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Management by Organizational Development

Management by organizational development is a comparatively recent development in management theory that began in the late 1950s. Management by organizational development is largely a behavioral science that studies the relationships between people and groups of people. It is about the dynamics of human relationships and the objectives (mainly in the business sense) behind these relationships. This is the reason why management by organizational development seems to be shrouded in vague concepts and ideas. Human relationships are intricate and complex by nature, and any effort to generalize a cure or method is often equivocal and inaccurate. Thus no comprehensive theory or thesis envelops the whole concept of management by organizational development.

 The Elements of Organizational Development Management

  • The first element of the theory is where an individual or group sees or foresees an event with undesired effects. This insight creates a need to change the situation for all concerned, so that the consequences, instead of being negative, can be normalized into the group experience, or perhaps even be turned into a positive one.

  • The second element of the theory is focus. Focus here means a desire to change not the situation by itself, but the ability of the group to handle the situation better. Focus comes after identifying the problem, and opening up several alternative solutions so that the group as a whole can function better, more efficiently, and more capably.

  • The third element of the model is orientation. Orientation is having a goal or direction in mind, so that the unit will accomplish a sense of completion. The goal may be composed of several tasks or activities, but all are oriented towards a vision that holds all the pieces -- whether it is a task, an individual, or the entire group—together.

Signs Pointing Towards a Need for Change

Any organization will show symptoms of a desire for change way before any problem is even identified. These symptoms may show in a number of ways, such as:

  • There is little, poor, or no morale to speak of. When an individual or group lacks a sense of motivation or belongingness to an organization, it is a sign that there is obviously a need for change.

  • The vision and objectives of the organization is unclear. This symptom can easily translate into lack of direction, with individuals not knowing what task to do.

  • The performance of the organization is very poor. This can be seen in the organization's production of goods or services with low quality and value.

  • There is an abundance of tasks and activities that do not seem to fall under any of the organization's objectives. This points to a lack of direction that points out the weakness of the leadership of the organization.

There are more symptoms, but if any of the above shows up in an organization, then it means that change is needed, not only for the individuals concerned, but for the entire organization as well. And this is where organizational development comes into play.

The Formula to Initiate Change

Before any change can take place, the resistance to change must first be overcome. It is not enough to merely identify the symptoms. While the symptoms may be there, the need to change may not be.

A formula that has been credited to David Gleicher is often used to identify when exactly the change under organizational development can happen. There must be three elements present, and while the need to change may already be pressing, the absence of any of the three elements is bound to make any solution fail. However, with the three present, change under organizational development is very much possible.

  • The first element is discontentment. Discontentment underscores the immediacy of change, but it is not enough to implement change. If change were implemented as soon as signs of discontentment are observed, it would be like a headless chicken flapping around. It would have no direction.

  • This brings us to the second element, which is direction. Any change that needs to be done has to have direction instead of wandering aimlessly. But even then, with discontentment and direction, change will not take root.

  • The final element in the formula is a plan of action. While the other two elements may give rise to change, the best conditions for change to happen is to have a realistic course of action, and not merely ideals to guide you through the change.  Realistically, only the first few steps are needed in the plan of action – no one is prescient or wise enough to know the future of change. However, the first few steps are definitely within an organization's grasp.


And that is the formula. Resistance to change can be overcome with these three things – discontentment, direction, and a plan of action. If any one of these were absent, then change would just not work.

The Significance of Your Observation

You observe your employees because, as their superior, you are responsible for them. The observation process is going to be useful for so many things. You have to understand that you did not just spend time “stalking” your employees for nothing. It serves a bigger purpose:

  • For evaluation: It is customary for superiors to submit evaluations of their people, after a specific period of time. Evaluations are used for all sorts of things and since the Human Resources Department takes these forms seriously, you cannot just invent what you have to say. Your input should be a product of thorough observation and study.

  • For promotion: If you are looking to promote someone in your team to a specific position and you do not know whom to pick, or you are eyeing a specific person and you do not know if they really qualify, observing them at work will be very helpful for your purpose.

  • For dismissal: If you are receiving complaint after complaint about a person and you are thinking of letting them go, you have to be sure that the person truly deserves to be let go. You observe their work and find proof. You have to see things for yourself and not rely on mere hearsay.

  • For improvement: If you want to build a team according to your ideals, you will observe their performance and take note of all the things that you believe need to be changed. How can you teach them what to do, if you do not know how they work? To be able to criticize, you have to observe. To be able to teach, you first have to learn.

Some people will find it difficult to put others under the spotlight. Some will think that watching people, especially without their knowledge is invading their privacy. As a manager, you have to overcome these thoughts because it is your responsibility to watch your subordinates at work.