The 6 Levels of Organisational Development: an incredibly useful study

The Levels of Organisational Development

Levels of organisational development

If I was to tell you that some recent research ( Levels of organisational development ) has been able to analyse and describe exactly where an organisation is at any moment in time, and where it should be heading next? Useful eh? Well it has been done. Over the next few weeks I will delve into this research and describe each of the levels and how they impact organisations. 


The Levels of organisational development and which ones respond best to rapidly changing market conditions


Whilst the paper looks at how to ensure business continuity in engineering manufacturing in the face of change, the lessons learned have implications for every organisation facing a rapidly changing external environment, be that innovation, political upheaval, economic change etc.


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The point the authors make is that changes in the market and environment put pressure on organisations to increase operating and manufacturing flexibility. The paper identifies six levels of organisational development which are a really useful formulation for many organisations.


Level 1


Level 1: Formation


Distinctive features of the formation level of organisational development: –

a)    Absence of formalised goals and scorecards

b)    Absence of a formalised planning system (planning of resource requirements, development planning)

c)    Absence of a formalised organisation structure of management

d)    Absence of clearly expressed functional responsibilities for both managers and employees

e)    Absence of formalised goals, performance and efficiency indicators

f)      Absence of the necessary regulatory documents

g)    Centralisation of management (all strategic decisions tend to be made by the CEO)

h)    Absence of organisation’s development strategy


These organisations tend to be start ups and the goals of the organisation and the employees mirror each other. There a few delineations of role and the roles may be interchangeable. There tends to be a high degree of employees’ involvement in the process of decision making, which allows the organisation to use their potential in achieving the organisations goals to the maximum extent.

Formation level


One of the defining characteristics of organisations in the formation level or stage is fast decision making by the management determines the high speed of response to changes in external and internal factors. These in turn, directly affect both the operation and development of the organisation.


Additionally, successful companies are based on high levels of personnel competence that is sufficient for the set operational and organisation development tasks. Low levels of competence cannot be carried or allowed with organisations at this level of operation.


In the next post I will look at level 2 the levels of organisational development – formalisation.


The secret behind many successful Organisational Development Professionals


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David Wilkinson

David Wilkinson is the Editor-in-Chief of the Oxford Review. He is also acknowledged to be one of the world's leading experts in dealing with ambiguity and uncertainty and developing emotional resilience. David teaches and conducts research at a number of universities including the University of Oxford, Medical Sciences Division, Cardiff University, Oxford Brookes University School of Business and many more. He has worked with many organisations as a consultant and executive coach including Schroders, where he coaches and runs their leadership and management programmes, Royal Mail, Aimia, Hyundai, The RAF, The Pentagon, the governments of the UK, US, Saudi, Oman and the Yemen for example. In 2010 he developed the world's first and only model and programme for developing emotional resilience across entire populations and organisations which has since become known as the Fear to Flow model which is the subject of his next book. In 2012 he drove a 1973 VW across six countries in Southern Africa whilst collecting money for charity and conducting on the ground charity work including developing emotional literature in children and orphans in Africa and a number of other activities. He is the author of The Ambiguity Advanatage: What great leaders are great at, published by Palgrave Macmillian. See more: About: About David Wikipedia: David's Wikipedia Page

  • Belinda says:

    Great Piece and very insightful

  • Ade Adetukasi says:

    Thank you for this. Now looking forward to reading the remaining 5 levels.

  • Mike Cardus says:

    How does this differ from Adizes org lifecycle?

    • Hi Mike,
      Quite a lot actually. The Adizes Corporate Lifecycle is about the rise and fall of an organisation as a process. The 6 levels of Organisational Development is based on the idea that organisation tend to build in similar patterns or stages, so rather than being a inverted U of rise and decline this charts (from research) the stages of development in quite a different way. In effect it is saying that as organisations grow they tend to follow a development path. It isn’t describing a cycle – i.e. it doesn’t make a prediction of decline.
      I hope this helps

  • Ruchira says:

    Has there been any research done as to the average duration an organization remain in this stage of formation?

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