Balancing output and human needs

Aaron Pun, a management consultant with the City of Toronto and organizational development expert, explains that while OD is a discipline, some organizations have named these professionals or units delivering these services as organization effectiveness or management consulting. Hence, there is always a blur in the definition. Below he provides a selection of definitions of OD.

Aaron Pun, City of Toronto: OD is the application of behavioural science knowledge to the development of organizational strategies, structures and processes for enhancing organization and employee effectiveness. The discipline embraces humanitarian values in bringing about the changes. OD is not focused on individual cases but rather the system as a whole. It addresses strategic issues affecting bottom-line results and enterprise-wide productivity with a holistic view, balancing output and quality of life. They should be grounded in humanistic and democratic values and the OD practitioners should be competent behavioural scientists and apply theories and intervention methods such as strategic planning, change leadership, process re-engineering, team alignment and organizational learning.

Richard Beckhard, MIT: An organization-wide effort planned, managed from the top, to increase organization effectiveness and health through planned interventions in the organization’s “processes,” using behavioural-science knowledge.
Robert Blake and Jane Mouton, Scientific Methods, Inc.: Organization development means development of the entire organization or self-sustaining parts of an organization. True organization development is theory-based, team-focused, and undertaken by means of self-help approaches which place a maximum reliance upon internal skills and leadership for development activities. It is top-led, line-managed and staff-supported. Development activities focus on the “system,” those traditions, precedents and past practices which have become the culture of the organization. Therefore, development must include individual, team and other organization units rather than concentrating on any one to the exclusion of others. Organization development is thus this comprehensive approach which integrates the management sciences, business logic and behavioural systems of an organization into an organic, interdependent whole.

Leland Bradford, National Training Laboratories: Work, and the organizational structure in which work usually takes place, can provide a number of very important human needs: goal achievement, affirmation, a feeling of belonging to a work group, all leading to a sense of usefulness, self-esteem. Generally as these needs are met, productivity for the organization increases. Conversely, when the work task, for whatever reason, prevents feelings of personal satisfaction, achievement and contribution, when insensitive supervision or management dehumanizes the worker, production, both qualitatively and quantitatively, tends to decrease. It would appear, then, that the purpose of OD efforts should be to create a perfect correspondence between organizational goals, purposes and values on the one hand and the satisfaction of such human needs as achievement, affirmation and self-esteem. But such perfect correspondence in our imperfect world — with hierarchical structures containing built-in conflict, with often profound differences between organizational goals and individual desires, with overpowering resistances to basic changes — becomes impossible.

Warner Burke, Teachers College, Columbia University: Organization development is a process of change in an organization’s culture through the utilization of behavioural science technology, research and theory. More specifically, for an intervention in an organization to be OD, it must (1) respond to a felt need on the part of the client, (2) involve directly and collaboratively the client in the planning and implementing of the intervention, and (3) lead to change in the organization’s culture.

Larry Greiner, University of Southern California: A process of intervention in an organization to influence its long-term development through: a focus on behavioural processes, an emphasis on a broad range of humanistic values, a concern for coping ability in solving problems and exploring opportunities for growth.

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