alexa History and Fundaments of Organizational Development
ISSN: 2375-4389
Journal of Global Economics
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  • Review Article   
  • J Glob Econ 2016, Vol 4(4): 222
  • DOI: 10.4172/2375-4389.1000222

History and Fundaments of Organizational Development

Alejandro SG*
Department of Economics, School of Business, University of Lasalle, Mexico
*Corresponding Author: Alejandro SG, Department of Economics, School of Business, University of Lasalle, Mexico, Tel: +5214772674900, Email: [email protected]

Received Date: Sep 28, 2016 / Accepted Date: Nov 07, 2016 / Published Date: Nov 11, 2016


This research tries to explain synthesized and concentrated way the history and fundamentals of Organizational Development (OD), understanding that this discipline is structured from some premises and budgets, partly resulting from searches and empirical studies, partly securities forming a priori ideological substratum of various areas of knowledge.

Keywords: History; Fundaments; Beginning; Organizational development


Human society is presented as an organization. It is not manifested as an accumulation of individual units report, but they are intertwined, arranged a way, this is interrelated.

But as evolving part, it has always been directed to seek growth and development in order to meet their immediate teleology, and ultimately, the public good time.

Our understanding by the OD (Organizational Development), try to concretize in brief mental structures, which it broods in those skills that were already in the flow of human, social and administrative sciences (management, industrial engineering, psychology, science politics, law, etc.), however this, try to find new methodologies systematic knowledge building; synthesized, integrated and flexible implementation.

Nevertheless all of the above, and recognizing our training and passion for organizational studies, with the fear of not having overlooked too much, we want to provide with this paper, a practical synthesis for the student and anyone who engages in research the origins, principles and foundations of Organizational Development.

History of Organizational Development

It has been said that "determining the time of birth of organizational development is not a simple or well-defined question. Evolution would be a more appropriate expression to define the beginnings birth OD.”1

In this sense, most writers on the subject performed a descriptive work OD development process, rather than make categorizations about its origin, derived from its multidisciplinary nature presents focalizations at various times and times determined.

“Hornstein, Bunker, Burke, Glides and Lewiki place the origins of OD in 1924, based on the study and research anthology psychology applied to work in the factory Hawthorne Western Electric Company, USA today. There, the effects on production rates of changes in working conditions are studied. In the middle of the studies the influence of behavioral factors (social, group and individual) was discovered in obtaining results in organized labor [1].”2

“Warren Venis considers that the OD. He was born in 1958 with the work led by Robert Blake and Herbert Shepard in the Standard Oild Company (ESSO), USA. There arose the idea of using the methodology laboratories "sensitivity training", group dynamics or'T-Groups' not to favor essentially the development of individuals, but to develop the organization, through the work done with groups of people belonging to the same company”.3

Commitment to the above, on the other hand, there is unity or a general criterion among academics about the roots of the DO, being those listed below:

1. Innovations in implementing the findings of training laboratories awareness in complex organizations.

2. Research methodology surveys and feedback.

3. Action Research.

4. socio-technical and socio-analytical approaches Tavistock.

Interline will discuss in generalities that distinguish these sources of OD.

Awareness training laboratories (Group T)

“Born In

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Central Idea

Human relations training with small groups and unstructured in which participants learn from their own interactions and evolving dynamics of the group




Lewin, Likert, Mc Gregor, Bradford, Lippit, Benne, Blake, Shepard, Mouton, Tannenbaum, Argyris, Beckhard, Jones, Mason, Buchanan, Horwitz [2].4

“In the United States, training in awareness or group T, as would be called later (for the T training: training or instruction) was a consequence of the events that took place in New Britain, Connecticut, in the summer 1946. the Director of the Interracial Connecticut State Commission asked Kurt Lewin, then a member of the faculty at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Massachusetts Institute of Technology, MIT) and director of the Research Center of Group Dynamics , to lead a training workshop to help improve, in general, the direction of the community and, in particular, inter-racial relations. Lewin Gathered a group of colleagues and students to perform the functions of instructors, and another group of researchers for the seminar. The training consisted of lectures, role-playing and general group discussions. During the evening, most researchers and instructors met to evaluate training achieved until that time, by analyzing the behavior of the participants, as they had observed during the day. Some participants, who were enough away from their respective home and had to use sleeping quarters University in New Britain, asked to be allowed to be observers of the evening discussions of teachers. Researchers and instructors were reluctant to access, but Lewin saw no reason why they are ought to keep out and said that, as participants could learn even more.

The least that can be said of the results is that exerted an influence and were of great importance. During the discussion among teachers about the behavior of a participant, it happened that it was not present as an observer; at one point he intervened and said he disagreed with the interpretations of their behavior by faculty members. He then described the fact from their own point of view. Lewin immediately recognized that this interference brought a richness to the collection and analysis of data that was otherwise unavailable. Many participants came to observe more discussions faculty members. Of course, the simple observation was not lasting, since debates among researchers, instructors and participants occurred. Faculty members and participants were gradually discovering that participants receiving feedback about their behavior during the day, and taught them much or more than the activities during it. Participants became more sensitive to their own behavior as to how others saw and the effects their behavior had on others. This innovative way of learning, discovering the unexpected, which had its beginnings in conecticut that summer, has become what Carl Rogers'quizás qualify of the most important social invention of the century´[3].”5

Research survey methodology and feedback

“Born In

Research Center at the University of Michigan

Central Idea

Investigations are conducted by tracking information organizational phenomena at both micro and macro level, covering topics such as communication, culture, leadership and organizational climate.




Likert, Mann, Radke, Festiger, Lippit, Mc Gregor, French, Cartwrigth, Deutsch.

“Research and survey feedback, a specialized form of action research ... is the second main root in the history of organizational development. The history of this root, in particular, revolves around the techniques and approach developed by staff members in the intoaccount Research Center at the University of Michigan over a number of years”6.

It has been said that "organizational development has been influenced by industrial and organizational psychology. This influence may be manifested in the third precursor OD, the survey feedback. Industrial or organizational psychologists attach great importance to the questionnaires as a means for capturing data as well as for the diagnosis and evaluation. The questionnaires for managers have been commonly associated with the group of psychologists from Ohio State University in the 1950s, however, it is likely that the questionnaires for organizational diagnosis is associated with greater force to psychologists at the Institute of Social Research University of Michigan in the sixth and seventh decades of this century. Rensis Likert, first director of the Institute began in 1946 founded the Research Center of Studies. Kurt Lewin was founded at MIT Research Center of Group Dynamics. Because of his untimely death in 1947, the center moved to the University of Michigan, later that same year. Initially, these two centers were Likert institute. The two main thrusts of these centers - studies through questionnaires for organizational diagnosis and group dynamics - combined to cause the feedback survey method. As early as 1947, in organizations questionnaires were used to assess the morale and attitude of employees.

One of the first studies initiated and guided by Likert and carried out by Floyd Mann, became the Detroit Edison Company. The method is now known as feedback survey evolved to try to find the best way to handle the survey data for improvement of the organization. Mann was the key to creating this method. He noted that when a manager gave the results of the study, any subsequent improvement depended on the manager would make the information; however, if he argued with his subordinates the results of the study but did not plan with them some changes for improvement, nothing happened, except perhaps some increase in employee frustration by ambiguity have responded to a questionnaire without further later he came to know what happened to him.

In short, the feedback survey method involves two steps. The first is the survey, ie data capture using questionnaires to determine the perception of the employees of certain factors, mostly focused on the management of the organization. The second step is the feedback, giving systematically the outcome of the study in a summary report to all the people who answered the questionnaire. In this case, systematically it means that feedback occurs in stages, starting with the highest team organization and flowing in descending manner according to the formal hierarchy and within functional units or equipment. Mann called "interlaced chain conference" to this flow. The Director General, the general manager of division or the head office, according to the organization or subunit studied, and his group of subordinates receive immediate feedback and discuss the first study. Then subordinates and their respective groups of immediate subordinates do the same, and so on, in descending order, until all members of the organization under study, have heard a summary of the report, and then participate in a debate about the meaning of the data and its implications. Each functional unit of the organization have general feedback regarding the entire organization, and specific feedback in relation to their particular group. After the debate on the significance of the study results, boss and subordinate jointly plan the steps of an ameliorating action. Generally, a consultant meets with each of the groups to assist in data analysis, group discussion and plans for improvement.

This is a rather orderly and systematic approach to understanding the organization based on employee perceptions and process again, with the help of an external consultant, this understanding within the organization, so that change can occur so. This is not only direct precursor and a root organizational development, but also an integral part of many current efforts OD.”7

Action research

“There is no institution that can be attributed the paternity of this tool adamantly.

Central Idea

Working with a cyclic process wherein steps are: diagnostics, data collection, feedback to the group-client, discussion of the data and work on them by the client group, and finally the action, with the focus on new or anticipated problems.




Collier, Lewin, Lippit, Radke, Babéelas, Coch y French, Whyte y Hamilton, Jacques, Sofer, Mann, Seashore y Bowers, Katzell.8

Action Research "... is an inquiry of client-consultant collaboration, consisting of a preliminary diagnostic data collection customer group, customer feedback data group and action planning by the client group, and action.”9

“...William F. Whyte and Edith L. Hamilton used action research in their work with the Tremont Hotel Chicago in the years 1945 and 1946; John Collier, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, action research described in a publication in 1945; Kurt Lewin and his students conducted numerous research projects action in the mid-1940s and early 1950s. The work of these and other scholars and practitioners in the invention and use of action research were basic in the evolution of the D.O.”10

Focus socio-technical and psychoanalytical tavistock

“Born In

Tavistock clinic

Central Idea

The organization is seen as a technical system that also consists of individuals. Technical and individuals together in a defined project, giving rise to self-directed work groups




Bion, Rickman, Trist, Likert, Argyris.

“More or less at par with the beginning of awareness training in the United States of America, in the UK, Eric Trist and Bamforth Kem, the Tavistock Institute, advising an exploiting coal mining company. Before its advisory intervention, coal was mined by teams of six men. Each team chose its own members and carried out all necessary operations from extraction of coal to its burden to carry to the surface. Those teams are repaid according to the group effort and productivity of the unit, not by individual effort. The teams tended to be very close.

They began to encounter problems when new equipment was introduced and there were changes in technology. These innovations changed the way to run the job, because the standard work group changed to a more individualized work. Therefore, more specialized work, i.e., the work were more divided. Productivity was gradually decreasing, while increased absenteeism.

Trist and Bamforth suggested a new way forward that gathered itself the basic social elements of previous work mode - team effort against individual effort, but at the same time assimilating new technology. As a result of the management of the company apply what Trist and Bamforth suggested, productivity grew to previous levels, but above them, and absenteeism decreased significantly. The details of this early work, including measurements and documented results are in Trist and Trist and Bamfort.

Shortly thereafter, AK Rice, another consultant and researcher Tavistock, conducted experiments and similar changes in two factories of yarn and fabrics from Ahmedabad, India. The results of their interventions, involving important social factors combined while maintaining a group effort regarding technological changes were also very similar: increased productivity and reduced damages and costs.

The procedure innovated by Trist, Bamforth, Rice and colleagues at Tavistock is based on the premise that every organization is a social system both as a coach. All organizations have a technology, either for the production of something tangible or for the provision of a service, and this technology is a subsystem of the overall organization. All organizations are also composed of people that drive each other to perform a task or a series of them, and this human dimension is the social subsystem. DO interest is typically leans toward the social subsystem, but in any effort toward organizational change effort must be taken into account both subsystems and their interaction.”11

Fundaments of Organizational Development

“The OD It has clearly evolved in recent years proving to be a discipline based on organizational change. Like any discipline OJ has theoretical foundations that serve as models to achieve permanent changes in an organization to enable it to adapt and survive in the current environment.”12

Shoring or more important theoretical foundations of OD

They are as follows:

• Model and theory of planned change

• Systems theory

• Participation and delegation of authority

• Equipment and equipment work

• Learning parallel structures

• Strategy change rules-reeducative

Model and theory of planned change

“Kurt Lewin introduced two ideas about change, who have been influential since the 1940s. The first idea states that what is happening at any point in time is resulting in a field of opposing forces. The status quo - whatever is happening right now - is the result of forces pushing in opposite directions. With a technique called force field analysis, it is possible to identify the main forces that constitute the field and then develop action plans to move the balance point in one direction or another. "

"The second idea Lewin was a model of the process of change itself. He suggested that the change is a three-stage model: unfreeze the old behavior (or situation), move it to a new level of conduct and behavior refreezing at the new level. The change involves moving from one point of equilibrium to another equilibrium point.”13

Also, "the three-stage model of cognitive Lewin is a powerful tool for understanding situations change. Edgar Schein took this excellent idea and improved, specifying the psychological mechanisms involved in change ... in Stage 1, defrosting, lack of confirmation creates pain and discomfort, causing guilt and anxiety, which in turn motivates the person to change.

In step 2, move the person undergoing a cognitive restructuring. The person needs information and evidence showing that the change is desirable and possible.

The primary task in Stage 3, refrozen, is to integrate the new behaviors in personality and attitudes of the person.

Another modification Lewin model was proposed by Ronald Lippitt, Jeanne Watson and Bruce Westley, who extended the threestage model to a model of seven stages, representing the consulting process. The seven stages are the following:

Phase 1: Development of a need for change. This phase corresponds to the unfreezing phase Lewin.

Phase 2: The establishment of an exchange rate. In this phase, the client system needs help, and an agent of change from outside the system establishes a relationship of mutual work.

Phase 3: The clarification or problem diagnosis client system.

Phase 4: Consideration of alternative routes and goals; setting goals and intentions of action.

Phase 5: The transformation of intentions into real efforts. Phases 3, 4 and 5 correspond to the movement phase of Lewin.

Phase 6: The generalization or stabilization of change. This corresponds to the phase of refreezing Lewin.

Phase 7: Reaching a relationship ends, i.e., terminate the client consultant. 14

“On the other hand, Ralph Kilmann raised five paths for change including culture, management skills, equipment, strategy-structure and reward system.

Another author, Jerry Porras developed a model called the "flow analysis" which states that changing the scenario work, the behavior of individuals will change as well. Porras suggests a direct relationship between organizational factors such as goals, strategies, management systems, culture, interaction processes, tools, machinery and equipment and physical environment, which among others determine the behavior of individuals within the organization.

Finally we have the model-Litwinque Burke poses as variables individual performance and organizational performance, this model defines a transaccional''cambio and transformacional''cambio, the first led to the culture of the organization and the second addressed to the atmosphere of it. The advantage of this model is that it allows to identify the type of change that is required to then opt for transformational or transactional option depending on the nature of change.”15

Systems theory

“…The systems theory has its own character and an unmistakable orientation: basically it is assumed that the systems, as such, have generic common characteristics and, therefore, scientific research, regardless of its scope (from physics to biology, from economics to sociology), can find meaning and common guidelines on the concept of system. You can say essentially that when speaking of Systems theory is talk of a movement for the unity of science. The particular research that are born of this movement have many differences between them in regards to the methods and conceptual guidelines: no contributions from representatives of the rationalistic conception of the organization, as the cultists of cybernetics, and works, Conversely, they characterized by the organismic conception, especially those produced by psychologists” [4].16

“Bertalanffy relates to a system as a set of elementos maintained in interacción' ... system, denotes interdependence interconexicones and correlations of a set of elements that constitute a whole identifiable, or gestalt”17.

“Organizations are open systems that interact with the environment, ie are'permeables', but at the same time are clearly delimited it. Interestingly, the functioning of the organization as a system, since a company could fail for lack of adaptation both to internal factors and external factors. Hence it arises what is known as positiva''retroalimentación and negativa''retroalimentación.

One of the most unique features of the systems, is always looking for balance, as in the human body'homeostasis' occurs.

There are two theories that stand out in terms of the systems are, the theory of socio-technical systems and open systems planning, both approaches vital for OJ today. Theory of socio-technical systems is geared more to the inner workings of the organization as a system consisting of two systems, the social system and the technical system. While Planning Open Systems refers more to an external design, i.e how organizations studying their environment and other systems and based on this plan and carry out action plans to achieve a desirable future”.18

Participation and delegation of authority

“Delegating authority is to empower someone. This is done by giving individuals the authority to participate, make decisions, contribute their ideas, their influence and be responsible. That is why participation is such an effective way to delegate authority. The incremeta particpación delegation of authority, and assume once it increases performance and individual well-being”[5].19

“OD interventions are deliberately designed to increase the interest and participation of the leaders and members of the organization ... The field of OD treated the delegation of authority”.

Team working

“Since tasks have become larger than the capacity of individual teams, organizations have seen the need, right by others, to implement teamwork, which is an effective alternative to achieve results that go beyond of an individual can only produce. To form a necessary equipment there is above all a common purpose to all team members, with which they feel committed, then a plan of action leading to define roles and take responsibility for the results of team performance and not their members separately. The current trend is to carry out the work in the form of projects, which facilitates the flat structure and making decisions. Fortunately, technology has supported teamwork through what is known as "groupware" that facilitates a wide range of technological support instruments to achieve more effective teams.”20

Parallel structures for learning

"These structures were formed in order to achieve see a problem impartially and find alternative solutions allow different problems to which the organization is accustomed to use. The idea is to "get" the problem of the organization can display more fairly. The most important task of this type of structure is to form within an organization a different culture they have. Usually a useful tool to change very bureaucratized structures”.

Strategy regulations - reeducative change

One of the aspects that studies OD It is the strategy for change. The strategy is more managed by the OD and which adopts the principle is normative-reeducative that although does not deny that man is a rational being, if it says it needs more than a logical explanation to follow a change. According to this strategy, the individual must reeducate him to understand and perform the necessary changes.

There are other variables to study the OD as they are to understand that the OD is a science of applied behavior, i.e., which is based on seeking knowledge in order to solve practical problems. Another possible rule element when talking OD is that it is a scientific method of problem solving that is based on data. The data are the source of information OD and they must be taken into consideration when generating changes.

The OD It is a science that is complemented in turn with many other sciences and disciplines. Speaking of DO we cannot refer simply to a specific aspect of an organization. All factors should be taken into account: strategy, culture, people, structure, product, market, environment, growth, size, data, behavior, among others.


As mentioned in the introductory part of this study, organizational development has its foundation in many sources and welcomes its principles in more than one methodology, as well as in certain diversity of theories and concepts from other disciplines such as management, industrial engineering, psychology, political science, law, among others.

The challenge pursued by this research has succeeded in presenting synthetic and focused manner, and in a friendly and concrete way, history, principles and foundations of Organizational Development (OD).

Growth problems lie organizations in each of its processes, structures and people that develop in an interrelated manner within it, and choosing the right tool to boost the planned change them successfully [6].

The successful development of organizations is based on the correct choice of tool OD to promote the planned change.

While it is true, many thinkers have made assessments of the state that keeps today the study and theoretical principles of organizational development and its bases and foundations, in the sense that it can establish truly universal propositions on organizational development, it is also true that, under the criteria of opportunity, we invoke it with extreme caution. It is also true that the cultists techniques of organizational development, promise considerable knowledge acquisition totaling probative and specific values and assumptions that are pursued by the same for the growth of relief organizations; however, we must be proactive because of the multidisciplinary nature of the DO, in order to build systematic, and provide those elements and knowledge that we provide other sciences, to transfer experiences and "best practice" development organizations, contributing and the impulse of the study, analysis and diagnosis of structures, processes and behaviors of contemporary societies.

1Warner Burke, W., Organizational development. point of view Normative, S.e., SITESA, Mexico, 1997, p. 26.

2Mello, Faria, Organizational development. Integral approach., 6ª. Reprint. LIMUSA, Mexico, 1992, p. 37.


4Gonzalez Cornejo, Aurelio, Organizational development. The alternative for the XXI century, Ed. PAC, S.A. de C.V., Mexico, 2000, p. 52.

5Warner Burke, W., Op. Cit. pp. 27-28.

6French L. Wendell y Cecil H. Bell, Jr., Organizational development, 5a. Ed., Prentice Hall, Mexico, 1997, p. 49.

7Warner Burke, W., Op. Cit. pp. 30-33.

8Gonzalez Cornejo, Aurelio, Op. Cit., p. 53.

9French L. Wendell y Cecil H. Bell, Jr., Op. Cit. p. 51.


11Warner Burke, W., Op. Cit. pp. 30 y 31.



14Íbid., p. 85., dirección cit. P. 11.

16Bobbio, Norberto, Nicola Mateucci y Gianfranco Pasquino, Political Dictionary, 13ª. Ed., XXI century, Madrid, 2002, p. 1090.

17French L. Wendell y Cecil H. Bell, Jr., Op. Cit. p. 91., dirección cit. P. 12.

19French L. Wendell y Cecil H. Bell, Jr., Op. Cit. p. 96., p. 12


Citation: Alejandro SG (2016) History and Fundaments of Organizational Development. J Glob Econ 4:222. Doi: 10.4172/2375-4389.1000222

Copyright: © 2016 Alejandro SG. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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