#3 What is Organisational Development (OD)? Definitions

21 May 2019 | 2 min read


There is a lot of confusion around terms and, in my opinion OD is often wrongly classified. So we start by defining concepts, as I see them, so that you understand how they relate to each other.

  • An organisations is an organised social entity; i.e. a group of people who pursue a defined (strategic) goal together through structures, processes, role assignments, rules of the game and values. A company is a certain type of organisation.  It differs from churches, hospitals or political parties by its economic purpose
  • Organisational development is a technical term from management theory that refers to the way in which a company develops or changes from an internal perspective. It has an overall entrepreneurial relevance, as a continuous process that ensures the survival of the company. It is an instrument of corporate strategy that deals with the constant adaptation of the many different aspects of the organisation to changing markets and social conditions. The role of the organisational developer is to influence this internal development in a targeted manner that supports the achievement of the corporate purpose.
  • Change management is a tool of organisational development. Organisational development is not to change management.  Change management is an approach that methodically accompanies parts of an organisation and its people in changing from an actual to a target state. It is a process with a clear goal and scope and has a beginning and an end.
  • Transformation is used to describe very fast and often all-encompassing change.  At the time I am writing this chapter, many companies are engaged in digital transformation. This is a very demanding task that makes many managers nervous. If it fails, the existence and future of many companies may be threatened. It is, therefore, a “transformation” and not just a change or a development, because after the transformation there is no turning back for the organisation concerned.
  • Even if, for the sake of simplicity, personal development (PD) in many companies is organisationally positioned next to OD, it is actually subordinate to the OD thematically, because the development of employees and managers serves to optimally position the organisation in order to achieve the corporate objective. The OD focus here is on competence procurement and development.
  • Organisational design is used in Anglo-Saxon countries as a term to describe the structure of an organisation. This choice of words reflects the dynamic and creative character of this task, and corresponds with how we approach structure holistically and creatively.

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Written by Drissia Schroeder-Hohenwarth

Transformative Coach for Leaders, Teams and Organisations with a fascination for the endless potential of the mind.

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