We are striving for new ways of working together, as teams, organisations and whole ecologies. This involves a shift from ‘top-down’ to ‘bottom-up’, and new ways of sensing and moving as large systems. This calls for new ways of thinking, connecting and learning together. This is the kind of shift I facilitate and help with.
Through my experience working in in-house strategy teams, then my own agency and then a dedicated organisational learning consultancy, I have built up a profound understanding of change and leadership with people across many fields of life and sectors. Today, my work is very much about helping a shift from linear and mechanical ways of working to better connected, adaptive and ultimately more inspiring and sustainable forms and structures.
My belief is that many teams and organisations focus solely on the content of change, leaving little room to explore the processes of change. More so, we then leave little room to explore the deeper root causes, dynamics and ‘lock ins’ of change (values, belief systems, politics, culture and so on.) I’m very grateful to colleagues at Kessels & Smit for showing me models that help work with different levels of content, process and procedure. Today, and with my work with John P. Milton and others at Way of Nature, I understand there is a whole other aspect to this work – flows and fields of energy. I believe that alongside all of the above layers we can also develop capacity to sense and work with different kinds of energy as people and organisations. We can all feel this at a deep level when we walk in through the office doors.
All of this work, and my own passion, has brought me into the space of working with systems. Indeed, many of us are describing and exploring what the notion of systems change means. For me, this is in part about understanding the nature of existing systems and working to change or replace them, but it’s also about a deeper understanding of the internal system and the dance between a healthy inner world and outer world. This dance is something I am increasingly working with, with clients, partners and colleagues. Fascinatingly, I think some of our most ancient models and tools are most helpful in this space; for example Buddhist notions of dependent co-arising and wholeness, Taoist models for integration and other rituals that explore different kinds of energy across a system and the cycle of life.
So, my consultancy and facilitation uses a combination of organisational learning methodology (including Appreciative Inquiry and Action Research), wider aspects of systemic learning, deep transformation processes and increasingly models and tools developed from wisdom traditions and indigenous lineages. These are interesting times as we explore new, more human and better connected approaches to change.
A Practical Example: Unilever in the UK
Unilever are moving through a huge transition towards becoming a more sustainable organisation. In rolling this vision out to the UK business, I helped to design a process to support engagement of the new strategy. The approach we developed was rooted in the idea that engagement is greater through meaningful conversations than a one size fits all message cascaded through the organisation. So we moved away from plenary, theatre style presentations. Instead, we hosted a day for ‘sustainability champions’ in which every person was able to explore and demonstrate their own perspective around sustainability and contrast how it compared with others. From there, they were able to choose different workshops to explore and deepen their understanding with advisors in different aspects of sustainability. Then the champions designed their own way of rolling the message out through similar, engagement led approaches. The process was a success for those involved – and a big challenge to the convention of doing communications the normal top-down way. I’m grateful for Robert van Noort and Arne Gillert, two former Kessels & Smit colleagues whose model we used for this process.
I also help groups develop strategy and change processes as teams. In the last year I’ve especially helped foundations and NGOs with collaborative approaches to change. These include Tellus Mater, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation and the Finance Innovation Lab.
I am currently also working with a number of individuals exploring advanced aspects of leadership and change, using a combination of all of the insight and knowledge above. See more on this in Leadership and Coaching. Do get in touch if you’d like to find out more or share stories!