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Organisational Change Essay

1236 words - 5 pages

Organisation development (OD)

The field of OD has evolved over time since its beginnings in the 1930s. Even today, many different conceptions of OD exist in the literature. In the business world, many change efforts have been casually labelled “OD” even though they might have borne little resemblance to the type of programs prescribed in the literature. A review of the literature suggests four key dimensions to OD. First, most authors define OD as planned interventions aimed at increasing organizational effectiveness (Beckhard,1969; French&Bell, 1990). Second, OD relies heavily on concepts and research findings from the behavioural sciences, primarily from psychology (French & ...view middle of the document...

Thus, OD has been defined as ‘a set of behavioral science theories, values, strategies, and techniques aimed at the planned change of organization work settings’ (Porras and Silvers, 1991, p.54).In the same context, OD is a ‘systemwide application of behavioral science knowledge to the planned development and reinforcement of organizational strategies structures and processes for improving an organization’s effectiveness’ (Waddell et al., 2007, p.3). Growing from the human relations field, OD draws on behavioral science and adopts a systems approach to processes of planned and adaptive change, focusing on concepts such as human development, openness, fairness and collaboration (Friedlander and Brown 1974; Hage and Finsterbusch, 1989; Burke 1997; Waddell et al., 2007). OD aims to improve capacity for change, problem solving and renewal abilities, organizational conditions, organizational adaptability, and organizational effectiveness (Friedlander and Brown, 1974; Porras and Silvers, 1991; Ritson and O’Neill, 2006; Waddell et al., 2007, p.4).

OD gained momentum in the late 1940s and its activities have a very rich history consisting of at least four important trunk stems which are interconnected. The first two were survey feedback and laboratory training and were developed by Kurt Lewin. Laboratory training focused mainly on psychosocial issues such as group and intergroup behaviour. IT thus consisted of innovations in the application of laboratory training insights to complex organizations. The main emphasis was on issues like interpersonal communication, personal growth, personal satisfaction gained in working in an organisation and it very rarely focused on other key issues like organisational purpose, structural framework and technical methodologies. As a result many people did learn new behaviours but upon return to the organisation discovered that the existing structural framework and technical methodologies were not supportive of these newly learned behaviours. Negative feedback from supervisors and peers who had not attended the laboratory training lead to the disappearance of these new behaviours after a short period of time following training such that no real change was observable in either the person or the organisation.

On the other hand, survey feedback focused more upon the total organisation and its interacting subsystems during this development period. The reverse order occurred for the reason that the very little attention was given to the psychosocial issues. Thus Kurt Lewin conceptualised action research (1946) and has often been credited saying that ‘there can be no action without research and no research without action’ and was truly one of the first scientist practitioners in the social sciences and a major contributor to much of the thinking underlying OD theory and practice (Burke, 1982; French and Bell, 1990). Both of the first two stems were intertwined with action research. In OD work, action...

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