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Les stratégies de développement organisationnel

Les stratégies de développement organisationnel

Laurent Bélanger

Volume : 27-4 (1972)


Organization Development Strategies

Organization development can be looked upon as a global strategy which tends to improve the problem-solving capacity of an organization and its ability to cope with changes in its environment. It is global in the sense that it takes the entire organization as a target of intervention. However, any organization development activity will rely on a particular strategy using a framework that draws heavily from the behavioral sciences. This paper intends to analyse and compare six particular approaches on four different grounds : the nature and the theoretical background of each strategy, the level of intervention and the goals each tries to achieve. The strategies will be reviewed and compared in the following order : action-research ; process consultation ; socio-technical systems ; transactional approach ; social-analysis ; non-directive orientation.


Is a term carried by Kurt Lewin in an effort to incorporate research work into action. The idea was to study group processes by participating in the life and the evolution of the group. Lewin realized that individual attitudes and behavior can be changed if the attitudes and norms of groups are changed. Action-research made explicit the main phases of any change process : diagnostic-feedback- commitment to action. This approach follows the stream of thought elaborated by the gestalt theorists and the hegelian concept of social evolution. It is particularly used at the group level. Since groups interact with other groups in large organizations, sooner or later, the structure and the inner working of an organization are put to question. Applied to an organization development activity, action-research will help to identify the forces that hamper or facilitate any change process.


Is a particular strategy developed by Edgar Schein. It bears upon the organization processes : decision-making, communications, leadership, conflict resolution, etc... The change-agent and the client-system engage in a set of activities which helps the latter to have a better understanding of the processes at work in its own organization. The fundamental idea is « to help the client to help himself  ». The phases of the intervention are spelled out in a way that the beginning and the end of the change process may be visualized by the client-system. This approach makes use of the studies in social psychology dealing with leadership styles, communication openness, and conflict resolution methods. The organization development activity is conducted on an organization-wide scale while the effort bears on culture and processes. By helping the client to find better ways of solving problems, the strategy will in the long run tend to change the work climate of the entire organization.


Takes into account ail the major organizational and environmental variables that can explain the behavior of individuals and groups with the organization as well as the overall performance of the latter in its transaction with the environment. The major part of the organization development intervention consists of a thorough diagnostic of the strengths and weaknesses of an entire organization. The results of the diagnostic are fed back to the management at ail level in order to devise and implement a change program. The theoretical framework used in this planned effort comes from organization theories and related works which underline the impact of technology and environment on the performance of an organization. The intervention is conducted at many levels : organizational culture, structure, work groups and technology used. The objective sought is a better harmonization of the technology and the environment with the variables that characterizes the social system of a going concern.


This strategy is a refinement of the previous one. It has been developed by Lorsh and Lawrence. The diagnostic will begin with a study of the degree of certainty and stability in the environment, the market for the product or the service being the most important variable. Once the environment is known to the people in the organization, the structure is questioned to find whether it is ad equate or not to support the kind of transactions the organization entertains with its environment. The framework used in this planned effort has been elaborated by the authors in their book Organization and Environment. Lorsh and Lawrence would leave aside a cause-effect stream of thinking to resort to a circular process which yields a better picture of the interdependencies between segments of the organization and relevant parts of the environment. The intervention would be conducted at the level of the entire organization and its environment in order to achieve a better ad equation of the structures to the requirements of a changing or stable environment.


This particular approach has been developed by Elliot Jaques in his Consulting work at the Glacier Metal Company. The main ingredient that differentiates this strategy from the previous ones is the type of helping relationship that evolves between the consultant and the organization in the course of the intervention. The consultant would take a non-interpretative attitude and would maintain an independent role vis-à-vis his client. In helping the client to have a better awareness of his problem, the consultant would provide a non-evaluative feedback so that the client discovers by himself what is meaningful to him. A better assessment of problems and their meaning will be conducive to more adequate solutions. The client is put into a position to learn by himself to cope with the problems he faces in assuming his management responsibilities. « In essence, social-analysis requires that an individual or individuals in an organization, with a problem concerning the working of the organization, should seek the help of an analyst in sorting out the nature of the problem. The analyst is independent in the sense that he is not embroiled in the organization and its problem ; he is from outside. He offers analytical help, rather than pushing for a particular course of action » (Elliot Jaques, « Social-analysis and the Glacier Project  », Human Relations, vol. 17, 1964, p. 364). Elliot Jaques conducted his main intervention at the Glacier Metal with a background and an experience in the field of psycho-analysis. This was an « unplanned  » effort which used the knowledge and methods of clinical psychology. The purpose was to improve the working of the organization while helping people to deal with the socio-affective dimension that enters in the analysis and solution of problems pertaining to the performance of a task.


The non-directive orientation do not differ very much from the social-analysis. Again, this is an « unplanned  » effort to bring about change in organizations. It has been developed by Max Pagès and his colleagues. The intervention is centered on self-regulation phenomena within groups and organizations. In other words, communications among members of groups may be hampered by the various perceptions, attitudes and motivations of the members and by group norms. These phenomena must be assessed in order to increase openness and trust. The help the change-agent can provide consists of mirroring in a selective manner what is meaningful for the group or the organization. Max Pagès, in working with groups, uses a conceptual scheme drawn from the Lewin's theory of quasi-stationary equilibria. Max Pagès is also familiar with the Rogerian approach in the field of clinical psychology and education. This non-directive strategy tends to improve communications within groups and organizations, to help people to solve interpersonal conflicts, and to bring changes in the culture and the work climate of the organization.

It seems obvious that all effort of bringing change within organization seeks to increase its efficiency and health. The end-result is about the same ; however, some strategies seek to introduce new values in the dealing with human resources, other seek to increase the capacity for an organization to cope with changes in the environment. Differences appear among these particular strategies to the extent that a structured analytical framework is used at the beginning and in the course of each intervention. The action-research, the social-analysis, and the non-directive orientation will draw its conceptual scheme and learning material from the experience itself. Process-consultation, techno-structural and transactional strategies will tend to import learning instruments and material from the outside. Consequently, the degree of « directivity  » will differ according to the structuring of the intervention process. More research has to be done on the characteristics of the helping relationships and the evaluation of ongoing experiences in order to assess properly the similarities and differences among various strategies of organization development.