I/O psych, Organization Development, & Change Management

I/O psych, Organization Development, & Change Management


The purpose of this weblog is to differentiate between I/O psychology, Organization Development, and Change Management. These terms are often used interchangeably though they are very different. Nguyen (2016, May 9) offers these definitions for each:

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).

Industrial/Organizational psychology is a broad area that includes a specialization called organization development. Change management is an area that falls under organization development. Organization Development involves change management, however, change management may not include organization development. In his article, Nguyen (2016) goes on to offer these similarities and differences between Organization Development and Change Management:

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:

  1. 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).
  2. 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).

Ultimately, these three things (IO psych, OD, and Change management) have a common goal. The purpose of each is to change the ways that people behave and interact. More specifically, these areas are concerned with changing both individual and group behaviors in the workplace. As managers, it is important to use research in these areas to influence and adjust individual behaviors and team dynamics to achieve your desired organizational or departmental culture.


Nguyen, S. (2016, May 9). The link between industrial/organizational psychology, organization development, and change management. Workplace Psychology. Retrieved from: https://workplacepsychology.net/2016/05/09/the-link-between-industrial-organizational-psychology-organization-development-and-change-management/

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., 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.

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


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