Conceptualising organisation development: practitioner and academic perspectives. A UK study

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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This thesis compares academic and practitioner perspectives on the profession of Organisation Development (OD) in the UK and how it had evolved over four decades. The aims of the research were to find out if there were differences in perspectives between these two communities and identify the areas where there was diversity. In seeking explanation for why any variance occurred, the theories of Institutionalism, Fashions, Fads and the Dissemination of Management Ideas were applied. The work is situated within a Critical Realist ontology and in the research strategy three methods were applied. Content analysis was carried out on job advertisements in the trade press from over a four decade period. This method was used to gain information on changes in magnitude in the take up of the profession in the UK and significant developments in the content of the job roles over the period. To triangulate this data, semi-structured interviews were carried out with twenty one subject experts, from the UK academic, senior practitioner, business leader and leading influencer communities. The third method was a bibliometric search, this was applied to understand who was dominating thought on what constituted OD. The main findings were that there was significant difference between the academic and practitioner perspectives, both on the level of presence and in the form of the OD profession in the UK. Other findings were that USA scholars dominated thoughts on OD and its content, but their rhetoric did not reflect the nature of the profession in the UK. In terms of the development of the profession, recently a degree of isomorphism was found, with respect to motivation to move the profession to a more institutionalised status. Agency was found to be a factor in the shaping of the profession in form of a quest for career advantage. This research was original in that it was the first study to collect empirical evidence on the form of the OD profession in the UK and in the application of the three methods selected. Theories of Institutionalism, Fashions, Fads and the Dissemination of Management Ideas had not previously been applied to identify forces at work in the development of this professional grouping. This research should be useful to the practitioner community in terms of understanding how they might best continue to develop and to academics for them to reflect on the extent to which their prior work on the study of this profession has been relevant. Possibilities for future research include collecting further detail on the development of the profession in other countries and also understanding how the OD community can make a greater contribution in global and societal change processes.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Nottingham Trent University
  • Mutch, Alistair, Supervisor, External person
  • Hay, Amanda, Supervisor, External person
Award date21 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jul 2016


  • OD
  • HR
  • HRM
  • Change Management
  • Organization Development


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