What Is OD?

What is
Organisational Development?

Definition

Organisation Development (OD) is a specialist field of business psychology focused on understanding and improving the factors that need to exist to make an ‘effective organisation’.

It approaches the subject in a systemic and empirical way which means that any interventions are based on observable data and high-level understanding of what makes organisation tick.

Organisation Effectiveness (OE) is the standard achieved by the very best of organisations, measured from the perspectives of all of the stakeholders in the enterprise and not just reflecting the financial indices.

Academic Study and Practitioner Development

Organisation Development (OD) is just one of the many specialist fields of psychology, a social science which aims to understand what people do and why they do it.

Originally studied by philosophers as early as the Fourth Century BC it has evolved to be a mainstream social science over the last 150 years. The first university psychology department was set up at Harvard in 1905.

Organisation Development (OD) has emerged out of psychology in the last fifty years – not unlike the radical emergence of IT from the developing science of electronics.

The first serious studies of OD in the 1960’s were an attempt to answer the question ‘what do people do to create effective organisations?’ Since that time, many academics and practitioners have worked on studies and client assignments to test out the boundaries of OD and how it explains the ways in which organisations work.

The academic pursuit of the ‘perfect answer’ continues today although for many OD practitioners the summit was achieved by Warner Burke and George Litwin in 1992 with their 12-Factor model.

The OD consultancy client list of today now reads like a who’s who of enterprises – GEC, Apple, Samsung, BP, United Health, Toyota and Amazon have all turned to OD experts at appropriate moments in their development.