Organizational Development’s Purpose and Coherence – A review of traditional and modern outlook.
“The only constant is change”- Heraclitus, 6th century B.C., Greek philosopher. Organizational development has seen dramatic changes from earlier times till now. It has seen different phases in its journey that started from 1940’s and is continuing till now. It has been through the phase when it was considered a movement and also the phase when it became unwanted in the organization. OD has struggled hard to keep its significance alive in organizations and answer back to people raising questions to its effectiveness. But this struggle of OD to increase its effectiveness by incorporating many other values to the original values, had given it a completely different look than what it was at the time of its birth. These changes and improvements have given a challenge to researchers to recognize OD. This has also put a big question in front of all that “Has OD lost its sense of purpose and coherence?”
In this essay, firstly different arguments made by researchers about OD’s origin, its values, how and why it changed and what it is now will be presented. This will be followed by a discussion that will answer the question about OD’s purpose and coherence and finally, a conclusion will be drawn on the basis of the discussions done.
OD’s history roots back to 1940’s, when few of its values were used without the “OD” label attached to it (Greiner and Cummings, 2004). Cummings and Worley (2001) believe that OD emerged from five major background- laboratory training, Action research/survey feedback, participative management, quality of work life and strategic change, the last two being very new concepts of OD. However, the fundamental concept of OD is based on Kurt Lewin’s work of planned change (Burnes, 2009). Many researchers and practitioners have continuously contributed to OD practices to give it new dimensions. However, most of the work could be related to Kurt Lewin’s Action Research Model, the three step model and phases of planned change model (Burnes, 1996).While some scholars pursued a micro-psychological approach, others went in a macro-organizational direction and added values to OD like achievement of self actualization, openness, personal recognition, less dogmatic approach to psychotherapy, organization wide participation of individuals and leadership which they thought will lead to organizational effectiveness (Greiner and Cummings, 2004).
The continuous contribution of the researchers and practitioners gave rise to traditional OD values by which it tried to address the issue of stagnation and resistance to change, its causes and how resistance can be overcome (Werkman, 2010). Porras and Bradford (2004) have stated that the traditional OD model believed that physiologically healthier people will work better leading to a more effective and successful organization and therefore, OD tried to make people more self competent, more self aware, less defensive, accept feedback, listen better, more empathetic, share power, thereby helping people work better in groups, find out better solutions and do better decision making. These changes in people were generally done by the change agents who used to follow a process that involves diagnosis of the problem, action, evaluation and further action and evaluation and self sustaining of the change in collaboration with the organization (Burnes, 1996).Thus, Beckhard (1969) defines that OD is an effort 1)planned ,2)organization-wide and 3)managed from the top, to 4) increase organization effectiveness and health through planned interventions in the organization’s “processes” using behavioral science knowledge.
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