Organization Development Methodologies and Theories

According to Burke (1992), “OD is a consideration in general of how work is done, what the people who carry out the work believe and feel about their efficiency and effectiveness, rather than a specific, concrete, step-by-step linear procedure for accomplishing something.” (p. 1). 

Burke describes an organization as being a sociotechnical system, with technology representing an essential part of the organization’s routines and a human aspect composed of people who interact to accomplish tasks (Burke, 1992).  Too often is one or the other (technology or people) blamed for being the sole contributor or hindrance to an organization’s successes, failures, or growth.   The target for change should be technology and people, the total system approach, to realize organization development (Burke, 1992). 

On the surface, a problem may seem quite evident.  It is expressed as a concern because it is affecting the organization in an apparent way.   As data is collected, the consultant uncovers the client’s perception of how this problem is being fed, or who or what is contributing to its vitality.   Probing a little deeper, the consultant moves the client into internalizing the problem by having the client give some idea of how he/she is contributing to the problem.  The client’s perception of the problem may be only a contributor to the problem.  Many times, the client’s perception of the problem is just the tip of the iceberg, and the underlying contributors to the problem are the great bulk of the iceberg that lies hidden beneath the surface of the water.  The surface and underlying contributors to the problem represent technology and people, the total system.  It is important to consider both the surface and underlying contributors.  The more recognizable a problem is, the better the chance of formulating an action plan towards a solution to the problem to achieve organization development.

Hackman and Oldham’s (1980) Work Design Model

Hackman and Oldham’s (1980) work design model focuses on the relationship between job or work design and worker satisfaction and contends that the three primary psychological states that significantly affect worker satisfaction are experienced meaningfulness of the work, experienced responsibility for the work, and performance feedback (as cited in Burke, 1992).  The total system approach is accurate in exemplifying that not only should a process be considered, but the people responsible for the process as well. 

The Burke-Litwin Model of Organization Performance and Change

The Burke-Litwin Model of Organization Performance and Change incorporates the concepts of organizational climate and culture (Burke, 1992).  Burke (1992) describes the concept of organizational climate as “a psychological state strongly affected by organizational conditions, such as systems, structure, and managerial behavior”. (p. 126).  The concept of organizational culture, as defined by Burke (1992), “is drawn from anthropology and is used to describe the relatively enduring set of values and norms that underlie a social system.” (p. 126).  According to the Burke-Litwin Model, organizational climate is a result of transactions, and organizational culture change requires transformation (Burke, 1992).  Transactional factors include structure, management practices, standardized policies, and the climate of the organization.  Transformational factors include any outside conditions that influence the organization’s performance, the organization’s purpose, executive behavior, and the culture of the organization.    The basic reference drawn from this model is that climate is a result of transactions, and culture change requires transformation, with culture change being the more difficult to persuade. 


Human Resource Development practitioners must consider the viewpoints, importance, and relevance of OD Process to Guide Change methodologies and theories to acquire an understanding of OD and identifiable characteristics of organizational performance.  With an understanding that organizations can be improved with methods that involve both people and practices or procedures, Human Resource Development practitioners will be much more prepared to survive apparently intricate organizations and implement improvements throughout organizations allowing the talents of people to be used more effectively.


Burke, W. W. (1992). Organization development: A process of learning and changing (2nd ed.). New York: Addison-Wesley.

 By Shirley J. Caruso, M.A. Human Resource Development



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