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December 21, 2009

Organization Development


Organizational Development (OD) is a long ranged planned effort to improve an organization’s operations through a more effective utilization of organizational resources. In simple terms it can be understood as a complex strategy intended to change the beliefs, attitudes, values, and structure of organizations so that it can better adapt to new technologies, markets, and challenges. OD is neither “anything done to better an organization” nor is it “the training function of the organization”; it is a particular kind of change process designed to bring about a particular kind of end result. OD can involve interventions in the organization’s “processes,” using behavioural science knowledge as well as organizational reflection, system improvement, planning, and self-analysis. OD focuses on the organization as a network of people and as an entity with its own identity and personality.

Kurt Lewin (1898 - 1947) is widely recognized as the founding father of OD, although he died before the concept became popular in the mid-1950s.


As objectives of organizational development are framed keeping in view specific situations, they vary from one situation to another. In other words, these programs are tailored to meet the requirements of a particular situation. But broadly speaking, all organizational development programs try to achieve the following objectives:

· Deepen the sense of organizational purpose so as to make the individuals in the organization aware of the vision of the organization. Organizational development helps in making employees align with the vision of the organization.

· Encouraging employees to solve problems instead of avoiding them.

· Strengthening inter-personnel trust, cooperation, and communication for the successful achievement of organizational goals.

· Encourage every individual to participate in the process of planning, thus making them feel responsible for the implementation of the plan.

· Creating a work atmosphere in which employees are encouraged to work and participate enthusiastically.

· Replacing formal lines of authority with personal knowledge and skill based authority

· Creating an environment of trust so that employees willingly accept change.

· Develop a satisfying work experience

According to organizational development thinking, organization development provides managers with a vehicle for introducing change systematically by applying a broad selection of management techniques. This, in turn, leads to greater personal, group, and organizational effectiveness.


The HR Consultant in any firm is the first line of access to OD services. The OD specialist may be called in where there are group or team issues, like the following:

· To help assess or diagnose group or team issues.

·To facilitate new and existing team development.

·To provide coaching and support during change and transition.

To support groups/teams in learning new skills together (e.g. to improve communication, meetings, decision making etc.).

·To resolve inter or intra-team problems or conflicts.

·To provide strategic planning support and facilitation.

·To assess and help in diagnosis of organizational structure issues.

For example, if an organization has internal teamwork issues, it can be addressed by taking any number of approaches. A seasoned and experienced OD specialist can expand the options available. However, OD’s strategic role is not to seek an immediate solution but to explore the roots of the problem. Approaching an issue this way is the difference between putting on a band-aid on a serious wound or having the necessary surgery done.


The organizational development process consists of 3 major steps:

  1. Diagnosis:

The first step involves diagnosis of the present situation in an organization. Change agents collect the required information through interviews, questionnaires, internal documents, records, and reports. Usually, a diagnostic strategy is developed using two or more methods of data collection after their respective strengths and weaknesses have been considered.

  1. Intervention:

After the situation is diagnosed, organizational development interventions or change strategies can be designed and implemented with the help of a change agent. Some of the organizational development intervention techniques are:

Process consultation

Survey Feedback

Team building

Sensitivity Training

Appreciative inquiry

Intergroup development

A few of these will be discussed in detail further on.

3. Evaluation:

Organizational development is directed towards long-term change. Organizational development programs have to be monitored on a regular basis. An accurate evaluation of organizational development interventions is dependent on the accurate diagnosis of the current situation and the clear identification of the desired results.


1. Process consultation

When a manger senses that his teams or group’s performance can be improved, but not what can be improved or how, he gets an outside consultant. The consultant assists the manager to perceive, understand and act upon process events with which the manager deals with. Process events include work flow, informal relationships among unit members, and formal communication channels. This assumes that problems can be solved and organizational effectiveness can be improved by dealing with inter-personal problems.

The consultant concentrates on the way the team works, rather than what it is working on. He helps the team solve its own problems. He should understand group dynamics, conflict resolution, and manager/leader development. The consultant guides or coaches the manager get insight into what is going on around him, within him and between him and other people. He advises manager on the process to solve his or her own problems. The diagnosis is done jointly. Process consultation enhances group effectiveness, shorten meeting times, and address conflict. It helps teams to work together more effectively.

The benefits of the consultant last long after he has left as the manager develops the skill to analyze process within his or her unit. Another advantage of this method is that active participation of manager ensures that in both the diagnosis and development of alternatives, there is greater understanding of the process and the remedy and less resistance to the action plan chosen.

2. Team Building

Team building aims at improving overall performance through task orientation. Team building has been considered the most popular OD technique in recent years. It aims at improving overall performance, tends to be more task-oriented, and can be used with family groups (members from the same unit) as well as special groups (such as task forces, committees and inter-departmental groups).

There are five major elements involved in team building:

· Problem solving, decision making, role clarification and goal setting for accomplishing the assigned tasks;

· Building and maintaining effective inter-personal relationships;

· Understanding and managing group processes and culture;

· Role analysis techniques for role clarification and definition; and

· Role negotiation techniques.

As part of the OD process, teams are used as a way of responding quickly to changing work processes and environments; they are encouraged and motivated to take the initiative in making suggestions for improving work processes and products. The term team can refer to intact work groups, new work units, or people from different parts of an organization who must work together to achieve a common goal. Teams can be traditionally managed by an appointed leader or manager or self-managed. Often team building begins with a diagnostic session, held away from the workplace, where the team's members examine their strengths and weaknesses. The goal of team building is to improve the effectiveness of work teams by refining interpersonal interactions, improving communication, and clarifying goals and tasks in order to improve overall effectiveness in accomplishing goals. In ideal circumstances, team building is a continual process that includes periodic self-examination and development exercises. Managers must continually develop and maintain strategies for effective team performance by building trust and keeping lines of communication open.

3. Intergroup development

Inter-group development aims at overall OD. During this phase, conflict situations between groups are identified and analysed. It seeks to change the attitudes, stereotypes and perceptions that groups have of each other. Most stereotypes have a negative impact on coordination efforts between the departments. Among several methods for improving intergroup relations, a popular one is problem solving. In this method, each group meets independently to develop lists of its perception of itself, the other group and how it believes the other group perceives it. The groups then share their lists, after which similarities and differences are discussed. Once the causes of any difficulty have been identified, the groups then move to the next phase where they work together to develop solutions that will improve relations between the groups.

4. Appreciative inquiry

Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is an organizational development process or philosophy that engages individuals within an organizational system in its renewal, change and focused performance. Inquiry is a particular way of asking questions and envisioning the future that fosters positive relationships and builds on the basic goodness in a person, a situation, or an organization. In so doing, it enhances a system’s capacity for collaboration and change. Appreciative Inquiry utilizes a cycle of 4 processes focusing on:

1. Discover: The identification of organizational processes that work well.

2. Dream: The envisioning of processes that would work well in the future.

3. Design: Planning and prioritizing processes that would work well.

4. Destiny (or Deliver): The implementation (execution) of the proposed design.

Evaluative Questions

¢ What are the big problems in this organization?

¢ Why have systems and procedures not worked?

Appreciative Questions

¢ Under what circumstances is this organization most effective?

¢ What systems and procedures are most effective?

The basic idea is to build organizations around what works, rather than trying to fix what doesn’t. It is the opposite of problem solving. Instead of focusing on gaps and inadequacies in order to find blame and rectify skills or practices, AI focuses on how to create more of the exceptional performances that occur because a core of strengths is aligned. The approach acknowledges the contribution of individuals, in order to increase trust and organizational alignment. The method aims to create meaning by drawing from stories of concrete successes and lends itself to cross-industrial social activities. As it is a method that only focuses on what is positive and effective, it is a method that is quite popular and enjoyable.

5. Sensitivity Training

It is based on the work of Kurt Levin and Ronald Lippit. It is also known as laboratory training, encounter groups or T-groups (Training groups).

How to know if your employees might be insensitive:

Ø When addressing a customer, you overhear:
“I’m sick and tired of you calling me about this problem. Call someone who cares.”

Ø When addressing a co-worker, you overhear:
“You remind me of someone who is annoying, disorganized and late all the time.”

Ø When addressing a subordinate, you overhear:
“How can someone your age be so dumb?”

Some people are born missing a “sensitivity chip.” Others seem to be graced with a sensitive and empathetic nature. Providing customers with excellent service and treating co-workers respectfully really means being empathetic – the ability to be sensitive to the thoughts and feelings of others and to treat them as you want to be treated.

Why should you care if your employees are sensitive to others?
When employees’ behaviours are the antithesis of diplomacy and tact, they can hurt and take down your business. In short, you should care based on three practical business reasons:

1. Sensitive employees are more likely to treat co-workers with respect.

2. Sensitive employees are more likely to treat customers with respect.

3. Respected employees and respected customers help your bottom line.

In addition to the above, there are legal and compliance concerns affecting employers. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) enforces federal laws and regulations that specify how employees, including supervisors, must treat one another in the workplace.

Sensitivity training is basically the method of changing behaviour through unstructured group interaction. This form of training claims to make people more aware of their own prejudices, and more sensitive to others. The members of the group, under the guidance of a leader achieve certain objectives. The objectives are to provide the subjects with increased awareness of their own behaviour and how other perceive them, greater sensitivity to the behaviour of others and increased understanding of group processes. It does not aim to make people conform to a certain acceptable norms and ideas. Rather it wants people to be self-aware of the biases and prejudices they carry and broaden their tolerance such as on race, religion etc.

One of the distinct features of the modern work place is its diversity and multicultural atmosphere. It contains people from different culture, races, ethnicities, religions etc. In such an environment, lack of sensitivity and concern for the feelings and sensitivities of people can seriously damage the work-ethos and generate ill-feeling. Besides, perpetrators of such acts become a source of embarrassment and liability of the organization. T-groups can help here as the professional can encourage the members to discuss and confront their beliefs.


A sensitivity training program requires 3 steps:

1)Unfreezing the old values:

It requires that the trainees become aware of the inadequacy of the old values. This can be done when the trainee faces dilemma in which his old values are not able to provide proper guidance. The first step consists of a small procedure:

Ø An unstructured group of 10-15 people is formed.

Ø Without an objective, the group looks to the trainer for guidance. (A trained leader is generally present to help maintain a psychologically safe atmosphere in which participants feel free to express themselves and experiment with new ways of dealing with others.)

Ø But the trainer refuses to provide guidance or assume leadership

Ø Soon the trainees are motivated to resolve the uncertainty by themselves

Ø To this end, they try to form some hierarchy. Some try assume the leadership role which may or may not be liked by other trainees.

Ø Then, they start understanding what they wish to do and come up with alternative ways of dealing with the situation.

2) Development of new values:

With the trainer’s support, trainees begin to examine their interpersonal behaviour and give each other feedback. The reasoning of the feedbacks are discussed which motivates trainees to experiment with range of new behaviours and values. This process constitutes the second step in the change process of the development of these values.

3) Refreezing the new ones:

This step depends upon how much opportunity the trainees get to practice their new behaviours and values at their work place.

T-Groups and Johari Window

A Johari window shows the following categories of behaviour:

  1. Arena
  2. Facade
  3. Blind Spot
  4. Unknown

Behaviour that can be described as ‘Arena’ is perceived and known both by the individual and by everyone else. ‘Facade’ behaviour refers to facts, emotions and feelings that an individual is aware of, but that he deliberately chooses not to share with anyone else. ‘Blind Spot’ behaviour describes those actions and manners of behaviour that have an effect on others but of which the individual is unaware. ‘Unknown’ is that behaviour that both the individual and others are unaware of.

The aim of the T-Group is to help individuals realize and understand these various aspects of their behaviour and then to make changes if they so choose. The boundaries of behaviour are first, unfrozen; second, the individual receives new knowledge and insights and may choose to incorporate them in his behaviour; and third, these new boundaries are ‘frozen’. In a T-Group, a member is able to use each other member as a mirror of his own behaviour, through the process of feedback.

However, within this process lie both the strength and the weakness of this form of learning. The strength is that new knowledge about oneself can be achieved and can result in genuine growth and development of the person. The weakness is that the process involves emotions and feelings that can be extremely painful when past behaviour is analyzed and new ways of behaving are considered.

6. Survey feedback

It is a tool to assess the attitudes of organizational members, identify discrepancies among their perceptions and solve these differences. The survey is necessarily taken by the manager of a given unit and all employees reporting to him/her. The questions are either suggested by the members or are formulated after interviewing the members to determine the relevant issues. The questionnaire looks to find the member’s perception and attitudes on a range of topics like decision-making practices; communication effectiveness; coordination between units and satisfaction with the organization, job, peers and their immediate supervisors.

The data is tabulated with data pertaining to a member’s unit and also the entire organization and distributed to the members. The data is used to identify problems and clarify issues creating difficulties for people. Discussions are encouraged with focus on the issues and ideas brought to light by the survey. These should result in members identifying possible implications of the questionnaire findings. For e.g. Are new ideas being generated? Can decision making and inter-personal relations be improved? It is hoped that answers to these will result in the group being committed to various actions that will eliminate the identified problems.

Employee Satisfaction Survey (ESAT)

There are two primary methodologies for conduction employee satisfaction surveys -- Internet and paper-and-pencil. If all employees or substantially all employees have access to the Internet from work, Internet is the recommended methodology. It generally results in a higher response rate and is faster than paper-and-pencil. It also give a bit more control in terms of how the questions are presented and gives the ability to require that certain questions must be answered. A secure server is used, so there is no issue with regard to confidentiality of sending results when an Internet survey is done.


1) It is easy and fast to analyze.

2) It is efficient to administer once developed; only involves costs of duplication, postage and analysis, which may be avoided /minimized if using the web.

3) It is easy to customize to fit an organization’s vocabulary and needs for specific information.

4) It can assure anonymity, which is important especially when gathering sensitivity information.


1) It is difficult and time consuming to develop a sound and clear survey.

2) It makes getting an acceptable response rate difficult.

3) The same words may be interpreted differently by respondents.

4) It usually collects only objective, countable data, lacking in stories or explanation.

5) It may encourage respondents to provide socially desirable responses rather than

accurate responses.


In India, O.D. and planned change started in the early 1960s.A group of Indian professionals trained at the National Training Laboratories (NTL) at Bethel, Maine, USA, brought out a good deal of O.D. technology in India. Grid programs were initiated and widely used in the Small Industries Extension Training (SIET) Institute, Hyderabad, State Bank of India and in the Indian Institute of Management (UM) programs in the mid 1960s.In the mid-1970s, O.D. was first introduced in India in Larsen and Toubro as a formal and structured part of the HRD department.

A few of the professional bodies In India in the field of OD are: ISABS (Indian Society for Applied Behavioural Sciences), Indian Society for Individual and Social Development (ISISD), Indian Society for Training & Development (ISTD), and the HRD Network, and academic institutions such as the IIMs (Indian Institute of Management.

The present day scenario is that O.D. has emerged as a specialized function in the management profession. About two decades ago, when O.D. was introduced in India, there were only one or two organizations practicing the concept. Today, one out of ten business organizations has an O.D. department or facilitator, or at least has institutionalized O.D. mechanisms. Trained O.D. consultants offering their services for initiating and implementing the O.D. effort are also now available. Even the voluntary, non-profit and public sector organizations have realized the importance of O.D. for their survival and growth. While the basic concepts and mechanisms have been studied in the west, they have been altered and developed to suit the largely relationship driven culture of Indian organizations leading to very favourable changes both structurally and culturally in many of them.


“You can’t pretend that there’s a magic OD formula. There are no ten things to do to solve all problems. It’s about people and their personalities. There’s no resolution but through interaction and day to day management, you can’t ever pretend that things will disappear with OD.”(Don Harker, MACED).

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