The Link Between Industrial/Organizational Psychology, Organization Development, and Change Management

Goldfish jumping from three different bowls | Credit: Caroline Purser
Goldfish jumping from three different bowls | Credit: Caroline Purser

I often find people confusing and commingling the terms “organization development” and “change management”, even I/O psychology experts and authors. To set the record straight and help clear up this persistent and ongoing confusion, I offer this post on the link between Industrial/Organizational (I/O) Psychology, Organization Development (OD), and Change Management.

One problem is that different people define these terms differently, resulting in dilution of constructs. Another issue is that two of the terms — organization development (OD) and change management — are often loosely defined. For instance, many people (even some academics) say/write/use “organizational development” but it is actually organization development (not organizational development).

In his chapter on organizational change and development in the APA Handbook of I/O Psychology, Martins provided some context regarding the challenge of defining organization development (OD):

“[The] lack of definitional clarity within OD is partly due to the fragmentation of the literature and differing priorities and perspectives of various scholars and practitioners. . . .[In addition,] OD as a separate research area has struggled for academic legitimacy” (Martins, 2011, p. 693).

A similar issue applies to change management regarding both the inconsistency in defining it and the lack of theory supporting it. Indeed, in his book, The Theory and Practice of Change Management, Hayes (2010) wrote: “Change management is most effective when the use of tools and techniques is guided by theory” (p. xv).

Definitions — Industrial/Organizational (I/O) Psychology, Organization Development (OD), and Change Management:

Below are my favorite definitions for Industrial/Organizational (I/O) Psychology, Organization Development (OD), and Change Management:

Industrial and Organizational (I/O) psychology is a field of psychology that studies people, work behavior (performance of tasks), and work settings to understand how behavior can be influenced, changed, and enhanced to benefit employees and organizations (Zedeck, 2011).

Organization development is a system-wide application and transfer of behavioral science knowledge to the planned development, improvement, and reinforcement of the strategies, structures, and processes that lead to organization effectiveness” (Cummings & Worley, 2009, pp. 1-2).

Change management is the capability and set of interventions for leading and managing the people side of change to achieve a desired outcome. It’s about people adopting new mindsets, policies, practices, and behaviors to deliver organizational results (Aguirre, Brown, & Harshak, 2010).

Relationship Between Industrial/Organizational (I/O) Psychology, Organization Development (OD), and Change Management:

Organization development (OD) is a specialization within I/O psychology (Muchinsky, 2006; SIOP, 2016), and under OD is an area called change management (Cummings & Worley, 2009).

Industrial/Organizational (I/O) Psychology
⬇︎
Organization Development (OD)
⬇︎
Change Management

McLean (2006) said, “it is a mistake to equate OD with change management” (p. 13). Cummings and Worley (2009) remarked that OD is often confused with and mistakenly used to also mean change management.

“OD and change management both address the effective implementation of planned change. They are both concerned with the sequence of activities, the processes, and the leadership that produce organization improvements. They differ, however, in their underlying value orientation. OD’s behavioral science foundation supports values of human potential, participation, and development in addition to performance and competitive advantage. Change management focuses more narrowly on values of cost, quality, and schedule. As a result, OD’s distinguishing feature is its concern with the transfer of knowledge and skill so that the organization is more able to manage change in the future. Change management does not necessarily require the transfer of these skills. In short, all OD involves change management, but change management may not involve OD” (Cummings & Worley, 2015, pp. 3-4).

OD’s focus is on the whole system, while change management’s focus is on supporting the individual transitions that collectively result in organizational change (Creasey, 2015).

Creasey, Jamieson, Rothwell, and Severini (2016) offered a fantastic explanation about the overlapping and distinguishing features of organization development and change management (in Figure 22.1 on p. 334).

In terms of similarities, both organization development and change management share three significant overlaps (Creasey, Jamieson, Rothwell, & Severini, 2016, p. 334):

  1. Focus on the human dynamics within the organization,
  2. Recognize the critical nature of the individual employee in the performance and improvement of the organization, and
  3. Focus on improving organizational effectiveness, supporting return on investment (ROI) of change initiatives and increasing the alignment between employee behaviors and strategic imperatives.

Regarding their uniqueness, organization development and change management each possesses three distinguishing features (Creasey, Jamieson, Rothwell, & Severini, 2016, p. 334):

Organization Development (OD) is more often a whole system application— taking an open systems thinking approach, involved earlier in the change life cycle and defining opportunities. OD is more focused on “how the system functions” as the building block of successful change and how people get along and work together effectively on an interpersonal level in the change process. OD is more focused on designing interventions to modify higher order organizational components (e.g., organization structures, systems, processes, and relationships) (Creasey, Jamieson, Rothwell, & Severini, 2016, p. 334).

Change Management (CM) is more often project application—taking an “catalyzing individual employee change” approach, involved in implementation and taking a delivery approach. CM is more focused on “how to catalyze individual employees in changing how they do their jobs” as the building block of successful change. CM is more focused on applying structured approaches to facilitate individual adoption of changes to an employee’s processes, workflows, and behaviors in specific initiative execution (e.g., through targeted assessments, processes, tools, etc.) (Creasey, Jamieson, Rothwell, & Severini, 2016, p. 334).

In their I/O psychology textbook, Psychology and Work: Perspectives on Industrial and Organizational Psychology, Truxillo, Bauer, and Erdogan (2016) eloquently linked change management and I/O psychology:

“In the news, organizational change is often portrayed as revolutionary (as opposed to incremental) and as directly attributable to the actions of specific individuals, most notably a new CEO, or a few heroic individuals. . .In contrast, the I/O psychology literature…has generated a large body of literature describing the ingredients of successful change. What this literature suggests is that the success of a change effort is ultimately the result of how change recipients — those employees who are affected by the change — receive it. . .Given the importance of the human element in successful planning and implementation of change, I/O psychology has a lot to contribute to organizational change management” (Truxillo, Bauer, & Erdogan, 2016, pp. 545-546).

To recap, regarding the connection between Industrial/Organizational (I/O) Psychology, Organization Development (OD), and Change Management, I offer this simple, one-sentence explanation:

Organization development (OD) is a specialization within I/O psychology (Muchinsky, 2006; SIOP, 2016), and under OD is an area called change management (Cummings & Worley, 2009).

“Ultimately, all change efforts boil down to the same mission: Can you get people to start behaving in a new way?” (Heath & Heath, 2010, p. 4).

Written By: Steve Nguyen, Ph.D.
Leadership Advisor & Talent Consultant

References

Aguirre, D., Brown, A., & Harshak, A. (2010, October 5). Making change happen, and making it stick: Delivering sustainable organizational change. Strategy&. Retrieved from http://www.strategyand.pwc.com/reports/making-change-happen-making-stick-2

Creasey, T. (2015, November 14). Exploring the Relationship between OD and Change Management: Interview. Retrieved from http://blog.prosci.com/exploring-od-and-change-management-authors-interview

Creasey, T., Jamieson, D. W., Rothwell, W. J., & Severini, G. (2016). Exploring the relationship between organization development and change management. In W. J. Rothwell, J. M. Stavros, & R. L. Sullivan (Eds.), Practicing organization development: Leading transformation and change (4th, pp. 330-337). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

Cummings, T. G., & Worley, C. G. (2009). Organization development and change (9th ed.). Mason, OH: South-Western.

Cummings, T. G., & Worley, C. G. (2015). Organization development and change (10th ed.). Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning.

Hayes, J. (2010). The theory and practice of change management (3rd Ed.). Palgrave MacMillan.

Heath, C., & Heath, D. (2010). Switch: How to change things when change is hard. New York: Broadway Books.

Martins, L. L. (2011). Organizational change and development. In S. Zedeck (Ed.), APA handbook of I/O psychology (Vol. 3, pp. 691-728). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.

McLean, G. N. (2006). Organization development: Principles, processes, performance. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.

Muchinsky, P. M. (2006). Psychology applied to work (8th ed.). Belmont, CA: Thomson Wadsworth.

Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP). (2016). Approved CRSPPP (Committee on the Recognition of Specialties and Proficiencies in Professional Psychology) petition for the recognition of Industrial and Organizational Psychology as a specialty in professional psychology (Abr. ed.). Retrieved from http://www.siop.org/history/crsppp.aspx

Truxillo, D. M., Bauer, T. N., & Erdogan, B. (2016). Psychology and work: Perspectives on industrial and organizational psychology. New York: Routledge.

Zedeck, S. (Ed.). (2011). APA handbook of industrial and organizational psychology: Vol. 1. Building and developing the organization. Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.