Intervention: Changing a Large Culture
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Rick Dove, Paradigm Shift International,,

Can you change a culture? Some people think not - but I’m not one of them. Here we continue our look at mission and mission realization strategy begun a few essays ago [Aug 98] - offering a mission fulfillment process example while answering the previously posed question: What could be done to hasten the arrival of the Learning Society?
   The strategy is generic, and would be just as appropriate for changing a culture in a large, even global, organization. Though our example will deal with society and a vision-based mission of installing a broad-based learning culture, there is little difference if the vision-based mission is to convert a corporation to a learning organization, or any other timely culture for that matter.
   The diagram depicts our chosen strategy as a collection of strategic themes and critical supporting activities. We start with the premise that we have discovered a vision who’s time has come, and only need nurture and shape it to see it flower on a broad scale.

Strategic Themes

1. Community Involvement - A Learning Society does not come to pass because some government directs the transition. It will occur when society as a whole, in all of its diverse manifestations, is populated mainly by agile learners [Paul Messier, National Learning Foundation,]. A broad cross-section of society needs to be involved and committed before this phenomenon can emerge - business, education, government, church; urban, suburban, rural; black, brown, red, white, yellow; lower-, middle-, upper-class; child, adolescent, young adult, mature adult, senior citizen. The very core of the strategy is the active involvement on a large scale of diverse interests. Those most ready will be accommodated first: businesses and educators. Large scale involvement will be accomplished through chaordic organizational concepts that establish and facilitate nothing more than rules of engagement and benefits of interaction and involvement. Once a minimal critical mass of involvement is established additional growth is self generating, highly and rapidly scaleable, with a minimal and proportionately shrinking support core. This chaordic organizational and growth concept is central to the strategy, and modeled after the Visa International structure developed and described by Dee Hock [], founder and CEO of the Visa credit card company.

2. Focused Vision - At the head of the strategy is the need for a clear and consistent vision that evolves with time, rearticulated to include new understandings, recast to reflect new and different environments. At its core the vision is unwavering: a learning society caused by the nature and ubiquitousness of agile learners everywhere, nurtured and created by agile learning environments. The vision stays focused on these concepts, suggesting but not prescribing methods that might enable and support these concepts.

3. Road Map - The vision describes an objective to be achieved. The road map is a series of steps to take in order to arrive at the objective. The road map for the Learning Society may well consist of development activities in technological and scientific knowledge areas, experimentation, implementation, education in the political and social sectors, retraining methodologies for the existing workforce, whatever is deemed useful in moving society closer to the vision. Importantly, an effective road map will be developed and understood by those who must walk it.

4. Effective Change - The mission is all about changing the way things are. Knowledge alone does not accomplish this. Someone has to take the bull by the horns and wrestle it to the ground. This must happen in countless educational institutional environments, in countless business environments, and among countless people. Change agents effective at causing these numerous events must be cultivated and armed with technique, with knowledge, and with confidence.

5. Role Model - Mission fulfillment requires that many people and many different kinds of people learn many things that they do not already know. More importantly, it benefits when these people have an internal and insightful knowledge about agile learners and agile learning environments. Attracting the support of those that already understand these concepts is critical, and impossible if we do not walk the talk - indeed - if we do not walk ahead of the talk. For those who become involved, the process will offer a necessary living role model that they experience first hand.

Critical Activities

1. Collaborative Learning ReForums - The Learning ReForum concept is modeled after an industry involvement structure employed by the Agility Forum in the early-to-mid ‘90s. ReForum groups consist of approximately 25 to 50 people who have agreed to become a collaborative learning community to explore, develop, and articulate new knowledge and projects that will assist in mission fulfillment. Such groups meet in periodic face-to-face workshop and/or in web-enabled collaborative forums to accomplish these ends. They set objectives each year that result in deliverables in the form of publishable, actionable knowledge and/or implementation experiments and examples. Some groups are strategic in nature while the majority are new knowledge and application developers. Strategic groups focus on vision maintenance and Road Map development.
   Initial chairs for each group will be actively recruited from among known innovators in the emerging learning field, with an eye toward cross-sectional representation. An annual meeting will provide an opportunity for cross-pollination, a deadline for deliverables, a vehicle for display of progress, and a macro-forum for collective work and planning. To foster large growth in the population of ReForum groups, creation and operation will be facilitated for self-organization and self-affiliation through the chaordic organizational concept. Web-based collaboration technology will be an important development for eventual large scale growth.
   A structured collaborative learning and knowledge-development process will be the framework for both face-to-face and web-based workshop activities - perhaps modeled after our Realsearch process. Importantly, participants will be active in specific ReForums because their own personal goals and jobs require answers to the questions on the ReForum group agenda - real people working collaboratively on real problems for application in real time.

2. Local Collaborative Groups - The local chapter program is similar to the Learning ReForum concept, but structured to accommodate and leverage people in a confined region that can easily meet together and may find it difficult to engage in travel related collaboration. Again, local chapter creation and operation will be set up for self organization and self-affiliation to the core organization in order to encourage and accommodate unbounded growth.

3. Knowledge Bank - A scientific underpinning that provides credibility and direction is a key support requirement. Brain-based learning models, knowledge, and references to publications will be an important part of this electronic library, as will references and connections to working examples, practicing experts, and experimental projects.

4. Project Formation Guidance - Methods and materials that provide guidance in finding funds for projects and in finding collaborative partners for projects will be another group of deliverables from the Learning ReForum. This strategic activity will have a core function responsible for catalyzing such a focus within the Learning ReForum, and ensuring that the results are both effective and employed.

5. Change Agent Development - Methods and materials to create and support change agents will be one of the more important subjects taken up by the Learning ReForum groups. Deliverables might include such things as the identification of mentors and collaborators for specific change agent projects, the publication of case histories of successful processes and methods for overcoming barriers, and recommended step-by-step procedures for specific programs in specific environments. A core function will be responsible for this activity, and will facilitate and catalyze the creation and armament of an army of competent change agents.

6. Awareness and Outreach Program - Communicating the vision and mission as well as the benefits and modes of involvement is extremely important in the recruitment process. Society as a whole needs to participate in this transformation and understand the values of hastening its completion. This activity takes responsibility for gaining massive involvement and appreciation of mission fulfillment. In traditional business terms, this function has both "sales" and "marketing communication" responsibilities.

The fulfillment strategy engages large numbers of people and helps them develop insights and platforms that they can use to favorably address problems and opportunities that they face and value. The central organization remains a small core of catalyst functions and emergent-system designers that facilitate this self-organized but coherent march toward a vision. You can do this in society, you can do this in a large organization.

1998 RKDove - Attributed Copies Permitted
Essay #046 - Originally Published 10/98 at

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