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Organizational Development English Library



(22nd revision)



The purpose of The Organization Development Institute in developing an International O. D. Code of Ethics are  threefold: to increase professional and ethical consciousness among O. D. professionals and their sense of ethical responsibility; to guide O. D. professionals in making more informed ethical choices; and to help the O. D. profession itself function at the fullness of its potential.


We recognize that for us to exist as a profession, a substantial consensus is necessary among the members of our profession about what we profess, particularly our values and ethics. This statement represents a step toward such a consensus.


Recognizing that a profession cannot be a profession unless it has a Code of Ethics, we decided in 1980 to write an International Code of Ethics, not just for The O. D. Institute, but for the entire field of O. D. Working with people from all over the world, Dr. Bill Gellermann, RODC, has put together an International Code of Ethics for O. D. people. The first draft of an O. D. Code Ethics (worldwide) was written by Dr. Donald Cole, RODC, in the spring of 1981. It was published in the O.D. Institute´s monthly newsletter “Organizations and Change”, and a revised version was published in the 1982 edition of “The International Registry of O. D. Professionals”. In the fall of 1981 Dr. Bill Gellerman, RODC, accepted the Chairmanship of a Committee to write a Code of Ethics for the O. D. profession worldwide. With assistance from The O. D. Institute and others he has been most active in searching the world of objections to the most current revision and then making revisions which would resolve those objections. The International O. D. Code of Ethics has been published in Polish, German, Spanish, Russian and Hungarian. Contributions have come from Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, India, Israel, Japan, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Spain, the United States of America and Yugoslavia. Most of the major O. D. organizations in the world have agreed that it would be useful to have a commonly accepted international Code of Ethics for all O. D. Professionals and have endorsed this process for developing one. In 1984 Dr. Bill Gellermann, RODC, was awarded The O. D. Institute´s Outstanding O.D. Consultant of the Year Award for his work in developing an O. D. Code of Ethics that is gradually being accepted worldwide. A currently revised version of The O. D. Code of Ethics is printed on the following pages. 




Values of O. D. Professionals


As an O. D. professional, I acknowledge the fundamental importance of the following values both for myself and my profession:


1)     quality of life – people being satisfied with their whole life experience;


2)     health, human potential, empowerment, growth and excellence – people being healthy, aware of the fullness of their potential, recognizing their power to bring that potential into being, growing into it, living it, and, generally, doing the best they can with it, individually and collectively;


3)     freedom and responsibility – people being free and responsible in choosing how they will live their lives;


4)     justice – people living lives whose results are fair and right for everyone;


5)     dignity, integrity, worth and fundamental rights of individuals, organizations, communities, societies, and other human systems;


6)     all-win attitudes and cooperation – people caring about one another and about working together to achieve results that work for everyone, individually and collectively;


7)     authenticity and openness in relationships;


8)     effectiveness, efficiency and alignment – people achieving the maximum of desired results, at minimum cost, in ways that coordinate their individual energies and purposes with those of the system-as-a-whole, the subsystems of which they are parts, and the larger system of which their system is a part;


9)     holistic, systemic view and stakeholder orientation – understanding human behavior from the perspective of whole system(s)  that influence and are influenced by that behavior; recognizing the interests that different people have in the system´s results and valuing those interests fairly and justly;


10) wide participation in system affairs, confrontation of issues leading to effective problem solving, and democratic decision making. 





Ethical Guidelines for O. D. Professionals



As an O. D. Professional, I commit myself to supporting and acting in accordance with the following ethical guidelines :


I.                    Responsibility to Self


A.      Act with integrity; be authentic and true to myself.

B.      Strive continually for self-knowledge and personal growth.

C.      Recognize my personal needs and desires and, when they conflict with other responsibilities, seek all-win resolutions of those conflicts.

D.      Assert my own economic and financial interests in ways that are fair and equitable to me as well as to my Clients and their stakeholders.



II.                  Responsibility for Professional Development and Competence


A.      Accept responsibility for the consequences of my acts and make reasonable efforts to ensure that my services are properly used; terminate my services if they are not properly used and do what I can to see that any abuses are corrected.

B.      Strive to achieve and maintain a professional level of competence for both myself and my profession by developing the full range of my own competence and by establishing collegial and cooperative relations with other O. D. professionals.

C.      Recognize my own personal needs and desires and deal with them responsibly in the performance of my professional roles.

D.      Practice within the limits of my competence, culture, and experience in providing services and using techniques.

E.      Practice in cultures different from my own only with consultation from people native to or knowledgeable about those specific cultures.



III.                Responsibility to Clients and Significant Others


A.      Serve the long-term well-being, interests, and development of the Client system and all its stakeholders, even when the work being done has a short-term focus.

B.      Conduct any professional activity, program or relationship in ways that are honest, responsible, and appropriately open.

C.      Establish mutual agreement on a contract covering services and remuneration.

D.      Deal with conflicts constructively and avoid conflicts of interest as much as possible.

E.      Define and protect the confidentiality of my Client-professional relationships.

F.      Make public statements of all kinds accurately, including promotion and advertising, and give service as advertised.









IV.                Responsibility to the Profession


A.      Contribute to continuing  professional development for myself, other practitioners, and the profession.

B.      Promote the sharing of O. D. knowledge and skill.

C.      Work with other O. D. professionals in ways that exemplary what our profession says we stand for.

D.      Work actively for ethical practice by individuals and organizations engaged in O. D. activities and, in case of questionable practice, use appropriate channels for dealing with it.

E.      Act in ways that bring credit to the O. D. profession and with due regard for colleagues  in other professions.



V.                  Social Responsibility


A.      Act with sensitivity to the fact that my recommendations and actions may alter the lives and well-being of people within my Client systems and the larger systems of which they are subsystems.

B.      Act with awareness of the cultural filters which affect my view of the world, respect cultures different from my own, and be sensitive to cross-cultural and multi-cultural differences and their implications.

C.      Promote justice and serve the well-being of all life on Earth.

D.      Recognize that accepting this Statement as a Guide for my behavior involves holding myself to a standard that may be more exacting than the laws of any countries in which I practice, the guidelines of any professional associations to which I belong, or the expectations of any of my Clients.



NOTES : The process which produced this Statement (currently in its 22nd version) was begun in 1981. It has been supported by most O. D. oriented professional organizations, associations, and networks in the United States of America. It was also supported unanimously by the participants at the 1984 O. D. World Congress in Southampton, England. To date, more than 200 people from more than 15 countries have participated in the process (Note : The endorsements are of the process and not the statement.) The process has included drafting a version, sending it out with a request for comments and suggestion, redrafting based on the responses, sending it out again and so on. Our aim has been to use the process to establish a substantial consensus including acknowledgement of the differences among us.


By providing a common reference for O. D. professionals throughout the world, we seek to enhance our sense of identity as a global professional community. Because this statement was initially developed within the USA, adapting it to other cultures is necessary.


Editor´s Note: A more complete discussion of Organization Development values and ethics can be found in :

Gellermann, William, Frankel, Mark S. & Landenson, Robert F., “Values and Ethics in Organization and Human Systems Development”, Jossey-Bass, 1990.

Frankel, Mark S., “Values and Ethics in Organization and Human Systems Development – An Annotated Bibliography”, AAAS Publication, October, 1987.

White, Louis P. & Wooten, Kevin C., “Professional Ethics and Practice in Organization Development” New York, Praeger Publishers, 1986.


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