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Struggling with the issue of who the client is in organization development interventions

Larry Hubbell (University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming, USA)

Leadership & Organization Development Journal

ISSN: 0143-7739

Article publication date: 1 July 2004



Recently, the author facilitated a particularly difficult organization development (OD) intervention with a private non‐profit organization. It was an organization whose staff and governing board were deeply divided by interpersonal conflict. Although he tried to avoid it, the author found himself pulled into the politics of this organization. This intervention caused him to ask the question: Who is the client in an OD intervention? Is it the person who hired him? The entire organization? The organization's board? OD practitioners, as reflected in the academic literature, either provide conflicting views on this point or ignore the question altogether. Citing quotations from many prominent OD practitioners, including Golembiewski, Bennis, Burke, French and Bell, and Weisbord, the author searches for a definitive answer in the literature. In this paper, which is part literature review and part case study, he takes a critical look at the OD literature on this topic; ties OD to Jean Jacques Rousseau's concept of the general will; writes an in‐depth case study; and provides his reflections on this issue. The author concludes that within a highly politicized and contentious organization, it can be highly problematic for the OD practitioner to work for the organization as a whole, since he/she may, at times, be forced to take sides.



Hubbell, L. (2004), "Struggling with the issue of who the client is in organization development interventions", Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol. 25 No. 5, pp. 399-410.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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