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What is Organisational Development?

Concepts & Definitions Human Capital Management

Organisation Development is an objectives based approach to systems change within an organisation. Organisation Development enables organisations to build and sustain a new desired state for the entire organisation.

Organisation development can be achieved through either a change communication process or supported by software applications. Employee behavioural patterns will allow organisational development professionals to observe and examine situations and contemplate modifications, which may then be put into place to achieve effective organisational change.

A large factor for a successful organisation is the organisation culture. This includes executives, managers and employees. In order to understand the organisation culture and to evaluate the positives and negatives of the working environment an evaluation method is required.  This can include employee reviews, 360 degree feedback, and training assessments to establish if the training provided is producing the required objectives.

According to Human Synergistics:

Research has found links between culture and performance.”

Organisational culture can be changed, and by understanding the organisation norms and expectations a strategy can be established to realise the organisation’s objectives. In a global market it is a requirement that a successful organisation can adapt to change according to the external environment.

“To develop a workforce that can adjust to the constant flow of change, our experience points us to three focus areas critical to effective change management strategy.

First is employee engagement – finding ways of getting key stakeholders actively involved in the change process itself.

Second, organisational incentives need to be aligned so that employees see a positive tangible outcome as the result of the change.

Finally, companies must establish communication channels that build trust and credibility among employees, engage key stakeholders who can amplify and reinforce key messages through their own personal spheres of influence, and solicit feedback on an ongoing basis.”

According to Warren Bennis, organisational development is a complex strategy intended to change the beliefs, attitudes, values, and structure of organisations so that they can better adapt to new technologies, markets, and challenges.

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The process of Organisational Development


Following the method of the Action-Research Process, an organisation must first become aware of problems as yet unidentified through a process of diagnosis. The second stage involves learning and executing behavioural and/or procedural changes in the organisation.

This Action stage is a period of  attempting and seeking new forms of behaviour in an effort to understand and cope with the system’s problems or inefficiencies. The final stage provides results from actual changes in behaviour following the corrective action steps taken. Information is again gathered and analysed to fine tune any adjustments further.


  1. ‍Changes in behaviour
  2. Data gathering measurement


  1. ‍Learning processes
  2. Action planning
  3. Action steps


  1. ‍Preliminary diagnosis
  2. Data gathering
  3. Action Planning

Systems Model of Action-Research Process

Today’s Organisations must be able to modify and adjust systems in order to adapt to increasingly complex and uncertain technological, economic, political and cultural changes. Three major trends have precipitated the need of Organisation Development as an enabler for survival from:

  1. Globalisation is changing the markets and   environments in which organisations operate as well as the way they function.
  2. Information Technology is changing how work is performed and knowledge is used.
  3. Managerial Innovation has both responded to the globalization and information technology and accelerated their impact on organisations


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Why bother with Organisation Development?

Human Resources

Employees are usually a large proportion of organisation operating costs. How employees are lead and managed and the environment in which they operate can make the difference between organisational success and failure. It is critical the organisation understands how to manage them.

Changing nature of the workplace

Workers today want feedback on their performance, a sense of accomplishment, feelings of value and worth, and commitment to social responsibility. They must also be more efficient, to improve their time management. And, of course, if we continue doing more work with reduced employee numbers, we need to make our processes more efficient.

Global markets

Our environments are changing, and our organisations must also change to survive these challenges. Organisations need to be more responsible and develop closer partnerships with our customers. In order to survive, it is critical to attack the problems, not the symptoms, in a systematic, planned, socially responsible manner.

Accelerated rate of change

Competition exists on an international scale for people, capital, physical resources, and information.

When is the right time?

When is an organisation ready for Organisational Development?

There is a formula, attributed to David Gleicher (3, 4), which can be used to decide if an organisation is ready for change:

Dissatisfaction x Vision x First Steps > Resistance to Change

This means that three components must all be present to overcome the resistance to change in an organisation: Dissatisfaction with the present situation, a vision of what is possible in the future, and achievable first steps towards reaching this vision. If any of the three is zero or near zero, the product will also be zero or near zero and the resistance to change will dominate.

This model is used as an easy, quick diagnostic aid to decide if change is possible. Organisational Development can bring approaches to the organisation that will enable these three components to surface, so that the process of change can begin.

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