Organization development (OD) is a deliberately planned effort to increase an organization's relevance and viability. Vasudevan has referred to OD as a systemic learning and development strategy intended to change the basics of beliefs, attitudes, and relevance of values and structure of the current organization to better absorb disruptive technologies, market opportunities, and ensuing challenges and chaos. OD is the framework for a change process designed to lead to desirable positive impact to all stakeholders and the environment.
The Nature of Organizational Development
OD is a lifelong, built-in mechanism to improve immunity of organization's health to renew itself, often with the assistance of a "change agent" or "catalyst" and the use of enabling appropriate theories and techniques from applied behavioral sciences, anthropology, sociology, and phenomenology. More importantly, the terms "change agent" or "catalyst" are synonymous with the notion of a leader who is engaged in leadership – a transformative or effectiveness process – as opposed to management, a more incremental or efficiency-based change methodology.
Although behavioral science has provided the basic foundation for the study and practice of OD, new and emerging fields of study have made their presence felt. Experts in systems thinking and organizational learning, mind maps, body mind synchronicity, structure of intuition in decision making, and coaching (to name a few) have emerged as OD catalysts. These emergent perspectives see the organization as the holistic interplay of a number of systems that impact the process and outputs of the entire organization.
Applications of Organizational Development
The purpose of OD is to address perennial evolving needs of successful organizations – a concerted collaboration of internal and external experts in the field to discover the process an organization can use to become more stakeholder effective.
The objective of OD is to improve the organization's capacity to handle its internal and external functioning and relationships. This includes improved interpersonal and group processes, more effective communication, enhanced ability to cope with organizational problems of all kinds, more effective decision processes, more appropriate leadership style, improved skill in dealing with destructive conflict, and higher levels of trust and cooperation among organizational members.
Weisbord presents a six-box model for understanding, thereby changing and improving, the organization:
- Purposes: Are employees clear about the organization's mission, purpose, and goals? Do they support the organization's purpose?
- Structure: How is the organization's work divided? Is there an adequate fit between the purpose and the internal structure?
- Relationship: What are the relationships between individuals, units or departments that perform different tasks, and between the people and requirements of their jobs?
- Rewards: For what actions does the organization formally reward or punish members?
- Leadership: Does leadership watch for "blips" among the other areas and maintain balance among them?
- Helpful mechanism: Do planning, control, budgeting, and other information systems help organization members accomplish their goals?
Lewin's description of the process of change involves three steps:
- Unfreezing: Faced with a dilemma or disconfirmation, the individual or group becomes aware of a need to change.
- Changing: The situation is diagnosed and new models of behavior are explored and tested.
- Refreezing: Application of new behavior is evaluated, and if reinforcing, adopted.
Effectiveness of Organizational Development
Humanistic values underlie OD. Margulies and Raia articulated the humanistic values of OD as follows:
- Providing opportunities for people to function as human beings rather than as resources in the productive process.
- Providing opportunities for each organization member, as well as for the organization itself, to develop to his full potential.
- Seeking to increase the effectiveness of the organization in terms of all of its goals.
- Attempting to create an environment in which it is possible to find exciting and challenging work.
- Providing opportunities for people in organizations to influence the way in which they relate to work, the organization, and the environment.
- Treating each human being as a person with a complex set of needs, all of which are important in his or her work and life.