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O.D. Institute Newsletter
What's to Become of OD?
Terry R. Armstrong RODC
What’s to become of O.D.? In a recent conversation with
Don Cole at his home in Chesterland, Ohio I brought up the issue
that it seemed to me that during the 1980s large management
and accounting consulting firms started branding proprietary
products. That the 80s was a decade of repackaging O.D.
and marketing it as proprietary brands and that people were
being socialized into O.D. and getting much of their training
through the consulting firms rather than from the traditional
ways of learning about and becoming socialized into O.D.
Don responded, “That’s because we haven’t yet become a profession.”
I congratulated Don for his insight and he just smiled as if
to say why do you think I’ve been trying so hard to develop
O.D. as a profession? On my drive back to Washington through
rain and fog I reflected on Don’s comment and mused about the
future of O.D. as a profession. I certainly recalled many
of Don’s attempts at professionalizing O.D. such as encouraging
Bill Gellermann to work on developing an O.D. Code of Ethics;
Ron Sullivan to define competencies for O.D. Practitioners and
Warner Burke to develop an O.D. test for professionals.
Also there has been the untiring commitment to the O.D. Journal
to provide an outlet for research on O.D. and of course, providing
two conferences a year to bring O.D folks together to discuss
their work and provide a comfortable meeting place where O.D.ers
from novice to accomplished professional could come together
to learn from one another and share their insights, ideas and
Don and many others under the umbrella of the O.D. Institute
have worked hard and long to develop O.D. into a profession.
I am afraid we still haven’t made it. It had not occurred
to me, however, that many of the complaints we now hear about
O.D. have to do with our inability to create a profession.
No other organizational entity in O.D. has had as its goal the
creation of an O.D. Profession. Others have been devoted
to research, networking, and promotion of O.D. and its practitioners.
We O.D.ers often bemoan how others such as coaches, TQMers,
strategist and even psychologist are moving into O.D. and packing
it in profitable ways. Many among our ranks sell themselves
as management consultants, trainers, and gurus of all shades.
I have often though this had to do with the personalities of
those who enter the field. Many of them are entrepreneurs
and individualist who don’t like anyone telling them what to
do or how to do it. In other words, we are an independent
lot. How long can we remain radically independent? We
often talk to our clients about interdependence, co-creating
designs, mutual trust, cooperation, valuing people, listening
to employees and customers, collaborative management, etc.;
however, we like running our own practices and doing O.D. our
way. I know I do. Is that hypocrisy or just independence?
There is something about these independent entrepreneurs that
I like. They take risk and have taken a lot of risk.
They often challenge the status quo and confront clients about
needed changes. Even Don Cole has been a challenger as
well as an encourager. There is a paradox that seems to
be the hallmark of ODers; their ambiguity about power and control.
They love freedom and encourage change and resist being co-opted
by the powers that be. The very characteristic that have
made O.D. and many of its parishioners successful also work
against the professionalization of the field. What’s to
become of O.D.? I suspect we will inch towards professionalization
while resisting it. We probably won’t become a powerhouse
like medicine, law or accounting, but we will probably continue
to be managed by the conscious of a few individualists who will
attempt to keep our feet to the fire by reminding us of our
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