Organizational Development

Originating in the late 1950s and early 1960s, organizational development—or frequently "organization development"—focuses on the "human side" of corporations rather than on the scientific management side (see Management Theory, People-Centered and Management Theory, Process-Centered). Building on the socio-technical systems theory of Emery and Trist in England (which studied people, technology, and processes), the social psychology of Kurt Lewin, Carl Rogers, and Abraham Maslow in America, and the humanist experiments of Elton Mayo (see Hawthorne Effect), OD champions a view of workers as active participants in organizations rather than as links in a passive assembly line. Expanding Training and Development's traditional mandate of developing individual staff members, OD takes as its province the development of entire organizations. One way to view OD initially, in fact, is to see it as being a complement to the traditional view of training; here is a listing of the two, side by side:


Organizational Development

Tactical teachers

Strategic consultants

Deliver courses

Facilitate groups


Change agent (change management)

Build individual skills

Build teams, resolve conflicts

Hold classes

Carry out interventions

Lower level audience

Executive audience

Ad hoc events

Long-term relationships



Target knowledge

Target change

Having said this for purposes of differentiation, we should probably add that the two worlds are now fast coming together because of their common goal of "performance improvement." Entire HR departments are now calling themselves departments of organizational development, with their mandate being employee development as well as "organizational" development.


Best Introduction:

  • W. Warner Burke: Organizational Development: A Process of Learning and Changing (1993, available in a more recent edition).

Best Series:

  • Addison-Wesley series on Organization Development (started by Beckhard and Schein in the 1960s).

Best History of Movement:

  • Marvin Weisbord: Productive Workplaces (1987), including chapter on "McGregor and the Roots of Organization Development." An inspired introduction to the rise of modern management theories and organizational development from Taylor's scientific management through Kurt Lewin's OD to McGregor's humanistic management and to more recent trends. Highly recommended for all performance consultants, instructional designers, and human performance technologists. One of the clearest books in the field, and written with passion, empathy, and understanding. Not only is Weisbord's book the best critical history of the OD movement, but it also highlights some surprising similarities between OD and earlier Taylorism.

Rapid History of the Movement as a Whole:


Frederick Taylor: Principles of Scientific Management. Taylor's theory is typical of the old-line mechanistic view of organizations that OD initially reacted against (instead following in the footsteps of such thinkers and theorists as Kurt Lewin).


Kurt Lewin: Field Theory in Social Science. Organization development is Lewin's living monument, and this book shows why. Lewin anticipates all the major themes of OD: team building, leadership styles, participative management, consultation skills, and change management (see Fastpaths 1987, Weisbord).


Fred Emery: The Emergence of a New Paradigm of Work.


Douglas McGregor: The Human Side of Enterprise.


Eric Trist: Organizational Choice.


Peter Drucker: Managing for Results. Vintage Drucker.


Victor Vroom: Work and Motivation.


Edgar Schein: Organizational Psychology.


Richard Beckhard: Organization Development: Strategies and Models.


Edgar Schein: Process Consultation: Its Role in Organization Development.


Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard: Management of Organizational Behavior: Utilizing Human Resources.


Robert Townsend: Up the Organization. A delightfully lighthearted and iconoclastic look at organizations. Recommended reading still.


Fred E. Emery and Russell Ackoff: On Purposeful Systems.


Wendell French and Cecil Bell: Organization Development: Behavioral Science Interventions for Organization Improvement.


Jay Galbraith: Organization Design.


Donald Schon and C. Argyris: Organizational Learning I and II.


Wendell French (ed.): Organization Development: Theory, Practice, and Research.


Marvin Weisbord: Organizational Diagnosis: A Workbook of Theory and Practice.


Peter Block: Flawless Consulting.


W. Warner Burke Organization Development: Principles and Practices.


Rosabeth Kanter: The Change Masters. Kanter studies the potential for entrepreneurship inside large corporations.


James Kouzes and B. Posner: The Leadership Challenge.


Marvin Weisbord: Productive Workplaces.


Michael Harrison: Diagnosing Organizations.


David Hanna: Designing Organizations for High Performance.


Richard Pascale: Managing on the Edge: How the Smartest Companies Use Conflict to Stay Ahead.


Lee Bolman and T. Deal: Reframing Organizations.


Richard Pascale et al.: "The Reinvention Roller Coaster," Harvard Business Review (November–December 1993). Urges organizational audits, shifting organizational "context," and engineering organizational "breakdowns" in order to move beyond incrementalism.


W. Warner Burke: Organizational Development: A Process of Learning and Changing. Excellent introduction.


Wendell French et al.(eds): Organizational Development and Transformation: Managing Effective Change.


William Rothwell (ed.): Practicing Organization Development: A Guide for Consultants.


Jerry W. Gilley: Organizational Learning, Performance, and Change: An Introduction to Strategic Human Resource Development.


Jay Shafritz and J. Ott (eds.): Classics of Organization Theory.

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McGregor and Beckhard, building on the work of Lewin and others, reportedly coined the term "organizational development" in 1958.

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See also Action Learning Management Theory, People-Centered

The 30-Second Encyclopedia of Learning and Performance. A Trainer's Guide to Theory, Terminology, and Practice
The 30-Second Encyclopedia of Learning and Performance: A Trainers Guide to Theory, Terminology, and Practice
ISBN: 0814471781
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2002
Pages: 110
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