Organization development (OD) and organizational change are to all intents and purposes the same thing
The nature of organizational change is very much at the core of working in the profession of OD. Organizational change and organization development are often referenced together. Both OD and organizational change have similar purposes, to improve organization effectiveness, the differences may lie within their characteristics and methods. First, this essay will begin with an attempt to identify and distinguish the definition of organizational change and organization development (OD). Secondly, this essay will discuss the relative similarities of OD and organizational change. Key relationship and their differences will be pointed out. To conclude, the essay will discuss whether or not OD and organizational change are to all intents and purposes the same thing.
Harvey and Brown (2001) suggest that ‘the primary focus of organizational change is unplanned changes from within the system in response to crises and life cycle consideration’1. Because the organizations are operating in an open system whereby it is directly influenced by the environment, there are external as well as internal triggers that force organizations to adapt and respond to changes. These factors may include; technology, customers needs, competitors’ activities, changing economic conditions and legislation. These factors drive organizations to change and to closely interact with its operating environment in order to achieve ‘the state of dynamic equilibrium’, and improve in its operation. Organizational changes are unplanned as they are responses to the rapidly changing environment.
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The failure to adapt to the rapid changes would result as Toffler (1980) suggests, in a ‘Future Shock’, “the problems resulting from the inability to adapt to, and control, rapid changes both organizationally and more importantly societally”2. King and Anderson (1995) suggest that organizational change indicates ‘a macro-level approach, which is more concerned with the organization as a whole and its major subsystems than with the experiences of small work groups and individuals’3
Beckhard (1969) put forward the Beckhard Change Equation: C = (A+B+D) ? X4. He suggests that change will only occur when there are dissatisfactions and this cannot take place unless the organization knows the benefits. Before making any changes, the organization must also know its first practical step to what actions they will take. Organizations, however, because it cannot afford to make changes that will upset the core workers (i.e. emergent strategies), the benefits (A+B+D) must exceed the cost of change as measured in accounting terms. Although Harvey & Brown (2001) relates organization change to the unplanned and accidental nature, it is important to know that changes can also be deliberate, intended and planned. Several authors put forward their ideas the conceptualizations of the need for change (Kordis and Lynch, 1990; Handy 1998).
Kordis and Lynch propose that ‘flexible, responsive, accepting’ represent precisely the attitudes that successful managers must adopt. Handy believes that discontinuous change requires discontinuous, upside-down thinking and that we need new kinds of organizations, new methods of working, and new ideas about the rapidly changing nature of society. We must realize that there are different types of change including changes being continuous, discontinuous, incremental and radical (Tushman & Romanelli, 1985). However, we shall not go into details about the types of change that may occur in organizations.
Organizational change in this essay means the process by which organizations anticipates the factors in the environment within which it operates that could affect the organisation change and react to realise that there is a need for a change to manage and adapt to those factors. It is the first stage of an OD programme, the awareness of a need for change. Organizational change may be planned or unplanned, deliberate or accidental but the cost of change must be lower than the benefits to avoid dissatisfying the core workers. This may involve changing and implementing procedures or technology to be able to adapt to the changing demands of the dynamic environment. Let’s now move on to discuss the notion of organization development.
Today’s dynamic business environment means the nature and needs of organizations are changing dramatically. Correspondingly, the profession of organization development (OD) has been changing to meet the shifting needs of organizations. Therefore, it may be useful to consider several definitions of organization development. Standard definition of OD is defined by Beckhard as “an effort planned, organization-wide, and managed from the top, to increase organization effectiveness and health through planned interventions in the organization’s ‘processes,’ using behavioural-science knowledge.”5 OD from this definition, is a planned system of change.
The notion ‘planned’ implies that the system of change is not a temporary one however; it looks at long-range effort to solve problems and to improve organization performance and efficiency. This OD system of change is viewed on ‘organization-wide’ basis means that OD focuses on the total system and according to Harvey and Brown (2001), it is not a micro approach to change. The emphasis here is on the development of the organization as a whole unlike management development, which highlights the progress of changing the behaviour of the individuals. This macro-level of change in turn, needs all the supports it can get from to top management for it to be effective and successful.
Organization development, as being implemented organization-wide also need the support of individuals throughout the organization as well as from the top-management level. OD is an effort to increase organization effectiveness and health shows that its objective is to improve the organization as a whole via enhancing efficiency and competitiveness of its workforce. Once the preparation is sufficient, using OD activities means planned intervention can proceed to make permanent changes to the processes within the organization. This is done using behavioural science knowledge, the knowledge gathered through the study of the interactions of business activities, understanding of the workforce, and the business system. It is important to realize that Beckhard’s definition of OD was developed in 1969, during which the business environment was very much relatively stable. T
oday’s organizations are however; operate in a more rapidly changing environment, OD should be more than a plan to improve organization effectiveness but the ability to manage and respond to changes. Bennis (1969) suggests OD emerge because of the three respective reasons, the need for new organizational form, the focus on cultural change within the organizations and the increase in social awareness. Bennis also describes OD as “a response to change, a complex educational strategy intended to change the beliefs, attitudes, values, and structures of organizations to that they are better able to adapt to new technologies, markets and challenges, and also the change itself”6 (Bennis, 1969). Harvey and Brown (2001) summarise the four things which they believe OD is not; OD not a micro approach to change, OD more than any single technique, OD does not include random or ad hoc changes and OD is aimed at more than raising moral or attitude.
Organizational change anticipates the need for a change. Once factors that may affect to the organization to change have been determined, OD can then be introduced and implemented within the organization. So OD is a long-term, planned, organization-wide application and with the support at all levels, it can then be implemented to improve the competitiveness, effectiveness and productivity of the organization. The OD’s intention and purpose coincides with that of organizational change in two main categories, one that emphasizes organizational efficiency to improve the overall organization performance and the other, which emphasizes environmental changes. To an extent, OD incorporates organizational change. Let’s now consider the process of OD.
The improvement of efficiency side of OD concerns the work of Kurt Lewin who introduced the ‘force field’ model to understand organizational change. Force field model suggests that organizations are in general, in a stable state, a state of equilibrium. This is driven by the two forces; driving forces and resisting forces cancelling each other out in order to maintain the organizational stability. Changes will only occur when the two forces are in the state of disequilibrium, which is when one force is stronger than the other is. The Force field model implies two fundamental concepts. The first that organization’s typical state is static (frozen), the organization then realizes the need for a change. To implement change, it must be unfrozen. Changes then take place before reverting or refreezing it into a frozen state. Second, we could split the organization into two groups, those that support the changes that those that oppose. This model highlights both the organizational change and organization development and how they complement each other to achieve the same purpose, to improve the organization.
Once the organization identifies that there is a need for changes, OD can then be implemented, an organization can adopt OD to improve the efficiency level. Leavitt (1965) suggested the ‘interrelatedness of change methods, whereby the ‘change in one variable usually results in changes in the other.’7 The argument here is that if there is a change in one area, this has an implication to another part i.e. if change the structure of the organization, this has an affect on people, as empowerment could both motivate and demotivate the workforce. The second argument here is that, if there is a problem in one area, organization can intervene in that area to solve the problem.
Where an organizational change in this essay, is only the process to identify the need for changes in the dynamic environment, OD implies the long-term plan, intervention process to improve the organization. Huse (1980) identified ten basic classifications of OD interventions. This includes (1) the intervention of the human process (training groups, individual consultation and process consultation), (2) technostructure (Job redesign, and TQM), (3) human resource management intervention (personnel systems, reward system and performance appraisal) and (4) strategic intervention (organizational redesign, and cultural change).
To conclude with, the nature of organizational change is very much at the core of organization development. Organizational change and organization development complement each other and are often referenced together. Both OD and organizational change have comparable purposes; to improve organization effectiveness and both emphasizes environmental changes. To an extent, OD incorporates organizational change. Organizational change is a stage of an OD program that detects and responses the need for change from an unplanned basis. Changes can be both planned and unplanned and OD is a deliberate process to improve the organization at all levels.
1. Harvey and Brown., An Experiential Approach to Organisation Development, Sixth Edition, Prentice Hall, 2001.
2. King and Anderson, Innovation and Change in organizations, Routledge, 1995.
3. W. French & C. Bell ‘Organisation Development’ 6th edition, 1999.
4. Oswick & D. Grant ‘ Organisational Development’, 1996.
5. Alvin Toffler, Future Shock, Reissure Edition, Bantam Books, 1991
6. Beckhard, “Organization development: Strategies and Models”, Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1969.
7. Bennis, W., Organization development: Its nature, origin and prospects. Addison-Wesley, Reading, MA, 1969.
8. Leavitt, H. J. (1965), “Applying Organizational Change in Industry: Structural, Technological, and Humanistic Approaches,” Handbook of Organizations, Rand McNally, Chicago, 1965.
9. Lectures note.
1 Harvey and Brown., An Experiential Approach to Organisation Development, Sixth Edition, Prentice Hall, 2001.
2 Alvin Toffler, Future Shock, Reissure Edition, Bantam Books, 1991
3 King and Anderson, Innovation and Change in organizations, Routledge, 1995.
4 C = Change, A = Dissatisfaction with the status quo, B = Clarity of Vision, D = Practical first steps and X = Cost of Change.
5 Beckhard, “Organization development: Strategies and Models”, Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley, 1969.
6 Bennis, W., Organization development: Its nature, origin and prospects. Addison-Wesley, Reading, MA, 1969.
7 Leavitt, H. J. (1965), “Applying Organizational Change in Industry: Structural, Technological, and Humanistic Approaches,” Handbook of Organizations, Rand McNally, Chicago, 1965.
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