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The Organization Development Institute


In the late 1970´s we started receiving a number of strange telephone calls. We got one telephone call from a person who introduced himself as being with a major U. S. Corporation. He had just been hired as their O. D. consultant. He had no training in O. D. and no experience in O. D. His boss wanted him to do team building with the corporation´s top team. And, the caller wanted information on a weekend workshop he could attend in order to learn how to do this. About the same time, we got another call from a professor at a major Midwest university. His Dean wanted him to start an O. D. program at their university. He had no training in O. D. and no experience in O. D. He wanted the name of a good book he could read. A local O. D. academic program had used their students to run a “touchy feelie” T-group in a local manufacturing division of a major U. S. Corporation. A member of their personnel department reported to me that almost this entire group had been fired or transferred because they had returned from this program engaging in behaviors that company management felt were inappropriate for their company.

After a number of such experiences it became increasingly obvious that there was a Gresham´s Law of O. D. in which “bad O. D.” would eventually drive out “good O.D.”. I felt we should put some boundaries around this new field that we were calling O.D. Not everyone who attended a weekend workshop on O.D. should be able to lay claim to doing O.D. and being an O.D. person. I felt this new field needed to become a profession and in order to become a profession a number of things were needed. The most important were : 1) an international O. D. code of ethics; 2) a statement on the unique body of knowledge and skill which O.D. people must possess in order to do O. D. and 3) some kind of visible boundary around the field so that the public could tell who was competent and who was not necessarily competent.

I am a charter member of the OD Network and was a member of the OD Network Board of Directors from 1979 to 1981. I tried to get them interested in developing an O.D. Code of Ethics and in building the field of O.D. into a profession. I was told, “We are not that kind of an organization.” So, I decided to do it myself with help from The O. D. Institute.

In 1981 I wrote the first O.D. Code of Ethics. It was published in the O.D. Institute´s monthly newsletter and people were asked for their comments. A revised version was published in the 1982 edition of “The International Registry of O. D. Professionals and The O. D. Handbook”. In the fall of 1981 Dr. William Gellerman, RODC, agreed to take on this task. He has done a tremendous job of writing and revising and rewriting The O. D. Code of Ethics in order to develop a Code that could be used worldwide by O.D. people in all kinds of settings. I has now gone through some 22 revisions and has been translated into five languages : Russian, Polish, Spanish, German and Hungarian. In 1984 Bill was given The Outstanding O. D. Consultant of the Year Award for his work in developing The O. D. Code of Ethics.

NTL had gotten itself sued by “certifying” that certain people would do good work. We did not want to get into that kind of difficulty. So, we decided that instead of certifying people we would register people. We immediately had some heated discussions as to who could be registered
and who was competent to decide if they were competent. One very loud and vocal group maintained that only they were competent to decide who was competent. I felt that there should be some kind of objective criteria. The problem seemed unsolvable. So, in good O. D. fashion we found an integrative solution. We did both. We established the initials RODP (Registered O. D. Professional) for those who judged themselves to be competent. And, we established the initials RODC (Registered O.D. Consultant) for those who met more stringent requirements. We are not yet completely happy with either of these requirements and have a committee working to improve them.

In looking at the requirements for qualifying to use the initials RODC, it seemed that there was obviously a need for a knowledge test of some kind. Dr. Warner Burke is a member of The O. D. Institute Advisory Board. We asked him if he would do this for us and he said, “Yes”. In 1983 Warner completed work on “The Assessment Questionnaire for Knowledge and Understanding of O. D.” (In 1990 Warner Burke was given The Outstanding O. D. Consultant of the Year Award for this and his other important contributions to the field). The questionnaire he developed was based on questions proposed by students and then sent to 100 highly qualified, currently practicing U.S. O.D. people.

Questions were not drawn from explicitly O.D. knowledge because that had not as yet been done. There was no question on ethics and no input from the international O. D. community. Don Donald Van Eynde, RODC, has now revised this test. (In 1996, Dr. Donald Van Eynde, RODC, was given the Outstanding O. D. Consultant of the Year Award for this and his other contributions to the field.)

We also became concerned about what students were learning and – more important – what they were not learning. Well over half of the OB / OD academic programs in the USA do not teach The International O. D. Code of Ethics and do not subscribe to current literature being published in the field. It is our opinion, that most students on graduation have never written a published paper.

In developing a test on the knowledge and skill necessary for competence in O. D. and in trying to evaluate the knowledge and skill needed in order to be competent, it became increasingly obvious that the field needed to define the knowledge and skill necessary for competence in O. D. We in The O. D. Institute and those of us who are trying to build a profession of O. D. are very grateful to Roland Sullivan, RODP, Dr. Gary McLean, RODC, Dr. William J. Rothwell, and their team of national and international practitioners & academics for the tremendous amount of time and effort they have invested in developing a statement and now a book on the knowledge and skill necessary for competence in O. D. (In 1997, Roland Sullivan RODP, was given the Outstanding O. D. Consultant of the Year Award for this and his other important contributions to the field.)

Concerned that O. D. students were being graduated without the knowledge and skills to be fully competent, a committee headed by Dr. Terry Armstrong, RODC, has developed criteria for the accreditation of OD / OB academic programs and we are now accrediting OD / OB programs that meet this criteria.

Dr. Donald W. Cole, RODC
Management / Clinical Psychologist



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