Learn and Develop

OD Foundational Competences

As noted in the app introductory video, the OD field can never be accused of being uninterested in professional standards, competences, and effective practice patterns. Since 1952, when the first 7 competences were identified by National Training Laboratories (NTL), through to the present, there has been persistent interest among OD academics and practitioners to identify what can and should constitute OD competences.

During that period, more than 45 researchers and authors have made significant contributions to the study of OD competences, and many more have published on the topics – which together come to nearly 100 publications. And this is a conservative estimate in light of how often OD competences have been considered at formal and informal OD gatherings, discussed at OD conferences, and helped to inform various professional OD networks. It is in fact possible to identify references to over 100 competence items.

This proliferation of competence items naturally led a variety of interested parties to work at clustering them into ‘distinct’ categories or ‘as distinct as possible’ categories. 

The challenges faced in developing this app are many, but there have been three main questions:

  1. From the review of the literature, is there a commonality among the contributors on what are foundational competences?
  2. From the range of categorizations, what may be the best categories/labels that will not only bring coherence to the various elements, but also make sense to cross-cultural and cross-national users?
  3. From out of the hundreds of competence items (called ‘elements’ in this app), how can the ones most relevant to each foundational competence be pulled out, so that the content is robust while not overwhelming for the app users?

In the end, after considering those questions and working hard to distil, cluster, decluster, double check, and recategorize these items over 8 months, 11 foundational competences were chosen, with key elements identified and labelled for each one. 

As well, the content of the various lists has been calibrated in light of an initial small reference group, asking colleagues to share their views, as well as using our own professional judgement and experience. Of course, it is fully appreciated that the content of the app is not comprehensive. Nor will it will be agreed to by all. But, as is the case with all pioneering work, it is important to get the concepts out there, evoking interest and energy with the hope that others will continue to shape and refine the content as they use the app. That is the intention behind making this a community app, with all users being invited through their feedback to take part in the app’s on-going refinement and development.

Finally, in the beginning, OD Ethics and Values was identified as a 12th foundational OD competence. However, upon reflection, it was decided that rather than a foundational competence, OD Ethics and Values is a cornerstone to all OD competences and specialisms, needing to show up in all of our patterns of practice as we do our work. 

As a field, OD emerged in the USA during the 1940’s and 50’s. In the aftermath of two world wars, a growing number of social and academic leaders were concerned and committed to rebuild the social fabric of American society, with simultaneous and parallel processes to restore not just economic prosperity, but also respect for human dignity, social justice, freedom vs restraint, especially the right to choose, be autonomous, and the importance of respect for differences.   

These values were propelled forward by a number of social movements around that period of time, including the human relations movement, human potential movement, equality and diversity movement, social participation, civil liberty, and others. They all are rooted in a very high view of human dignity and worth—with the immutable conviction that every person has intrinsic value that must be respected and honoured. 

The values played a key role in shaping not just the thinking, but the practice of OD, with many of the proponents of such values forming what became the founding community of OD theorists and practitioners. 

There are many views about what OD values are, but for now, the core ethics and values can be summed up as minimally including:

  1. Democracy and participation
  2. Enduring respect for the human side of enterprise
  3. Equity and fairness for all – the worth of every individual
  4. The right of every individual to attain their full potential
  5. Informed choices based on valid information
  6. Life-long learning.

Besides these core values, there are further ‘practice values’ which often are the product of how individual OD practitioners translate the core values to support and guide their individual practice.  This is a natural development, as from its earliest expressions OD has been ‘theory and value in action’. Thus, there exist many more practice values serving as essential guidelines for OD interventions. These practice values are hard to summarize as they can be highly individualised.  

However, when these practice values are seen in action, the results often include: 

  • Organisations are supported to create conditions that honour the inherent need for human growth while being effective at serving their constituents. OD helps organisations to build flourishing cultures that support and enable the internal members to give their best selves to those whom they serve. 
  • Individuals are supported to exercise their sense of agency and choice (within boundaries) to thrive in their workplaces—unleashing their human potential, with equal rights to develop their own sense of personhood and self-expression as they become more self-aware.
  • Working always to build organizations, communities and society committed to diversity, inclusion, equality and the equitable treatment of every person.

Applying OD ethics and values therefore has significant implications across the whole range of OD practice, informing and guiding every aspect of the work. Seen in this light, the ethics and values of OD are not a distinct competence, but rather an all-pervasive touchstone that steers the practice of every competence and specialism.

As you use this app to construct your own OD competence profile and complete your self-assessment, you are encouraged at each point to answer these questions: 

  • What are the values informing your OD practice? 
  • In what ways has your OD practice thus far been informed by the OD core values?
  • What values and ethics do your clients and colleagues observe and experience from your practice? What can they learn from you as they watch you work?

As each practitioner embraces the core values as an integral part of their practice of OD, they will embody the following snapshot of an ethical, values-based OD consultant:   

“The value-informed practitioners will be operating with clear consciousness and intentions around the values and ethical standards that guide what and how they do their OD work. These practitioners are determined to safeguard the integrity of their values within their OD practice across the range of contextual situations.  They are able clearly to articulate the values and ethical standards to which they hold, as well as how those values and ethics impact every phase of their OD work—from contact to contract, diagnosis, intervention, evaluation, all the way to exit.”

Consulting Processes

The many roles that an OD practitioner may fill in serving clients are expressions of consulting processes. When a client has identified needs around which they commission the help of an OD practitioner, the practitioner, whether from an internal or an external position

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Contextual Acumen

Contextual acumen is a fundamental competence for an OD practitioner. Effective diagnosis and choice of intervention requires a clear understanding of the context from which (or in which) the organisation functions.  ‘Context’ has at least three aspects

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Culture Work

All human systems—communities, organizations, teams, families, etc.—are characterized by unique sets of beliefs, customs, habits, rules, and behavioural expectations that, through human interactions and expressions, form distinct behavioural patterns that are recognised by others as their ‘culture’

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Life-Long Learning

“OD Practitioners are behavioural scientists who, through effective relationship-building skills, deliver help and support to a client system with the dual goal of improving the performance as well as the internal health of the system

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Relationships with Others

OD work takes place almost exclusively in the relationship arena—working with leaders, teams, multiple groups, consumers, internal and external stakeholders. The practice of OD engages with people spread across the spectrum of ranks, functions

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Systems Navigation

An OD practitioner who is a competent human system navigator is acutely aware of the deeply entangled and interacting elements that weave through and comprise all human enterprises. Discerning the patterns that emerge through those dynamic layers

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The Use of Self

To work effectively with a living system, an OD practitioner needs to have deep insight into themself—who they are, how they work, and their own instrumentality. They need to effectively and usefully be able to manage their impact on a client system

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Theory and Practice

As a field, OD is working with dynamic and evolving human systems. This means that the OD Theory and Practice competence necessarily informs every aspect of an effective OD practitioner’s work

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Working with Change

In an open system environment, if an organisation is to survive, the ability to undergo continuous change, transformation, and adaptation must be deeply embedded in its behavioural and cultural patterns

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Working with Group Processes

A fundamental characteristic of human nature is to gather together—informally and formally—for the purposes of survival and mutual support. Simply put, human beings form groups

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Dear OD App user

We are pleased to welcome you to this ‘field test’ of The OD App. We hope you find it to be a useful resource for you as an OD practitioner.

Please take time to watch the short instruction video on the home page.

We warmly encourage you to provide any feedback, observations, and/or suggestions that you might have for improving the app. This can be done via the ‘Feedback’ form at the bottom of the ‘Your Journey’ tab on the app. 

Once you have opened that tab, you can click on the ‘Feedback’ button and follow the instructions that appear, sharing about your experience and any comments that you think may be helpful.

Thank you! As we note, this is a community resource. Your input is welcome and important.

The OD App Team