Future Trends in Organization Development


Dialogic OD: The next step in the evolution of organizational change theories

Future Trends in Organization Development

Author: Nancy Zentis, Ph.D.

As an OD practitioner who has been in the field for over 30 years, I’ve learned and applied a plethora of OD tools and models to assist organizations, teams and individuals in meeting their objectives.  Many of these resources were accessed through valuable OD publications such as Wiley Publishing Company and Pfeiffer Annuals, as well as the contributions of OD Pioneers like Kurt Lewin, Edgar Schein, Ron and Gordan Lippitt, Douglas McGregor, Rensis Likert, Blake and Mouton, Eric Trist, Richard Beckhardt, Warner Burke, Chris Argyris, Edward Deming, and the Seashores–Charlie and Edie.  These thought leaders contributed to the development and expansion of concepts and tools such as Action Research Model, Human Interactions, Systems Thinking and Learning, Change Management, Open Space, Team Building, Quality Circles and TQM, Dialogue, Behavioral Change, Assessments, Training, and Case Studies which describe their client experiences and interventions.

One of the most important questions on the mind of OD professionals today is “How will OD continue as a profession in the future”?  Most OD experts are concerned with the lack of new research and technology in the field of OD, while others are struggling to find a strong OD competency model.  Roland Sullivan and William Rothwell’s competency model is an effective model for organization change and OD Consulting skills, however, we must ask ourselves the question, how do we continue to update our competencies to support the emerging needs of organizations?

For OD to continue to grow as a profession, OD practitioners must continue to develop the competencies needed to accurately assess the current and future needs of organizations that promote effective organization change, adaptability, and sustainability on three levels – organization, team and individual.

Here are several suggestions to improve OD’s capability:

  • OD must be invited to have a seat at the table and engaged in the system-wide efforts
  • Teach leaders OD principles and concepts
  • Involve members of the organization in learning OD tools and concepts in their daily interactions
  • Bring in OD early in the change process to help senior leaders develop the change strategy
  • Use a systems approach to integrate social systems with technical systems
  • Develop a strong business perspective to understand the client and organization
  • Conduct a thorough diagnosis of the organization systems— don’t over simplify
  • Ensure a balanced focus on technical systems and human factors–heavy focus on human factors can limit OD’s capacity to objectively assess the impact of its interventions and block double loop learning
  • Continue to grow the field and share new concepts and best practices
  • Practice OD theory and principles and continue to build your professional practice
  • Research new trends impacting the future and identify the core concepts that will address the challenges

A recent article identified a gap between academics and OD consultants and suggested that the way to revitalize the field of organization development in the future is to bridge the gap between researchers and practitioners.  These groups need to be more collaborative, supportive, and build on each other’s contributions.  They must overcome conflicts, create stronger communication systems, and create virtual teams.  The improvement in these areas will help bridge the gap between research theory and practice, help build the profession and benefit both groups to help promote organization development efforts.

Professor David Cooperrider (1998) believed that OD’s focus on building healthy organizations contributes to society as a whole, “The best path to the good society is the construction of great organizations that nurture and magnify the best in human beings.”

As Peter Senge mentioned in his forward of C. Otto Scharmer’s book “Theory U”, in many organizations and larger social systems, we know first-hand the excitement and energy of a team who are deeply engaged with their goals.  They have trust, openness, and a commitment to overcome adversity and create new possibilities.  We have also seen the opposite, where fear and mistrust prevail and people are protective and defensive.  The question is how can we build a system that supports the growth and sustainability of healthy organizations?

With that question in mind, here are some tools and concepts that have been used to successfully build healthy organizations:

6 Box Model – Marvin Weisbord

Action Research Model – Kurt Lewin, 7 Phase Model -Warner Burke

Human Interaction – NTL, Robert Crosby

Process Consulting – Edgar Schein

Quality Circles and TQM – Edward Deming

Seven S Model – Tom Peters and Robert Waterman

Organization Design – Jay Galbraith

Systems Thinking by Peter Senge

Appreciative Inquiry – David Cooperrider

Whole Systems Thinking – Kathy Dannemiller, Roland Sullivan

Culture Change – Edgar Schein

The Dialogic OD Model – Robert Marshak

Theory U – Otto Scharmer

We all must continue to build our practice in the field of OD. If OD can address shortcomings and overcome competency, strategic, and leadership barriers, OD will continue to be a major player in the change world for years to come.



IOD offers online Organization Development Certification Programs to help participants gain skills to advance in their career in the field of OD.  If you are new to OD, you will benefit from the OD Process Consulting Certification Program (ODPC).  If you have been in the field for several years but lack formal OD training, the Organization Development Certification Program (ODCP) will provide you with the tools and skills needed to advance in the field of OD.

IOD’s OD Certification Programs are offered online over 8 months, meeting 3 hours per month.  Each session is delivered through Go-to-training.  Our expert faculty provide interactive discussions, examples, tools, guidelines, and resources to enrich your learning experience.


This certification program provided me with the resources and tools I needed to practice OD.  The structure and process helped me to be more confident and focus on helping the client achieve their goals.

The practical experience I learned during this program gave me the confidence to support organization change management initiatives.  I used the skills to transfer my knowledge immediately after each session.


Dr. Nancy Zentis is the CEO of Institute of OD, offering online certification programs for those interested in Organization Development, Talent Management, Leadership Development and Executive Coaching, and OD Advanced Skills courses for ongoing learning.  She can be reached at info@instituteod.com.  For more information about our certification programs and short courses, please visit our website www.instituteod.com. To join our Global OD Network, http://www.giodn.org/.


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