R. Todd Stephans:

“I am change. I work for you, with you, and along side of you. I am your partner and competitor. I am an opportunity and a threat. I am a Lion and you are the Gazelle. I will not come at you straight ahead and announce my arrival with an executive memo. I will leap over you or go around you. If you stand in my way, I will run over you. I will replace you either through advanced technology, outsource you with more productive resources, or eliminate your job when I destroy your business model. I am change. While you cut my coffee, eliminate my training, and reduce travel in the name of cost transformations, I am buying iPhones, reading Business 2.0 and seeing the world on my own dime. I can read Peter Drucker and know 99% that you learned during the 1980‟s. While you attempt to polish the last grain of efficiency from enterprise 1.0, I have moved to Enterprise 2.0. You stand in fear of 2.0 while I and millions of people like me are embracing it. I can destroy your business by simply posting a bad experience on a weblog. At the same time, I can make your business by buying into your brand and helping define the experience. I am change. While you try to make your organisation more efficient, I will replace you. You love control and hierarchal structures which focus communication from the top down. I will communicate from the ground up. You have 5 direct reports that are bound to listen to you. I have millions of people that will listen to me and what I have to say. You focus on the physical and I focus on the meta-physical. I am agile, flexible, and I can emerge and disappear in a matter of seconds. I can be inside any organisation in six tenths of a second and creating value in moments. You grew up with my grandparents; tradition. You embraced my parents; re-engineering. Now it is my time, change is here and it‟s already later than you think. I will not seek you out but our confrontation is inevitable. My children, yet to be named, will create a tear in the fabric of what it means to be human. Are you ready?”

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A typical definition of “stakeholder” in the context of organisational change initiatives is:

  • Those individuals (or groups) who are likely to be significantly IMPACTED by the initiative (as it is executed or by the changes that result from it)
  • and/or those individuals (or groups) who are likely to be able to exert significant INFLUENCE  on the initiative  (as it is executed or by the changes that result from it)
I’ve seen very simple stakeholder analysis approaches that have stuck very closely to this “bare bones” definition, and also very elaborate approaches that have attempted to go far beyond this to also describe the stakeholders’ current attitudes towards the initiative, their levels of organisational influence, and a whole host of other relevant (and often also less relevant) attributes. These more elaborate approaches appear to be quite impressive at first glance, but tend to prove rather impractical when you get down to using them. Continue reading
Posted in Tools and methods | Leave a comment

There are professionals, peaceful warriors, with a passion and fervent belief in the power of collaboration. You will find them practicing one or more interactive processes, methods, approaches, or technologies used around the world (see brief descriptions at www.TheChangeHandbook.com). You might have heard about, or practiced,  some of these methods such as Open Space Technology, Future Search, Truth & Reconciliation, Appreciative Inquiry, Drum Cafe, Charrettes, Graphic Facilitation, etc. The core ingredient among these methods is they provide a framework for bringing people together, from diverse perspectives to co-create solutions for which they take action. It may be easy to say, yet the power of these processes can very subtle and elusive – therefore not easy to bottle for broad consumption. In order to transfer the learning and support each other, the leading practitioners of the more established methods have convened communities of practice. Interestingly, there is not much cross pollination of the wisdom and expertise embedded in these methods. It’s as if they spend most of their time doing the collaborative work and little on capacity building for this emerging field of practice.

What would be possible if these various communities connected for the common good of our whole planet – locally and globally? In the previous post, I shared a story of this challenge and opportunity. These various communities can be like a spinning flywheel. In the book Good to Great, Jim Collins describes a large disk about 30 feet in diameter, weighing 5,000 pounds, and mounted on an axle like a “spinning plate.” Each push on the flywheel moves it forward an inch, then another inch, and finally a full rotation. Over time, the flywheel spins faster and faster until a breakthrough is reached. Momentum takes over. Collins states:

Now suppose someone came along and asked, “what was the one big push that caused this thing to go so fast?” You wouldn’t be able to answer; it’s just a nonsensical question. Was it the first push? The second? The fifth? The hundredth? No! It was all of them added together in an overall accumulation of effort applied in a consistent direction. Some pushes may have been bigger than others, but any single heave—no matter how large—reflects a small fraction of the entire cumulative effect upon the flywheel. [1]

Each of the communities of practice has their own flywheel, and they can bring their momentum . . . their passion to the community of communities. Advances in whole system methods and cutting-edge technology make such an assembly viable in a new way not possible just a few years ago. Today, practitioners are leveraging their methods by coming together with distance (online) and in-person (face-to-face) tools that facilitate synchronous and asynchronous collaboration (see table 1) [2].  Consider, for example, Spirited Work at the Whidbey Institute. Corporate folks, educators, artists, writers, musicians, computer wizards, architects, chefs, builders, consultants, students, and pre-schoolers have been able to stay connected over a significant period of time. They meet in-person four times a year and incorporate online tools to support their work together on projects, research, or long-term conversations and learning [3]. This example demonstrates an important opportunity reminiscent of candle makers of yore: Once the light bulb was created in 1879, things would never be the same again. The candle makers had a choice, whether they realized it or not . . . and so do we.

The collective flywheel can be spun; converging and diverging, adding to the momentum, creating sustainable follow-through. It is through the blending of on-line and in-person technologies that “follow-through” transforms into “flow.” Change becomes a constant source of positive energy supporting the natural rhythm of collaboration [4].

In addition, we can use our expertise to advance the methods as we do our work. Yes, shape our future with our own tools, and in the process invent whole new ways to support system-wide change. How much further might we go? What might we as users uncover that will inform practice, research, and education? What is our common ground? Let’s embrace the possibilities and spin the flywheel with two initiatives:

1. initiate a distance conversation supported with on-line tools, and

2. create a space for an in-person gathering (e.g., a conference).

As The Change Handbook took shape, the notion of coming together emerged. In fall 2006, a group of people brought the various communities of practice together with online tools. This virtual conversation was designed to flow into an in-person conference at Bowling Green State University in Ohio in March 2007, and to continue from there. We had over 300 people in that conversation and the it continues to this day. Perhaps even as you read this post a year or so from now the networked community of practice will be making a bigger difference as we convene www.NEXUS4change.org for a fifth time. In the next few blog posts, we will post questions and ideas to consider in our work.


  1. Ralph and Terry Kovel, “Light Bulb Set Lamp Designers Free,” The News & Observer [Raleigh-Durham, NC], July 29, 2006, 12E.
  2. Jon Kennedy and Brian King provided valuable insight for the table to ensure it represented the various tools and technologies available, July 2006.
  3.  See The Change Handbook chapter 9 (Open Space Technology) for more on the Spirited Work example. See also chapter 59 (Online Environments for Supporting Change) for more information on the possibilities for blending online with in-person approaches. www.thechangehandbook.com.
  4.  Marie Miyashiro, e-mail exchange with Steven Cady, July 2006. (Integrated Clarity).

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It started small, four years ago. When we thought about bringing a couple of change management practitioners together to share their latest tools and insights, we targeted mainly the German plus the”surrounding Germany” population. However, for some reason which I cannot recall, we made a bilingual announcement for the first Berlin Change Days in 2009. As a result, the first conference was already pan-European and major parts of the workshops were in English language. Around 30 people came at that time and we were encouraged to repeat the experience. So, we did in 2010. Since then the size of the BCD in terms of audience and workshops has grown by 50% each year, meaning that in 2013 we expect around 120-130 participants. in 2012, participants came from Albania, Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Dubai, Finland, Germany, Israel, Latvia, Netherlands, Portugal, Russia, South Africa, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, and the USA, and for 2013 we expect an even more global audience.

The Berlin Change Days don’t have a main topic. We understand the event more as a an exhibition and incubation space for new trends in our sector. There is no shortage of people who try to expand the boundaries of our discipline.

So, what can you expect in 2013? This year’s program includes a lot of workshops on all aspects of organizational and personal change. While we still don’t have a main topic, there is some focus on the role and personality of the change agent, starting with a keynote reflecting on how we have to change of we want to bring change to organizations, and the world. And there is much more. Welcome to Berlin!

Berlin Change Days 2013 – the global change management conference
November 1-3, 2013 in the heart of Berlin

PS: At least three of the authors of this blog have announced that they will attend the conference. Luc Galoppin will host a workshop on Social Architecture.

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The number of crises and conflicts around the world—economic instability, unemployment, resource scarcity, terrorism, wars, ethnic divisions, oppression, natural disasters, climate changes, and more—is cause for hopelessness and despair. And the research is clear: Focus on the negative aspects long enough and things will only get worse with more blame, shortsighted solutions, cascading harm, and a serious drain of human energy. Positive psychology compels one to ask an important question, “What do we want more of?”[1]

Explore amazing transformations around the world; you will find examples of resilience, innovation, healing, and abundant energy driven by people committed to seeing a better world. The practitioners of the methods in The Change Handbook, the pioneers and masters, have dedicated much of their professional and personal lives to supporting organizations and communities in realizing their potential. Their stories are there to be witnessed. If we want more, then this is where we need to focus. Tom Atlee captured the spirit and challenge of our times when he wrote,

I’ve come to believe that things are getting better and better and worse and worse, faster and faster, simultaneously. And so I’ve found myself bouncing back and forth between optimism and pessimism. “Things are going to work out well.” Or: “There’s going to be real disaster!” It’s been really exhausting. [2]

Gather Together

Well then, what next? Professionals in our field are naturally focused outward. This makes sense when considering their passion and calling. I offer that it is time to focus inward as well. In addition to the work we do for a better world, consider what might be possible if we take care of our collective self. Let’s put to practice one of the most common principles to all the methods—get our whole system into a room.

Imagine a place, a house with an amazing garden. Someone is on the roof, shoring up shingles. Another is inside, working on the wiring. There are people in the garden: watering, planting, pruning. There is a fire being put out on the front porch, while out back, someone is putting up a hammock between two trees. Still others are inside, teaching people to play music and dance the samba. They all share something—a desire to support a vibrant place to live. Each person, while making a unique skilful contribution, knows there are others with the same desire. Yet, they really have not talked much, if at all.

In this place, overlooking a golden pond, is an open-air veranda next to a kitchen where the most sumptuous meal is being prepared. A cool breeze flows through the kitchen and veranda . . . a tantalizing aroma begins to swirl around the house, through the garden, and among the woods. The meal is placed out on the veranda. One by one, the people come from all over. They sit and eat . . . conversations begin, connections are made. As time passes, a few people wander together through one of the house’s many archways. They sit together and talk, for the first time. Others meander through another archway. They play and share ideas. The conversation is fluid, kindred spirits gathering as a whole, forming small groups, fanning out through the archways like breath bringing oxygen to the lungs… back again to the whole, for more food, desserts, and nightcaps. They share, diverging and converging. On this day, in this moment, something different has occurred for each person and the whole place.

When we come together as a community of communities, it is possible to transcend consensus where ideas coalesce into a new coherence; in which people act, taking responsibility for what they love, based on the essential core that emerges. As we gather, it will be important to recognize our individuality and our unique contributions; and, in so doing, we can achieve more than we dreamed possible.


  1. J. E. Gillham, ed., The Science of Optimism and Hope: Research Essays in Honor of Martin E. P. Seligman (Radnor, PA: Templeton Foundation Press, 2000). See also M.E.P. Seligman, Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment (New York: Free Press, 2002).
  2. Tom Atlee, Co-Intelligence Institute, www.co-intelligence.org/crisis_fatigue.html.



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Corporate change is a complex adventure, one in which the human factor plays a major role… as always. But do collaborators receive all the attention they deserve, so that they might become the catalysts of this change?

Caught in the complexity of organisational and technological choices, in the development of processes with cohorts of consultants, pressured by impatient Top Management, shoved around by all the limitations placed on him, worried about time fleeing by, the manager struggles in the hurricane of change. Continue reading

Posted in Case studies, Leadership | 2 Comments

Skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been.
– Wayne Gretsky

This article is aimed specifically at organizational change practitioners. By using the ice hockey metaphor I point out where our profession should be today, and the direction the puck will be heading tomorrow. Organizational change practitioners cannot expect everybody else to adapt to the digital economy and at the same time work with outdated tools, techniques and perspectives. We need to be the change we want to see in the world – and frankly: we suck at it.

When we look at how the digital economy is shifting the world of work it is strange to see that the profession of Organizational Change Management has not evolved since the past 30 years or so.

My suggestion is to look for where our skills will be needed today and tomorrow.

Change Management: a Definition

First things first: what are we talking about when say ‘organizational change management’? The way I see it, our work comes down to the management of 4 elements that are important during a transition; four ‘containers’ if you will. They are: Communication, Learning, Organization and Performance. Have a look at the below video to see what’s inside each of these containers.

Each container represents a specific need that people have during a change.

  • Communication: people need an identity to hang onto so they can see what is in it for them. Constructing an identity for your project is necessary in order to provide an answer to the question “What’s In It For Me?”.
  • Learning: People need to know what is expected of them in terms of attitude, knowledge and skills. A part of this is provided in the form of classroom-trainings (the know-how), but the largest part of the knowledge transfer will take place in practice, during the testing phase and the phase of problem-solving. That is why the learning work is never restricted to the classroom and – most of all – we need to carefully build a network of local ambassadors for the project.
  • Organization: this is the need to know “Who does what?”. This means that the setup of the future roles and responsibilities needs to be clarified upfront. Next, the support structure in the long run needs to be setup, i.e.: the community of ambassadors who will be responsible for the sustainability of the solution.
  • Performance: Finally, people need to know what exactly will change in practice and how this will affect their working habits and usage of time. This includes a detailed follow-up of the chronology of tasks and the creation of a uniform procedure that is shared among all departments. Continue reading
Posted in Thoughts on change management | Leave a comment

On last Friday, I had the pleasure to kick off the 4th Berlin Change Days and to welcome 90 delegates from 18 countries for an intensive three days learning and networking event. For my keynote (“The new ecosystems of organizations”), I had done some weeks of research on the near future of organizations. I wanted to understand how change management practitioners have to reposition themselves and which new skills and methods they need to develop.

You can watch the entire keynote (32 minutes) here:

These are the five parts of my presentation:

  1. The matrix is alive
  2. Access is more important than ownership
  3. New ways of working
  4. People do not resist change
  5. Change management has become a commodity

Continue reading

Posted in Thoughts on change management | Leave a comment

When people are asked to change, a lot rides on their willingness to trust those who are doing the asking.  This is true across the spectrum of change – from asking your baby brother to taste a new type of food for the first time through to convincing 10 000 employees to follow the new strategy designed to save a failing organisation.  In essence, you are asking that they make a transition from the known, tangible and familiar to an unknown, future situation where the only information they may have about the future and the process of transition is what they are told by those who want them to change. Continue reading

Posted in Thoughts on change management | Leave a comment

Organisations invest much time, effort and money in bringing about change, often through large capital projects. But do the returns justify the investment? Are we really getting what we want when we set out to change things? Many case studies and much research on this topic would suggest not.

A major root cause identified in this regard is a lack of attention to change management. Plain good sense and even casual observation would support this – we can’t expect people to commit to change when they don’t understand why it is necessary, how it impacts on them and what is required of them.  In response, most large organisations have come to take change management rather seriously. While significant focus on change management was the exception two decades ago, now it is rare to find a large organisation willing to embark on any large-scale change without some form of change management. Continue reading

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