Industrial Organizational Psychology Definition

I frequently find people confusing and commingling the conditions company development and change direction, even I/O psychology specialists and authors. To put the record straight and help clear this up persistent and continuing confusion, I offer this informative article about the connection between Industrial/Organizational Psychology, Organization Development (OD), and Change Management.

Industrial Organizational Psychology Definition

1 difficulty is that different men and women define these terms differently, leading to dilution of constructs. Another matter is both of the conditions — business development (OD) and change direction — tend to be broadly described. As an example, many people (even some professors) say/write/use “organizational development” but it’s actually business development (maybe organizational development).

In his chapter on organizational change and advancement in the APA Handbook of I/O Psychology, Martins supplied some context regarding the challenge of establishing 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 Organizational psychology definition 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).

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).

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).