organizational development

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is a term used to cover a set of tools and techniques designed to improve the effectiveness of an organization. In particular, it has been used to assist in the process of managing change. Typically, external change agents (consultants) are brought in to diagnose the organization and propose a set of techniques (usually based on social psychology) to improve human interaction in the internal processes of the organization. Such interventions might include tools and techniques designed to improve communication, or develop team spirit, or assess the appropriateness of one's leadership style. The focus of OD is on people: improving social interaction. It is therefore often disparaged as the ‘soft side’, or ‘touchy-feely’ side of management. It focuses on attitudes and values, so managers are often sceptical of the techniques and methods that OD practitioners use. OD was popular in the 1970s and the term is currently out of fashion, although many of the ideas are alive and kicking in a new guise—for example, techniques for analysing group roles and stages of group development have received new impetus with the current emphasis on teamworking in organizations; similarly, techniques for improving communication and creative thinking have re-emerged with the interest in Total Quality Management. In other words, although the term OD is rarely used in organizations and not often found in management textbooks, the basic techniques and ideas have been repackaged and are still being used by consultants and practitioners to address contemporary organizational problems and initiate change—particularly the management of culture.

Subjects: Human Resource Management.

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