Are We Incurable Revolutionists?

Smith, H. R.
August 1974
Academy of Management Proceedings (0065-0668);1974, p26
Conference Proceeding
When organization development is considered in its historical context, a most interesting picture emerges! One of its most important antecedents was sensitivity training, which was, for a time, very much in vogue in the manager training world and then rather quickly lost its status. There is more than a hint that "laboratory" training harbored some hidden assumptions which were a little "revolutionary." Also, there seems to be good reason for supposing that sensitivity training's fall from favor was a boomeranging of those assumptions. In any event, when organization development took over from sensitivity training, it squeezed out of its operations the kinds of consultant-client relationships which had been most subtly surreptitious. In particular, the new thrust was built around colleagues working towards change together, rather than "infiltrating" one, or a very few, change missionaries into staid bureaucracies. Evidently, in other words, a good bit of our "revolutionary" leaning has dropped out of what is being done. The residue remaining might most appropriately be thought of as "wishful thinking." But there does seem to be, in organization development writings, an emphasis on resistance to change, and too little trust and confidence in change, "the enemy" that is not as "balanced" as might be useful.


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