Organization development is a conceptual, organization-wide effort to increase an organization’s effectiveness and viability. Warren Bennis has referred to OD as a response to change, a complex educational strategy intended to change the beliefs, attitudes, values, and structure of an organization so that it can better adapt to new technologies, markets, challenges, and the dizzying rate of change itself. 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 organizational reflection, system improvement, planning and self-analysis.
Kurt Lewin (1898–1947) is widely recognized as the founding father of OD, although he died before the concept became current in the mid-1950s. From Lewin came the ideas of group dynamics and action research which underpin the basic OD process as well as providing its collaborative consultant/client ethos. Institutionally, Lewin founded the “Research Center for Group Dynamics” (RCGD) at MIT, which moved to Michigan after his death. RCGD colleagues were among those who founded the National Training Laboratories (NTL), from which the T-group and group-based OD emerged. In the UK, the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations was important in developing systems theories. The joint TIHR journal Human Relations was an early journal in the field. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Sciences is now the leading journal in the field.