The practice of organization developement (OD) is informed by humanistic values and these values are embedded in the psychological concept of ‘development’. Development in the context of the OD field goes beyond the mere sense of the organization evolving over time to encompass systematic progression and growth not limited to time. This implies that development is continual and it is not normative. The process of organization development is not a natural process but requires effort and intentionality. This differentiates OD from facilitation and coaching approaches. The arc of development is not a reactive (neurotic) out-of-control behavior but is guided by capacity for choice and reason.

OD practitioners have well-developed beliefs about approaches to organizing and strategies for improvement based on contexts. To effectively practice the OD field, the practitioners need to understand the sources of their development assumptions, for example, Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, McKinsey 7s Framework, The Star Model, Burke-Litwin, Freud, Erikson and Piaget. OD practitioners promote self-analysis as a path to health and growth across individuals, work teams and the entire organization. OD enhances the capacity for authentic communication, transparency and employee voice. It considers people as human beings instead of human resources.

Systems Thinking is at the centre of organization development. There are three common criteria that underlie most developmental models. The first criterion is that the more developed a system, the more aware it is of itself and it can talk to itself about itself. The second belief is that the more developed a system, the less it is driven by reactive, unconscious emotions, motivations and cognitive frameworks and the more decisions and actions are based on reason, rationality and cognitive complexity. The third criterion is the more developed a system, the more it is able to actualize its potential.

Organizations are involved in the ‘heartless hustle for razor thin margins, putting short-term profits at the centre stage and long-term partnerships in the cheap seats. The soul of an organization is put in a profit-at-all cost vice and the positive spirit of workers is squeezed out. Most leaders and managers want to create great teams and great organizations. However, the managers are faced with a high demand for quick results and pressure from board and oversight committees, leaving them with no time for implementing OD practices. This tendency to withdraw is founded on the need to drive performance now. It is executionary and therefore violent. There is a focus on short-term results at the expense of all else. OD is therefore the answer to what the managers are looking for and to addressing fragmentation across the organization’s strategy, processes, people, structure, and reward systems. The ensuing congruence leads to enhanced competitive advantage as a result of sustained business growth, improvements in work processes, and enhanced capacity to innovate and self-renew. OD transforms individuals, teams and organizations because it subsumed essential values for managing change and enhancing organizational effectiveness: the spirit of inquiry, free and informed choice, authenticity and collaborative decision making. It addresses the pervasive era of passion larceny among individuals and teams. OD is about creating great teams and great organizations.

What are the humanistic values that inform OD practice?

1. Create a legacy of contribution

OD helps people to realize their full potential and see how to contribute to the future of an organization. People are more enthused about “building a great cathedral, than simply laying bricks”. OD helps people to see the significance and value of their work.

2. Insist on excellence

OD drives quality and crowds-out the tolerance of mediocrity. The adoption of Appreciative Inquiry (AI) and Systems Thinking aids in enhancing operational excellence through the harmonious operation of individuals and work groups.

3. Nurture healthy relationships

OD helps to build healthy relationships across work groups through promoting collaboration and cooperation. OD practitioners remind people of humanity and worthy, helping people to be inspired, ennobled, and incensed.

4. Pursue a competitive cause

OD help people view their role and responsibilities in grander terms than simply a job.

5. Have more face-to-face conversations

OD practitioners should be comfortable to step into potentially difficult conversations in order to enhance awareness and inspire fact-based decision making.

Organizations that consider OD as a strategic imperative have the capacity to resolve complex organizational issues such as cultural change, introducing new systems or processes, determining the organization’s mission and values, and enhancing leadership and employee engagement. The field of OD is critical to business success and strategy through widespread learning, engagement and constant inquiry that enhances the organization’s capacity to deal with prevalent mega-disruptions, and thrive. It also supports the application of discovery and prediction techniques to further the achievement of organizational goals. Due to the volatility, ambiguity and unpredictability of the business environment, organizations encounter technical and adaptive challenges that require the proactive adoption and application of analytical models and expertise. The models and expertise that drive effectiveness at board and organizational level require harnessing the theory and practices of OD as developed through inquiry, experimentation and learning. The hybrid interventions that OD bring to corporate board rooms enable organizations to be responsive to trends, opportunities, shocks and pressures, and to resolve the complex and disruptive technical and adaptive challenges in organizational life.


Justine Chinoperekweyi, Ph.D., Director & Academic Dean - Centre for Organization Leadership & Development (COLD)

The Centre for Organization Leadership & Development (COLD) is a Zimbabwe incorporated management consultancy and vocational education & training institution. We are a global learning organization that moves organizations, work teams and individuals up the ladder of growth continually. COLD is an organization leadership & development institution with a commitment to building effective organizations through training and education of individuals, teams, leaders and aspiring leaders; and restructuring or reengineering organizations for growth and sustainability. We are an organization that facilitates effective knowledge transfer to improve plans, processes, people and performance in organizations. We endeavor to offer academic courses that are relevant and transformational through our competency-based curriculum. For more information, contact us at Or visit our website at