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This article gives us a look at how Organization Development (OD) was established, who initiated the field of OD, and the method of planned change.

OD is a complex strategy intended to change the beliefs, attitudes, values, culture, and structure of organizations through planned change so that organizations are better prepared to adapt to new technologies, markets, and challenges.

Performance improvement and organization effectiveness are key reasons for organizational development methods or in simple terms, a systematic approach that enables organizations to implement change in a consistent way.

Kurt Lewin first introduced his model – Planned Change in the late 1930s.  He wanted to create a change process that was both practical and reliable.  Lewin’s planned change model focused on increasing performance and employee morale.  Although most of Kurt Lewin’s research and contributions to the field of organization development are somewhat unknown, he inspired many of his followers to contribute to the field over the last 70 years.  Lewin held a doctorate in psychology and was a prolific writer, who integrated survey research methodology, psychology, sociology, physics, and anthropology into an experimental framework that was not always easy to comprehend.

Lewin offered several principles for planned change.  The first one using scientific methodology for planned change (unfreezing, refreezing, and freezing) is based on the principles of behavioral science.  Scientific methodology involves using survey research methods (data collection) to collect data from groups within a sample population to inquire or investigate information about the past and current state to create a desired future state.

His second principle – commonly known as action research – focused on involving participants directly impacted by the problem.  By involving those directly associated with the problem, the likelihood is increased that they will implement the solution.

His contribution to Force Field Analysis provides us with more insight on how to encourage behavior change by removing environmental obstacles that cause resistance and motivation.

Lewin’s next principles dealt with Group Dynamics and Leadership Styles.  His research on group dynamics and leadership styles helped us realize that working with groups to change behavior or culture is easier than working with individuals.  Authority relationships and power is critical to the success of planned change.  Based on his research, democratic leadership versus autocratic leadership provides the best results to lead, influence, and inspire others.

Finally, his research on Group Decision Making and the importance of involving others in the process of implementing sustainable change provides us with insight into his planned change model, a significant part of his action research model.

In his writings about his research, he indicates that not all change initiatives run smoothly.  As OD Change professionals we must understand that our role is to help organizations successfully adapt to change through OD methods such as group dynamics, group involvement, collaboration, decision making, feedback, and collaboration.

For more information about Kurt Lewin and his contribution to OD, you are invited to attend our upcoming GIODN.org Book Club event on June 3rd, 2020 at 12:00 PM EDT, with Gilmore Crosby and preview his new book on Planned Change.

Author:  Dr. Nancy Zentis, CEO and Founder of Institute of Organization Development.  She can be reached at Nancy.zentis@instituteod.com.  IOD offers certification programs and professional development workshops at www.instituteod.com.