10 basic components of Organization Development (updated)

Every first year student of organization development should learn the following basic components of Organization Development; these principles should be refreshed all through one’s professional life.

  1. The act of organizing involves the creation of anxiety, and organizations, in order to be successful, need to mitigate the anxiety. The anxiety is created by the friction which mutual dependence that organizing creates. The aches and pains that the organization deals with are anxiety-rooted. If this anxiety is not mitigated, all activity of the players is inward focused and not productive.
  2. Reorganizations are often manipulations which are politically motivated to buy time. As a matter of fact, the more frequent  output of reorganizations is chaos. And most important, reorgs are ‘feigned change’, the real issues often obfuscated by the chaos which ‘reorgs’ create.
  3. Working with middle management is a waste of time, unless it is one part (and not the starting point) of organization development. Working with middle management is showering with a raincoat on.
  4. No organization can “define away complexity”. So yes, clear roles and processes have some value; but when the rubber hits the road, most roles and process are not totally definable
  5. The most important value OD brings to the table is the ability to get  competent people to cooperate.
  6.  OD does not and cannot change culture. OD can get organizations to do things differently, which may change culture.
  7. OD is an art form. Hire artists not technicians.
  8. OD products are saleable but for the most, they are commercialized crap. OD products have a way of aligning themselves with fads, like AI, only to change their “skin” as the fad slip slides away.
  9. The results of OD are real but not measurable.
  10. OD is a process. The goals of the process are not known apriori, so any “statement/scope of work” that you need to provide at the outset  may be meaningless within a few weeks. Be careful what you promise.
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19 thoughts on “10 basic components of Organization Development (updated)

  1. Allon,

    This is one of your very best postings relative to OD – barring your delightful expose’s via your HR meme.

    In regards to your first point: Peter Kaustenbaum writes a lot regarding anxiety and its necessity. However, he has not – to my recollection – identified the need to mitigate or it drives inward. I can testify to the truth of what you say: 8 hours of surgery from anxiety-related internal destruction. Yes, I was in a position of high anxiety. I was the second to a leader who was very good at pitting component of the organization against each other. However, she was very incompetent on allowing the anxiety she created to be relieved and channeled into good use for the organization. Rather, her effect was to create poison that deteriorated and eviscerated the organization – manifesting in myself as damaged internal body parts.

    President Obama used your second feature. It has been characterized as “lead from behind” to put a positive spin on the idea of not taking a leadership stand on a given matter.

    The US Army has a tactic called “delay” – trading space for time. That was taken to an art form in AirLand Battle 2000, doctrinally expressed. What Airland Battle 2000 introduced was the idea that time was a 4th dimension of battle space. So, a battle front was temporal space. In that space, a given commander was to drive decision cycles of the enemy (as well as manage his or her own) in such a way that one won that battlefront. A cool term of the era was “battle calculus” – connoting the idea that battlefield were not linear; neither in physical dimension, nor psychological (psyops), nor temporal. This explicit realization led to exercising the delay at the operational art and strategic levels. NOTE: A battlefield is a place of radical change – for sure. 😉

    In regards to your points 4, 7, and 10: Wow! Point 4 is especially powerful. It drives the meaning of points 7 and 10.

    Yes! an OD intervention is a change in of itself. What your powerful insights cause is for me to visualize or liken it to a spinning cog driving the larger cog AKA the organization. That mechanistic viewpoint, however, loses the fluidity that you capture. So, rather than being fixed, those cogs are more like energy wheels.

    As a bit of serendipity, I was listening to an interview of the author of “Three Sisters of Eve” on NPR – a book about Turkey’s sociological developments. During that interview, she noted that today’s societal evolutions are increasing “fluid”. That fluidity is disconcerting as former anchor points are lost as people get lost in the flow.
    Her comments tie to your point 1 about anxiety./ She notes such fluidness causes incredible stress that, if not properly relieved and channeled causes great social upheavals – versus more natural evolution.

    Nice work, Allon.


    Drive on!

  2. Grate post. IMHO, Anxiety (or tension) needs to be regulated,not mitigated. Sometimes, the anxiety needs to be ratchitted up to get better work done.

  3. As usual you make a couple of good points.
    But as usual you are promoting some irresponsible points like
    “The results of OD are real but not measurable.”
    I clicked on the link about your dental work (congrats) and I think the argument is weak since the goal is not perfection.

    OD practitioners who say what is done is an art and is beyond measurement perpetuate a myth which will destroy this field. IMO

  4. Hi Alon , it has been a long time…. I resonate with much of what you said for many years and am practicing what is called now “ Dialogic OD “ mindset. Coming from
    A not knowing stance. Seeing how many of us keep on promising linear work and results in turbulent and complex realities I ended up writing a book about it “Initiating and Inviting Generative Change : entry and contracting for emergent outcomes in result driven organizations” I hope you’ll be curious and read it ( it is a small 110 pages book) and imagine us in conversation over a cup of coffee after you do…
    to some recommendations and Amazon address please go to: my new book on

  5. Pingback: Can OD become aligned with our Diminishing Attention Span? | Allon Shevat-אלון שבט

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