Organization Development: From the Lenses of Lewin and Confucius

Last Updated: 27 Jul 2020
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The precept of Organization Development (OD) within two opposite lenses of change presented a distinct view of how different organizations may benefit from the myriad of theories of development change available in the postmodern era. The article basically gave an overview of what to expect when comparing two different theories of development change and applying them in OD.

In the article, the author initially gave an account on the current predicament of change practitioners in dealing with situations or organizations that presents a different school of thought and how they could overcome such gaps in communication and the technicalities that are inherent in most mismatched theories and situations. The author of the article emphasized on cultural sensitivity and awareness of possible scenarios related to existing multicultural concepts and views (Marshak, 1993). The two polar stances that the article made mention are from the American social scientist Kurt Lewin and the Confucian ideology of East Asia.

These two theories offer a holistic view of dealing with change from a culturally charged perspective. Lewin’s theory points out that its approach is more unilateral since it operates on the notion that stability could only be achieved through progression. It follows the premise that a stable path leads to a positive growth outcome. The theory is directed at a particular goal that defines the whole system. The application of change, in this case, is only introduced when a stumbling block to progression hinders it from achieving its desired goal so an insertion of a change in its operation would be temporarily welcomed.

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Such a theory seems to be time-bounded and would most likely encounter problems time and again as it revels in a stationary state. Lewin’s theory is only applicable to situations or organizations that functions independently and are keen on maintaining stability through gradual changes (Marshak, 1993). The Confucian theory does not wander off that much from Lewin’s premise on maintaining stability although they differ in some respects such as its vision of unity or oneness wherein the organization acts as one unit rather than as independent wholes, and its idea of experience-driven progression to signify growth and adaptability.

The theory thrives on the concept of dynamism as it advances in a cyclical environment of change (Marshak, 1993). Its principle centers on the Chinese belief in the Yin and Yang since it is one of the major teachings in Confucian ideology. The cyclical pattern functions like a check and balance type which evens out situations that are out of sync with the natural flow of the Way or the goal of Confucian ideology (Marshak, 1993).

Although the Confucian theory may not be well-equipped to handle specific targets of change, it is significant in managing a fast-paced environment as it is programmed to have a respond accordingly in any unexpected circumstances. The Confucian impression in OD operates as a cultural tableau as it illustrates the Chinese way of life (Marshak, 1993). According to the article, the application of change in OD seems to be relative to the school of thought the organization maneuvers in as the desired results could only be achieved if the correct theory is applied to its corresponding situation.

The article made mention of possibly combining the two opposing theories to address situational dilemmas in its entirety although momentary discrepancies would most likely arise due to its novelty. It must be noted that although a certain type of theory may instigate a particular change in a situational dilemma, the change may not be applicable to a similar situation of a different cultural setting as context is put into play. This is one of the major difficulties that OD practitioners have to comprehend and overcome when dealing with diverse organizations that follow specific values inherent in their cultures (Wolpert et.

al. , 2006). Crain had mentioned in his book that it is important for leaders and their constituents to be aware of such varied viewpoints in tackling or dealing with existing problems within their organizations so that they may apply the right model that fits the situation or is in line with their values as an organization (Crain, 2005). The article presented a very interesting case about differing viewpoints on theories of change as it delivered a refreshing perspective on the polarities that exist between culturally-driven and post-modern organizational units.

I found the discussion about Confucian ideology to be idealistic and timely whereas Lewin’s view was more rigid and constant. Coming from a western perspective, one would expect that constancy is much more logical and practical than taking risks in wavering situations but when placed in the context of the Chinese way of life and the general view of the world, I guess the Confucian theory of change is also a practical way in dealing with the unpredictability in life situations.

Marshak had skilfully drawn out the possible scenarios that could develop when one merges different change models in OD and I believe that it would be appropriate for practitioners to be familiar with every theory so as to be knowledgeable on what to use in a given situation. To be in an informed state is one way to loosen inhibitions inherent in multicultural dilemmas and to create better options for change.

Works Cited: Crain, W. (2005). Theories of Development. New Jersey: Prentice Hall. Marshak, R. J. (1993). Lewin Meets Confucius: A Re-View of the OD Model of Change, The Journal Of Applied Behavioral Science, 29(4), pp. 393 – 415. Wolpert, L. , Smith, J. , Jessell, T. , Lawrence, P. Robertson, E. & Meyerowitz, E. (2006). Principles of Development. New York: Oxford University Press.

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Organization Development: From the Lenses of Lewin and Confucius. (2018, Jul 10). Retrieved from

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