History, Theories, and Models of Organizational Development
The selection and development of employees is a critical process that organizations must face. According to Cascio and Aguinis (2005), “any time a person or an organization is confronted with alternative courses of action, there is a decision problem” (p. 44). Part of organizational development (OD) helps direction such decision points to align each of the moving parts of an organization. Cascio and Aguinis (2005) go on to suggest that an organization is a living organism. Such a definition could be the underlying cause of one being unable to clearly define OD.
After reviewing the definitions of OD presented by Bradford and Burke (2005), French and Bell (1999), and Jones and Brazzel (2005), the ability to come to a solid conclusion of organizational development remains a challenge. However, one will agree that organizational development is a cycle type effort put forth to plan, manage, measure, adapt, and obtain results within a group of people or organizations as depicted below. As a result of such a broad and pliable definition this paper has been developed to help the reader grasp an understanding of OD from a historical standpoint, differentiate among four popular approaches to OD, and gain insight of social, political, economic, and interpersonal influences on the field of OD.
History of Organizational Development
According to Jones and Brazzel (2005), “organization development has been around since the late 1950’s and early 1960’s” (p.13). French and Bell (1999) confirm this time frame; however, they suggest that organizational development is “a field that offers an integrateged framework capable of solving more of the important problems confronting the human side of organziations” (p.1). As such one might question what took place in these years to spark a need to deal with the human sife of organziations. The simple response that drove the need for OD was the increased action of civil rights activities during this time period. An example of one such activity would be the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 is legislation that stopped descrimination in the workplace. As such an increased need for organziations to develop their human capital desing to meet such legal implications as well as ensure their newly diverse workforce could meet the stakeholders needs. As time went on addition to voting rights and other political movements appear to be the primary driving forces that brought the field of OD about. However, French and Bell (1999) point out that OD could have begun shapping in laboratory based settings as early as 1945 under the direction of Kurt Lewin and the Sloan School of Management. Lewin and others developed baseline theories that apply to OD as we know it today.
Theories and Models of Organizational Development
Thus far in the paper, one can understand the baseline evolution of OD. This section will summarize key parts of some of the theories and models that have remained in tact since the launch of this new and fascinating field. After a brief presentation of these theories and models, an analysis of social, political, economical, and interpersonal influences towards OD will be presented.
Kurt Lewin and Followers
One applicable and active theory of organizational development and change is the equilibrium theory as developed primarily by Lewin. In essence this theory finds the balance point between desirable and non-desirable behaviors that OD practitioners and industrial/organizational psychologists use to move the equilibrium point to one side or the other to gain ideal results. As an initial concept from the early 1940’s today’s practitioners will find that Lewin’s “concept is useful for thinking about the dynamics of change situations” (French and Bell, 1999, p. 82). Finally, Lewin’s second idea mirrors the first in the basic idea that the behavior can be moved by unfreezing, moving, and freezing certain behavioral traits found within the change process. Ronald Lippitt, Jeanne Watson, and Bruce Westley later introduced Lewin’s second theory broken down into seven stages that affords practitioners the ability to narrow in better on the consulting process of organizational development.
The Burke-Litwin model of organizational change
Another approach of organizational development is that founded by researchers Warner Burke and George Litwin. The Burke-Litwin model of organizational change became the foundation of what is now known as transactional and transformational leadership. This model helps OD practitioners define areas of first-order and second-order change. “The premise of the Burke-Litwin model is this: OD interventions directed toward structure, management practices, and systems (policies and procedures) result in first-order change; interventions directed toward mission and strategy, leadership, and organization culture result in second-order change” (French and Bell, 1999, p. 77). Through this model organizations can split the needed changes between task related needs and non-tangible needs. One of the primary challenges of the Burke-Litwin model is the difficulty in using the model to apply to individual behavioral development within an organization.
Porras and Robertson model of organizational change
Contrary to the last model this paper reviews, the Porras and Robertson model focuses on individual behavior. The model’s premises suggest that by focusing on individual behavior the overall disposition of the organization can be impacted. French and Bell (1999) agree with researchers that through focusing on what is “expected, required, and rewarded” OD practitioners can obtain the desired work behaviors (p. 79).
The next few theories and models have been under research for several years. Each of them ties in with the previous theories identified in this paper in one way or another. However, the following theories seem to be focused towards more contemporary and even futuristic model of thinking.
This theory identifies that organizations are “open systems that exchange with the environment” (French and Bell, 1999, p. 82). The systems theory first came about in 1950 under the direction of Ludwig von Bertalanffy. In most cases organizations work in an input and output environment and as open systems they communicate with the environment. As such they can be receptive to changes needed from feedback from their environment. In today’s fast paced global marketplace organizational development under the systems theory is very common. One of the risks of such an approach could be the inability to gather data from the top three areas that feed such an approach.
Participation and empowerment
Another approach to OD is through the use of sharing power throughout the organization. Many successful customer service organizations use this approach. A very popular example of the participation and empowerment is the ability for Zappos.com representatives to do, basically, whatever it takes to satisfy the customer. OD designs with this approach are specifically designed to increase participation of organizational members. According to French and Bell (1999) the primary goal is to, “involve all those who are part of the problem or part of the solution,” and “Have decisions made by those who are closest to the problem” (p. 88). As a result the organization can have better chances of becoming leaders in their industries.
Teams and teamwork
The final model of OD this paper will summarize is that the teams and teamwork. Teams and teamwork have been around for a long-time; however, the approach to OD through teams and teamwork is relative modern. “Work teams are the building blocks of organizations” (French and Bell, 1999, p. 91). As a result work teams, teamwork are some of the most popular findings in today’s organizations. The power of teams and teamwork has been primarily found in the social interactions team members have with one another. However, research is still being completed to understand why some teams are successful while others are still striving for the power found in teams.
The Driving Forces of Organizational Development
Although there are several approaches, theories, and models of organizational development the driving forces of social, political, economical, and inter-personal remain intact. Bradford and Burke’s (2005) interview with Jerry L. Porras discusses some of the history and driving forces behind organizational development (p. 51). One will agree that with today’s organizational needs the driving force behind OD is more complex than ever before. The United States social systems are more integrated, political views are in turmoil, and the economy remains unstable. As a result, those theories outlined in this paper are critical to review and understand so that better hybrid solutions can be developed to meet the needs of organizations of the future.
Cascio and Aguinis (2005) suggest that an organization is a living organism. Such a definition could be the underlying cause of one being unable to clearly define OD. After reviewing this paper and the definitions of OD presented by Bradford and Burke (2005), French and Bell (1999), and Jones and Brazzel (2005), the ability to come to a solid conclusion of organizational development remains a challenge. However, an agreement can be reached that organizational development is a cycle type effort put forth to plan, manage, measure, adapt, and obtain results within a group of people or organizations. Finally, the driving forces behind the need for OD will continue to drive researchers to improve those theories and models presented by researchers of past.
Bradford, D. L., & Burke, W. W. (2005). Reinventing organization development new approaches to change in organizations. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons.
Cascio, W. F., & Aguinis, H. (2005). Applied Psychology in Human Resource Management (6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
French, W. L., & Bell Jr., C. H. (1999). Organization development behavioral science interventions for organization improvement(6th ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall.
Jones, B. B., & Brazzel, M. (2005). The NTL handbook of organization development and change principles, practices, and perspectives. San Francisco, CA: Pfeiffer.