Cover Image: Organizational Development Essentials You Always Wanted To Know

Organizational Development Essentials You Always Wanted To Know

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Member Reviews

Provides the essentials of organisational development in a handy to read book. Has a range of useful references for future use and is a good refresher.

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The book serves the purpose as an OD text with details. I was not looking for a textbook to review and hence this landed in my shelf due to my mistake.

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Reading this was a mixed experience. As far as I could tell, Mithal gets very little completely wrong but he brings a very narrow perspective to the book. It is a good catalog of techniques and potential outcomes, but needs reinforcement on a theoretical level.

Up front, there were two very fundamental weaknesses where I do think the author is mistaken and which weaken the volume's credibility:

First, the book assumes (section 2.1) that all organizations are profit-maximizing businesses. ("Enhancement of profit remains the ultimate goal for all organizations," and thus OD interventions fundamentally are about "doing more with less," among other things.) There's no discussion of the differences between for-profit and non-profit or public sector organizations. This was deeply puzzling, because they have very different incentives and dynamics. Focusing on business is a legitimate choice, but that should have been called out explicitly.

Second, in discussing the goals of OD (section 2.1) , we are told the because organizations have specific goals, "All activities carried out [in the organization] are deliberate in nature. They are conducted with a definite goal in mind and are never random." This, I think, is just not true. Any sustained interaction between groups of people is going to produce "emergent" results -- that is, chaotic, random, emotion-driven, bias-ridden, and all of the other gloriously messy things that make us what we are. The challenge is that if you start from rigid rationality as an operating assumption, it's going to add enormous difficulty to getting anything done in an organization.

There was also a certain naivety to the discussion (sections 1.5-1.7) on OD's assumptions, core values and what OD is not. I agree with the very humanistic values the author lays out, but in my experience they're aspirations as much as--or more than--actionable assumptions. (Many of your clients will not care about these things, so what do you do then?) Contra the author, OD has not "always operated with a framework of humanistic and ethical concern for people." Much of the time and motion part of OD, for instance, was about squeezing the most product out of workers -- the shift to a more humanistic approach came after the Second World War, paralleling larger (Western) social changes. And perhaps cynically, the statement in 1.7 that "OD is not about short-term manipulation to achieve immediate financial gains" seems unrealistic in many contexts.

Most of the detailed discussion of interventions and outcomes seems solid, aside from a few quirks. (For example, the author apparently has an unexplained bias against qualitative research, although this often opens up the human experience in organizations in a way quantitative tools can struggle with, although Mithal prefers them 'for the sense of objectivity' they bring--itself a very large, unexamined assumption.) Overall, my impression was that the book deals with an idealized, almost theoretical version of OD and the life of organizations.

And all that's fine in a textbook. As written, this seems like it's more aimed at potential first-time consumers of OD services and I'm not sure how helpful or persuasive it will be for them. I'd have liked to see more time dedicated to how this is supposed to work, not just what one might do. I think that ultimately would have been more convincing and useful.

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As a HR professional, this is a valuable resource to read and learn from. It was worth the time, although it did repeat from other books and there wasn’t new information for me in this.

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