Organization Development

The use of behavioural techniques by senior executives to improve the health and effectiveness of their organisation.

The term Organization Development (OD) was first coined by Richard F. Beckhard and Edgar G. Schein in the late 1960's. More recently it has been described by a UK proponent as follows: Organisational development includes changes in decision-making process, shape and nature of groups, work procedures, job descriptions and roles. The imperative is to change, in order to improve quality and effectiveness, but the management of this process is not a 'neat sequential process'. It typically involves a dynamic complex interaction between those who are wedded to the present state, despite frustrations, and those who share a vision of a future better state. Collaboration and movement are more likely to happen if the vision is shared and congruent with the organisation's existing cultural and political forces.

OD is designed to counter the inertia and stagnation that afflicts some large organisations. Too often they can become self-serving and resistant to change with senior executives frustrated at their inability to change things or worse oblivious to what is going on. The OD toolkit is generally a very simple one; consisting of a range of fairly straightforward data collection (e.g attitude surveys) and analysis techniques. What generally distinguishes it is the seniority of the project sponsor and the organisational breadth of the project aims. It has now become a popular high-level consultancy heading, particularly in the US. Typical phases of an OD project might include:

  1. Selection of organisational topic or area by senior executive.
  2. Recruitment of OD team and design of project.
  3. Gathering hard and soft data associated with the topic or area (often including staff surveys).
  4. Analysis of data.
  5. Diagnosis of opportunities and problems.
  6. Development of appropriate interventions and changes.
  7. Implementation of interventions and changes.
  8. Evaluation and follow-up.

Examples of OD projects have included:


  1. The initial noun is often converted to the adjectival "Organizational". In the UK and in Commonwealth countries the "z" is usually replaced with an "s".
  2. Peter M Senge: The Fifth Discipline: The Art and Practice of the Learning Organisation. Century Books: London, 1994.
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