Overview of the Field of Organization Development

Sections of this topic

    Overview of the Field of Organization Development

    Much of the content
    of this topic came from this book:
    Consulting and Organization Development - Book Cover

    Copyright Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD

    Focus and Scope of This Topic

    The purpose of this topic is to acquaint the reader with the field of Organization
    Development, a field with a rich history of research, publications and highly
    qualified practitioners dedicated to improving the performance of organizations,
    whether they are teams, departmental units or the overall organizations.

    The information in those topics is not sufficient to develop competencies
    in guiding successful significant change. Those competencies comes from extensive
    experience in applying those types of information.

    NOTE: This topic distinguishes the difference between “organizational
    development” and “Organization Development.” The former phrase
    refers to the context, focus and purpose of the change while developing an organization.
    The latter phrase refers to a field of people with expertise in guiding successful
    organizational development. An organization can be a team, departmental unit
    within an entire organization, the entire organization itself or a collaboration
    of organizations. However, there are various articles below which refer to “organizational
    development”, but it is clear that their content relates as directly to
    the field of Organization Development itself. Thus, those articles are included
    in this topic.

    Sections of This Topic Include

    Overviews of Organization Development

    What is Organization Development?
    Other Overviews of the Field of Organization Development
    Diverse Perspectives on Organization Development
    History and Theories of Organization Development
    Future and Emerging Theories of Organizational Development
    Other Fields and Organization Development
    Recommended Competencies for Organization Development
    Practitioners

    General Resources

    Organizations Focused on Organization Development
    Books Focused on Organization Development

    Other Highly Recommended Readings

    Guidelines,
    Methods and Resources for Organizational Change Agents
    Competencies
    and Resources for Organizational Change Agents

    All About Consulting – Types, Skills and Approaches
    Guidelines
    and Resources for Contracting Phase of Consulting
    Guidelines
    and Resources for Discovery Phase of Consulting
    Guidelines
    and Resources for Action Planning Phase of Consulting
    Guidelines
    and Resources for Implementation Phase of Consulting
    Guidelines
    and Resources for Project Evaluation Phase of Consulting
    Guidelines
    and Resources for Termination Phase of Consulting

    Also consider

    Organizational
    Structures and Design
    Organizational
    Change
    Organizational
    Evaluations
    Organizational
    Performance Management

    Related Library Topics


    What is Organization Development?

    A Traditional Definition

    Like many relatively long-standing fields, the members of each are constantly
    discussing what their field really is. However, the following definition is
    standard and often used as the starting point for further discussions about
    the definition of Organization Development.

    “Organization Development is an effort planned, organization-wide,
    and managed from the top, to increase organization effectiveness and health
    through planned interventions in the organization’s ‘processes,’ using behavioral-science
    knowledge.”
    — Beckhard, “Organization development: Strategies and Models”,
    Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1969, p. 9.

    Some More Modern Definitions

    Today’s organizations operate in a rapidly changing environment. Consequently,
    one of the most important assets for an organization is the ability to manage
    change — and for people to remain healthy and authentic. Consider the following
    definition of Organization Development:

    “Organization Development is the attempt to influence the members of
    an organization to expand their candidness with each other about their views
    of the organization and their experience in it, and to take greater responsibility
    for their own actions as organization members. The assumption behind Organization Development is
    that when people pursue both of these objectives simultaneously, they are
    likely to discover new ways of working together that they experience as more
    effective for achieving their own and their shared (organizational) goals.
    And that when this does not happen, such activity helps them to understand
    why and to make meaningful choices about what to do in light of this understanding.”

    — Neilsen, “Becoming an Organization Development Practitioner”, Englewood Cliffs, CA:
    Prentice-Hall, 1984, pp. 2-3.

    Experts might agree that the following definitions of Organization Development represent the major
    focus and thrust of many of today’s Organization Development practitioners.

    “Organization Development is a system-wide application of behavioral
    science knowledge to the planned development and reinforcement of organizational
    strategies, structures, and processes for improving an organization’s effectiveness.”
    — Cummings and Worley, “Organization Development and Change”, Sixth
    Edition, South-Western Publishing, 1997, p.2.

    “Organization Development is a body of knowledge and practice that enhances
    organizational performance and individual development, viewing the organization
    as a complex system of systems that exists within a larger system, each of
    which has its own attributes and degrees of alignment. Organization Development
    interventions in these systems are inclusive methodologies and approaches
    to strategic planning, organization design, leadership development, change
    management, performance management, coaching, diversity, and work/life balance.”
    — Matt Minahan, MM & Associates, Silver Spring, Maryland

    Organization Development Practitioners as “Organizational Physicians”?

    There is a complex integration of various systems in an organization. Likewise,
    there is a complex integration in the human body. Therefore, when trying to
    understand the field of Organization Development, it might be useful to compare
    aspects of the field of Organization Development to aspects of the field of
    medicine.

    For example, the study of the theories and structures of organizations (often
    in courses called “organizational theory”) is somewhat similar to
    the study of anatomy and physiology of human systems. Similarly, the study of
    organizational behavior is somewhat similar to the study of psychology and sociology
    in human systems.

    So in Organization Development, its practitioners might be considered to be
    “organizational physicians” intending to improve the effectiveness
    of the organization by:

    1. Establishing relationships with key personnel in the organization (sometimes
      occurring in phases called “start-up”, “entering” and/or
      “contracting” with the client organization);
    2. Researching and evaluating systems in the organization to understand dysfunctions
      and/or goals of the systems in the organization (“diagnosing” the
      systems in the organization);
    3. Identifying approaches (or “interventions”) to improve the effectiveness
      of the organization and its people;
    4. Applying approaches to improve effectiveness (methods of “planned change”
      in the organization); and
    5. Evaluating the ongoing effectiveness of the approaches and their results.

    There are many practitioners who would oppose that comparison, believing that
    physicians too often take a mechanical, linear and detached approach when treating
    their patients. Those practitioners would assert that approaches in Organization
    Development are much more dynamic in nature.

    Additional Perspectives On What Organization Development Is

    Organizational
    Development Guide: Definition, Process & Development Models
    What is Organization Development?
    (from the Organization Development Network)
    What is Organizational
    Development? (4-minute video)

    Organization
    Development Practitioner





    Other Overviews of the Field
    of Organization Development

    It is useful now to build from those various definitions to consider
    various overviews of the field. The field itself is so large that an overview
    should start with a relatively small scope and then broaden from that.

    Basic Overviews

    Organizational
    Development Theory
    Introduction
    to Organization Development
    What
    is Organizational Development?
    Three
    Stages of Organization Development
    What is Organization
    Development? (see the pulldown for many resources)
    Beginner’s
    Guide to Organization Development
    What is Organization Development?

    Broader Overviews

    Organization
    Development (broad overview from Wikipedia)
    Organization
    Development: Principles, Processes, Performance
    Values, Beliefs and
    Assumptions of Organization Development (30-minute video)
    Organization
    Development and Change
    A
    Framework for Organizational Development: The Why, What and How of Organization
    Development Work
    A
    Study on Organisational Development


    Diverse Perspectives on Organization Development

    The topic of organizational change has received a great deal of attention over
    the past several decades as organizations face new and complex challenges like
    never before. Correspondingly, the field of Organization Development is receiving
    a great deal of attention now, too. As the field has grown, so has the diversity
    of perspectives on the field. The question “What is Organization Development?”
    is now common in discussions among those interested in the field.

    Field or Profession? (Ethics and Certification)

    Organization Development is sometimes referred to as a profession. Yet others
    assert that it is a field because it does not have a standard code of ethics
    or universal accrediting body. Early practitioners recommended a Credo,
    which is widely respected. The Organization Development Institute has also recommended
    an International Organization Development Code of
    Ethics
    .

    The Organization Development Institute admirably suggests levels of certification
    for Organization Development practitioners, but these do not appear to have
    become standard for practitioners. The Organization
    Development Network
    is a large organization that also focuses on developing
    the field and serving its members, including by developing a framework of competencies.

    Scope of the Field?

    Some have distinguished Organization Development from other fields because
    it works from a systems perspective and according to humanistic values to help
    people to change for the better. Others might respond that other fields or professions,
    however, such as trainers and community organizers, also work from a systems
    perspective and according to humanistic values — and, thus, that description
    is not unique to Organization Development. Those people might assert that Organization
    Development must proclaim a scope for their field, in particular, a scope to
    changing organizations.

    Focus on People Side and/or Business Side?

    Another area of diversity about perspectives on Organization Development is
    in regard to how people view organizations. Some focus especially on the structures,
    strategies, policies and procedures (the “business side”), while others
    focus especially on the human relations and interactions (the “people side”).
    Still others focus especially on the politics and power, while others focus
    especially on the cultures and values of the organization. The following article
    gives more information about these perspectives:
    Understand the Preferred Lens Through Which You View Organizations

    Currently, there seems to be strong focus on “soft” skills in Organization
    Development, for example, coaching, leadership development, facilitation, conflict
    management and process consulting. However, many would assert that the “hard”
    skills, such as organizational theory, strategizing, and various quality management
    initiatives should also be a focus in Organization Development. The following
    article gives more information about these perspectives.
    What Type of Organization Development Practitioner Are You?

    Organization Development Versus Change Management?

    Recently, there have emerged many opinions that Organization Development and
    change management are two somewhat different disciplines. The opinions are that
    Organization Development is focused primarily on changing a whole system, for
    example, a team, departmental unit or organization, while change management
    is focused on the necessary changes among people in the organization in order
    to accomplish the overall change in the organization.

    Others believe that change management is not a separate discipline and is actually
    an aspect of what Organization Development naturally focuses on when changing
    the entire system, that is, that Organization Development also focuses a great
    deal on what is needed to change people. Other views on change management might
    sound much like how others would define Organization Development, for example,
    “Organizational Change Management is about an organization achieving a
    desired future state from its current state with minimal disruption or negative
    impact to the organization” … “Change Management … is not organization-wide
    or enterprise-wide. It is change specific to a project or program” (Rona
    Puntawe
    ).

    What
    is the difference between Organizational Development, Organizational Change
    Management and Change Management?
    Organizational
    Development Vs. Change Management

    Exploring
    the Relationship between OD and Change Management

    Various Perspectives on Organization Development

    Ethics in Organization
    Development (2-minute video)
    Organization
    Development: past, present and future
    David Bradford on
    Re-inventing Organization Development
    Challenges and Future
    of Organizational Development (2-minute video)
    Key Trends in HR,
    people and organization development
    Building
    Organization Development Education for the Infinite World of Tomorrow (wonderful
    overview of the state of Organization Development educational programs)
    Holistic Organization Development — Paradigm for the Future





    History and Theories of Organization Development

    There is a rich history in the field of Organization Development. Professional
    practitioners in the field should know that history, including the early beginnings
    of the field and the major players in it. They should know its history and evolution,
    including its major phases of development over the years that bring us up to
    the dynamic changes that are now occurring in the field.

    Making
    Sense of Organization Development (13-minute video, contains historical information)
    History
    of Organization Development (Part 1 of 6) — “Prehistoric Organization Development”

    History
    of Organization Development (Part 2 of 6) — “The Psychologists”

    History
    of Organization Development (Part 3 of 6) — A Timeline of Who Did What and
    When

    History
    of Organization Development (Part 4 of 6) — Frederick Taylor, the First Modern
    ‘Change’ Consultant

    History
    of Organization Development (Part 5 of 6) — Wilfred Bion and Eric Trist “The
    Birth of Self-Managed Work Groups”

    History
    of Organization Development (Part 6 of 6) – “Can People Really Change? The
    Genius of Kurt Lewin”

    30
    Years of Organization Development History – 1

    30
    Years of Organization Development History – 2
    John
    Dupree’s list of the Organization Development Pioneers
    The
    Books in the “OD” Bible
    Theoretical
    Background of Organization Development
    Evolution of the Field
    of Organization Development
    Rise
    – and Fall – of OD


    Future and Emerging Theories of Organization
    Development

    Dialogic Organization Development

    As quoted from the website Dialogic Organization
    Development
    , “Dialogic Organization Development is the next step in the evolution of organizational
    change theory, from thinking of organizations as organisms that adapt to their
    environments, to organizations as conversations where individual, group, and
    organizational actions result from self-organizing, socially constructed realities
    created and sustained by the prevailing narratives, stories, and conversations
    through which people make meaning about their experiences.”

    What
    is Dialogic Organization Development – Part 1
    Organisational
    Development: Diagnostic or Dialogic?
    The
    Dialogic Change Model
    What
    is the Evidence of Dialogic Outcomes?
    Dialogic
    Organization Development Recapturing the Spirit of Inquiry

    Papers on Dialogic Organization
    Development
    My Journey into
    Dialogic Organization Development
    Dialogic Organization
    Development (1-hour video)
    Dialogic Approach
    to Transformation
    Dialogic Organization
    Development

    Other Perspectives on the Future of Organization
    Development

    Future of Organization Development
    Current Trends in Organizations
    Future
    Trends in Organization Development
    The
    future of the organisation and implications for OD
    Four
    Trends Shaping the Future of Organizations and Organization Development (briefly
    lists 4 trends)
    The
    Future Of Organization Development 2: Where OD Thrives
    Future
    Trends of Organizational Development (slideshare)
    Emerging
    Trends in Organizational Development
    The
    Future of Organization Development
    The
    Future of OD: Updated Reflections on the OD Field: Are We Good Enough for the
    Changing World?
    Emerging Trends in
    Organization Development
    OD:
    From the Founders to the Future
    Preparing
    for Change: 2018
    New Paradigm
    in Management (lists driving forces of change)


    Other Fields and Organization Development

    The field of Organization Development includes a wide range of perspectives
    on the scope and, in particular, how it relates — or does not relate — to
    other fields. Many believe that an activity could be classified as an “Organization
    Development” activity if it is focused especially on changing a significant
    part or all of an organization. Others believe that activities focused especially
    on changing a person or people (such as learning and development, coaching,
    training and facilitation) within an organization also changes the organization
    itself and, thus, each of those activities could be classified as an “Organization
    Development” activity. Here are some articles that further portray differences
    in perspective.

    Differences
    — Training vs. Organization Development
    Learning 2.0 &
    Organizational Development
    The Role of HR in
    Organizational Development
    Organization Development
    vs Human Resource Management
    Organizational Development
    and Design Thinking
    The Role of Executive
    Coaching in Organizational Development
    Organization
    Development and Human Resource Management





    Recommended Competencies for
    Organization Development Practitioners

    Almost as diverse as the opinions about the focus, scope and nature of Organization
    Development are the opinions about the competencies that its practitioners should
    have. The following link will take you to a list of recommended competencies
    from different organizations and professionals in the field.
    Competencies
    and Resources for Organizational Change Agents


    Organizations Focused on Organization Development

    The following lists are by no means complete, rather they are a good starting
    point for learning even more about Organization Development.

    Associations

    National Organization
    Development Network

    Chapters of the National
    Organization Development Network

    Educational Organizations

    Organization Development Education Association lists many
    Organization Development educational organizations
    .

    Some Organizations With Many Resources about Organization Development

    Change
    Designs
    Organization Development
    Network
    Fred Nickol’s website
    American University’s
    Library online encyclopedia’s of organizational topics
    Association of Change Management Professionals
    ZeePedia.com
    Organization Development International
    The Open Encyclopedia of Organization
    Development
    What is OD? (see
    the pulldown)


    Books Focused on the Field of Organization
    Development

    The field of Organization Development encompasses a wide variety of business-,
    management- and organization-related practices. Therefore, a list of Organization
    Development-related books could well be exhaustive in length. The following
    are some of the major books focused primarily on the field of Organization Development.
    This short list is by no means meant to represent the singular “foundation”
    texts in the field. Rather, the list is a good starting point from which to
    gain some basic understanding of the field.

    Organization Development-Specific Books

    Much of the content of
    this Library topic came from this book:
    Consulting and Organization Development - Book Cover

    Field Guide to Consulting and Organizational Development
    by Carter McNamara, Authenticity Consulting, 2006. This book is about
    the field of Organization Development and combines major practices from the
    field with major practices from the field of consulting, as well. (The author
    of this book is the author of much of the content in this Library.)
    Field
    Guide to Consulting and Organizational Development

    Organization Development and Change
    Sixth Edition, by Cummings and Worley. South-Western Publishing, 1997. Available
    from Amazon
    Books
    . This is one of the best books about the background, movements, theories,
    models and case studies regarding Organization Development.

    Organization Development Classics : The Practice and Theory of Change —
    The Best of the Organization Development Practitioner

    by Van Eynde (Editor), Judith C. Hoy (Editor), Dixie Cody Van Eynde (Editor),
    Donald Van Eynde (Editor). Jossey-Bass, 1997. Available from Amazon
    Books
    . This is a collection of classic articles from the pioneers in the
    field of Organization Development. Together, they provide a very meaningful
    overview of the field.

    Practicing Organization Development : A Guide for Consultants
    by Rothwell (Editor), Roland Sullivan (Editor), Gary N. McLean. Pfeiffer &
    Co., 1995. Available from Amazon
    Books
    . This is one of the best books with guidelines and practical about
    applying all phases of Organization Development.

    Annotated Lists of Organization Development-Related
    Books

    Peter Vaill provides an extensive, annotated bibliography of organizational
    behavior and development books. (To read the bibliography, you will need the
    free program Adobe
    Acrobat Reader
    .)
    An
    Annotated Bibliography of Foundational Literature in Organizational Behavior
    and Development

    Another list of Organization Development books is recommended by members of
    a LinkedIn group about Organization Development.
    List
    of recommended Organization Development books

    Other Highly Recommended Readings

    Guidelines,
    Methods and Resources for Organizational Change Agents
    Competencies
    and Resources for Organizational Change Agents

    Consulting Skills
    – How to Do Consulting
    Guidelines
    and Resources for Contracting Phase of Consulting
    Guidelines
    and Resources for Discovery Phase of Consulting
    Guidelines
    and Resources for Action Planning Phase of Consulting
    Guidelines
    and Resources for Implementation Phase of Consulting
    Guidelines
    and Resources for Project Evaluation Phase of Consulting
    Guidelines
    and Resources for Termination Phase of Consulting


    Learn More in the Library’s Blogs Related to Organization

    In addition to the articles on this current page, see the following blogs which
    have posts related to Organization Development. Scan down the blog’s page to
    see various posts. Also see the section “Recent Blog Posts” in the sidebar
    of the blog or click on “next” near the bottom of a post in the blog.

    Library’s
    Consulting and Organizational Development Blog

    Library’s
    Leadership Blog


    For the Category of Organizational Development:

    To round out your knowledge of this Library topic, you may want to review some related topics, available from the link below. Each of the related topics includes free, online resources.

    Also, scan the Recommended Books listed below. They have been selected for their relevance and highly practical nature.

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