Organizational development represents a field of research and associated theory designed to expand the knowledge and effectiveness of individuals to accomplish more effective, successful organizational performance and change. OD grew out of studies of human relations undertaken during the 1930s. During this time period, psychologists recognized that organizations and their associated processes directly influenced worker motivation and behavior. There exist five elements of the OD process:

  • Data collection
  • Data feedback and confrontation
  • Action planning and problem-solving
  • Use of interventions
  • Evaluation and follow-up

Data Collection

The collection of raw data is the first step of the OD process. Data collection typically is accomplished primarily by the use of surveys. These surveys are designed to ascertain the overall organization climate. They are also used to identify problems within the organization, including behavior issues.

As a matter of practice, surveys and interviews typically are conducted offsite. Data may be gathered via one-on-one interviews as well as in group settings.

Obtaining information in this manner is intended to glean raw data for further analysis. It is also designed to establish a baseline of an organization’s present level of operations which is utilized for later comparison as the DO process progresses.

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Data Feedback and Confrontation

After the collection of raw data, the next phase of the OD process is what typically is referred to as data feedback and confrontation. The second phase usually involves the establishment of different work groups to consider data as it relates to a particular part of the organization of a specific set of interrelated issues. This element of the DO process usually includes:

  • Review collected data
  • Mediate areas of disagreement
  • Delineate priorities of organizational change

Action Planning and Problem Solving

Following the data feedback and confrontation process, the work groups engage in action planning and problem-solving. At this organizational development process stage, workgroups utilize the collected and organized data to craft specific recommendations for change.

Action plans must be highly specific. This includes designated individuals responsible for different elements of an action plan. Specific milestones and deadlines are also established. In the end, this stage illustrates the underlying objective of DO, which is “leveraging systemic thinking for new solutions,” according to Forbes magazine.

Use of Interventions

The third element of the comprehensive OD process is what oftentimes if referred to as interventions. Based on what is brought forth in the planning and problem-solving phase, a determination is made as to what types of interventions are necessary in order to enhance an organization and the individuals associated with an enterprise.

The nature and scope of interventions depend wholly upon the problems identified during the earlier stages of the DO process. Interventions might focus on specific individuals, groups of individuals or teams, divisions or departments, or the total organization itself.

Evaluation and Follow-up

Finally, a thorough evaluation of the DO process is undertaken. The evaluation component includes a determination of areas in which additional follow-up may be needed.

Once completed, the DO process places an organization, and its human capital, onto a positive course. When undertaken properly and completely, organizational development truly can leverage systemic thought in a process that results in innovative and effective solutions.