Whole-System Change LO5428

Charles Parry (74150.236@compuserve.com)
07 Feb 96 17:37:00 EST

Responding to LO5363 Change from the Bottom up and moving the focus slightly to
"Whole-System Change" if that's allowed.
[Host's Note: Of course that's allowed!...]

Tobin and Julie;
Thanks for your dialogue on organizational change.

(Tobin) -- Many times, it seems to me, the system changes _before_ the
people change and that is one of the problems we face. By focusing on
individuals and how they change we may be looking at the cart and not
noticing the horse which is heading down the road at full speed.

I would suggest that it might be the people who change last for the most
part, and the system--which is much larger than any one organization in
it--that is busy transitioning to new states before we are even aware of
** end of quote **

This reminds me of (Ericksonian) hypnotherapy and storytelling as
"indirect" methods of facilitating change. Both are characterized by (when
successful) a holistic shift of perception and action wherein the
individual who has changed (and sometimes profoundly) is only minimally
aware of the change - that person's systems have realigned already. If one
takes the view that individuals in an organization are part of a system
(one which is often like water to the fish), then it's not at all
unrealistic to suppose that the system will change individuals more
profoundly than individuals will change the system.

If you take a cucumber and place it in a jar of pickles for 8-10 hours a
day, after a few months or years of this pattern, does it remain a
cucumber? No. It "get's pickled".

(Julie)>> how do we decide where to start....? my sense is that we need to
continue to develop ways of bringing the whole system together.... top, bottom,
middle, inside, outside, etc... and work to understand how the whole
interacts... how everybody's problems create a system mess..... and stop
trying to start top down... or bottom up... or middle out... but work on
the whole simultaneuously
** end of quote**

Providing a "whole-system" awareness process, such as a Future Search
conference, seems capable of facilitating a shift in the pickling fluid -
that stuff which fills the spaces between the individuals who are part of
that organization/system. For example, in my experience with a Future
Search - The Education Summit - on the future of education for the State
of Maine, in the month or three after the big event, the feedback
indicated that the excitement had ebbed and that "seems like nothing
really changed". However, in extensive feedback one year out it became
apparrent that a LOT had changed, but it was the type of thing that people
only noticed: 1] when provoked by specific questions 2] in hindsight, well
after the intervention.

That is just the way it is with skilled Ericksonian practitioners working
to facilitate individual change. As a practitioner I think that it's fair
to say, (shifting the jargon a bit) that it is accomplished by creating a
temporary but highly absorbing alternative state of attention wherin
everyday life is set aside for a considerable duration and process
instructions encourage an experiential discovery of added choice,
inclusion of divergent or oppositional/paradoxical thoughts and meanings,
curiosity, integration of levels and an open search for underlying
alignment of intention or function. (Not so unlike a focus on discovering
common ground - no problem-solving groundrule in a FSC) And one common
tool is storytelling (Not so unlike focus on the past, present and future
flipcharting, or prouds and sorries)

I think that a basic operating premise is that the client is a system that
contains a great deal of conflict in the foreground (the presenting
problem - an awareness that what is happening is not what is wanted,
possibly accompanied by a somewhat more vague sense that things will get
worse given the way things are going) which exists never-the-less in the
soup of a whole, and quite capable, system. So it is about facilitating an
emergence of new patterns of communication, awareness, integration within
the system and integration between the system and the patterns in its

How's that for a different take on a Future Search Conference?

Imagine overhearing;" Yup, the whole company is going up to the university
for a couple days for some "whole system hypnotherapy"! I expect this
group hypnosis stuff will probably be a little weird, but I hear it works
- and sure as heck this organization needs it the way things are going.
Besides - hey, we tried about everything else!" and 9 months later... "The
Search Conference? Yea, it was OK - kinda neat seeingthe whole dang
company all mixed together in one place - I was in a group with Mr CEO
himself - kinda suprised me that he seemd like a regular enough guy out of
his suit. Did it work? Didn't seem to. Lots of "Action Plans" at the end
but as usual, they got forgot pretty quikly back at work. What's this? Oh,
its just a bonus check from our profit-sharing program - pretty cool huh?
How did it get started? Hmmm, pretty recent actually. Hey, come to think
of it there WAS quite a bit of talk about profit sharing at that
conference... hmmm! Maybe something DID happen! Are things better than a
year ago? Absolutely. For some reason people seem to have some of the fun
back that we had in the early days..."

Charles Parry

Charles Parry, Director
Specialized Resources International
Boston University Sargent Camp
36 Sargent Camp Road
Hancock, New Hampshire  03449 USA
Fax: 603.525.4151.     Tel:  603.525.4451
Email:  74150.236@compuserve.com

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