Effective business leaders are able to assess existing processes and identify where to innovate for continuing success. Organizational development enables stakeholders to meet the changing needs of organizations. It is “an ongoing, systematic process of implementing effective organizational change,” according to Boundless. Business professionals utilize the organizational development process to align systems and strategies in a way that best addresses short- and long-term goals.

What Is Organizational Development?

By identifying potential roadblocks and other problems in the organizational structure, organizational development uses behavioral science and other methodologies to transform cultures and increase performance.

Though it is based in behavioral science, emerging fields such as systems thinking and organizational learning have led to the evolution of organizational development over time. Combining these various perspectives has created a holistic and collaborative process that can have a positive impact on the entire organization.

In today’s global economy, the field has expanded even further to help organizations respond to rapidly changing markets and business goals. Organizational development helps businesses make informed decisions to update strategy, values and culture. However, making changes to systems and structures must be done in a thoughtful manner to minimize negative consequences.

Other areas in which organizational development can make an impact include:

  • Communication
  • Decision-making processes
  • Leadership styles
  • Interpersonal processes
  • Project management

Steps in the Organizational Development Process

Organizational Development Process

The organizational development process is “based on the action research model which begins with an identified problem or need for change,” according to HR People. It is cyclical, which means that it can be repeated as many times as necessary until the desired result is achieved. The following are the four core steps of the organizational development process.


The first step in the organizational development process is identifying problems that could interfere with organizational effectiveness. HR People notes that it “can also begin when leadership has a vision of a better way and wants to improve the organization.”

This step also involves understanding the causes. It may be completed through interviewing or surveying members of the organization or business. According to Health Behavior and Health Education: Theory, Research, and Practice, this step involves examining an organization’s:

  • Mission
  • Goals
  • Policies
  • Structures and technologies
  • Climate and culture
  • Environmental factors
  • Desired outcomes


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Action Planning

The next step involves creating an actionable strategy to address the problems diagnosed previously. It is a good idea to come up with multiple plan options and then identify the most effective one to implement. This can involve testing various solutions and assessing whether a chosen plan is achievable.


During the intervention stage, leaders implement the strategy planned in the previous step. It is important to closely monitor progress and adhere closely to the action plan. Depending on the identified problem, interventions might include professional development, team building or structural interventions, HR People says.


Once intervention has begun, stakeholders should track the impact of the changes by gathering and analyzing relevant data. Business leaders can then determine whether the intervention was successful or if other action plans should be created to address the problem.

The four steps of the organizational development process help organizations “better absorb disruptive technologies, market opportunities, and ensuing challenges and chaos” so they can improve from the inside out, Boundless explains.

Starting a Career in Business

Education is the foundation of a successful business career. West Virginia State University offers an online Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in Management that focuses on preparing students to lead in organizations of all types. The curriculum explores key business topic areas like organizational behavior, accounting, finance, marketing and information systems. This program, which is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools & Programs, gives students a strong background of knowledge and management skills they can directly apply in the workplace.