Have you ever felt the deep sensation of just knowing what to do? Knowing you had to take a, maybe life changing, decision even though you could not oversee the consequences? And there was no going back once this idea had settled into your head? Congratulations, you’ve encountered the deep dynamics of profound change.
One of the most interesting scientific frameworks elaborating on profound change is Theory U, by Otto Scharmer . Scharmer developed his “U”-shaped transformational framework researching the question why and when so called change programs in organisations have a long-lasting effect. Even if the human dynamics of change are addressed (the double loop learning principle ), not all companies are able to change at the speed that is required to stay relevant and stay in business.
To find out more about the dynamics of effectively transformed organisations, Scharmer started the ‘Thought Leader project’, where he interviewed changemakers, CEO’s and entrepreneurs in the areas of management, knowledge and change – that managed to redefine the purpose and core business of their companies . All their stories had one thing in common: These leaders all recorded a specific moment where they felt as if time and place stood still, they tapped into a field of wisdom and knowing. They experienced a deep knowing what to do, as if the future was already emerging and had to become reality through them.
From this moment on, these people were the true-felt ambassadors of change. Employees and co-workers simply knew the new narrative was not just another plan ‘they’ came up with, but that it was serious business and hence became involved in shaping the future and building the organisation around it.
Today’s world is rapidly changing. We face many, many challenges. Our future is VUCA, cause and effect are often intertwined, and we simply cannot tackle the problems with the same techniques that created them. To truly tackle these challenges, we should extend decision making to a deeper field of wisdom. Scharmer states we need a deeper connection: first between decision makers, second with the field of stakeholders that feel the impact from the decision, and last with the world as whole, affected by these decisions.
An Obeya is very much equipped to lead us to these profound experiences. In this article we will explore some of the relations between Theory U and Obeya – and how you can combine both to make impact and become an even stronger ambassador for effective change.
Let’s start with the left side of the model. This path is about deepening the known and felt knowledge on whatever change a person, or a group of people want to see happening. From the left side top to bottom there are 3 stages:
Sometimes, this process continues to a stage in the bottom of the U: Presencing. The word presence is constructed of the words present and sensing. In this stage the team members not only feel deeply connected regarding the subject as they feel in the sensing stage, but they feel also deeply connected to the ‘source’ of the emerging future. As if a decision is being taken through them. This is a deeply systemic field, where deep sensations are felt through the whole team. To enter this field the team members need an open will to first let go of their judgements and fear. Once the team can tap into the source, multiple practices can help the team to stay in the moment and be comfortable with working from this field.