Apply the principles of organizational development to an organization you currently work for or have worked for in the past. Think carefully about the references and how they might apply to a specific organizational situation or problem that you have experienced firsthand. Then write a 2 page paper answering the following questions:
1. What do you think the biggest problem your current organization or one of the previous organizations you worked for faces? Why do you think management has had difficulty with this problem?
2. Do you think this problem could be mitigated by hiring an organizational development consultant based on what you’ve read in the background materials? Why or why not? Make sure to cite some of the readings in your answer.
3. Of the action research and organizational development steps listed in the required readings, which ones do you think would be the more challenging steps that an organizational development consultant would face coming into your organization? Explain your reasoning and cite at least one of the required background readings.


Lurey, J. & Griffin, M. (2013). Section 2: Chapter 4: Action research: The anchor of OD practice. In Vogelsang, J. (ed). Handbook for Strategic HR: Best Practices in Organization Development from the OD Network. Saranac Lake, NY, USA: AMACOM Books, pp. 46-52.

Haneberg, L. (2005). Chapter 3: The action research approach to change. Organization Development Basics.

McLean, G. N. (2006). Chapter 1: What is organization development? Organization Development: Principles, Processes, Performance. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

C H A P T E R 3 1


C H A P T E R 4

Action Research
The Anchor of OD Practice

Jeremy S. Lurey and Matt Griffi n

A Tale of the Oversized
File Cabinet

While working in his home offi ce on a sunny
Friday afternoon, Frank heard the doorbell ring.
He went to answer the door, and as he opened
it, he noticed Tom the carpenter standing out-
side next to a very large fi le cabinet.

Before Frank could even say hello, Tom
eagerly greeted him with a fi rm handshake and
said, “Hi Tom. I was so excited to get your call
about the fi le cabinet last week that I started
immediately. I designed a custom-made over-
sized cabinet to meet all of your current and
future business needs. You’re going to love it!”

With a perplexed look on his face, Frank
responded, “Tom, I’m not sure what you were
thinking, but my message was very clear. I
asked you to come over today so we could
have an initial discussion about the fi le cabinet
and review my specifi c requirements. I thought
we could start with the overall design of the
cabinet and then determine if you were the
right person for the job based on budget and
time constraints.”

“Yes, but I have known you for a long
time Frank, and can tell you have a bright fu-
ture as an OD consultant. I didn’t want you to
have to worry about a thing. You have enough
to worry about starting your own business,
that I thought I would just take some initia-
tive,” Tom enthusiastically explained as he ges-

tured to his master creation—a 20-foot high,
30-foot long, 10-drawer monstrosity with a
dark maple fi nish. “Besides, this cabinet is per-
fect for you. You will have enough space in this
cabinet for years of growth. You will never
need another fi le cabinet!”

At that point, Frank was very frustrated
and could feel his face burning. “Tom,” he re-
plied, “Th is simply isn’t what I asked for, and
you would have understood that if you only
waited to talk with me fi rst. “Keep in mind
that organizations are complex systems, and
using a mechanical approach to ‘fi x’ a ‘broken’
part rarely creates eff ective change.” I’m only
planning to be in my home offi ce for a year or
two before I move into more permanent work-
space with a few of my colleagues. I just need
a small cabinet to hold a few important fi les as
I get started. I’m sorry, but I can’t accept the
cabinet. It won’t even fi t in the house! I am
very disappointed Tom, and think you should
leave.” As the door closed behind him, Frank
noticed the complete bewilderment on Tom’s

An OD Consulting Challenge

While this is a fi ctitious story, and an extreme
exaggeration at that, it is not inconceivable
that a carpenter would be so eager to please
the client that initiative would be taken with-
out fully understanding the scope of work.

American Management Association /





























EBSCO Publishing : eBook Academic Collection (EBSCOhost) – printed on 12/27/2021 6:04 PM via TRIDENT UNIVERSITY
AN: 502103 ; OD Network.; Handbook for Strategic HR : Best Practices in Organization Development From the OD Network
Account: s3642728.main.ehost

Action Research 47

Neither is it inconceivable that a skilled crafts-
man would be so confi dent in his abilities that
he would jump right into the project without
having more direction from the client. In fact,
it even seems logical for a carpenter to take
such actions after reaching a clear agreement
with the client—especially if the busy client may
be preoccupied with higher priority activities.

Although this story chronicles the tale of
a carpenter and his client, the story speaks of
an all too common event in consulting, espe-
cially organization consulting, as well. How
often do we hear these stories:

• Clients who express a clear problem to a
consultant, and then the consultant designs
and implements his/her own solution re-
gardless of whether or not it meets the true
client need

• A consultant brings a solution to the client
before the problem is understood or even

• Situations where clients are completely dis-
satisfi ed with the performance of their con-
sultants and the results they deliver simply
because of a communication gap—one
where the consultant implements a solu-
tion without fi rst presenting it to the client
for approval or at least discussing the pos-
sible implications in advance

What these examples indicate is that the
quality and success of the project depends
upon both the client and the consultant fully
understanding the complexity of the issue. To
illustrate this understanding, it can be helpful
to think in terms of multiple levels of awareness.
Th e client experiencing pain can represent the
fi rst level of awareness, and the initial client
diagnosis the second level. Action taken on ei-
ther of these two levels is not likely to truly
address the issue. Action research is about
reaching deeper levels of awareness, and there-
by increasing the likelihood of addressing the
issue in an eff ective way.

As the story suggests, it is critical for a car-
penter, or an OD consultant, to develop and
maintain a close working relationship with his

or her client. Without this collaborative ar-
rangement, the consultant will likely deliver
an inadequate or inappropriate solution that
does not meet the client’s needs. In so doing,
the consultant runs a great risk of alienating
him or herself from the client, and more im-
portantly causing potential harm or suff ering
to the client.

Th e story is also useful in illustrating a
critical diff erence between the work of a car-
penter and the work of an OD consultant. Th e
“results” that a carpenter produces are tangible
and cannot easily be undone. A fi le cabinet
made from the wrong wood or with incorrect
dimensions is diffi cult to fi x without starting
over from scratch, whereas a consulting proj-
ect can sometimes be modifi ed, even radically,
as new information comes to the surface. Con-
sulting projects, especially those found within
the OD world, tend to be complex, subjec-
tively perceived, and fl uid. Th is makes it easy
—if anything in OD is truly easy—to misun-
derstand or miscommunicate the nature of the
project. At the same time, it also makes it eas-
ier to adapt your approach once you do gain a
proper understanding of both the situation
and the client’s expectations.

The Value of Action Research

Although the origin of action research remains
cloudy, and to some extent can be seen as an
off shoot of the scientifi c method, Kurt Lewin
is typically credited with bringing this meth-
odology to the mainstream and to organiza-
tions specifi cally. It was the belief of Lewin
and his contemporaries that in order to under-
stand and change social conditions, those in-
volved in creating those conditions must be
involved in the process. Th us, one of the main
themes of action research is enactment of so-
cial change. For this reason, action research is
at the core of the OD practice. As an approach
to organization consulting, it prescribes a posi-
tive and collaborative working relationship
between consultant and client and therefore
provides the basic foundation for the organiza-
tion change process.

American Management Association /
EBSCOhost – printed on 12/27/2021 6:04 PM via TRIDENT UNIVERSITY. All use subject to

Handbook for Strategic HR48

Using the action research process enables
the consultant to better understand the system
in which he/she is involved, and therefore
mitigates the risk of following in Tom the Car-
penter’s footsteps. At the same time, an action
research approach helps the clients to be more
conscious of their environment and the condi-
tions in which they live. With this heightened
awareness, the consultant and client are then
able to work together to realize the goals of the
change process by uncovering deeper levels of
awareness and understanding.

Because of the importance of client par-
ticipation, this work method requires the con-
sultant to accept more of a “facilitator” than
“expert” role. It should be noted, however,
that this is not an either/or choice. In addi-
tion, the choice need not be applied to the en-
tire course of the change process. Th e consul-
tant can act more as an expert in analyzing the
data during one phase of the project while still
being a facilitator in helping the client create
the action plan during another phase. While
there is often a delicate balance between the
changing responsibilities of being an expert
and facilitator, the process remains largely the
same. Th e consultant creates an environment
in which the client is always aware of what is
happening when following an action research

In this manner, the client actively partici-
pates in not only designing each step of the
change process but also performing many of
the required actions. One of the main reasons
for this participative role is that change is usu-
ally easier to accept when those aff ected by the
change are involved in understanding and
driving the change process. Th is point is at the
heart of action research, and therefore the cli-
ent, in most cases, is involved in every aspect
of the project, including:

• Establishing change priorities
• Collecting and interpreting data
• Analyzing and disseminating the results
• Creating action plans based on the results
• Implementing the action plans
• Evaluating the results

To help both the consultant and client
maintain focus during the course of the change
process, the action research approach consists
of a standard phased methodology. Th e seven
phases of action research are summarized below.

1. Entry—beginning to develop the client/
consultant relationship and validating the
fi t between both parties

2. Contracting—determining whether or not
to proceed with the consulting relationship
and negotiating any fi nal conditions of the
engagement “contract”

3. Data Gathering and Diagnosis—collecting
the necessary data and analyzing it

4. Feedback—presenting the fi ndings, analy-
sis, and any preliminary recommendations
to the client organization

5. Planning Change—identifying specifi c
courses of action that address the client situ-
ation and developing an action plan for

6. Intervention—applying specifi c solution
sets to the client organization

7. Evaluation—assessing project results and
determining future courses of action, rang-
ing from project closure to new contract
development activities

Action Research in Action

To illustrate the value of action research to the
practice of OD, the following section describes
a real-life case example of how the action re-
search approach can be used. Th is account de-
tails specifi c actions taken by both the client and
consultant during each of the seven phases of a
nine-month consulting engagement. Th e pri-
mary client group in this example was an IT
organization within a regional insurance agency,
and the initial presenting issue was a lack of col-
laboration and teaming across the organization.


After being presented with a viable business
lead, the consultant arranged for an initial phone
conversation with the client sponsor. While
this fi rst component of the action research ap-

American Management Association /
EBSCOhost – printed on 12/27/2021 6:04 PM via TRIDENT UNIVERSITY. All use subject to

Action Research 49

proach only lasted approximately forty-fi ve
minutes, the consultant successfully gained
some clarity on the presenting problems and
primary concerns of the client. To summarize,
the client suggested that there was a lack of
collaboration and teaming across the organiza-
tion. She also expressed a desire to have the
consultant further assess the situation and rec-
ommend specifi c strategies for improving this
unproductive work culture.

In conjunction with the consultant learn-
ing about the client situation, the client sponsor
also took advantage of the opportunity to ques-
tion the consultant about his professional back-
ground and relevant work experiences. Ques-
tions like “Can you give me an example of when
you worked on a similar project?” and “What
would your fi rst step be in this situation?”
helped her understand what value the consul-
tant would bring to the organization. Th e client
also gained a tremendous sense of confi dence in
the consultant’s abilities due to his strong re-
sponses. As with any relationship, this is a criti-
cal step in building a positive working relation-
ship early on in the Entry phase of the project.

While this short conference ended on a
very positive note, it took approximately six
weeks for the two individuals to speak again.
Th e delay occurred for two primary reasons:
fi rst, a change in client priorities due to com-
peting projects and second, the consultant’s on-
going commitment to another client. While
this may create some tension between client
and consultant in some engagements, it is actu-
ally quite common within an action research
framework. Both parties must be ready to move
to the next stage of the relationship before any
work can proceed, and in this case, the two
quickly confi rmed their interest in pursuing the
relationship further when they did reconnect.


Th e Contracting phase of action research can
begin as soon as the client and consultant agree
to work together. In this case, it began as soon
as the two reconnected and discussed the ac-
tual scope of the project.

During a face-to-face meeting with the cli-
ent, the consultant asked some probing ques-
tions to better understand the client’s expecta-
tions. She repeated some of the same key
phrases he heard before, namely “to help the
group work better as a team” and “to help create
a team identity”. At this point, the consultant
began clarifying the primary target audience
and proposing some potential activities to get
the project started. Th us, the foundation of the
engagement contract included the following:

• Project objective—design and implement
customized management training and de-
velopment programs that improve manage-
ment skills and foster stronger team leaders

• Current scope—management training and
development for the seven members of the
management team only

• Potential future scope—broader training
programs for nonmanagers as well as orga-
nization realignment or business process
redesign initiatives

• Project approach—phased approach in-
cluding high-level activities, such as assess-
ment, feedback, and intervention, over a
specifi c timeline and with key project mile-
stones and deliverables; requires active par-
ticipation and involvement from key mem-
bers of the client organization, including
the client sponsor, each of the seven man-
agers, and many of the employees during
the data gathering and evaluation phases
specifi cally

After this information was clearly docu-
mented, the consultant presented it to the cli-
ent for review and approval. With a shared
understanding of the project confi rmed, the
client then signed off on the contract. Th e im-
portance of this action cannot be emphasized
enough if you plan to follow an action research

Data Gathering and Diagnosis

Having defi ned the scope of the project dur-
ing Contracting, the consultant and client

American Management Association /
EBSCOhost – printed on 12/27/2021 6:04 PM via TRIDENT UNIVERSITY. All use subject to

Handbook for Strategic HR50

sponsor were now prepared to begin gathering
data. In true action research form, both parties
played an active role in completing this task.
Th e client sponsor provided key organization
data to the consultant to help him understand
the environment, and then the consultant ini-
tiated more targeted data gathering activities.

Many members of the client organization
participated in the process. All of the managers
completed two diff erent personality invento-
ries, including the Myers-Briggs Type Indica-
tor, and participated in a 360-degree feedback
process. Th ey also participated in one-on-one
interviews with the consultant so he could
learn more about their personal strengths,
areas for improvements, and their beliefs about
the work condition. In addition, many of the
employees participated in focus group sessions
to share their feelings about the organization
and complete a leadership eff ectiveness survey.

After completing these activities, the con-
sultant assumed more of an “expert” role dur-
ing the diagnosis part of this phase. Th ere were
two primary reasons for this decision: fi rst, the
client sponsor and her direct reports were all
extremely busy with other project commit-
ments, and second, the consultant had more
experience with performing such analysis, and
especially with using the diagnostic tools.


When the diagnosis was complete, the consul-
tant actively engaged the client, and the entire
management team, in the feedback process.
For the change to be successful, it is vital to
share these fi ndings with the client and guide
them in determining the next steps, as op-
posed to deciding for them. Th ey must direct
the process if they are ever going to accept the

Th us, the consultant presented a summa-
ry report of the fi ndings as well as his conclu-
sions and recommendations for moving for-
ward. In general, the fi ndings did support the
original contention that there was a lack of
collaboration and team identity within the
organization. More specifi cally, employees in-
dicated that there was very little teamwork

within or between units and that there was
no reason to develop stronger team relations
since the individual projects were so diverse
in scope. One person actually stated, “I have
no team . . . [Th is organization] is a series of
fi efdoms.”

Once presented with these fi ndings, all of
the managers contributed to an open dialogue
about the information and possible strategies
to address the situation. For the most part,
the managers reacted positively, voicing their
agreement with the results as if they were al-
most expected. Some managers, however, did
react a bit more defensively and questioned
whether or not specifi c fi ndings were truly in-
dicative of their units or if they were more a
generalization of the rest of the organization.

For example, one manager felt that she
did seek input from her employees and includ-
ed them in the decision-making process. Th e
summary results for the entire organization,
however, did not suggest that employees felt
they were able to contribute in such a manner.
Instead, they expressed a concern that they
had very limited knowledge of the long-term
vision for the organization and were some-
what unclear of how their individual projects
supported the future direction of the group. In
the end, each of the managers agreed on the
next steps of the engagement and suggested
several potential activities that would address
the specifi c areas for improvement discussed in
the meeting.

In parallel to this work, the consultant
also shared the results of the personal assess-
ments with each of the managers during indi-
vidual feedback sessions. Th e individual results,
similar to the team fi ndings, suggested that the
majority of the managers did not openly com-
municate about the organization’s future di-
rection or inspire commitment to a shared
vision, that they did not inform employees of
how their work contributed to the organiza-
tion’s goals. Th e results also indicated that the
managers were very weak in the areas of per-
formance evaluation and performance man-
agement, that they did not encourage perfor-
mance discussions with their employees or
provide any regular feedback regarding work

American Management Association /
EBSCOhost – printed on 12/27/2021 6:04 PM via TRIDENT UNIVERSITY. All use subject to

Action Research 51

performance. Again, the collaborative relation-
ship between client and consultant becomes
critical if the individual managers were going
to take any responsibility in addressing these
concerns or promoting their own personal

Planning Change

Th e goal of the Planning Change phase is to
create an action plan that will guide the next
phase of the process, intervention. For this
reason, planning change is not about imple-
menting the solutions being discussed. In-
stead, it is an opportunity to explore the po-
tential solutions further and determine exactly
how the intervention will proceed.

In this case, the management team identi-
fi ed two levels of intervention: one focused on
the management team and the other focused
on the individuals within that team. Th e team-
based intervention was a management train-
ing program that involved a comprehensive
curriculum of courses to address their specifi c
developmental needs. Th e key aspects of plan-
ning this type of change, then, were to defi ne
the curriculum and coordinate all of the logis-
tics for delivering the training, including
preparing instructor and participant training
materials, scheduling the training sessions,
and ultimately facilitating the training.

Th e second intervention was aimed more
directly at the individual managers and was in-
tended to support the team training experience.
Towards this end, the consultant co-developed
personal action plans that focused on one or
two critical leadership skills with each manager.
While these plans varied from individual to
individual, many focused on addressing the
concerns with performance evaluation and per-
formance management and all specifi ed certain
developmental activities, target completion dates,
as well as any resources that may be required to
achieve the developmental goal.


Th e Intervention phase is where the plan is
executed and the solution is actually imple-
mented within the client organization. Un-

like the Diagnosis phase where the consul-
tant often accepts responsibility as the expert,
this is one time in the engagement where the
consultant can take more of a “facilitator”
role. It is the consultant’s goal to support the
client’s development, but the client must be
accountable. Th e client organization is what
must change, and only actual members of
this organization (i.e., the client) can be “ex-
perts” of this environment.

During the intervention, the consultant
facilitated several sessions to encourage the
learning process. Topics ranged from recogniz-
ing great leadership to understanding how to
become a more eff ective leader and were in-
tended to help each of the managers improve
in the key areas agreed to during the feedback
process. As the consultant presented strategies

• Being a positive role model for others
• Being a coach and mentor to those you

• Providing the right mix of tools and resourc-

es to enable the team to achieve its goals the
managers actively discussed how to apply
these strategies to their organization.

Beyond the management team training, the
consultant also continued to work with the indi-
vidual managers on their personal development
plans. Similar to the roles during training, the
consultant merely supported the managers’ ac-
tions, but the managers were responsible for tak-
ing the action. To understand the importance of
this balanced relationship, consider those man-
agers who did not actively pursue their plans—
they did not require dedicated support from the
consultant. Th is proves the point that both par-
ties play a critical role in the process, otherwise
the arrangement will not work.


In an informal manner, evaluation occurred
during every phase of work during this en-
gagement. For example, the consultant and
client co-evaluated the results of the Contract-
ing phase before moving on to Data Gathering

American Management Association /
EBSCOhost – printed on 12/27/2021 6:04 PM via TRIDENT UNIVERSITY. All use subject to

Handbook for Strategic HR52

and Diagnosis. Does the contract clearly de-
fi ne the scope of the project? If so, are there
shared expectations between both parties as to
how best to perform the work? If simple ques-
tions such as these are not adequately answered,
then the individual parties must reconsider
whether or not they are ready to move forward.

In addition, the consultant also per-
formed a more formal review of the project.
Th e consultant developed a standard protocol
for measuring the success of each activity and
then interviewed each of the managers to
gather their thoughts and perceptions. Based
on these responses, the consultant synthesized
the data and presented it back to the client for
review. Th e consultant also presented some ba-
sic recommendations for prioritizing future
activities based on not only the achievement of
previous goals but also the development of a
more capable management team. Future scope
activities may include developing a training
strategy for non-managers or creating a more
formal communications plan to share infor-
mation more regularly across the organization.
In essence, this evaluation, then, actually serves
to start another iteration of the consulting
process, one that begins with more advanced
client problems now that the original concerns
have been addressed.

Conclusions on an Iterative

As the “Tale of the Oversized File Cabinet” al-
luded, the process an OD consultant follows
can be very similar to the process that a master
carpenter goes through before taking hammer
in hand. First, there are customer desires to be
considered, then measurements to be taken,
plans to be drafted and revised, and fi nally
wood to be studied and prepared before any
true action is ever taken. Th e consultant
who is an “expert” in a particular technique is
like the carpenter who can make beautiful and
elaborate fi le cabinets. Both can provide value

to the client, but what happens when the cli-
ent thinks he or she needs a customized fi le
cabinet (or can be convinced that a custom-
ized fi le cabinet would solve his or problems)
when what is really needed is a standard desk?

Th is issue gets to the core of both action
research and OD. Action research and OD are
about understanding the real issues and iden-
tifying what really needs to be changed. Ac-
tion research and OD are about providing so-
lutions that address the contributing factors of
a problem, not simply providing a solution to
the presenting problem, which may or may
not be at the core.

Keep in mind that organizations are com-
plex systems, and using a mechanical approach
to “fi x” a “broken” part rarely creates eff ective
change. In this context, organizations can be
thought of as a web of interacting forces, inter-
acting individually and as a whole to produce
certain outcomes. Th us, eff ective change en-
tails exploring these forces and their inter-
actions. Within a single action research cycle
(Entry to Evaluation), multiple levels of aware-
ness can and will probably be uncovered.
However, it is not uncommon that there are
levels of awareness that will only be uncovered
in subsequent cycles, as the client’s self-aware-
ness increases and the ability to self-refl ect and
change develops. Th us, action research is most
helpful as an iterative process, not as an event.

Action research can be a rather diffi cult
and frustrating process to understand and use
eff ectively. “Yes, I know about action research,
but what do I do?” can be a common question
for new practitioners. Understanding the pro-
cess of and assumptions behind action research
can make the diff erence between being a prac-
titioner of OD and being someone who sim-
ply uses typical OD interventions without
using the other parts of the process that make
up OD. Or, to put it another way, it is like
the diff erence between being a carpenter and
being someone who knows how to swing a

American Management Association /
EBSCOhost – printed on 12/27/2021 6:04 PM via TRIDENT UNIVERSITY. All use subject to

What Is Organization Development?


Definitions of an Organization

Defining OD

Who Is an OD Professional?

Models for Doing OD

Roots and History of OD

When and Why Should an Organization Use OD?

A Values-Based Field

Chapter Summary

Questions for Discussion or Self-Reflection
































EBSCO Publishing : eBook Academic Collection (EBSCOhost) – printed on 12/27/2021 6:14 PM via TRIDENT UNIVERSITY
AN: 290846 ; McLean, Gary N..; Organization Development : Principles, Processes, Performance
Account: s3642728.main.ehost

OVERVIEW This chapter presents the definitional issues, the business
case for OD, two primary models with their strengths and weaknesses
(action research, appreciative inquiry), and the importance of organiza-
tional context. It also contains the historical roots of the field, as well as
its values and principles. Concepts of organizational culture and change
management are also explored briefly.

Welcome to the world of organization development (OD)! Everyreader of this book comes with multiple experiences in organiza-
tions—from your family to your schools; churches, synagogues, tem-
ples, and mosques; workplaces; charitable organizations; government
agencies; sports teams; social clubs; labor unions; and so on. Some of
these experiences have probably been positive, while some have proba-
bly been negative. That’s the nature of the world in which we live. In
this book, you will learn some of the approaches that professionals in
the field of OD use to turn negative experiences into positive ones, and
how good OD practice that relies on solid OD theory can help organi-
zations to be more productive, more satisfying, and more effective and


The dictionary provides the following formal definition of an organization:

a) the act or process of organizing; the state or manner of being
organized: a high degree of organization; b) something that has
been organized or made into an ordered whole; c) something made
up of elements with varied functions that contribute to the whole
and to collective functions; an organism; d) a group of persons
organized for a particular purpose; an association: a benevolent
organization; e) a structure through which individuals cooperate
systematically to conduct business; the administrative personnel
of such a structure. (American Heritage Dictionary of the English
Language, 2000)

A more informal definition can include any situation in which two or
more persons are involved in a common pursuit or objective. Given the
broad-ranging and all-encompassing definitions of organization, it is


EBSCOhost – printed on 12/27/2021 6:14 PM via TRIDENT UNIVERSITY. All use subject to

easy to understand the complexity of OD and the large number of situ-
ations in which it can be applied.

Now, as you begin to think about your experience in past and cur-
rent organizations, quickly jot down some of the positive and negative
experiences you have encountered. Use two columns, with the positive
in one and the negative in the other. By doing this, you are already
using the early stages of one of the tools of OD, called a force field
analysis. You’ll hear more about this tool in a later chapter. An OD
professional, along with others in the same organization, might use a
list like this to determine how people in that organization feel about
what is and what is not going well. This, too, is a part of the OD
process of doing an organizational analysis or a needs assessment. The
OD professional might use such lists to work with the organization in
finding ways to build on the positives and to overcome the negatives.

The field of OD is not regulated, except through ethics statements
developed by professional organizations (more on this later, too). As a
result, anyone interested can practice what he or she might label as OD,
even though the field might take exception to the accuracy of such a
statement. But there is no recourse. Thus, one of the real challenges of
the field is that some people who call themselves OD consultants or
professionals (these terms are often used interchangeably and do not
indicate whether the person is employed by the organization or is a self-
employed person or a person employed by a consulting firm) is that
they operate with a narrowly defined “toolbox”—a set of so-called
solutions that they apply to every situation. Thus, we experience the
“flavor of the month,” a situation in which the latest fad is offered to
organizations as the solution to all of their problems. Given the ambi-
guity of OD practice, having a strong theoretical background and func-
tioning with proven models, therefore, become critical for successful
and ethical OD practice.


As indicated earlier in this chapter, there is no standard definition of
OD, and what may be considered as legitimate OD practice by some may
equally be perceived by others, legitimately, as being outside the scope
of OD. Here is your first challenge of ambiguity. How does the field
continue to exist and thrive when we cannot agree on its definition?


EBSCOhost – printed on 12/27/2021 6:14 PM via TRIDENT UNIVERSITY. All use subject to

What Can OD Address?

The field of OD is very large and complex; as such, OD professionals
will find themselves in many different contexts using a wide range of
methods and processes to bring about desired outcomes in organiza-
tions. This question will be answered more fully later in this chapter.
For now, let me share a few situations in which I have been involved as
an indication of the wide range in which one might practice OD.

As our children were growing up, we used the tools of OD in our
parenting. We held weekly family meetings with rotating facili-
tators (even the young children!) at which any grievances against
each other or against parents could be voiced and (hopefully)
managed, if not resolved. When it came to planning vacations,
we used brainstorming to create a Likert-type survey to which
everyone had equal input. The only differential role that we had
as parents was in setting the budget. And whatever came out on
top, that’s what we did! With a family of six children (four are
adopted Koreans), Lynn and I recognized how easy it would be
for the individual child to be lost in the crowd. Thus, we created a
system of providing each child with a “special day” once a month
when each child could pick one parent and one activity that
would be just for him or her. We used dialogue processes when
there was conflict. We used storytelling to instill our values. Not
only did OD serve us well as a family, but it also helped the
children to develop some of the OD skills themselves.

I have just finished a 3.5-year project sponsored by the U.S. State
Department in which I worked with colleagues in Kyrgyzstan, a
former soviet republic in Central Asia, to work on major initiatives
to change the educational system by reinstituting free kindergarten,
establishing graduate degrees for school administrators, instituting
requirements for persons to become school administrators, estab-
lishing a professional organization for teachers, requiring trans-
parency in the finances of schools and universities, and many
other outcomes. One of my colleagues wrote to me shortly after
the peaceful overthrow of the corrupt president indicating that the


EBSCOhost – printed on 12/27/2021 6:14 PM via TRIDENT UNIVERSITY. All use subject to

work we had done set the stage for the democratic processes that
resulted in a peaceful transition of governments.

I received an urgent telephone call from Saudi Arabia requesting
my immediate assistance. There had been a serious refinery ac-
cident in which one person was killed and several other workers
were injured. The company wanted me to do an assessment to
determine why the accident had occurred and what changes the
organization needed to make to reduce the risk of future problems
in safety. This task required an exhaustive review of risk policies,
safety training, the role of the corporate risk office in refineries, a
review of the processes, and so on. Two of the major findings were
that contract employees, who outnumbered regular employees
2:1, received no safety training, and the corporate risk office was
viewed as an auditor rather than as a support system. No sub-
sequent accidents have occurred since this project.

Rather than going into detail on other projects, let me provide a
sampling of others in which I have been involved:

■ I have worked with a state agency to help it institute total
quality management, with a specific goal of reducing roadside
construction site accidents.

■ I have worked as a coach to the CEO of a large consulting firm
to provide him with feedback on his decision making and
processes, and to serve as a foil for his ideas.

■ I have worked with many organizations in helping approach a
move into another part of the world.

■ I have worked with several organizations immediately after a
merger or acquisition to help create a common culture and to
bring personnel, processes, and policies together.

■ I assist organizations in conducting qualitative feedback to
employees on their performance.

■ I work with organizations to help them manage conflict when it
has become destructive to the organization.

■ I have provided support at the ministry level and research in
the use of organization development principles and processes

What Is Organization Development? 5

EBSCOhost – printed on 12/27/2021 6:14 PM via TRIDENT UNIVERSITY. All use subject to

to improve the national situation in Kenya and the Republic
of Korea. This emphasis is continuing and expanding

This is not an exhaustive listing of the OD work that I do, and it is
not even close to exhaustive of the work that can be done under the
guise of organization development. I hope, however, that it will give the
reader some sense of the scope and power of OD work.

Sample Definitions

Egan (2002) explored the range of definitions for OD. While not a com-
prehensive review, he did identify 27 definitions between 1969 and 2003.
Providing all 27 definitions here probably serves no useful purpose.
Thus, this section will present a few definitions that express consider-
ably different perspectives. Change, whether planned or unplanned, is
often associated with people’s understanding of OD. Planned change
was incorporated into what was perhaps the first formal definition for OD,
that of Richard Beckhard (1969), though many such definitions emerged
in that year. Beckhard defined OD as “an effort [that is] (1) planned,
(2) organization-wide, and (3) managed from the top, to (4) increase
organization effectiveness and health through (5) planned interventions
in the organization’s processes, using behavioral-science knowledge”
(p. 9).

Some within the field are now critical of this definition, asserting
that the world in which we live is too complex to plan change. Change,
both positive and negative, imposes itself on us from many sources,
most of which are beyond our control. Others argue that management
from the top is hierarchical, a concept that is acceptable in some cul-
tures but not in others, including, to some extent, the United States. On
the other hand, if desired change is not supported by top management,
can that change ever really occur or be sustained?

Another criticism of this definition is the use of a medical model
and the reference to “health.” At the same time, just as medical models
are rapidly shifting from remediation to prevention, so also do we see
this shift in OD. The final phrase of this definition, referencing the
“behavioral sciences,” underscores the multidisciplinary nature of the


EBSCOhost – printed on 12/27/2021 6:14 PM via TRIDENT UNIVERSITY. All use subject to

field. Many of the behavioral sciences are core to the practice of OD,
including psychology, sociology, economics, and anthropology, among

Warren Bennis’s (1969) definition positions OD as reactive to
change, rather than proactive, as was the case in Beckhard’s definition.
Bennis also introduced the concept that is still core to our understand-
ing of OD today—namely, organizational culture: “Organization devel-
opment is a response to change, a complex educational strategy
intended to change beliefs, attitudes, values, and structures of organiza-
tions so that they can better adapt to new technologies, markets, and
challenges, and the dizzying rate of change itself” (p. 2). Bennis used
four words that are seen today as key components of organizational
culture: beliefs, attitudes, values, and structures. This view was later
expanded by Edgar Schein (1980), who developed the idea of a cultural
iceberg (see Figures 1.1 and 1.2).

These diagrams illustrate that change in an organization can occur
at many levels. As behaviors and their associated artifacts are readily
visible to others, OD can effect change in these relatively easily. How-
ever, when organizational change needs to penetrate the underlying

What Is Organization Development? 7

Artifacts and Creations
Visible and audible behavior patterns

Testable in the physical environment
Testable only by social consensus

Basic Assumptions
Relationship to environment
Nature of reality, time, and space
Nature of human nature
Nature of human activity
Nature of human relationships

Visible but often
not decipherable

Greater level
of awareness

Taken for granted


Figure 1.1 Levels of Cultures and Their Interactions (adapted from
Schein, 1980, p. 4)

EBSCOhost – printed on 12/27/2021 6:14 PM via TRIDENT UNIVERSITY. All use subject to

beliefs, values, and, ultimately, the unconscious assumptions made in the
organization, change is much more difficult. As illustrated in his metaphor
of the iceberg, Schein indicated how difficult it is to “see” the assump-
tions that underlie our behaviors. Another metaphor used by Schein was
the peeling of an onion. We can easily see the outside skin of the onion
(behaviors), but, without peeling away the layers between the external
skin and the core of the onion (the assumptions), we cannot really
understand the onion (the people in the organization). This is the chal-
lenge that faces OD professionals—how do we peel away the layers of
the onion or get to the bottom of the iceberg as we work in an organiza-
tion? At the same time, because of its greater ease and efficient use of
time, efforts to bring about change through OD should not attempt to go
deeper than necessary to accomplish the objective (Harrison, 1970). If
changes in behaviors or artifacts are sufficient (i.e., at the tip of the ice-
berg or the outer layer of the onion), then no further effort is necessary.


Figure 1.2 Schein’s Cultural Iceberg

■ Behaviors, Norms, Artifacts

■ Stated Beliefs, Values

■ Assumptions







EBSCOhost – printed on 12/27/2021 6:14 PM via TRIDENT UNIVERSITY. All use subject to

Moving forward, McLagan (1989), about whom you will hear
more later in this chapter, also provided a definition:

Organization development focuses on assuring healthy inter- and
intra-unit relationships and helping groups initiate and manage
change. Organization development’s primary emphasis is on rela-
tionships and processes between and among individuals and
groups. Its primary intervention is influence on the relationship
of individuals and groups to effect an impact on the organization
as a system. (p. 7)

Moving to a more current definition, Cummings and Worley (2005)
proposed the following definition: “Organization development is a system
wide application and transfer of behavioral science knowledge to the
planned development, improvement, and reinforcement of strategies,
structures, and processes that lead to organization effectiveness” (p. 1).

For the purposes of this book, I am proposing the following broad
definition for organization development, based on a previous definition
of global human resource development (McLean & McLean, 2001).
The evolution of this definition is presented in Chapter 11.

Organization development is any process or activity, based on the
behavioral sciences, that, either initially or over the long term, has
the potential to develop in an organizational setting enhanced
knowledge, expertise, productivity, satisfaction, income, interper-
sonal relationships, and other desired outcomes, whether for
personal or group/team gain, or for the benefit of an organization,
community, nation, region, or, ultimately, the whole of humanity.

Egan (2002), using a card-sorting process based on the 27 OD defini-
tions, identified 10 clusters of dependent variables (or desired out-
comes) contained in the definitions:

■ Advance organizational renewal
■ Engage organization culture change
■ Enhance profitability and competitiveness
■ Ensure health and well-being of organizations and employees
■ Facilitate learning and development
■ Improve problem solving

What Is Organization Development? 9

EBSCOhost – printed on 12/27/2021 6:14 PM via TRIDENT UNIVERSITY. All use subject to

■ Increase effectiveness
■ Initiate and/or manage change
■ Strengthen system and process improvement
■ Support adaptation to change (p. 67)

Such a broad set of desired outcomes adds to the complexity of the field
of OD, impacting the expectations of OD by organizations and practi-
tioners, which makes for a very challenging environment in which to do
OD work.

A Separate Field or a Subset of Another Field?

Here is another piece of ambiguity: The answer to this question, as to
much of OD work, itself, is “It depends!” The two professional organi-
zations that exclusively represent OD professionals—OD Network and
The OD Institute—have argued that OD is a field separate unto itself.
Recently, however, the Journal of Organization Development, the jour-
nal of The OD Institute, has used OD along with the field of human
resource development (HRD). In addition, many other professional
organizations see OD as a subset of that field:

■ Academy of Human Resource Development (AHRD)
■ Academy of Human Resource Development (India) (AHRD)
■ Korean Academy of Human Resource Development (KAHRD)
■ Academy of Management (AOM) (especially, the ODC—

Organization Development and Change—Division)
■ American Society for Training and Development (ASTD)
■ Euresform
■ Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) (with

several affiliated groups, such as the Arabian Society for HRM,
the Japanese Society for HRM, etc.)

■ Society for Industrial and Organizational Development (SIOP)
■ University Forum of Human Resource Development (UFHRD)

It is interesting to note the number of global organizations that rec-
ognize OD as part of a larger field. Perhaps the most well-known of
these inclusive models was developed by McLagan (1989) for ASTD.


EBSCOhost – printed on 12/27/2021 6:14 PM via TRIDENT UNIVERSITY. All use subject to

Her research identified 11 functional areas within the larger field of
human resources; this model is referred to as the human resources
wheel, because it is often illustrated in a pie chart format. These func-
tions were then grouped into two clusters: human resource develop-
ment (HRD) and human resource management (HRM). Four of the 11
functions overlapped the two clusters, as shown in Table 1.1.

Note that OD is listed as one of three functions exclusively assigned
to HRD. While McLagan has orally expressed some doubts about her
model, this model is clearly embedded in the literature of HRD that is
utilized around the world.

Exploring definitions of HRD globally led to the following definition:

Human Resource Development is any process or activity that,
either initially or over the long term, has the potential to develop . . .
work-based knowledge, expertise, productivity and satisfaction,
whether for personal or group/team gain, or for the benefit of an
organization, community, nation, or ultimately, the whole of
humanity. (McLean & McLean, 2001, p. 322)

It is easy to see from this definition, if accepted, how OD fits within the
broader context of HRD globally.

What Is Organization Development? 11

TABLE 1.1 Assignment of 11 Human Resource Functions to HRD and HRM


■ Training and development ■ HR research and infor-
■ Organization development mation systems
■ Career development ■ Union/labor relations
■ Organization/job design ■ Employee assistance
■ Human resource planning ■ Compensation/benefits
■ Performance management ■ Organization/job design

systems ■ Human resource planning
■ Selection and staffing ■ Performance management

■ Selection and staffing

Note: Boldfaced items belong exclusively to that column. Nonboldfaced items are
Source: Adapted from McLagan (1989).

EBSCOhost – printed on 12/27/2021 6:14 PM via TRIDENT UNIVERSITY. All use subject to

Characteristics of OD

The American Society for Training and Development’s OD Professional
Practice Area attempted to provide a synthesis of the various definitions by
providing the key points that it saw in the range of definitions available:

We believe the practice of organization development:
■ must be in alignment with organization and business objectives;
■ is rooted in the behavioral sciences;
■ is long range and ongoing;
■ stresses a process orientation to achieve results;
■ is based on collaboration;
■ is a systems orientation.

The following conclusions can be drawn about the core character-
istics of OD:

■ OD is an interdisciplinary and primarily behavioral science
approach that draws from such fields as organization behavior,
management, business, psychology, sociology, anthropology,
economics, education, counseling, and public administration.

■ A primary, though not exclusive, goal of OD is to improve
organizational effectiveness.

■ The target of the change effort is the whole organization,
departments, work groups, or individuals within the organi-
zation and, as mentioned earlier, may extend to include a
community, nation, or region.

■ OD recognizes the importance of top management’s commit-
ment, support, and involvement. It also affirms a bottom-up
approach when the culture of the organization supports such
efforts to improve an organization.

■ It is a planned and long-range strategy for managing change,
while also recognizing that the dynamic environment in which
we live requires the ability to respond quickly to changing

■ The major focus of OD is on the total system and its inter-
dependent parts.

■ OD uses a collaborative approach that involves those affected
by the change in the change process.


EBSCOhost – printed on 12/27/2021 6:14 PM via TRIDENT UNIVERSITY. All use subject to

■ It is an education-based program designed to develop values,
attitudes, norms, and management practices that result in a
healthy organization climate that rewards healthy behavior.
OD is driven by humanistic values.

■ It is a data-based approach to understanding and diagnosing

■ It is guided by a change agent, change team, or line manage-
ment whose primary role is that of facilitator, teacher, and
coach rather than subject matter expert.

■ It recognizes the need for planned follow-up to maintain

■ It involves planned interventions and improvements in an
organization’s processes and structures and requires skills in
working with individuals, groups, and whole organizations.
It is primarily driven by action research (AR) (which will be
discussed soon).

Is OD the Same as Change Management?

In an effort to simplify an explanation of what OD is, some have sug-
gested that OD and change management are the same. I disagree. There
are times in the life of an organization where dramatic change is
needed—change that does not and cannot rely on the use of OD. The
marketplace sometimes requires that an organization take swift and
unplanned actions in order to survive. It may require outsourcing
domestically or to another country, downsizing, reductions in salaries,
and increasing health care costs. Although all of these changes may be
absolutely necessary for the survival of the organization, they do not
necessarily follow the OD processes, principles, or values. An excellent
distinction between OD change and change that does not follow OD
principles is discussed in Beer and Nohria (2000). In essence, they
argued that there is E change (economic value) and O change (organi-
zation’s human capability), one of which is planned and follows OD
principles (O), while the other (E) is market driven and does not follow
OD principles; both can be included in what many people call change
management. So, it is a mistake to equate OD with change manage-
ment. The business benefits when both types of change are affirmed

What Is Organization Development? 13

EBSCOhost – printed on 12/27/2021 6:14 PM via TRIDENT UNIVERSITY. All use subject to

within an organization. While long-term, systemwide planning that
results in change (the OD model) can be very beneficial for an organi-
zation and its bottom line, failure to act quickly and to make immediate
decisions, even when those processes violate OD principles, may well
result in the demise of the organization.


There are many ways to answer this question. We will answer it first by
looking at where OD professionals are primarily employed, and then
we will explore the qualifications for doing OD work. Finally, we will
look at how OD consultants differ from management consultants or
consultants in other fields of endeavor.

Internal versus External

OD professionals or consultants can be employed by the organization
or can be hired on a contract basis. Regardless of whether they are
internal or external to the organization, the term consultant is still com-
monly used. There is no right answer for whether an internal consultant
is better than an external consultant, or vice versa (more ambiguity!).
Table 1.2 outlines the advantages of each.

Because both internal and external OD consultants have advan-
tages, it makes considerable sense for a partnership between an internal
and an external consultant, so that the best of both can be available to
the organization. For this same reason, it also makes sense to establish
a partnership based on differences in demographics (e.g., gender, eth-
nicity, age) in order to capture fully the perspectives of varying views.
What one might see, the other might not see or might see differently
based on different socializing experiences. Thus, using a partnership
approach can strengthen the ultimate outcomes from OD work.

OD work does not necessarily need to be performed by a profes-
sional serving in such a designated position. Increasingly, OD is per-
formed by persons in other positions who have OD expertise. Thus, a
line manager or a staff person in some other functional area who has been
trained in OD can (and probably should) apply OD principles in his or
her ongoing work. The more widely understood OD principles are in


EBSCOhost – printed on 12/27/2021 6:14 PM via TRIDENT UNIVERSITY. All use subject to

What Is Organization Development? 15

TABLE 1.2 Advantages of Using Each Type of Consultant—Internal and


■ Already has familiarity with the ■ Does not have preknowledge of
organization and how it works the organizational culture, so

■ Knows the organizational does not enter the process with
culture better than any external any preconceived notions
can ever know it ■ Often given more respect by

■ Has relationships established insiders because he or she is
that can get cooperation more not known except by reputation
quickly ■ More freedom to “say it like it

■ Has a trust level already is” because he or she has less
established at risk politically

■ Lower cost by project because ■ Organization makes less long-
of organization’s long-term term commitment for pay and
commitment to employment no commitment for benefits,

■ Organization takes less risk leading to lower overall costs.
of confidential information ■ Organizational members may
being leaked be more willing to trust in

■ Less emphasis on getting the confidentiality in sharing
job done quickly as salary is information with the consultant
already paid versus hourly ■ Easier to be ethical; can refuse
pay for external to do something that is deemed

■ Greater accountability unethical
■ Job security and less emphasis ■ Can reject the project if there is

on marketing a perceived lack of readiness
for change in the organization

■ Usually has a broader set of

■ Greater job variety
■ Can be separated from the

organization quickly and easily
if performance problems occur

EBSCOhost – printed on 12/27/2021 6:14 PM via TRIDENT UNIVERSITY. All use subject to

an organization, the more likely it is that the organization will benefit
from their use.

Qualifications for Doing OD Work

A subsequent chapter will focus extensively on the competencies needed
by professionals doing OD work. This section will provide a very brief
overview of the qualifications needed.

Given that OD work is based on the behavioral sciences, an OD
professional would be expected to have an intensive and broad back-
ground in the behavioral sciences. Clearly, no one individual can be an
expert in all of the behavioral sciences, so one would expect an OD
professional to be involved in continuous study and lifelong learning in
the profession. Furthermore, one would expect an OD professional to
have advanced education specifically in OD, or in a field with a strong
emphasis on the behavioral sciences in an organizational context (e.g.,
human resource development, industrial and organizational psychol-
ogy, organizational behavior, etc.). At the same time, it should also be
evident that no one can have complete knowledge of OD or of all of
the behavioral sciences. So, do not be intimidated by what appears to
be overwhelming content. At the same time, it should also be obvious
that the field of OD is complex. A single course in OD, or in one or
more of the behavioral sciences, is probably not sufficient to allow an
individual to begin to practice OD.

Because there are no restrictions as to who can practice OD, trained
professionals in the field have expressed concern that unqualified indi-
viduals can and do enter the field who may negatively affect the repu-
tation of the OD field. This point leads to dialogue about whether
there should be licensure, with the assumption that only qualified indi-
viduals will be licensed, thus protecting the practice of OD. Licensure is
a legal requirement, usually enforced by a government entity. But licen-
sure results in many problems. First, since we do not have a common
definition of OD, how do we determine what competencies are neces-
sary for licensure? Who will determine what is to be measured and
how? Are the core competencies for OD even measurable? And what
should be done with the thousands of OD professionals who are
already in the field?


EBSCOhost – printed on 12/27/2021 6:14 PM via TRIDENT UNIVERSITY. All use subject to

Another approach to becoming an OD professional, short of licen-
sure, is to acquire appropriate credentials. The OD Institute is currently
the only professional organization that provides specific certification in
OD, though many universities may provide their own certification for
students. The OD Institute has two levels of credentials: RODP (Regis-
tered Organization Development Professional) and RODC (Registered
OD Consultant). Both certifications require ongoing membership in
The OD Institute and an affirmation of the Code of Ethics of The Insti-
tute. In addition, to be an RODC (the higher level of certification)
requires two letters of recommendation attesting to one’s professional
expertise and the passing of a multiple-choice examination. No identi-
fied research indicates that the work done by an RODP or an RODC is
any better than that done by those without such credentials.

Finally, one can look at one’s individual personality characteristics
and one’s level of knowledge and skill. An extensive list of competen-
cies needed for OD professionals has been developed and will be
explored in a later chapter. For now, it is important, again, to empha-
size the importance of self-knowledge. When you work in an organiza-
tion at the core of assumptions, beliefs, and values, it is easy to impose
one’s own assumptions, beliefs, and values on the organization, and to
make judgments based on your own assumptions. It becomes critical,
therefore, to understand fully what your own values, beliefs, and
assumptions are to minimize the damage that may be done to the
organization as a result of ignorance.

Another core expectation for an effective OD professional is basic
knowledge of business and its language. Given that most OD work is
done in a business environment, OD professionals need to understand
that context. There are many skills and considerable knowledge that
the OD professional must have that will be discussed in Chapter 16.

OD Consultants versus Traditional Consultants

A common and appropriate question is how OD consultants are differ-
ent from traditional consultants, such as management consultants,
information technology consultants, safety consultants, and almost
every other field that employs consultants—and that means almost
every field! While perhaps a biased perspective, Table 1.3 provides a

What Is Organization Development? 17

EBSCOhost – printed on 12/27/2021 6:14 PM via TRIDENT UNIVERSITY. All use subject to

comparison of traditional consultants and OD consultants—at least in
the ideal world. Schein (1998 and earlier) referred to the OD consulting
processes described in Table 1.3 as process consultation.


This section contains an explanation of what a model is and how it is
used in practice, followed by a basic presentation of the primary mod-
els in use for doing OD. This text is organized around the action
research model. Although the action research model has been the dom-
inant model in use in OD (and continues to be), it has been criticized,
and alternate approaches have been suggested. All of the current alter-
native approaches, however, are still basically variations of the action
research model.

The Use of Models in OD

A model is a representation of the real thing and is intended to provide
general guidance and suggestions about how one might proceed. For
example, a model airplane may look like the real thing in miniature,
but it will be lacking some critical components, as it will not carry pas-
sengers or cargo and will not fly across the ocean. Yet it can be a very
useful tool in aviation design and construction. A model plane used in


TABLE 1.3 Comparison of Traditional and OD Consultants


■ Are considered to be the ■ Function as facilitators rather
subject matter expert than subject matter experts

■ Take more of a telling and ■ Work/collaborate with clients
directive mode with clients and client members

■ Create dependency between ■ Create interdependency moving
the client and them to independence for the client

■ Own and manage process ■ Allow clients to own and
and outcomes manage process and outcomes

■ Transfer little or no skill to ■ Transfer skill to client
client organization organization

EBSCOhost – printed on 12/27/2021 6:14 PM via TRIDENT UNIVERSITY. All use subject to

a wind tunnel might well show engineers what design components are
best equipped to deal with a variety of wind patterns. But no one loses
sight of the fact that the model airplane is not the real plane.

The same is true of models utilized in the field of OD. Even though
the model is not OD, an OD model has the capability to illustrate and
lay the groundwork for the work to be done. Though it may be helpful
in building our understanding of a certain phenomenon, a model can-
not replicate a phenomenon, laying a foundation instead. Practitioners
and even theoreticians sometimes lose sight of the difference between a
model and reality. So, as you encounter models throughout this book,
keep in mind that they are presented to help you understand a phenom-
enon, but not to describe it fully.

The Action Research Model

From early on in OD, the action research model (ARM) has been the
organizing approach for doing OD. It remains deeply embedded within
the practice of OD, and a form of it will be the organizer for the
remainder of this book. Kurt Lewin, one of the widely recognized
founders of the field of OD, is also credited with forwarding the ARM
concept in the mid-1940s with his famous statement, “No research
without action; no action without research.”

A precursor to the ARM was Shewhart’s PDCA cycle, developed in
the 1920s as a model to explain the necessity for ongoing organiza-
tional improvement and a process through which such continuous
improvement was to occur (see Figure 1.3).

What Is Organization Development? 19


Act Do

(or Study)

Figure 1.3 Shewhart’s PDCA Cycle

EBSCOhost – printed on 12/27/2021 6:14 PM via TRIDENT UNIVERSITY. All use subject to

At the Plan stage, decisions are made about what might be done to
improve the organization and its processes, using a variety of decision-
making tools. At the Do stage, those plans are carried out in a pilot or
trial implementation. At the Check stage (W. Edwards Deming, well-
known for his leadership in total quality management, later suggested
that Study might be a better word here), measurements are taken to
determine whether the pilot implementation did, in fact, result in the
changes desired. At the Act stage, the process, if successful, is imple-
mented. Whether successful or unsuccessful, the next stage is to begin
the cycle all over again with a Plan stage. If successful, the new plans
should explore what more can be done to improve the processes. If
unsuccessful, new data may be gathered to determine what went
wrong, and new plans are piloted to see whether they will improve the
processes. The emphasis is on continuous improvement.

In many respects, the action research model reflects a similar com-
mitment to continuous improvement. An earlier model (McLean & Sul-
livan, 1989) suggested a cyclical but sequential model, much like the
PDCA model shown in Figure 1.3. This type of model, however, has
been criticized on a number of counts. For example, even though the
model appears to be cyclical, the unidirectional arrows still suggest a
linear model. Furthermore, there is no indication of overlap between
the phases, or any suggestion that there might be a back and forth
movement among the phases. As a result, a modification of this model
(see Figure 1.4) is used throughout this book, called the organization
development process (ODP) model.

The ODP model consists of eight components or phases with inter-
activity among the phases, each of which will become one (or more)
chapters of this book. Each of these phases applies whether or not the
OD professional is an internal or external consultant. Keeping in mind
that OD can be applied at different levels of depth, some of these
phases will be very brief and superficial, while more in-depth OD
efforts will require more time, resources, and effort. Briefly, the purpose
of each component is as follows:

Entry – The first phase is when the OD professional (“consultant”),
having done the requisite marketing, and a person representing the
client organization (or part of an organization) (“client”) meet to
decide whether they will work together, assess the readiness of the
organization to change, and agree on the conditions under which
they will work together.


EBSCOhost – printed on 12/27/2021 6:14 PM via TRIDENT UNIVERSITY. All use subject to

Start-up – The next phase occurs after an agreement has been
reached to work together, and a basic infrastructure (such as a
client team with whom the consultant will work) is put in place.

Assessment and Feedback – This phase is sometimes called
analysis or diagnosis; in this phase, the consultant and client,
together, determine the organizational culture, including its
strengths and weaknesses, and give this information to the
organizational members. The assessment can also focus on a
specific area of interest to the organization that might, because
of its lack of depth, require much less commitment of time and

Action Plan – Based on what was determined in the previous step,
plans are mutually developed as to how the organization wishes to

What Is Organization Development? 21


and Feedback




Community and National










or Suborganization

Figure 1.4 Organization Development Process Model

EBSCOhost – printed on 12/27/2021 6:14 PM via TRIDENT UNIVERSITY. All use subject to

move forward, in terms of both goals and objectives and how
these will be accomplished.

Implementation – In this phase, the plans that were made in the
previous step are implemented; in OD jargon, this is called an

Evaluation – This phase answers the question, “How well did our
intervention accomplish the objectives that were planned?”

Adoption – If the evaluation indicates that the objectives of the
intervention were accomplished, then the change that was
implemented becomes institutionalized; that is, it becomes a part
of the way in which business is done in the organization. If the
evaluation indicates that desired objectives were not met, then this
phase is skipped. In both cases, the process begins all over again.

Separation – At some point, the consultant will withdraw from
the intervention process, having transferred his or her skills to the
client organization (again, whether the OD professional is internal
or external). This may occur because additional change is no
longer a priority to the client organization, or that it is not ready
for the next stage of change. It may be because OD skills are
needed that the current OD consultant does not possess. It may
be that the consultant has been co-opted by the organizational
culture and is no longer able to maintain objectivity. For whatever
reason, separation should occur intentionally and not by just
letting it happen.

As can be seen by the model illustrated in Figure 1.4, the ideal,
then, is that the process continues, with or without the consultant’s
involvement, with the objective of continuously improving the organi-
zation, no matter how well it is doing. Keep in mind the discussion ear-
lier about the use of a model. Sometimes, phases need to be combined
or even skipped because of the demands of the marketplace. This
process should be done cautiously. Although the ARM/ODP process
has served the field well, criticisms of its use do exist. Some claim that
it takes too long to go through all of these phases and that the world is
too dynamic to take the time to do a thorough job at each of these
phases. A counterresponse to this criticism is to ask how much longer
it takes when a step is skipped and the OD process fails because that


EBSCOhost – printed on 12/27/2021 6:14 PM via TRIDENT UNIVERSITY. All use subject to

step was skipped. As a result, the time and resources focused on
improvement are wasted, requiring the OD practitioner to begin the
process anew.

A second criticism of the model is that OD, using this traditional
approach, has as its goal to find problems to be solved, thus leading to
what has become known as the appreciative inquiry (AI) model. In
contrast to ARM or ODP, AI looks solely for the positive in an organi-
zation. The counter to this argument, however, is that good OD,
through the use of the ODP, is to find strengths in the organizational
culture as well as problems. By focusing only on the positive, as AI
does, neither the client nor the consultant has a systemwide view of the
organizational culture. AI will be presented briefly in this section.

Appreciative Inquiry

Appreciative inquiry has come to be associated with Cooperrider (e.g.,
Cooperrider & Srivastva, 1987). It basically uses the same steps as the
ODP with one major modification to one of the phases. Instead of
exploring the full range of strengths and weaknesses of an organiza-
tion’s culture, the assessment stage uses a narrative approach to surface
only positive aspects of the organization’s culture. As identified by Egan
and Lancaster (2005), however, consultants who use the AI approach
have difficulty in convincing clients of its validity. Anecdotal research
does, however, suggest that such an approach can be beneficial for an
organization, especially if it has been traumatized in the recent past.
For example, AI might be more effective than ODP when an organiza-
tion has a long history of near bankruptcy, when an organization
acquires another organization in a hostile takeover, or when severe
downsizing has occurred.

Abbreviated Models of ARM/ODP

Many modifications to the ARM/ODP models have been proposed,
though they consistently follow the components of the ARM/ODP, per-
haps changing the wording or combining steps to produce fewer appar-
ent steps. However, the essence of the model appears to be unchanged
and continues to function as the normative approach to OD. Keeping
in mind that no model is perfect and that every model is an imperfect

What Is Organization Development? 23

EBSCOhost – printed on 12/27/2021 6:14 PM via TRIDENT UNIVERSITY. All use subject to

representation of reality, given the history and usefulness of the
ARM/ODP, we will use that model throughout the rest of this book.


From the beginning of time, it is probable that humanity has tried con-
sistently, though imperfectly and with notable exceptions, to improve
the lot of life. There are many examples from religious literature of the
use of consultants in making decisions. One common to many religious
traditions is the consultation of Moses with his father-in-law, Jethro, to
improve the organization of the large numbers of Israelites escaping
from Egypt. Mohammed, also, had his consultants, and one could
argue that the 12 disciples served as consultants to Jesus. So, as we look
at the roots that led to the formation of OD, we have a limitless num-
ber of options from which to draw. Even when exploring the history of
OD, one has difficulty, as with any history, in identifying exactly how
the field emerged and developed. In a recent Web chat about the history
and origins of the OD field with practitioners and theoreticians who
had been around and involved when OD emerged, everyone had a dif-
ferent memory, including those who were in the same room at the same
time! So it is difficult to argue that there is a single source of the field of
OD. What is interesting to note is that almost everyone remembers OD
as emerging—that no one set out to create a new field, but the impor-
tant concepts and tools that were to make up the field of OD emerged
as people were simply trying to do their jobs better.

Most of the early names associated with the field of OD were, not
surprisingly, psychologists; as a result, our field has been heavily influ-
enced by the psychological theories of Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung, Carl
Rogers, and B. F. Skinner. Those influences are still present in manage-
ment and the field of OD, in such theories as small group dynamics,
reinforcement theories, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), open-
ended interviewing, and so on. Margaret Mead, Gert Hofstede, Fons
Trompenaur, Edward and Mildred Hall, Edgar Schein, and others
reflected efforts at describing cultures from an anthropological perspec-
tive. John Keynes, Thomas Malthus, and others have introduced eco-
nomic theories. In the area of quality management and continuous
improvement, names such as Joseph Juran, W. Edwards Deming, and
Kaoru Ishikawa are considered primary contributors. In the area of systems


EBSCOhost – printed on 12/27/2021 6:14 PM via TRIDENT UNIVERSITY. All use subject to

theory, certainly biologist Ludwig von Bertalanffy must be included
along with more recent contributors such as Peter Senge and Margaret
Wheatley. We could easily fill pages and pages with names of people
who have made contributions to the field of OD. What follows, in this
section, are a few names selected out of my biases to reflect only some
of the more significant factors that have contributed to the field of OD.
Some of the ideas that follow are based on Alban and Scherer (2005).

Kurt Lewin (mid-1940s) – It is impossible in this brief paragraph
to convey the significance of Lewin’s contributions. Lewin worked
with organizations to improve their productivity and through
various consultancies created the concepts of force field analysis,
sensitivity training (which led to team building), feedback, change
theory, action research, and self-managed work teams (more
about these as we move forward in this book).

Richard Beckhard (mid-1960s) – Most reports indicate that
Beckhard was the first person to coin the phrase organization

W. Edwards Deming (1950s in Japan; 1980s in the United States) –
Few would claim that Deming used the processes or language of
OD. Nevertheless, at least in the United States, Deming, through
his initial work in Japan, popularized the concept of continuous
process improvement, with the emphasis on processes rather than
results, arguing that the best processes lead to the best results—a
good OD concept!

Wilfred Bion (late 1940s) – Bion was a key leader in London’s
Tavistock Institute (in the UK), where discoveries were being made
about group processes at about the same time as T-groups (training
groups) were emerging in the United States. The two concepts
eventually came together as there were interactions across the

Eric Trist (1950s) – Also working in the UK, Trist is credited with
the development of the sociotechnical system (STS) in his work in
the coal mines of England. STS focuses on the interface among
people, machines, and their environment.

Other important names will surface as specific OD concepts and tools
are presented throughout the remaining chapters of this book.

What Is Organization Development? 25

EBSCOhost – printed on 12/27/2021 6:14 PM via TRIDENT UNIVERSITY. All use subject to


The field of OD is extremely broad—one of the problems in communi-
cating clearly what the field entails. OD is not a technique or a group of
tools, though some OD professionals practice as if it were. Rather, OD
can be applied any time an organization wants to make planned
improvements using the OD values. OD might be used in any of the
following situations:

■ To develop or enhance the organization’s mission statement (state-
ment of purpose) or vision statement for what it wants to be

■ To help align functional structures in an organization so they
are working together for a common purpose

■ To create a strategic plan for how the organization is going to
make decisions about its future and achieving that future

■ To manage conflict that exists among individuals, groups,
functions, sites, and so on, when such conflicts disrupt the
ability of the organization to function in a healthy way

■ To put in place processes that will help improve the ongoing
operations of the organization on a continuous basis

■ To create a collaborative environment that helps the organi-
zation be more effective and efficient

■ To create reward systems that are compatible with the goals of
the organization

■ To assist in the development of policies and procedures that
will improve the ongoing operation of the organization

■ To assess the working environment, to identify strengths on
which to build and areas in which change and improvement are

■ To provide help and support for employees, especially those in
senior positions, who need an opportunity to be coached in
how to do their jobs better

■ To assist in creating systems for providing feedback on indi-
vidual performance and, on occasion, conducting studies to
give individuals feedback and coaching to help them in their
individual development


EBSCOhost – printed on 12/27/2021 6:14 PM via TRIDENT UNIVERSITY. All use subject to

This is not an exhaustive list—it is suggestive only. But it will give you
some idea of the range of activities for which OD professionals might
be called on to assist an organization.

OD as a field has thrived because of the value-added concepts and
tools that it has brought to organizations and its stakeholders (those
concerned with how the organization operates), including customers,
stockholders, employees, management, the community, and even the
nation. If an OD professional can be helpful in bringing about desired
change with a process that uses the values described in the next section,
everyone benefits. Organization Development (1991) suggested the fol-
lowing benefits to the use of OD (as opposed to other types of consult-
ing or using individuals within the organization who do not have OD

An atmosphere can be established which will support more
innovation and creativity, increase job satisfaction, develop more
positive interpersonal relationships and foster greater participation
in creating plans and defining organizational goals. Systems can
help to establish this kind of atmosphere. (p. 2)

All of this will create a more effective and efficient organization that
will, consequently, provide higher-quality goods and services at a rea-
sonable price, increase profitability, improve stock values, improve the
work environment, and support management in its leadership role.


In the characteristics section of this chapter, I mentioned that OD is a
value-driven, humanistic field. An entire chapter of this book has been
devoted to the ethical processes by which OD consultants are expected
to act. In this chapter, as a concluding section, two statements are pro-
vided to illustrate the values base of the field. The first is the mission
statement of the Academy of Management’s Organization Development
and Change Division (2005):

The Organization Development and Change division represents
scholar/practitioners committed to individual and organization
success and to the fulfillment of humanity’s spirit and potential.
It encourages efforts that create, develop, and disseminate

What Is Organization Development? 27

EBSCOhost – printed on 12/27/2021 6:14 PM via TRIDENT UNIVERSITY. All use subject to

knowledge or extend the practice of constructive change manage-
ment and organization development.

The division affirms the importance of a triple bottom line in
organization effectiveness (human-social, financial, and environ-
mental); justice, dignity, and trust; and shared accomplishment
resulting in positive, meaningful contributions to the global soci-
ety. The division acknowledges and accepts the responsibility for
contributing in a significant way to the creation and enhancement
of an ethical and humane global community. (
odc/draftofvm.html; reprinted by permission)

Second, a portion of the statement of principles of practice being
promulgated by the OD Network (2003) reads as follows:

OD Principles of Practice
Organization Development is a planned and systemic change
effort using organization theory and behavioral science, knowl-
edge and skills to help the organization or a unit within an
organization become more vital and sustainable.

The practice of OD is grounded in a distinctive set of core
values and principles that guide practitioner behavior and actions
(called interventions).

Values Based. Key values include:
■ Respect and inclusion—to equally value the perspectives and

opinions of everyone.
■ Collaboration—to build win-win relationships in the

■ Authenticity—to help people behave congruent with their

espoused values.
■ Self-awareness—committed to developing self-awareness and

inter-personal skills within the organization.
■ Empowerment—to focus on helping everyone in the client

organization increase their individual level of autonomy and
sense of personal power and courage in order to enhance
productivity and elevate employee morale.

■ Democracy and social justice—the belief that people will support
those things for which they have had a hand in shaping; that
human spirit is elevated by pursuing democratic principles.


EBSCOhost – printed on 12/27/2021 6:14 PM via TRIDENT UNIVERSITY. All use subject to

Supported by Theory
OD’s strength is that it draws from multiple disciplines that inform
an understanding of human systems, including the applied behav-
ioral and physical sciences.

Systems Focused
It is grounded in open systems theory and approaches to under-
stand communities and organizations. Change in one area of a
system always results in changes in other areas and change in one
area cannot be sustained without supporting changes in other
areas of the system.

Action Research
A distinguishing OD feature, contrary to empirical research, that
posits things change by simply looking at them. Therefore, the
results from planned action must be continuously examined and
change strategies revised as interventions unfold.

Process Focused
The emphasis is on the way things happen, more than the content
of things, per se. Management consultants are more concerned
with the what versus the why.

Informed by Data
Involves the active inquiry and assessment of the internal and
external environment in order to discover valid data and create a
compelling rationale for change and commitment to the
achievement of a desired future organization state.

Client Centered
OD Practitioners maintain focus on the needs of the client, con-
tinually promoting client ownership of all phases of the work and
supporting the client’s ability to sustain change after the consultant
engagement ends. (Organization Development Network, 71 Valley
Street, Suite 301, South Orange, NJ 07079-2825; [973] 763-7337—
voice, [973] 763-7488;; reprinted by

An interesting dilemma concerns the way in which values of OD
practitioners and authors think about how they do OD. Bradford
(2005) captured this dilemma succinctly:

What Is Organization Development? 29

EBSCOhost – printed on 12/27/2021 6:14 PM via TRIDENT UNIVERSITY. All use subject to

OD is confused about its values. On the one hand, OD claims that
it is firmly based in the applied behavioral sciences. But on the
other hand, it stresses its humanistic roots. What happens when
the latter is not supported by the former? Unfortunately for many
OD consultants, it is the humanistic values, not the applied behav-
ioral sciences, that dominate. . . . What OD has lost is its commit-
ment to rigorous, objective analysis of what truly is effective and
instead has replaced that with a view of what it thinks the world
should be. (p. xxvi; italics in original)

It is my hope and intent that I have been successful in this book of
providing a balanced approach, one that is not either/or but, in the
spirit of accepting ambiguity, both/and. We do not always have clear
answers from research about what the appropriate behavioral science
response should be in a consultancy. And, while we cannot and should
not leave our values behind, we must proceed in a thoughtful and
aware way. I am a humanist, and I am a behavioral scientist. That is an
ambiguity I have had to accept in my life. I hope you are able to find a
balance in your own life as you read this book.


From the many definitions of organization development that exist, a
few were presented to give the reader a sense of how the broad field of
OD has evolved. Detail was provided in support of the action research
model, the core approach to OD, modified in this text as the organiza-
tion development process model, with an explanation of each of its
eight phases or dimensions: Entry, Start-up, Assessment and Feedback,
Action Planning, Implementation, Evaluation, Adoption, and Separa-
tion. Brief mention was also made of the appreciative inquiry approach
to doing OD. The organizational context is an essential factor influenc-
ing how OD is done in that organization. Generally, reference to this is
to organizational culture. The components of culture were explored,
with a recognition of the difficulty of determining the assumptions that
reside within organizational members. Some of the major historical
roots of OD were explored. Clearly, as with almost every topic in this
book, such coverage is not comprehensive as whole books exist on the
topic. The positive impact of doing OD work on an organization’s per-


EBSCOhost – printed on 12/27/2021 6:14 PM via TRIDENT UNIVERSITY. All use subject to

formance was then explored. Finally, the values espoused by the OD
Network and others were presented in support of the concept of OD
being a value-based process with a bias toward humanistic values in
creating an open system designed to meet the needs of its stakeholders.


1. Is the list you made of positive experiences in your selected
organization while reading this chapter longer than the nega-
tive experiences, or vice versa? What is there about that organi-
zation that leads to this outcome?

2. Which definition of OD do you prefer? Why?

3. Do you think it makes a difference if OD is viewed as a stand-
alone field or as a subset of another field? Why?

4. Describe an example of change in an organization that does not
follow OD principles. What is it about that example that is not
consistent with OD principles?

5. Pick an organization of which you are a member. Would you
rather work with an internal or an external OD consultant?

6. From your perspective, is it important to have recognized cre-
dentials for OD consultants? Why?

7. Why do you think there are so few credentialing organizations?
Why is the existing credentialing process not more rigorous?

8. Why do you think that appreciative inquiry consultants might
have a difficult time in selling the concept to clients? What
arguments might be used to make the concept acceptable?

9. How do you think the OD Principles of Practice would influ-
ence how an OD consultant does his or her job? Discuss
whether you believe that following the OD Principles of Prac-
tice statement will add business value to an organization.

What Is Organization Development? 31

EBSCOhost – printed on 12/27/2021 6:14 PM via TRIDENT UNIVERSITY. All use subject to

This page intentionally left blank

EBSCOhost – printed on 12/27/2021 6:14 PM via TRIDENT UNIVERSITY. All use subject to

Why Choose Us

  • 100% non-plagiarized Papers
  • 24/7 /365 Service Available
  • Affordable Prices
  • Any Paper, Urgency, and Subject
  • Will complete your papers in 6 hours
  • On-time Delivery
  • Money-back and Privacy guarantees
  • Unlimited Amendments upon request
  • Satisfaction guarantee

How it Works

  • Click on the “Place Order” tab at the top menu or “Order Now” icon at the bottom and a new page will appear with an order form to be filled.
  • Fill in your paper’s requirements in the "PAPER DETAILS" section.
  • Fill in your paper’s academic level, deadline, and the required number of pages from the drop-down menus.
  • Click “CREATE ACCOUNT & SIGN IN” to enter your registration details and get an account with us for record-keeping and then, click on “PROCEED TO CHECKOUT” at the bottom of the page.
  • From there, the payment sections will show, follow the guided payment process and your order will be available for our writing team to work on it.