Understanding Organization Development: A Primer

Wendell L. French and Cecil H. Bell, Jr. once defined Organization Development (OD) as “a long-term effort, led and supported by top management, to improve an organization’s visioning, empowerment, learning and problem-solving processes, through an ongoing, collaborative, management of organizational culture — with special emphasis on the culture of intact work teams and other team configurations — using the consultant-facilitator role and the theory and technology of applied behavioral science, including action research.”

For contemporary managers, it is often difficult to choose between “flavor of the day” management and process improvement theories, which may or may not be underpinned by testable, repeatable, scholarly research. To help get past this potential muddle and the marketing bugaboos that exploit it, I offer the article posted at the link below, which provides a high-level introduction to some of the seminal research in the OD field, with cites and references to allow further exploration.

Having a stronger sense of the academic literature in this field can help separate the snake oil salesmen from the legitimate change agents when they come knocking at your corporate door. And, believe you me, they will come knocking, and they’ll promise to transform your operation, for a price. Sometimes, it will be worth it. Other times, not. But at bottom line: if a self-proclaimed OD professional, management consultant or “life coach” doesn’t know who Lewin, Schein, Senge and Argyris are, then you can feel very confident in showing them to the door, and saving your organization a healthy chunk of otherwise ill-spent capital in the process.

Here’s the link to the full article . . .

Understanding Organization Development: A Primer

About J. Eric Smith
Executive Director, Salisbury House Foundation.

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