New Partners for Strategic Change and Organizational Transformation: The Combined Effects of Market Research and Organization Development

Article excerpt


The pace and intensity of global business challenges all corporate departments and functions to enhance their level of performance. Focusing on the function of Market Research (MR), this article describes how Organization Development (O.D.) can unite with MR in order to accelerate the speed and impact of its contributions to strategic planning. The recipe for this success is not new to the field of O.D.: whereas MR fills the strategy with content, O.D. helps "people it" in terms of gaining both the commitment for action and the actors who will implement the strategy. The merger of O.D. with MR leaves us with two major conclusions. First, O.D. continues to play a vital role in helping companies reach their business objectives. Second, mainline corporate functions such as MR can become the avenue through which O.D. fulfills this vital role.


"Transforming organizations goes beyond improving incrementally how the organization currently operates to change it drastically. The change process is characterized by considerable innovation and learning and continues almost indefinitely as organization members discover new ways of improving the organization and adapting it to changing conditions." (Cummings & Worley, 1993, p. 520)

Organization Development (O.D.) is filled with examples on the cross-fertilization and incorporation of aspects from other disciplines. As the above quote demonstrates, various O.D. scholars and practitioners have acknowledged the role within O.D. of business areas such as "competitive strategy, finance, and marketing for large scale interventions" (Cummings & Worley, 1993, p. 494). O.D. is a field that integrates other fields. It is an interdisciplinary place for "Human Resource Management, Organization Behavior, Organization Theory, Psychology, Sociology, Anthropology, Marketing, Economics, Accounting, Finance, Strategy, Production/Operations, Physiology, Industrial Engineering, and Ergonomics within O.D.." (Head, 1993, p. 10). To the above list this paper adds another discipline to Organization Development: Market Research (MR).

That MR and O.D. are different fields is apparent. Table 1 lists the definitions of O.D. and MR.

Although the definition of O.D. contains the word, research, it refers to Action Research and not Market Research. The closest the definition of MR comes to O.D. is with the last clause that includes the activities of communication. A rigid definition of MR and O.D. has no place for the other within its discipline.

I believe that it is time to expand our definitions of O.D. and MR so that they can work together to further strategic change and organizational transformation. Certainly this merger of O.D. and MR is needed within the discipline of MR because of the number of research reports that are lightly read and never used. In this scenario, a research study is presented to decision-makers. They applaud the presentation for its power and insight, yet no action follows. The research sits on the shelf, becoming an expense rather than an investment in the future. The traditional response to this problem by MR is to improve the reliability, validity or some other aspect of the research. The MR professional goes back to the standard bag of tricks; only this time does them faster, better, or cheaper. Unfortunately, it is my experience that such methodological improvements rarely lead to faster or better use of the research results by the decision makers.

Rarely does an improvement in the reliability or validity of the research mitigate inaction or inappropriate use by decision makers.

The integration of MR and O.D. is also beneficial for O.D.; this is the central premise and topic of this article. The findings and processes of MR can become the focal point for a major reinvention of the organization. The MR facts can serve as a neutral ground upon which dissention becomes consensus. The process by which the research information is shared and leveraged can take advantage of group dynamics to break through the organizational barriers to change. …