Seeking the Holy Grail of organisational development

Ron Cacioppe (Integral Leadership Centre, Graduate School of Management, University of Western Australia, Crawley, Australia)
Mark Edwards (Integral Leadership Centre, Graduate School of Management, University of Western Australia, Crawley, Australia)

Leadership & Organization Development Journal

ISSN: 0143-7739

Publication date: 1 March 2005



There are several stage‐based models of organisational development (OD) that provide a systematic overview of the developmental potential of organisations. This paper compares four such models – Ken Wilber's integral theory, the spiral dynamics model of Don Beck and Chris Cowan, Richard Barrett's corporate transformation model, and William Torbert's action inquiry model – with the aim of presenting an integrated account of the stages of OD.


Integral theory is used as the basis for considering the theoretical scope of these other models of OD. The integral framework is specifically designed to recognise the valid insights of other models of organisational change and, as such, is well suited for situating those insights in a comprehensive and coherent approach for mapping the developmental paths of organisations. The models considered represent some of the more innovative OD approaches.


From the comparative analysis an integral model for OD is described. The description includes a new definition of OD which is based on integral theory's core developmental principles.

Research limitations/implications

The proposed framework provides a means for assessing the scope and specificity of other approaches to OD. It also provides criteria for distinguishing between those approaches that are concerned with incremental or continuous change and those that focus on transformative development.

Practical implications

The comparative analysis and resulting framework will assist practitioners and consultants in the OD field in developing a better understanding of the relationships between various stage‐based approaches to OD.


This paper provides a comprehensive framework that can assist in comparing and situating the many approaches to OD that are currently available.



Cacioppe, R. and Edwards, M. (2005), "Seeking the Holy Grail of organisational development", Leadership & Organization Development Journal, Vol. 26 No. 2, pp. 86-105.

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Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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