Celebrating the Women in OD


Celebrating the Women in OD

By Tashania Morris

Did you know that March is Women’s History Month?  As a women-led organization, we wanted to acknowledge and honor some of the women that have made many important contributions to the profession.  We all stand on the shoulders of giants.  Think back to a moment in time when women were not allowed to work, considered extremely inferior to men and were encouraged to become teachers, secretaries, and nurses.  Today, women work in a number of different capacities and professions, some of which elder generations might not have thought possible.  It took dedication, guts and a whole lot of perseverance to break down some of those barriers.  In honor of women’s history month, we want to highlight some of the women in OD.

Mary Parker Follet (1868-1933) was a community leader and innovative organizer, who focused on what happened in groups and how they functioned long before her better-known male colleagues. Although relatively unknown to many in our field, she was a pioneer in both how groups functioned and the key role of leadership in their effectiveness.  She has been called the Mother of Scientific Management (paralleling Frederick Taylor as ‘the Father’) and was one of the first to name and practice what is now known as ‘management development’.  If you work in a matrix organization, you have her to thank!  She is credited with developing ‘matrix management’, first used at DuPont in the 1920’s.

Jane Srygley Mouton (1930-1987) was an American Management Theoretician.  She and Robert Blake created The Managerial Grid Model, which is also known as The Blake-Mouton Managerial Grid.  According to an article entitled, “Breakthrough in Organization Development”, the authors state that, “The Managerial Grid identifies five theories of managerial behavior, based on two key variables found in organizations. One variable reflects concern for production or output; the other variable, concern for people”. (Blake, Mouton, Blake, & Greiner, 1964).   This was a breakthrough and is still being used today, in many different organizations, as managers struggle to find the perfect equilibrium to govern under.  Jane Mouton suggested the term Organization Development in the late 1980’s.

Diana Whitney (born 1948) is a pioneer in the field and is the author of many books on Appreciative Inquiry.  She is the founder and president of Corporation for Positive Change and the founder of the Taos Institute.  Appreciative Inquiry is, “a philosophy and a methodology for positive change. It is founded on the simple assumption that human systems – teams, organizations and people – move in the direction of what they study, what they focus upon and what they talk about with regularity.” (www.positivechange.org, n.d.).  Instead of focusing on the negatives, the appreciative theory focuses on the positives of the team and the strengths everyone brings to the table.  Everyone has an important part to play as a part of the team.  Listed below are some of the books co-written by Dr. Whitney:

  • Appreciative Team Building: Positive Questions to Bring Out the Best of Your Team (iUniverse, Inc., 2005)
  • Appreciative Inquiry: A Positive Revolution in Change (Berrett-Koehler, 2nd ed.2005)
  • The Power of Appreciative Inquiry (Berrett-Koehler, 2nd ed. 2010)
  • Appreciative Leadership: Focus on What Works to Drive Winning Performance and Build a Thriving Organization (McGraw-Hill, 2010)

Sandra Janoff (born 1941) is co-director, along with Marvin Weisbord, of Future Search Network.  Dr. Janoff has played an important role in revolutionizing change management and whole system transformation.  Future search was created to, “bring people from all walks of life into the same conversation – those with authority, resources, expertise, information and need. They meet for 20 hours spread over three days. People tell stories about their past, present and desired future. Through dialogue, they discover their common ground. Only then do they make concrete action plans” (http://futuresearch.net).  The purpose is to get all the stakeholders involved and have them listen and get to know each other while remaining focused on the task at hand.  Sandra is well known in Organizational Development and is sought after because of the role she has played in developing Future Search methodology and embracing the  “whole systems” approach when using Future Search.  Some of the books that Sandra Janoff has coauthored are:

  • Future Search: An Action Guide to Finding Common Ground (Berrett-Koehler, 3rd ed, 2010)
  • Don’t Just Do Something, Stand There! Ten Principles for Leading Meetings that Matter (Berrett-Koehler, 2007)
  • Lead More, Control Less (Berrett-Koehler, 2015)

Kathleen D. Dannemiller (1929-2003) was a co-founder of Dannemiller Tyson Associates, which was formed in 1984.  DTA’s objective was to help organizations achieve fast, long-lasting change.  Kathie contributed to the theory and practice of OD by co-inventing an approach to working with large, complex issues, now known as Whole-Scale Change.  Kathie taught and used this approach around the world, in hundreds of organizations and communities.

Check out these other well-known women in the field of OD:

  • Nancy Adler – Globalization and Culture
  • Eva Schindler-Rainman – Whole Systems Change
  • Barbara Bunker – Whole Systems Change
  • Rita Hardiman – Diversity and Social Justice
  • Elsie Y. Cross – Diversity and Social Justice
  • Judith Katz – Diversity and Social Justice
  • Edith Seashore – Diversity and Social Justice

If you know of any women in the field of that are making moves, shattering the glass ceiling, feel free to share their story with us at info@instituteod.com or on our linked in group: Institute of Organization Development.


Blake, R., Mouton, J., Blake, L., & Greiner, L. E. (1964, November ). Breakthrough in Organization Development. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/1964/11/breakthrough-in-organization-development

http://futuresearch.net. (n.d.). Retrieved from What is Future Search?: http://futuresearch.net/about/whatis/

www.positivechange.org. (n.d.). Appreciative Inquiry (AI). Retrieved from https://positivechange.org/how-we-work/appreciative-inquiry-ai/

Author: Tashania Morris, MSHRM. SHRM-CP, CDF, is on a personal mission is to empower, educate and promote change.

The purpose of the Global IOD Network Membership Organization (GIODN) is to provide opportunities for OD Professionals to meet virtually, develop relationships, gain continuous education, provide career opportunities, share information, present research, network, and learn advanced OD applications.  GIODN’s mission is to promote the field of OD throughout the world through education, networking, and collaboration.  Please check out our website at www.giodn.org for more information.


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