What is Organizational Development (OD)? Definition, Features, Process, Models, and Interventions

What is Organizational Development (OD)?

Organizational development (OD) is a long-run plan to change the behavioral attitudes and performance of the organization. It is a process of improving organizational efficiency through planned change. Its foremost aim is to advance the overall working performance of the organization. The OD model values human and organizational growth and collaborative and participative processes.

The concept of organizational development was first introduced by Richard Beckhard in the mid of 1950s to integrate organizational and individual interest in change. The technology, market, competitor strategies, etc. have been changing according to time and situation.

For an effective response to a change in environment, it is necessary to change beliefs, values, attitudes, and organizational structures. A planned change must be initiated in every component and resource to cope with the change for developing the overall efficiency of an organization through behavioral modification.

  • Griffin R.W. – Organizational development is the process of planned change and improvement of the organization through the application of knowledge of the behavioral science
  • Robbins S.P. – Organizational development is a collection of planned change interventions, built on humanistic-democratic values, that seek to improve organizational effectiveness and employee well-being.

Thus, the concept of organizational development is not easy to define in a single concept. It emphasizes human aspects rather than mechanistic aspects. The main motive of OD is to initiate an organization more adjustable and innovative so that efficiency can be maintained on change.

For this purpose, education and training culture must encourage the organization to ensure planned change to adapt to changing environment.

OD Value (Key Benefits)

The key organizational development values are:

  • Respect For People: Individuals are perceived as being responsible, conscientious, and caring. They should be treated with dignity and respect.
  • Trust and Support: The effective and healthy organization is characterized by trust, authenticity, openness, and a supportive climate.
  • Power Equalization: Effective organizations deemphasize hierarchal authority and control.
  • Confrontation: Problems should not be swept under the rug. They should be openly confronted.
  • Participation: The more people who will be affected by the change are involved in decision-making, the more they will be committed to implementing those decisions.

Characteristics of Organizational Development (OD Characteristics)

The common characteristics/features of organizational development are:

Characteristics of
Organizational Development

Long Term Plan

OD is a planned approach to managing change. It emphasizes a long-term plan to improve the working efficiency of the organization.


OD is a broad-based approach implemented to a comprehensive change in the overall system of the organization. These changes involve organizational redesign, changes in organizational philosophies, culture, system, skills, etc. These changes are initiated to adapt the organizational performance on the basis of time.

Dynamic Process

OD is a dynamic process and amendable on the basis of requirements. It needs investment in huge capital and time to modify its systems and procedures. It is an ongoing and interactive process up to the functioning of the organization.

System Perspective

OD is an overt and wide system. All the subsystems of an organization are interrelated to each other. Only some changes in subsystems may become worthless if they can not affect the whole system. So, it emphasizes the change in the whole system on the basis of requirements.

Focus on Behavior

OD focuses on behavior science rather than the mechanistic approach. It primarily emphasizes the organizational process. The record of actions and reactions of people in each stage of work is taken into account for future plans.


Interventions of OD are based on research and experiments. OD experts collect data and information and analyze information through relevant tools for taking decisions. It facilitates implementation.

Empowered Process

It emphasizes employees utilize their full potential and talent. They are independent in take a decision for the work they are responsible for. They can use their own idea and knowledge to complete the assigned job.

Team Work

OD emphasizes collaboration and group effort. It recognizes that teamwork would be a strength for the achievement of the goal.

Objectives of Organizational Development (OD Objectives)

The main objective of organizational development is to develop working efficiency and effectiveness in organizational activities. The common objectives/importance of OD are as follows:

objectives of OD

Effective Performance

One of the objectives of organizational development is to bring effectiveness to organizational performance. It emphasizes cooperation, independence, and mutual support among the members. It facilitates to proper acquisition and utilization of resources in changing environments to meet objectives.

Develop Efficiency

OD emphasizes efficiency development and providing incentives to employees. It helps to improve employee efficiency through training, workshop, seminar, interpersonal competency, education, etc. It also seeks to improve living standards through a proper incentives system, a good working environment, etc.

Emphasize on Team Work

OD emphasizes teamwork. Team members are complementary in skills and supportive of each other. It helps to promote cooperation, learning, and effectiveness in organizational performance.

Conflict Resolution

One of the objectives of organizational development is to resolve conflict in organizational performance. When employees work in a group conflict is natural. However, OD emphasizes taking initiation to resolve conflict. It is essential for the smooth functioning of the organization.

Adaptation To Environment

OD focuses on adaptation to changing environment of society. It emphasizes training, counseling, orientation, and encouragement for employees to accept the change to meet the common goals.

Related: What is Organizational Goals?

Change with System

Organizational development emphasizes making changes on the basis of organizational systems and procedures. All members should perform activities according to the new programs. Change in the system encourages teamwork and mutual cooperation to meet objectives.

Organizational Development Interventions (OD Interventions)

Organizational development interventions encompass purposeful programs and processes designed to address specific issues within an organization, aimed at enhancing efficiency and empowering leaders for more effective management.

Individual Interventions

Individual interventions focus on improving the performance and effectiveness of individual employees. These interventions may involve coaching or mentoring to aid employees in developing their skills, habits, and vision.

For instance, a new employee learning to use a new technology platform may be paired with a mentor experienced in that area to provide guidance and support. Additionally, individual interventions can be employed for employees facing performance challenges or those who impact team morale negatively. They play a crucial role in supporting personal growth and enhancing productivity.

Group Interventions

Group interventions target specific teams or departments within the organization. These interventions become necessary when particular parts of the company undergo changes in product development, strategy, or other areas. Professional development, coaching, and training conferences are common forms of group interventions.

If there are interpersonal issues within the team, interventions may include team-building exercises or conflict-management training. Typically led by management, some cases might require external consultants to facilitate the process.

Organizational Interventions

Organizational interventions encompass comprehensive strategies that impact the entire organization or business. When companies implement new visions, strategies, or protocols that affect all employees, organizational interventions come into play.

These interventions aim to foster a shared vision and may include employee wellness programs or developing a new mission and vision statement. When rolling out a new business strategy, the interventions may involve restructuring roles, creating focus groups, or implementing new systems for monitoring performance. Often, outside experts or trainers are brought in to conduct organizational interventions effectively.

Process of Organizational Development (OD Process)

Organizational development is a planned process to bring change in the organization that aims to ensure competitive working culture. The followings are the main steps in the OD process.

Problem Identification

The first step in organizational development involves pinpointing the underlying issues that require change. Top-level management can seek assistance from specialized consultants to identify the root causes affecting performance.

Data Collection

Gathering information about the working environment and performance problems is crucial. This can be done through interviews, questionnaires, or direct observation of employees’ behavior and perceptions, highlighting the gaps between actual performance and expected standards.

Feedback and Resolution

After collecting data, it is essential to systematically analyze it and provide a constructive summary to avoid confrontations among team members. Understanding feedback from the study helps pave the way for resolution.

Action Plan Preparation

A detailed plan must be devised to address the identified problems. Involving a team to generate alternatives, evaluate their impacts, and recommend changes ensures a well-structured approach to managing problems during the planned transformation.

Intervention for Change

Organizational development relies on human and social interactions to overcome resistance to change. Managers can employ various techniques such as sensitivity training, survey feedback, team formation, and counseling to foster a positive attitude and behavior toward accepting change.

Related: What is Organizational Change?


The final step in the OD process involves evaluating the outcomes of the development efforts on organizational performance. This ongoing evaluation guides future action planning and interventions to enhance overall performance. Organizational development remains an iterative and continuous process, aimed at continual improvement and growth in the workplace.

Models of Organizational Development (OD Models)

Organizational development models offer valuable frameworks to facilitate effective change within organizations. Four prominent models are as follows:

Lewin’s Three-Step Model:

  • Unfreeze: Organizations prepare for change by challenging existing norms and procedures to create a receptive environment for transformation.
  • Change (or Transition): The new strategy is introduced and implemented, requiring strong management support and clear communication to keep employees motivated and focused.
  • Freeze (or Refreeze): The “new normal” is solidified, and the organization reflects on how to sustain and embed the change for lasting impact.

Action Research Model:

  • Research on Problems and Theorizing Solutions: Organizations conduct research, gather data, and seek external expertise to identify actionable solutions for specific issues.
  • Action Phase: The chosen solution is implemented, emphasizing effective communication and support for employees throughout the change process.
  • Input and Results Phase: Data is collected and analyzed to assess the impact of the change strategy on the identified problem, leading to further improvement iterations if needed.

Business Process Reengineering (BPR):

  • Map the Current State of the Organization’s Processes: Current processes and procedures are documented for analysis.
  • Analyze the Processes: Committees or individuals examine the procedures to identify areas of improvement and inefficiencies.
  • Identify Improvement Opportunities: Teams brainstorm and propose solutions to address the identified issues.
  • Design a Process Map for Future Improved Processes: Collaboration between employees and management leads to planning changes, including new structures, timetables, and workload delegation.
  • Implement Changes to Attain Improved Processes: The proposed initiatives are implemented, and employees receive the necessary training and support to adapt to the changes effectively.

McKinsey 7-S Framework:

The McKinsey 7-S model focuses on seven factors that influence organizational effectiveness: shared values, strategy, structure, systems, style, skills, and staff.

  • Organizations analyze each of the seven S’s and work on solutions for improvement.
  • The shared values are crucial, representing the organization’s main priorities.
  • The other six S’s are categorized into “hard S’s” (strategy, structure, and systems) and “soft S’s” (style, skills, and staff).

These organizational development models provide organizations with structured approaches to navigate change, improve performance, and achieve lasting positive outcomes. By understanding and applying these models, organizations can enhance their adaptability and thrive in dynamic environments.

Read Next: Tips To Implement Change in the Organization

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