Holistic organisational development

By Abhinash on February 8, 2010

Over the course of many decades, the business scenario has undergone drastic changes. Globalisation, recession and developing economies have redefined the way business is conducted. Traditional concepts of Organisational Development are today outdated. They were framed at a time when an organization was considered to be much like a stable machine. Traditional organisational development diagnoses an organizational problem and then prescribes a method to fix it, much like a traditional medical doctor treats a body today. However today, with complex business issues such as cross-cultural management, work-life balance, etc. there is a need for companies to address multiple problems while keeping a single long-term goal. For this purpose, holistic organisational development becomes relevant.

The need for holistic organisational development

Today’s organizations are experiencing change like never before. Many of us practitioners now find that after we’ve “treated” one organizational problem, another soon surfaces. There is therefore a need for better management practices to address many levels at the same time. Holistic Organisational Development is useful because it focuses on organisation as a whole, rather than a single individual or level. When companies show their employees the overall picture, their output increases (Thol et al, n.d.).

There is no definition of holistic organisational development yet. The concept is still at a nascent stage, however practitioners are starting to realise its relevance today.

A history of holistic organisational development

Actually, developers have been adopting various forms of holistic development for several years. Many practitioners now take a systems view of organizations. They focus as much on the processes between the parts of an organization as on the parts themselves. They talk of patterns in organizations rather than events.

There are recent developments in the field of HRM that indicate the rise of holistic organisational development. It has become a priority for managers and owners to engage and commit all workers in the whole development process. This helps them feel involved and look at the bigger picture, actively participating in a common organisation goal. (Davidoff and Lazarus, 2003).

Some methods undertaken by managers to foster holistic organisational development are:

  1. Self-organizing systems and self-managed teams are now mainstream in the literature.
  2. Spirituality in the workplace has become a common topic.
  3. Many management books reference principles from Eastern philosophies.
  4. Management development programs now include forms of self development as well.
  5. Dialogue groups enhance meaning for members.
  6. Interventions, such as coaching and peer-coaching seem to be on the rise.
  7. Consultants specialize in facilitating the rituals inherent in managing change. Consultants promise “learning relationships” with clients.

Scope for further development

Despite the recent developments in holistic organisational development, much remains to be done. We recognize that leaders are faced with many anxieties while facing constant change. Yet we provide few avenues for leaders to get support to deal with these anxieties. Too many of us resort only to traditional classroom techniques for leadership development. The importance of holistic organisational development lies in the fact that it looks at the bigger picture. It concerns with the welfare of the organisation as a whole rather than as an individual. This helps many businesses get fruitful results in the long run.

In addition, we need a new definition of OD- a definition that integrates new methods to enhance the effectiveness of our organizations. It may not be a definition at all. It may be a set of guiding principles around which the field of OD self-organizes for now. This is needed in order to steer new, upcoming companies in the direction of holistic organisational development.



I am currently working as a Research Associate. My work is centered on Macroeconomics with modern econometric approach. Broadly, the methodological research focuses on Panel data and Times series data analysis for causal inference and prediction. I also served as a reviewer to Journals of Taylor & Francis Group, Emerald, Sage.


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