Theories of Organizational Development in Business

Photo by Scott Graham on Unsplash

Organizational development is a necessary process that all organizations must undergo. There are many factors that make organizational development important for organizations to thrive and be successful. This article will explain the process of organizational development, identify theories associated with organizational development, and describe the necessary conditions for successful organizational change and development.

Organizational development is a complex process that is described as a “set of behavioral science-based theories, values, strategies, and technologies aimed at planned change of the organizational work setting for the purpose of enhancing individual development and improving organizational performance, through the alteration of organizational members’ on-the-job behaviors” (Britt & Jex, 2008, Ch. 15). The process of organizational development will cause changes in the daily workplace routine, and these changes will cause success and productivity in the workplace. Organizational developments help an organization to improve and evolve into a more successful organization.

There are several theories associated with organizational development. Lewin’s three step theory on organizational development is simple but very valuable; it suggests that organizational change has three steps known as unfreezing, transformation, and refreezing (Britt & Jex, 2008). During the first step an organization realizes there is a need for change. During transformation the changes in organizational development occur, and in the final step the implemented changes are refreeze into the organizational routine. Another of Lewin’s theories is the action-research model; it suggests that organizational development can come through the use of problem identification, hypothesis development and testing, and data analysis (Britt & Jex, 2008, Ch. 15). This theory is cyclical, and can be repeated several times during organizational change.

The general system theory is another theory associated with organizational development that discusses the importance of external environment on organizational development. This theory suggests that an organization takes something from the environment and transforms it; it then is given back to the external environment altered (Britt & Jex, 2008). This emphasizes the symbiotic relationship of the organization and the external environment. Burke’s theory of organizational change also discusses the external environment. Burke’s theory considers how leadership, the external environment, mission and strategy, organizational culture, and individual and organizational performance work together (Britt & Jex, 2008). Burke suggests that all of these aspects impact each other in organizational development.

If organizational change and development is to be successful certain conditions must exist. Top management must support the developments if they are to be successful because they have the means to make the changes possible. Consultants must be competent and capable of all of the necessary work needed to cause organizational change (Britt & Jex, 2008). Resistance is a natural occurrence for change, and employees can be made part of the implementation to make resistance less dominant (Britt & Jex, 2008). Organizations must also take ownership for the changes or they will not be taken seriously.

Organizational development is necessary for any organization to survive and be successful. Many theories have helped organizations to understand and implement organizational developments. It is important that conditions be correct in an organization if changes are expected to be successful.

Britt, T. W., & Jex, S. M. (2008). Organizational Psychology: A Scientist-Practitioner Approach (2 ed.). New York, NY: Wiley.



Sarah Ganly is an artist, entrepreneur, and lover of life. She is a lifelong learner dedicated to making people smile.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Sarah Ganly

Sarah Ganly is an artist, entrepreneur, and lover of life. She is a lifelong learner dedicated to making people smile.