Traditional organizational approaches to organizational development emerged from behavioral research undertaken after World War II. That research led to the development in the late 1940’s and 1950’s of behavioral development strategies such as sensitivity training, survey feedback, socio-technical systems, and quality management.
During the 1950’s, researchers and managers began to utilize different elements of the various behavioral development strategies to create more comprehensive processes for planning and executing change in organizations. Models such as Lewin’s 3 step planned change model and Action Research constituted some of the traditional forms of organizational development.
The following is a traditional definition of organizational development that was developed in 1969.
“Organization Development is an effort planned, organization-wide, and
managed from the top, to increase organization effectiveness and health through
planned interventions in the organization's 'processes,' using behavioral-science
-- Beckhard, “Organization development: Strategies and Models”
This definition implies the focus on improving organizational quality and performance through problem solving and modifying those behaviours which caused the problem. It is a ‘doctor-patient’ type approach whereby an OD practitioner enters an organization in an attempt to ‘diagnose’ organizational problems and ‘prescribe’ a solution.
Appreciative inquiry (AI) represents a paradigm shift in the way which organizations approach organizational development. Propounded by David Cooperrider and Srivastva in 1987, AI’s main difference from the traditional approach is that it focuses on what the organization is doing right and its strengths rather than its problems. It seeks to build on the core strengths and competencies of an organization to aid in shaping its future.
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