The General Planned Change Model

Building upon the three common models of planned change, which I did a comparison of the other day, Cummings and Worley, explains what they call “The General Model of Planned Change.”  Now I am not quite sure whether they mean with “general” that you can speak to any Organisational Development (hereafter referred to as OD) authority, and he or she would understand this specific model, when you talk about “The General …,” or whether they just mean that considering the other three models, one can deduct that there is a general trend which follows more or less these steps.  (I very strongly recommend that anyone who has anything to do with OD should read Cummings and Worley, by the way.)

Either way, I suspect that even if “The General Model” is not an industry standard general model, if you asked most OD consultants to come up with “A General Model of Planned Change,” and asked them to integrate the principles of Organisational development into it, then what they will come up with, is very similar to this model.

Here is what it looks like:


From the above picture, you can see that it has the following stages:

  • Entering and Contracting
  • Diagnosing
  • Planning and Implementing Change
  • Evaluating & Institutionalising Change

Entering and Contracting

This first step helps management (and the OD practitioner in certain cases) make a decision to either proceed or not with an OD intervention, and indicates roughly how much resources, time and finances should be committed.

The entering and contracting phase has the the following sub-stages:

  • Gathering initial data

    The OD practitioner and the customer would typically start with a discussion regarding the reason for considering OD in the first place.  The OD practitioner would then collect some data to get a high level understanding of the organisation, the reasons for change, the presenting problem and from this make some very preliminary recommendations about possible ways to go forward.  He could focus on a problem that has been presented, or on positive areas of enquiry.

  • The OD practitioner will present these initial findings to the customer, and they will jointly do some preliminary work with this data.

    From this first step, the OD relationship begins to be built.  The OD practitioner will seek to build a collaborative relationship with the customer to ensure from this early stage that the relationship is one of the customer owning the intervention, and the consultant assisting and coaching through the process.

  • Based on the initial findings and the discussions with the customer, the OD practitioner will propose a model to be used, which will indicate the types and magnitude of change that could be expected, and propose an agreement of cooperation for working together going forward.  At this point, the consultant will estimate the resources that he would need to commit, and the resources that he expects would be needed from the client.  Resources can include finances, but probably the resource which is of the greatest concern is employee time. 
  • The customer will review this proposal, there might be some negotiation and should they finally come to an agreement, a contract will be drawn up.

    The contract should be clear about rates, fees and terms and conditions.  It should set out the rule of engagement – how the two parties will work together, as well as the principles that will guide potential termination.  It should clarify the role that the OD practitioner will play, and the roles that different organisation members need to play in the process.

    Because of the amount of unknowns at this stage, it is impossible to know exactly how the process will play out, but the OD practitioner should make every effort to ensure that there are no surprises for the customer down the line.

  • Many efforts stop at this point, for a variety of reasons, such as a lack of available resources to be able to navigate the change, a incongruence between the values of the OD practitioner and the organisation, or because an alternative method of addressing the presenting problem is found.


The Diagnosing phase consists of gathering, analysing and feeding back data.

The focus is on understanding the organisation’s problems, what the causes and the effects of those problems are, and / or understanding the positive elements of the organisation.  What are the areas of strength on which the organisation can build?

Diagnosing can happen at three levels.  Organisational level, group level or individual level.  Diagnosis becomes increasingly complex as we move from individual to organisational diagnosis.  However, because of the integrated nature of an organisation, and the fact that the diagnosis of the larger levels are the inputs for the smaller ones, it is necessary to understand the higher levels, even when diagnosing at a lower level.  So, for example, when diagnosing job design at an individual level, you need to understand how the design components of the team impacts on that job design, and how the design components of the organisation impacts on the team.

At every level, we consider the design components of the organisation, and the alignment between the various design components, the inputs and the outputs.

The analysis and feedback process is collaborative, ensuring continued use and ownership of the data and the results of the diagnosis, by the client.

That means that although the OD practitioner would typically design the data analysis process to maximise involvement and skills transfer. 

The analysis process might include the consultant making some preliminary conclusions, but the real conclusions about the meaning of the data, which will be used to plan the interventions, should be done collaboratively with the client.

Planning & Implementing Change

Based on the diagnosis, the OD practitioner and organisational members now, together, design the interventions that would drive the change. 

The interventions should be based on the results of the diagnosis, and should be aimed at resolving the root causes of the problems, or at developing the most prominent strengths of the organisation.

Criteria that can affect the way interventions are designed, are

  • the organisation’s readiness and capability for change,
  • the OD practitioner’s skills
  • and the organisation’s power distribution.

There are four major types of interventions – and these can be applied to any of the three levels – Organisational, Group or Individual.

  • Human Process interventions
  • Human Relations interventions
  • Techno-Structural Interventions
  • Strategic Interventions

Evaluating and Institutionalising Change

Finally, the change should be evaluated against two major criteria:

  • Was the implementation successful?
  • Did the implementation have the required results?

If the answers to the above two questions are both positive, then it is time to institutionalise the change, through reinforcing knowledge and performance, and continuous reinforcement of the values that underlie the change until normative and value consensus has been reached.

For two detailed articles, on Evaluating & Institutionalising Change, you can check out


Continuous Feedback

The arrows in the above diagram indicate that evaluation is not a final stage, but rather a continuous action. The evaluation criteria should be designed as part of designing the overall intervention, and the process should be evaluated continually.  Based on the findings of the evaluation, the change activities can be continued, adjusted or terminated.

In Summary

The three models of Planned Change, namely Lewin’s model of change, the Action Research model and the Positive Model, can all be integrated into the General Model of Planned change.  This model is based on entering and contracting, diagnosing, designing and implementing interventions, continually evaluating this process, finally evaluating the outcomes of the this process and institutionalising the change, if the outcomes are found to be satisfactory.


This article is based on information from ORGANIZATION DEVELOPMENT & CHANGE by Cummings & Worley, International Student Edition, 8th Edition.


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