Organisational Change Management Volume 1

Framework 32 Seven Capacities of the U Movement

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"...the entire U movement arises from seven core capacities and the activities they enable. Each capability is a gateway to the next ... but only as all seven capacities are developed is the movement through the entire process possible..."

Peter Senge et al, 2005

The 7 capabilities are suspending, redirecting, letting go, letting come, crystallising, prototyping and institutionalizing

This framework expands the traditional approach of

- planning (gather information and follow due diligence procedures);

- deciding (decide what we want to do, make decisions and enrol people in the decision);

- following-through, monitoring, evaluating and adjusting to include 3 major stages or elements, ie

"...observe, observe, observe - become one with the world; retreat and reflect - allow the inner knowing to emerge; act swiftly, with a natural flow. We have come to call these sensing, presencing and realising..."

Peter Senge et al, 2005

Unilever Australia is using this framework under the title of Leading for Growth

Diagrammatical description of the U framework

organisational development change management

Seven capabilities (see diagram above)

1. Suspending involves sensing (observe, observe, observe) and "stepping away" from the mental mindsets, frameworks, assumptions, beliefs, etc that govern your thought process, and developing the capacity to suspend judgment.

" practice, suspension requires patience and a willingness not to impose pre-established frameworks or mental models on what we are seeing. If we can simply observe without forming conclusions as to what our observations mean and allow ourselves to sit with all the seemingly unrelated bits and pieces of information we see, fresh ways to understand a situation can eventually emerge..."

Peter Senge et al, 2005

2. Redirecting involves

"...When people who are actually creating a system start to see themselves as the source of their problems, they invariably discover a new capacity to create results..."

Peter Senge et al, 2005

We tend to internalise the cultures we are now part of, thus perceiving the world on the basis of our part in the organisation. This means at times we miss seeing a wholeness and see just the parts. To help see the wholeness, we need to concentrate, ie focus, and be willing to see connections that may not have been visible before; this is called mindfulness. This is linked with non-judgmental awareness, ie

" general, if you feel you have got a problem to solve that is "out there" and you don't necessarily see or want to see any possible relationships between you who is trying to solve the problem and what the problem actually is, you may wind up not being able to see the problem accurately, in its fullness. You therefore may unwittingly be contributing to maintaining the undesired situation rather than allowing it to evolve and perhaps dissolve......the most important consequence of redirection: when people start to see from within the emerging whole, they start to act in ways that can cause problems to dissolve over reinforcing the separation of people from their problems, problem solving often functions as a way of maintaining the status quo rather than fundamental change. The problem-solving mindset can be adequate for technical problems. But it can be woefully inadequate for human systems, their problems often arise from unquestioned assumptions and deeply habitual ways of acting. Until people start to see their own handprints as such problems, fundamental change rarely occurs..."

Peter Senge et al, 2005

3. Letting go and come involves presencing (retreat and reflect so that understanding of the inner state of decision-making is required rather than just the rational calculus model) and surrendering the perceived need for control

This is the third basic gesture after suspending and redirecting as a basis for enhancing awareness. This is a capability that needs developing, as sickness, danger, disappointment, overwork, etc makes people feel left out

"...suspension allows us to be more aware of what our habitual thoughts are, as we simply step back and notice them. Redirection opens up new levels of awareness by moving beyond the subject-object duality that normally separates us from our reality. But it is easy to become attached to the new awareness: perhaps because it is pleasant, perhaps because it's unpleasant, perhaps because it's novel, or simply because it feels right. Regardless of the causes, the attachment takes us out of the present moment. Continually letting go brings us back to here and now..."

Peter Senge et al, 2005

It is a linked with knowing. There are 2 types of knowing, ie analytic and primary

- analytic knowing involves seeing the world as separate objects and states of affair, ie the dualistic separation of subject "I" and object "it" and suggests a mechanistic approach

- primary knowing involves seeing the interconnected whole rather than isolated contingent parts, ie the natural state

Knowing is linked with

"...Since the normal localised self is our vehicle for making sense of most of our experience, transcending this self can be profoundly disorienting, and when it happens, people often have great difficulty describing the experience. The localised self can find the decentered, fragile self impossible to grasp and will try to reduce it to its own terms.......As localised self's grip on our awareness releases, there's a change in the quality of attention.......surrendering to commitment..."

Peter Senge et al, 2005

4. Letting come (see above)

5. Crystallizing involves realising (acting naturally rather than blindly following a plan)

"... there is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come..."

Victor Hugo as quoted by Peter Senge et al, 2005

Moving up the U (see diagram above), visioning is important. Generally, visions are formulated from positions of powerlessness, ie people are still externalising their problems, not seeing themselves as part of the problem. In fact they have a disconnection from a shared understanding of present reality and a sense of shared responsibility for that reality.

"...crystallising intent requires being open to the larger intention and imaginatively translating intuitions that arise in the concrete images and visions that guide action.......You become extremely clear about what it is you want to do"..How it is a reflection of your values? How does it relate dealing with your unique purpose in life? What is it that you want to accomplish in is not the grandeur of the vision that matters but what it accomplishes. It's not what the vision is but what the vision other words, the only meaningful criteria for judging visions are the actions and changes that ensue..."

Peter Senge et al, 2005

On the other hand,

"...when people in leadership positions begin to develop a vision infused with a larger purpose, their work shifts naturally from producing results to encouraging the growth of people who produce results..."

Peter Senge et al, 2005

Awakening involves

" what actually matters to us and to find the courage to pursue it..."

Peter Senge et al, 2005


Importance of fast cycle experiments or rapid prototyping as a way to keep things moving. Prototyping is

"... modelling or simulating your best current understandings precisely so that you can have a shared set of understandings that enables communication, especially among people with very different discipline bases. That allows you to break the prototype and iterate cycle until you get to some desired outcome, which could not have been predicted in the beginning........In its essence, prototyping accesses and aligns the wisdom of our head, heart, and hands by forcing us to act before we have figured everything out and created a plan. A tenet of prototyping is acting on a concept before the concept is complete or perfect...... simultaneously learning to listen to all the feedback your action elicits..."

Peter Senge et al, 2005

Prototyping should be open-ended and exploratory; in living systems, we ourselves are prototypes, ie

"...we must be the change we seek to create..."

Gandhi as quoted by Peter Senge et al, 2005

"...throughout this prototyping process, we may get many small Us, sensing and acting, which introduce more awareness and modify actions and even visions..."

Peter Senge et al, 2005

Listening to, and acting on feedback is part of prototyping

6. Institutionalizing

Ideally, institutionalisation should be patterned on biological concepts and methods so that it can evolve to continually organise and invent itself,

"...learning to live by natural principles and giving up any attempt to control it..."

Peter Senge et al, 2005

eg for Visa International

"...we quit arguing about the structure of a new institution and tried to think of it being some sort of genetic code. The genetic code became Visa's purpose and principles, its governing ideas and the core governance processes..."

Dee Hock as quoted by Peter Senge et al, 2005

"...the aim of more integrated science may be to understand living systems. Capra proposes a synthesis of diverse developments in physics, chemistry, and biology that identifies three basic characteristics of living systems: they create themselves (Autopoiesis); they generate new patterns of organising, or self organising, in ways that could not be predicted from their past (emergence); and they're aware, in the sense of interacting effectively with their environment (cognition)..."

Peter Senge et al, 2005

In summary, the U framework is

"...One way to understand this passage through the eye of the needle is as a continuation of the transformation of the relationship between self and the world that begins with sensing. When we start down the left side of the U, we experience the world as something given, something out there. Gradually, we shift our perception to seeing from inside the living process underlying reality. Then, as the move up the right-hand side of the U, we start to experience the world unfolding through us. On the left-hand side of the U, the world is as it is and later as it emerges; on the right-hand side the world is coming into being through us. Starting down the left-hand side, self is an observer of this exterior world, which is a creation of the past. Starting at the right-hand side, the self turns into a source from which the future begins to emerge. The shift involved in moving from one state to another is the mystery that happens at the bottom of the U. The inversion of the relational level of self and world cannot be reduced to words, and people experience it in different ways..."

Peter Senge et al, 2005

(sources: Peter Senge et al, 2005; Catherine Fox, 2006a)


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