Glossary & Resources

One of the articles in Living Business (IC#11)
Originally published in Autumn 1985 on page 8
Copyright (c)1985, 1997 by Context Institute


There are a number of terms and acronyms in common use among managers, consultants and writers that may be unfamiliar to some IN CONTEXT readers. Below are some of these terms with brief definitions.

There is a constellation of "labels" used to identify the general field of studying and working with organizations. Organization Behavior (OB) is used primarily in academic settings and particularly in connection with research and theoretical work. Organization Development (OD), while also used in academic settings, is the "home" for practical applications and techniques for improving organizational functioning, and is a term commonly used by consultants. Human Resource Development (HRD) focuses on the human aspects of improving organizational life, particularly such areas as communication and team-building. Industrial- Organizational (I-O) Psychology, a specialty in psychology, overlaps both OB and OD, and has provided research-based theory and techniques, notably in the areas of employee selection and evaluation, environmental factors in work-place design, and consumer behavior. Organization Transformation (OT) and Human Systems Development (HSD) are recent additions to the "labels," and are being used to indicate "next steps" beyond OB and OD. OT is concerned with a more holistic approach to working with organizations and major organizational change, drawing in part from transpersonal psychology and systems theory, and is developing both techniques and theories. HSD is an attempt to re-define the entire field and to incorporate both the earlier fields of OB and OD with more recent holistic developments, balancing the quantitative and qualitative in research, practice and teaching.

Theory X and Theory Y refer to two fundamental ways of viewing individuals in organizations, and the resulting choices for managing work and workers. Theory X assumes that people are basically lazy, don’t like to work, and need to be prodded into doing so. Theory Y assumes that people want achievement and responsibility, and have a psychological need to work.

Theory Z is concerned with the way organizations work, and is not a new view of individuals in organizations "beyond" Theory Y. Used to describe elements of Japanese management as translated into (or from) Western businesses, its central theme is that involved workers are the key to increased productivity.

Management by Objective (MBOJ focuses on establishing organized, specific, concrete objectives to direct the work of an organization and its members toward the goals of the organization. MBO in theory forms the basis for keeping everyone in an organization headed in the same direction; in practice it can result in over-emphasis on quantifiable measurements of performance and over-reliance on data for decision-making at the expense of human judgment. Long-range planning is a process by which long- term goals and objectives are formulated, addressing the basic questions of "What is our business? What will it be?" Strategic Planning is the continuous process of making present risk-taking decisions systematically, organizing actions to carry out those decisions and evaluating results. The central questions are: "What should our business be? Based on where we are now, how do we need to expand, eliminate or change our current activities in order to move in that direction?"

Participative management refers to a variety of techniques for involving non-management workers in decision-making processes, and for reducing reliance on hierarchical authority. Quality Circles are one form of participative management, where small groups from the same work area meet voluntarily on a regular basis to identify and solve problems.


Adams, John D., editor, Transforming Work (Alexandria, VA: Miles River Press, 1984). This anthology is the first book to survey the emerging field of Organization Transformation, and provides a good overview of this new perspective. Available directly from John Adams, Resources for Human Systems Development, 2914 – 27th St. N., Arlington, VA 22207, for $16.50 plus $1.32 postage and handling.

Adams, John D., editor, Transforming Leadership (Alexandria, VA: Miles River Press). Expected publication January 1986. This second volume of readings from an OT focus is concerned with leadership, and has been designed particularly for use by managers. Will be available from Miles River Press: 1009 Duke Street, Alexandria, VA 22314.

Bennis, Warren, and Burt Nanus, Leaders: The Strategies for Taking Charge (New York: Harper & Row, 1985). A recent release, this book builds on the basic statement, "Managers do things right. Leaders do the right thing." Based on studies of 90 major leaders in business, government, and elsewhere, they develop an analysis of leadership involving four major themes: vision, communications, trust, and confidence. Warren Bennis is one of the major figures in the field of organization development.

Campbell, Robert Fisherman’s Guide: A Systems Approach to Creativity and Organization (Boston: New Science Library, 1985). An "intuitive fishing trip into a universal system of understanding," this recent publication provides a very provocative, holistic and global model of the essential elements in any evolving organization. While the author uses business examples, his "system" applies to any kind of organization.

Drucker, Peter F., Management: Tasks, Responsibilities, Practices (New York: Harper & Row, 1974). A thorough (800 + pages) basic book on the processes of effective management.

Levering, Robert, Milton Moskowitz, and Michael Katz, The 100 Best Companies To Work For In America (New York: New American Library, 1985). A fascinating guide to what many major companies are offering their employees.

Lippitt, Gordon L., Organization Renewal: A Holistic Approach to Organization Development (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1982). One of the best guides to applied theory and techniques for changing organizations.

Pinchot, Gifford, Intrapreneuring (New York: Harper & Row, 1985). This well written and revolutionary guide to fostering innovation within large corporations also reveals how deeply vulnerable these organizations are to a growing "talent drain" as their best people leave to form their own companies.

Pugh, D.S., D.J. Hickson, and C.R. Hinnings, Writers On Organizations (Beverly Hills, CA: SAGE Publications, 1985). An excellent summary/survey of the work of 38 major thinkers.

Tannenbaum, Robert, et al, Human Systems Development (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers, 1985). Providing a definition for the new field of Human Systems Development, this book provides a comprehensive look at the frontiers of organization theory.


TWG (The Washington Group) – The international network of folks involved with Organization Transformation. Produces a newsletter, has organized annual international symposia on OT over the past three years, and has regular meetings in the Washington, D.C. area. Information: TWG, c/o John D. Adams, 2914 27th St., North, Arlington, VA 22207.

OT Network – a New-England based organization (with members from elsewhere, too) dedicated to a "new vision of how we can structure businesses and other organizations." Monthly meetings, newsletter, directory of members. Contact: OTN, c/o Joan Hastings, 660 Concord Ave., Belmont, MA 02178, phone (617) 489-4217.

Spirit in Business Association – a new organization dedicated to "the exploration of spirituality, consciousness, and spirit/energy in the workplace." Will be producing a bi- monthly newsletter shortly. Information: Spirit in Business Association, c/o James A. Ritscher Associates, 1060 Beacon St., Brookline, MA 02146.

The Association for Humanistic Psychology is now including organizational change as one area of focus, including articles in publications and conference programming. Information: AHP, 325 Ninth Street, San Francisco, CA 94103, phone (415) 626-2375.


Joan Steffy and Jim Channon of the Metasystems Design Group are creating video interviews with business executives who have developed innovative organizations. Among them: Donald Burr of People Express, William Gore of W.L. Gore & Associates, and Robert Swiggett of Kollmorgen Corporation. Write for information about The Executive Edge to Omega Point Productions, 433 Airport Blvd., Suite 104, Burlingame, CA 94010, or call 415/348-8360.


The Meta Network ("Meta:Net") – an electronic network and computer conferencing system of people interested and involved in cultural change, including a significant number of people involved in Organization Transformation. For those with computers and modems, this can be a wonderful place for "on-line" conversations with people involved with the "leading edge." Information: Metasystems Design Group, Inc., 1401 Wilson Blvd., Suite 601, Arlington, VA 22209, phone (703)247-8301.

Do NOT follow this link or you will be banned from the site!