How Change Really Happens

Reflections from Marv Weisbord in an email today – the creator of the Future Search whole systems planning process, an elder in the organizational change community who shares his learned wisdom freely…

“From 1970 to 1990 I team-built some of the best losing teams ever to play the game. By “teambuilding” I mean the classic 1970’s model, a boss and 6 or 8 “subordinates.” They became better problem-solvers, mastered their MBO’s, role negotiated, conflict-managed, and got more personal style acronyms than if you multiplied Myers-Briggs by the I- Ching and threw in the Tarot. What they could not do is implement systemic changes to save their companies. They (a) did not have enough information, and (b) they could not get leverage on their systems, no matter how much formal authority they had. Only when we included the boss’ boss, the peers running other functions, and (eventually) customers and suppliers, did we get significant change. At that point we were no longer team building.”

“The purpose of team building was to wed task and process toward the integration of economic, technological and social objectives.  In some companies I ran two and three team meetings a year for two or three years, interspersed with surveys, task forces, training, etc. NONE of this, singly, or in combination, had as much impact in any one year on the effectiveness of a whole system as a single 3-day Future Search. We did not know that in 1970. We do know it now.”

“I am a great fan of team building for whatever good can be done that way, and I support all meetings where the participants, however few or many,  are equal to their goal. What I no longer believe is that you can do amazing things one small group at a time that will have significant impact on large systems.”

Some Leadership Reflections & Questions:

1)      What do you want to make happen?  Begin with the end in mind and choose the appropriate approach.  If you want the team to be more effective, develop the team.  If you want the system to change, getting a wide range of perspectives and interests in dialogue with each other will make it happen.

2)      Marv Weisbord is a mentor to many of us – he selflessly and humbly shares the wisdom he has learned over the years in true Servant Leader fashion.  Find out more about his work and the thinking of like minded people in two locations:  On the Future Search website  or on the blog he and Sandra Janoff post to: Don’t Just Do Something, Stand There

bob devlin
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