree about -- that alone can enhance the communications about the topic. Having some understanding and discernment about the following phrases will help readers to benefit even more from literature about organizational change.

Organizational performance management

We're used to thinking of ongoing performance management for employees, for example, setting goals, monitoring the employee's achievement of those goals, sharing feedback with the employee, evaluating the employee's performance, rewarding performance or firing the employee. Performance management applies to organizations, too, and includes recurring activities to establish organizational goals, monitor progress toward the goals, and make adjustments to achieve those goals more effectively and efficiently.

Note that, in contrast to organizational change projects, organizational performance management activities are recurring in nature. Those recurring activities are much of what leaders and managers inherently do in their organizations -- some do them far better than others. An organizational change project is not likely to be successful if it is not within the context of the recurring activities of organizational performance management.

Organizational change

This phrase refers to the overall nature of activities, for example, their extent and rate, that occurs during a project that aims to enhance the overall performance of the organization. The activities are often led by a change agent, or person currently responsible to guide the overall change effort. The activities are often project-oriented (a one-time project) and geared to address a current overall problem or goal in the organization. (A relatively new phrase, capacity building, refers to these types of activities, as well.)

Organizational development

This phrase refers to the evolution of the organization during the overall organizational change activities, for example, evolution of its members to be able to resolve a major problem, achieve an overall project goal and/or achieve overall organizational goals. Organizational development is an outcome of organizational change activities.

Change management

This phrase refers to the implementation of a certain approach or methodology to ensure the organizational change effort is successful, including to ensure a clear vision and/or goals for the project, and to modify systems in the organization to more effectively achieve the goals. Change management activities can range from a planned, structured and explicit approach (successful change efforts usually are) to unplanned and implicit.

Change agent

A change agent is the person who's currently responsible for the overall change effort. The role can be performed by different people at different times. For example, an effective consultant (internal or external) might first perform the role, but work in such a way during the project that the role ultimately is adopted by someone else inside the organization.

Organization Development (OD)

OD is a field of research, theory and practice dedicated to expanding the knowledge and effectiveness of people to accomplish more successful organizational change and performance. Different people often have different perspectives on the field, depending on their particular values and skills. Many people assert that, for OD projects to be highly effective, they must be systems-based in design and highly humanistic in implementation. (Occasionally, someone refers to the field as "organizational development," but for the sake of clarity in this topic, that definition will not be used in the Free Management Library.)

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Additional Library Resources in the Category of Organizational Change and Development

Related Library Topics

Recommended Books

Managing Organizational Change

Growing Your Organization



Managing Organizational Change

Consulting and Organization Development - Book Cover Field Guide to Consulting and Organizational Development
by Carter McNamara, published by Authenticity Consulting, LLC. Provides complete, step-by-step guidelines to identify complex issues in for-profit or government organizations and successfully resolve each of them. This book is also helpful to organizations that are doing fine now, but want to evolve to the next level of performance. This is one of the truly comprehensive, yet practical, books about this complex subject! Includes online forms that can be downloaded. Many materials in this Library's topic about guiding change are adapted from this comprehensive book.
Consulting and Organization Development With Nonprofits - Book Cover Field Guide to Consulting and Organizational Development With Nonprofits
by Carter McNamara, published by Authenticity Consulting, LLC. Provides complete, step-by-step guidelines to identify complex issues in nonprofit organizations and successfully resolve each of them. This book is also helpful to organizations that are doing fine now, but want to evolve to the next level of performance. This is one of the truly comprehensive, yet practical, books about this complex subject! Includes online forms that can be downloaded. Many materials in this Library's topic about guiding change are adapted from this comprehensive book.

The following books are recommended because of their highly practical nature and often because they include a wide range of information about this Library topic. To get more information about each book, just click on the image of the book. Also, a "bubble" of information might be displayed. You can click on the title of the book in that bubble to get more information, too.



Growing Your Organization

The following books are recommended because of their highly practical nature and often because they include a wide range of information about this Library topic. To get more information about each book, just click on the image of the book. Also, a "bubble" of information might be displayed. You can click on the title of the book in that bubble to get more information, too.



Also See for For-Profits

Strategic Planning -- Recommended Books

Business Development -- Recommended books

Financing Your Business -- Recommended Books

Product Development -- Recommended books

Planning and Project Management -- Recommended Books

Also See for Nonprofits

Strategic Planning -- Recommended Books

Social Entrepreneurship (Nonprofit) -- Recommended Books

Capacity Building (Nonprofit) -- Recommended Books

Fundraising -- Recommended Books

Program Management -- Recommended Books

Planning and Project Management -- Recommended Books

Capacity Building (Nonprofit) -- Recommended Books




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