What is Organization Development?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 03 March 2020
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Organization development is a structured effort to evaluate the effectiveness of an organization, and identify specific strategies that will increase the efficiency and ultimately the productivity of that organization. This approach is utilized by both businesses and non-profit entities, and will normally involve several phases of activity, beginning with an assessment of the organization and ending with the implementation of new policies and procedures, and possibly restructuring of the basic operational model itself. The ultimate goal of any attempt at organization development is to make sure the entity is functioning in a manner that yields optimum results today, and equips the entity to be prepared for any challenges that may arise tomorrow.

There are a number of different approaches to organization development, with some claiming to not be concerned with doing the same things better, or acting as a training tool for the current work force. Other approaches see these two events as part of the natural outcome of the ongoing evolution of an organization, and thus see efforts to engage those issues as integral to the development process. While approaches may differ, most agree that bringing about permanent change that positively impacts the organizational culture, including the mindset of all individuals involved, is necessary for organization development to take place.


The process of organization development works equally well with new entities as with organizations that have been in operation for a number of years. In any setting, the first step is to evaluate the function of the organization as it stands today, and how that function relates to the achievement of the long-term goals of the entity. Doing so provides information on what is working very well, what is not working as well as expected, and what is not working at all.

After this initial evaluation, proposed changes to the structure and function of the organization are developed. Each of these proposed changes are run through a series of simulations, making it possible to identify which of these ideas is likely to produce the desired results. Often, the simulation phase also identifies challenges to the implementation of these changes, and makes it possible to identify other shifts in mindset or procedure that will ultimately serve the organization well.

The final phase of organization development is the actual implementation of those changes that are deemed to be the most effective in moving the organization toward its goals. As part of this implementation, a period of assessment of the impact of those changes also takes place. This increases the opportunity to fine-tune those changes and thus enhance the organization on every level.

It is important to realize that organization development is not something that is conducted once, and never has to be conducted again. Many factors can impact an organization that require continual changes or shifts in how things are done over the long-term. For example, as a company grows, the policies, procedures, and even the company facilities may require change or enhancement in order to move the company beyond where it is today. For this reason, organization development is an ongoing process, rather than a task to be completed and never approached again.



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