Organization Development: Strategies and Models

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Richard Beckhard in his book (strategies and model of Organization Development) defines Organization Development (OD) as a planned, top down, organization wide effort to increase the organization’s effectiveness and health. OD is a process that takes place in an already existing organization and it is mainly for adjustments purposes. In a world that is moving so fast, changes in attitudes, values, technology , management structures, Human Resource development to name but a few are indispensable if an organization is expected to keep at pace with the other organizations. This process is however not a haphazard but rather a deliberate move geared to change specific elements in an organization. At the onset of any organization, its leadership set benchmarks and objectives that it looks forward to achieving and thus any change to be implemented must be directed towards achieving the those goals. It is therefore not just an improvement strategy where everything is made to run well but a well thought plan that is meant to bring a particular kind of result. (Richard Beckhard 1969).

Though organization Development is concerned with other aspects of the organization such technological advance, market researches, financial analysis etc., its main objective is to help people in that organization to have better working relationships. At the core of any organization is two or more people who have come together to work as an entity. The ongoing and effectiveness of any organization is dependent on how these two or more people supplement or compliment one another. An OD practitioner moves into an organization with one goal of helping the organization identify and solve its own problems. An OD practitioner’s is basically like that of facilitator, one who guides people to come up with solutions for their own working together. He helps them diagnose the problem; causes of conflicts in their relationships, collect and analyze data including challenges in their relationships, and come up with ways which they think they can help them improve their relationships and finally helps with the strategic Action; steps that they can take to ensure that the best working relationships are achieved in that organization.

The world is moving so fast and social-economic changes are making it even harder to identify maintain one set of rules to govern relationships. The issue of interdependency can no longer be ignored. A lot of economic affect either directly or indirectly the performance of an employee. Issues such as organizational restructures, acquisition and mergers, down sizing, outsourcing among many others affect relationships in any given organizations. Employees undergo process of trauma and start seeing others as threats instead of workmates and this leads to automatic performance reduction. Organizations are therefore finding it prudent to deal with emotion based issues and this is going a long way in improving performance. Employees are provided with forums where they can openly discuss their fears and recommend what they feel will best sort their problems. It is from this feedback that the management of an organization engage in a process of solutions finding (DeKler, 2007).

Action Research

Action research is a process of identifying problems, looking into how to solve them, and finally engaging in activities that help solve those problems. According to Kurt Lewin, action research is divided into three main categories which include unfreezing, change and refreezing. The unfreezing stage is when a person or a group of people are affected by the ongoing trends of events and are searching for a way out. This basically is the diagnosing stage where people are able to identify issues that are affecting their relationships and subsequent growth of the company. Once this has been done, the individuals or group of people come up with ways or solutions to their problems. It is at this stage they are able to give specific areas of need specific attention. This is also the stage where behaviours are suggested and tested. The third and final stage is the freezing stage where the already suggested and tested behaviours are now adopted.

The action research process is therefore like a cycle which starts with an input; during this stage as discussed earlier is where the diagnosis, planning, and gathering of feedback is done. At this stage the client is aided by a change agent or OD practitioner to identify issues affecting his work environment and also coming up with suggested solutions. It is also during this stage that new challenges are discovered and the client is made well aware of other hidden shortcomings that were first not identified, then the following stage is the transformation one. It is during this stage that the client is taken through a process of trying out his own feedback strategy as suggested in stage one under the guidance of the OD practitioner. During this stage there is a lot of learning that goes on since though the client might have suggested ways in which to resolve his problems, he might not know how to go about it and therefore there is a lot of input here on the part of change agent in order to help his client achieve his goals. output stage is regarded to be the last stage. This stage includes actual change in behavior according to the lessons learnt during the transformation stage. It is during this stage that reforms are made or a complete overhaul is done. Incase there is too many adjustments to be made at this stage, the issues are taken to stage one to undergo the whole process again this can however be avoided by use of OD interventions.( Kurt 1958).

Organization Development Intervention

OD interventions are activities that can be used either individually or in a group set up to improve social or task performance. Depending on the necessity, intervention can either be introduced by change client who is the person responsible for guiding employees or the organizational management structure itself. Interventions activities include means of data collection e.g. questionnaires, interviews, surveys, groups discussions etc. When choosing a strategy for interventions it is important to first note that people support what they are involved in creating. It is important to appreciate that it is the people who are ailing and therefore they are the only ones who can come up with solutions. Again when people are allowed to be involved in organizing activities, they automatically acquire ownership and it will not be a hassle to make them participates in the activities and this will result to more effectiveness. As we said before action research is geared towards improving a particular area, it is important therefore to let participators gauge themselves on the set goals instead of imposing on them managerial set of rules and regulations. Since organizations are made up of people who are supposed and expected to work together, it is important to let people collaborate and work together as opposed to making them feel like they are competing against each other since this will lead to withholding of resource for the common goal among many other setbacks. Finally, it is prudent to recognize the fact that health decision making is found where sources of information are. We have already established that organizations’ employees do need a helper preferably an outsider although this will depend on the type of the problem to be solved. Change agents are expected to be well prepared since action research is not easy as we will see later in this paper. A change agent is expected to be able to identify real need for change, be able to garner not just adequate but genuine support from management, have a working knowledge and expertise of the area in question and finally be able to lead by setting an example. (Wendell Cecil 1973)

Action Research Challenges

Though action research is meant to improve the underlying situation, there are challenges that affect the process. Action research critiques claim that many action research studies abort at either the diagnosis stage or the implementation stage. Foster 1972 criticize action research as an effort that produces a lot research without action and vice versa. This critic states that there are lot researches that are done but are passed by time before they are implemented or they generally lack the will power to actualize them. The critic goes on to say that there has to be adequate resource to both fund and maintain the action research otherwise it is just a waste of not only time and money but also waste of personnel. Action Research is also blamed for lacking internal and external control. Critiques Marris and Rein claim that there is no connection between the research and its practicability. They say that there is a possibility of doing a research that will not be implemented either because of lack of funds or because of it being passed by time.

At the onset of any organization, its leadership set benchmarks and objectives that it looks forward to achieving. Just like expecting mothers, both trained and non-trained leaders of organizations eagerly accept responsibilities oblivious of the challenges ahead, only to face the reality before they go too far. Organizations are also like babies, they grow, develop, expand and their demands almost get overwhelming at the hands of their leaders. This process is unfortunately never foreseen to be challenging. At first decision making is easy, equipments needed are not too expensive, personnel is easy to find and pay, expenditure are always manageable and everything is rather too simple. However this is not always the case, as organization grows the ever increasing financial, expansion, technology, management and personnel demands can easily bog the leaders down if not handled well the organization can easily come to a close.

Carr and Kemmis argue that for any action must be directed towards practice, understanding of the practice by the practitioners and the improvement of the situation that the practice takes place. They are concerned with not only the improvement of the situation but also the involvement of all stakeholders. Brown el al (1982) argues that there can only be success if the strategic actions taken measure up to the original goals of the research. Goals and objective of the any organization’s leader for any action research is that it improves, changes the situation while involving the people concerned. The changes must be relevant to the particular situation since as we said earlier Organization Development is directed to specific situations.


As we have seen in this paper organization development is mainly concerned with the human resource element of an organization. Organizations should therefore invest a lot of money for training, development and improvement of the OD practitioners. Professional mal treatment that has characterized many organizations has made OD become difficult because of underplaying the major players of OD. Poor remuneration, and limited training resources for development have made organizations perform poorly especially with the fast changing times where professional development is key to any organization’s success.


Richard Arvid Johnson (1976). Management, systems, and society Goodyear Pub Co.

Richard Beckhard (1969). Organization development: strategies and models. Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley.

Wendell L and Cecil Bell (1973) Organization development: behavioral science interventions for organization improvement. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall.

Richard Arvid Johnson (1976). Management, systems, and society an introduction. Pacific Palisades, Calif.: Goodyear Pub. Co. pp. 223–229 ISBN 0876205406 9780876205402 OCLC 2299496.

Bradford, D.L. & Burke, (2005), Reinventing Organization Development. San Francisco: Pfeiffer.

DeKler M. (2007). Healing emotional trauma in organizations: An O.D. Framework and case study. Organizational Development Journal, 25(2), 49-56.

Kurt Lewin (1958). Group Decision and Social Change New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston. pp. 201

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