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History of Organization Development


Starting in the early 1980s, Bill Gellermann and Mark Frankel spearheaded a global effort to develop and disseminate a statement of values and ethics in organization and human systems development. It was a highly inclusive process that gained widespread support (over 600 people from 25 countries) and is still the most used and referenced values and ethics work in our field. Their efforts established the Clearinghouse for Information on Values and Ethics in Organization and Human System Development; they also developed "working documents” on a Statement of Values and Ethics and an Organization and Human Systems Development Credo, a comprehensive bibliography, Values and Ethics by Professionals in Organization and Human Systems Development: An Annotated Bibliography and a published book, Values and Ethics in Organization and Human Systems Development (Jossey-Bass, 1990). The Statement and Credo have always been intended as "working documents” of professional beliefs, values and ethical guidelines.

During the 1980s and the early 1990s, with the support of Dick Beckhard and Bob Tannenbaum, most of the leading professional associations in the field, founders, leading practitioners, influential academics and hundreds of others in the OD community co-created and endorsed the Statement and Credo. Today they remain as "working statements” and hopefully will continue to stimulate dialogue and development for all professionals in O&HSD. We are indebted to Bill and Mark for such a significant contribution to our profession. The latest version of the Credo is presented below.

David W. Jamieson
Chair, Clearinghouse Advisory Board

Organization and Human Systems Development Credo (July 1996)*

Our purpose as professionals is to facilitate processes by which human beings and human systems live and work together for their mutual benefit and mutual well-being. Our practice is based on a widely shared learning and discovery process dedicated to a vision of people living meaningful, productive, good lives in ways that simultaneously serve them, their organizations, their communities, their societies, and the world.

We are an interdependent community of professionals whose practice is based on the applied behavioral sciences and other related sciences, a human systems perspective, and both human and organizational values. We serve people at all system levels, ranging from individuals and groups to organizations, communities, and ultimately the global community. **

We believe that human beings and human systems are interdependent economically, politically, socially, culturally and spiritually, and that their mutual effectiveness is grounded in fundamental principles which are reflected in the primary values that guide our practice. Among those values are: respect for human dignity, integrity, and worth; freedom, choice, and responsibility; justice and fundamental human rights; compassion; authenticity, openness, and honesty; learning, growth, and empowerment; understanding and respecting differences; cooperation, collaboration, trust, diversity, and community; excellence, alignment, effectiveness, and efficiency; democracy, meaningful participation, and appropriate decision-making; and synergy, harmony, and peace.

We believe further that our effectiveness as a profession, over and above our effectiveness as individual professionals, requires a widely shared commitment to and behavior in accordance with certain moral-ethical guidelines. Among them are: Responsibility to Self - acting with integrity and being true to ourselves; striving continually for self-knowledge and personal growth; Responsibility for Professional Development and Competence - developing and maintaining our individual competence and establishing cooperative relations with other professionals to expand our competence; practicing within the limits of our competence, culture, and experience in providing services and using techniques; Responsibility to Clients and Significant Others - serving the long-term well-being of our client systems and their stakeholders; conducting any professional activity, program or relationship in ways that are honest, responsible, and appropriately open; Responsibility to the OD-HSD Profession - contributing to the continuing professional development of other practitioners and of the profession as a whole; promoting the sharing of professional knowledge and skill; Social Responsibility - accepting responsibility for and acting with sensitivity to the fact that our recommendations and actions may alter the lives and well-being of people within our client systems and within the larger systems of which they are subsystems.

* The moral-ethical position on which the OD-HSD profession is based, along with the beliefs and values underlying that position, are more fully described in "An Annotated Statement of Values and Ethics By Professionals in Organization and Human Systems Development.” This CREDO is based on that Annotated Statement.

** The global perspective does not mean changing the focus of our practice, but only the context within which we view our collective practice. And by shifting our paradigm of who "we” are, we can become a global professional community whose collective action will have global significance based on both our practice and ways in which we "walk our talk.”

For more information

For further information and history, a copy of the Annotated Statement of Values and Ethics or to join in continuing the development of values and ethics within the OD Community, contact:

Clearinghouse for Information on Values and Ethics in O&HSD
6100 Center Drive, Suite # 323
Los Angeles, CA 90045

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1000 Westgate Drive, Suite 252
Saint Paul, MN 55114
Phone: +1.651.379.7292
Fax: +1.651.290.2266

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