Principles and Approach
Our expertise is strategic planning, people, organizational systems and change. Our client’s expertise is their industry and their business, and their own professional and life skills. Together, we design development initiatives which help people successfully propel their organizations forward and create powerful, systemic solutions to important business, organizational and human-system concerns.
Our work is founded in principles, disciplines and tools which integrate the technical and human sides of enterprise in a seamless way to offer our clients exceptional outcomes and return on investment. Following are the key frameworks which guide our work.
Systems Thinking recognizes organizations, networks and communities as organized collections of subsystems that are integrated to accomplish an overall goal. Using a systems approach to organizational planning and change allows us to help our clients see beyond boundaries of departments, divisions and regions, and include the environment, the value-chain, and key dynamics in play such as social, cultural, leadership and political subsystems. The focus is less on analysis of single factors and more on the relationships of elements and inter-dependencies… less on direct cause-and-effect, and more on understanding the whole before trying to fix any of the parts. In this way we are able to help clients get to the root of concerns, create solutions that are truly systemic, avoid disruptive unintended consequences and leverage improved learning and capabilities of the whole.
Gestalt means ‘whole’ and rests in the premise that the whole is more than the sum of the parts. Gestalt is also the science of perception and the creation of meaning. A Gestalt framework enables us to guide powerful conversations and be optimally effective as planners, coaches, facilitators and agents of change. We engender collective learning and an appreciation of the whole. People learn to see both the forest and the trees enabling them to create solutions/strategies that are holistic, best-informed and carry the greatest probability of commitment and success.
Appreciative Inquiry is an approach rooted in the discovery and recognition of the best in people, our organizations and the environment. Integrating AI in all of our work enables us to work from a strengths-based approach, most fully tapping people’s potential for innovation, effectiveness, commitment and growth. While we explore divisive issues and organizational problems from a systems-thinking approach, we also bring an AI framework to the table to help our clients shift their attention from criticism, negation and spiraling diagnosis to discovery, vision and common ground. In this way, we help people and organizations build on their strengths and tap the latent vitality and fullest potential to bring about positive, results-driven change.
Dialogue is collective exploration towards greater understanding, connection and possibility. Dialogue is not negotiation, debate, discussion or conversation — these communications rest in relaying information and defending positions. Dialogue rests in profound interest in collective discovery and learning. Listening is deep and the emergence of shared meaning marks new territories of appreciation, empathy and collective understanding. Dialogue allows people to express what is most important to them and truly understand each other’s views and experiences – even if far different than their own. People engaged in dialogue can come to appreciate what’s true for others without having to change their own or anyone else’s mind. These conditions create a new level of collective ‘knowing’ to come into being.
We help our clients through facilitative dialogue when we’re needed to do so – when there are complex strategic issues to consider and positions seem unmovable… when conflict has disrupted workflow and personal relations to the point of stagnation and even harm… and when new directions are called for, but the status quo seems to limit options and the same historic patterns continue to repeat themselves. In these and other challenging situations we help create optimal conditions for true dialogue to occur and guide a journey for our clients towards collective discovery, ownership and concerted action.
Future Search was created by Marv Weisbord and Sandra Janoff as a large-group strategic planning model that goes beyond traditional strategic planning and involves the entire “community” of an organization in searching for its most desired future. Future Search is unique in that the design rests in three generations of behavioral science research and practice which, when applied, significantly helps people move from boundary feuds and protecting special interests to mutual cooperation and support. Employing Future Search methods helps the entire community move beyond their assumptions and fears to common ground and, most importantly, enables a community, corporation or organization to transform its capability for collective action.
We apply the principles of Future Search in all of our work. While the group tasks for a given strategic planning/change initiative or organizational intervention may vary from project to project, the principles and facilitative approach of Future Search offers the DNA for success of any development project. This success rests in a methodology which provides frameworks and processes for people to:
• Come to the table ready, willing and able to engage in productive work
• Explore current realities without blame
• Honor differences and accomplish meaningful and productive outcomes, despite these differences
• Gain a whole-system understanding of the concerns, the group, the organization and environment (including customers, markets, industry, competitors and external forces)
• Take ownership and responsibility for their role in creating the status quo
• Envision an ideal, realistic and motivating future
• Discover Common Ground on what everyone wants to see happen
• Set goals that are realistic and motivating.
• Craft action plans through collaboration and teamwork
• Make public their commitments to act
Each of these elements are instrumental to leading a successful strategic planning/change effort. Together, they become far more than a collection of processes – they shape, in the life of a group, community or organization, notably successful Change Events.