New Paradigms in Organization Development: Positivity, Spirituality, and Complexity

By Karakas, Fahri | Organization Development Journal, Spring 2009 | Go to article overview
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New Paradigms in Organization Development: Positivity, Spirituality, and Complexity


Karakas, Fahri, Organization Development Journal


Abstract

Traditional Organization developement models are giving way to new intervention methods and models in an age of uncertainty, complexity, globalization, and accelerating change. The purpose of this article is to suggest new roles for Organization developement professionals in the 21st century. Drawing from appreciative inquiry, positive organizational scholarship, spirituality, and complexity, the paper discusses the emergence of seven new creative roles for Organization developement professionals: Social artist, ethical pioneer, spiritual visionary, creative catalyst, cultural innovator, holistic thinker, and community builder. This paper invites Organization developement professionals and consultants to consider new paradigms/perspectives and to adopt new roles in organizational interventions for wider impact and better performance.

An overview of the field of organizational development and its origins

Organization developement as a profession and a field has existed since 1950s (Marshak, 2006). As a discipline, Organization developement emerged as the discipline of "improving an organization's problem-solving and renewal processes through collaborative practices with the assistance of change agents or consultants guided by theories of human and organizational behavior and methodology of action research" (French and Bell, 1984; p.28). However, it is difficult to explain and define the field accurately because of the dynamism, diversity and ambiguity of the field (Marshak, 2006, Jamieson and Worley, 2006). An important problem is that the O.D. field is still evolving in different directions and it includes a diverse set of models, approaches, belief and value systems (Jamieson and Worley, 2006, Marshak, 2006). One of the early pioneers of the O.D. field, French (1969) defined Organization developement as "a long-range effort to improve an organization's problem solving capabilities and its ability to cope with changes in its external environment with the help of change agents" (p. 24). According to another widespread definition (Cummings and Worley, 1997) Organization developement is "a system-wide application of behavioral science knowledge to the planned development and reinforcement of organizational strategies, structures, and processes for improving an organization's effectiveness." (p. 2). Organization developement can be seen as an interdisciplinary field of applied knowledge and research informed by a multitude of theories, models, values and approaches (Jamieson and Worley, 2006, Marshak, 2006). Organization developement is based on a) understanding the characteristics of social systems, b) understanding the hows and whys of organizational change, c) understanding the role of thirdparty change agent(s) (Marshak, 2006, p. 14-16).

Organization developement emerged as a field as a result of a number of related methodologies and movements in early organizational research (Hinckley, 2006): The first of these was the action research methodology created by Lewin (1948), "a process that involves people in describing and learning from their own behavior and collaboratively making decisions" and "accordingly enhancing their commitment to implement those decisions" (p. 29, Hinckley, 2006). The second root was the human relations movement that focused on issues such as motivation, social factors, employee attitudes, satisfaction, and morale (Mayo, 1945; Rogers, 1961; Maslow, 1954; Argyris, 1965; McGregor, 1960). The third root was early leadership research that brought legitimacy to participative management and democratic decision making methods in organizations (Follett, 1941; Lewin and Lippitt, 1938). The fourth root that led to the development of the O.D. field was systems theory and open systems research (Tschudy, 2006) that focused on environments, technologies, structures, systems, feedback mechanisms, and design (Bertalanffy, 1950, Burns and Stalker, 1961; Lawrence and Lorsch, 1967; Katz and Kahn, 1966).

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