Liminal Pathways Blog
I have been thinking a lot about how organizational cultures change and the challenges that are part of adopting and developing new cultural practices and norms. It is clear to me that culture change requires attention over time, reflecting on what is working and what is not, and a co-creative approach to help make it stick. But I have a cautionary tale about imposing processes that we believe in on people who aren’t ready.
This is a story from my years teaching at Sonoma State University, when I first began teaching a core curriculum course in humanistic psychology to undergraduate students. This was when I encountered an interesting culture change challenge, symbolized by moving chairs. […]
Recently I teamed up with Laurie Durnell, The Grove’s co-president, to design and facilitate a visioning and culture development process with the College of Business Administration at Cal Poly Pomona. The college of six academic departments and more than 5,000 students needed to move beyond a culture of silos, update some of its administrative processes, and address what seemed to be a lack of opportunities for innovation. As the college was getting ready to celebrate its 50th anniversary and was shifting from a quarter-based to two-semester-based system, the timing was ripe for a major renewal process.
This is a story of how change methodology, dialogic practice, and visual facilitation combined to achieve a successful result, symbolized by the completed Grove Storymap® (see above).
Launching the Project
Our first step in the process was getting clear on the specific objectives. The dean of the college, Dr. Erik Rolland, asked us to:
- Support the college to move beyond a culture of silos to become a culture that more fully embraces change, collaboration and innovation;
- Develop a strategic vision and associated initiatives that inspire new and bold actions to stay competitive in the marketplace while working with very real resource constraints;
- Strengthen the momentum for several major procedural changes, including moving from an academic quarter system to a two-semester system.
To begin building relationships, we held initial interviews with representatives from the various academic departments and staff units to learn about the challenges and opportunities facing the college and to assess the college’s readiness for change. Erik was interested in activating organization-wide support for change, and he knew of The Grove’s high-engagement processes and how they support alignment around change and […]
Here is a case study written for The Grove Journal about one of several whole-systems change projects I have been co-leading with David Sibbet and other Grove consultants.
Driven by economics and demand, the University of California’s newest campus in Merced is expected to double in size by 2020. No fewer than 72 change projects faced Michael Reese, vice chancellor of Business Administration, in 2016 when he engaged The Grove’s Gisela Wendling, Ph.D., and David Sibbet to facilitate a campus-wide 2020 Visioning and Change Alignment Process.
The process combined large-scale strategic-change consulting, visual facilitation, Grove Storymapping®, and interactive-network technology in a series of large summit meetings with faculty, staff and students. The meetings were guided by a Change Alignment Team (CAT) of top project managers led by Reese and the former dean of the School of Engineering, Erik Roland.
At Chancellor Dorothy Leland’s insistence, the process streamed real-time to students, staff and faculty who couldn’t attend the face-to-face meetings. An interactive platform provided by Grove partner Covision allowed virtual and in-person table groups to share the same visioning, goal-setting, and insight-sharing activities.
Reflections on Racism
Recently I attended a ‘dialogue on race’ which my friend and colleague Ronita Johnson hosted. Somewhat by surprise, it led me to reflect on how my understanding and experience with racism, as someone born and raised in Germany, might be quite different from those who were born and raised here in the Unites States.
Many participants, both people of color and white people, shared stories of their earliest experience of racism. We also talked about American slavery, the current presidential elections, black pride, the police shootings, and other injustices that African Americans experience. We discussed the notion of race as an anthropological construction and racism as a symptom of a power system that is rigged toward the advantages of a few.
I walked away from this dialogue feeling quite stirred up and touched by the often heart-wrenching personal stories that were shared. “Is racism really about color, or is it about maintaining structural inequality so that a few can profit?” Questions are like doorways and guides for learning; I took this one with me from the dialogue.
This event led me to reflect on my own orientation. I came to the U.S. when I was 21, and my childhood in Germany was of course quite different from those who grew up in the American South or New York or Los Angeles. My early life was marked by Germany trying to come to terms with the Holocaust. As a child I remember that we were not allowed to tell jokes about Jewish people, although it was quite all right to tell jokes about our other ethnicities or nationalities. I also recall that no […]
Recently I was invited by Meridian University, where I also teach, to host a dialogue via videoconference on Crucibles of Change: Guiding Liminal Processes in Organizational Life. Here is the link to the video stream.
To me the crucible is a generative image. Once we come to understand what a crucible is, we begin to see it everywhere, especially in our work as change agents.
I invited Alan Briskin, author of Collective Wisdom, David Sibbet, my colleague at The Grove Consultants International, and Bethe Hagens, who I came to know years ago at an Anthropology of Consciousness conference. As an anthropologist, exploring liminality has been a significant part of Bethe’s research and academic work. The four of us had a wonderful dialogue. Here is the video link.
The Grove intensive Designing and Leading Change that David Sibbet and I lead explicitly explores how to identify and shape crucible-type situations and events in larger change processes. The Liminal Pathways Framework which we introduce in this three-day workshop indicates the crucible phase as the center of the transformative process—at the threshold or place of transition where one is no longer the old and not yet the new.
In chemistry, crucibles are used to melt metals and combine elements under strong heat. Alchemists used crucibles in an attempt to turn base metals into gold, and they explored how their own magical interactions might cause a transformation to occur. So the crucible has become a metaphor for human containers (or processes) that can handle a great amount […]
Statues at the Louvre
I just returned from an inspiring trip to Germany, Netherlands and France. David Sibbet and I led a public workshop on visualizing change for organizational consultants in Amsterdam and we spent time with several of the Grove Global Partners working on various new projects. The workshop focused on mental models and metaphors that capture increasing levels of complexity within systems as well as examining patterns of change—within individuals as well as organizations and larger system. We also looked at patterns of change by reviewing the Liminal Pathways Framework. It is always wonderful to see how quickly this framework for change resonates with workshop participants and clients.
While in Europe I also took a few days to visit Paris and read The Principle of Individuation: Toward the Development of Human Consciousness, written by one of my favorite Jungian writers, Murray Stein. The reading led me to explore the Greek God of Hermes and his archetypal role in transformational processes while all along being inspired by the historical and artistic backdrop of Paris, including a visit to the Louvre with its many representations of ancient Gods.
Stein’s exploration of Hermes is especially relevant within the context of understanding individuation—a deeply transformative and developmental psychological process that requires venturing through liminality, the uncertainty of the “in between.” Stein describes Hermes as the God of liminal space and so I was more than a little engaged in his thinking. Stein also applies his insights about the transformative process of individuation to the much larger cultural movements that shape our time, another passion of mine. I found myself very encouraged by his thinking. It is my […]