One differentiator of Organization Development from other approaches

Our OD “grandparents”—Taylor, Lewin, Bion, and McGregor— handed this fundamental truth down to us, each in his own way:

Finding out what is actually happening (research)—and why it is happening (diagnosis)—and getting all that data “on the table” where it is seen and discussed freely (rs comment- USE FREE WILL TO DECIDE ACTION) by stakeholders in a safe environment, has the power to change people and systems (action).

( Peter Kosetebam’s very close friend, Warren Bennis, in my class with him give us the following formula for change agents.

1.  What’s up? ( Research)

2. So what?      ( Diagnosis)

3. What is next?  ( Action)

It is this principle that differentiates the field of OD from other efforts to help or fix social systems. Every subsequent OD theoretical model, exercise, and/or practice engages clients in participative reflection on the process(es) governing what is happening. 


B = f(p x e)

Perhaps the single most significant conceptual input to OD is this one: individual behavior (B) is a function (f) of personal factors (p), multiplied by the impact of the current social environment (e). This model explains why some training-oriented change efforts aimed at the individual often fail. Like the alcoholic treated alone and then sent back to an unchanged family system, change efforts that do not take into account making changes in the (social) environment will not sustain themselves. This is because personal factors are multiplied by environmental factors. As Lewin said, “I have found it easier to change the group than to change one individual in the group” (Personal Communication between John Scherer and Ron Lippitt). Training conducted with intact work groups can reduce this problem, since both the individual (p) and their group (e) are being impacted.

The Birth of the T-Group

In the summer of 1946, Lewin was invited by the Connecticut State Inter-Racial Commission to conduct a training program in race relations for local community leaders. In typical Lewinian “elegance,” he suggested that they design a program that would allow them to train the participants and conduct an experiment in “change” at the same time. Working with a team of colleagues, including two young graduate students, Ron Lippitt and Lee Bradford, the researchers led discussions during the day about the roots of inter-ethnic prejudice and its impact on communities. 

Edited by Roland and others from the original 3rd Chapter  by Alban and Schererin his Third Edition of Practicing OD.




Lewin.  who coined the phrases. Feedback, Social Psychology, process etc. 

Lippit Image

Lippit who received his Ph.D from Lewin at the University of Iowa. Ron wrote the first book on Change Management in 1957. 

Tags: , , , , ,

One Response to “One differentiator of Organization Development from other approaches”

  1. dougo Says:

    Thanks Roland…good post that highlights some of the history and power of OD

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: