User’s manual

November 26, 2009 Leave a comment

One day it will be over!

One day you will find yourself tired and satisfied. You finally finished the follow up meeting of a change process. At the meeting people were happy with the results and they think you helped them a lot.

If you are new to leading change process, you probably wonder where to begin and how to start. If you ask experienced process leaders they often say “trust the process”. You can trust the process but you can design the process well and trust the process design instead.

Here I will introduce you to change process design. You have to have a specific change process in mind to really benefit from these ideas.

Actually it is a learning process design based on task-based and experienced-based learning, where you have to identify the things that the participants need and want to learn and use all the experience and knowledge to its fullest potential. Even when the tasks have to be found along the way and you have to build the road to the future while you are walking.

The group of people you are going to work with will find the learning process very unlike a normal day at the office. If it were a normal day at the office performance in the present is the most important. In a change and learning process you are building your capacity for performing in the future. The difference between working and playing is the demand for specific results and the skills connected to those results.

In many ways a change process is like these six blind men trying to figure out what an elephant is. With a little twist, they are going to build a new and improved elephant and the environment, where it will prosper and multiply.

Back to the beginning.

“In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God and the Word was God.” You are going to enter a long series of more or less parallel conversations were the things that will make the change process a success. As a designer you job is simply to organize and conduct these conversations.

This blog will give you a general idea about which conversations you are going to have and how they are connected. I will present them as if there was a natural sequence in this work, so you can finish one step before taking the next. But change is more like a delicate “modern dance” where you lead a diverse group of dancers into creating a new dance and perform it in front of an audience. You do not have a clear idea about what the dance is going to look like or who is going to be the leader of the dance company.

Everything is unclear and filled with hopes for success and hopes for avoiding failure. Here I will give you an overview over the questions you will find in your work with the process design.

  • Is it a change process or a project? Usually we call all kinds of change for change. When you start dealing with change process design it is a special kind of project we are talking about. There is usually some confusion about change processes and development projects. You can see more in the Post: Change process or project?
  • What are the principles you need to follow in the design process? You can see more in the Post: Principles in design of change processes
  • What kind of process organizations do you need to build? You can see more in the Post: Change process organization
  • How do you negotiate the purpose and topic of the change process? You can see more in the Post: Negotiating the purpose and the topic of the change process
  • How do you define the scope of the change process? You can see more in the Post: Defining the scope of the change process
  • How do you design the whole process? You can see more in the Post: Designing the whole process
  • How do you design and plan a workshop? You can see more in the Post: Workshops: Designing and planning a workshop
  • How do you design and plan an exercise? You can see more in the Post: Exercises: Designing, choosing and planning an exercise
  • How do you follow up on the process? You can see more in the Post: Follow up
  • What do you need to have in your toolbox? You can see more in the Post: Change process toolbox

If you have questions please put a comment in the Post: Frequently asked questions

More specialized topics will be answered here or give you a reference to another Post or links to more information.

Each of the Posts will change as a natural part of my learning process. I will mark additions with [addition] and [breaking news]. I will remove parts of the text as it gets irrelevant or outdated.

Categories: User's manual

Change process organization

November 26, 2009 Leave a comment

You will need and organization that can handle the decision making in the change process and take care of all the tasks involved in organizing and leading the process.

The purpose of this organization is to make sure the change process will become a success. It is normal that organizations that try to create change processes fail because they expect the everyday organizations to take care of this on top of their normal responsibilities. This is not a good idea because they have to prioritize the everyday tasks which are important and urgent. Change processes are normally not urgent, so the change process will not have the level of attention and support it needs.

In a change process where you have a formal organization as your client you should make sure, you know who in management team you have as a contact in case you need help and support. It has to be a person who has the formal right to close down the change process.

You only need a contact person and a right to contact this person in case it is necessary.

The change process is a journey of exploration and part of this is that the management team that is going to run the formal organization after the process is not known when you start the process.

It is a good idea to have a meeting with the present management team and get their support for the necessity of a change process. It is very rare that they can agree on a specific solution before the change process. It is also a negotiation of the preferred future for them and a struggle for the positions in the future organization.

What you need is a guiding coalition for your change process. A guiding coalition is a group of people who together represents

  • Position power – you need enough people who has real influence in the organization or community formally and informally
  • Expertise – you need many different kinds of expertise in relation to the areas that are needed in order to find informed solutions to the challenges
  • Credibility – you need a group of people who is taken serious by the people in the organization or community
  • Leadership – you need a group of people who are proven leaders, who are believed to be able to drive a change process forward

If you are not dealing with a formal organization or even with a non-existing organization under construction, you need the same. But you might have to find other ways to attract these people to your change process. One of them is to create an advisory board that can help you when you need help.

In the process you will need to have a day-to-day leader and a chairperson that can take urgent decisions fast if it becomes necessary.

The day-to-day leader needs a breakout group who can help with building the design of the change process and the practical things in the beginning. Normally the breakout group will be expanded into a design team and a practical team. Both of these teams can grow into quite a large crew when you launch the change process.

And the crew will dissolve after the process is over.

Categories: Design tasks

Change process toolbox

November 26, 2009 Leave a comment

The most important tools in your toolbox are connected to imagination, play and construction. Your first challenge is to imagine, what this change process is going to look like. You are designing and planning two things at the same time: The change process and the construction of the change process.

When the change and learning takes place it looks like this: A group of highly concentrated and engaged people in a conversation using all their senses.

What is happening is that people are imagining, playing with and constructing

  • Who they could be and how they can contribute to the new community they are going to build
  • The personal relationships they need to have in order to achieve this future
  • The landscape inside and around the community
  • Who and what in these landscapes can influence the future of the community
  • Events that could help the new community to prosper or to make it break down
  • The preventive actions they can take in order to keep the community safe and on the right track to the future they prefer

The participants are on a journey of exploration to their new community bringing all their experience and skills and lots of hopes of success and hopes of avoiding too much failure.

You are going to produce the stage and script for the events that make it possible for people to do that together in a group that is much more diverse than they usually see themselves.

As the designer of the change process you need to imagine yourself as a creator of a total theater production, where the audience is creating the content of the play in a series of stages. Each stage unites elements of performing, auditory and visual arts with philosophy, psychology, organizational theory and literature into order to achieve unique results.

So you need to feel comfortable in this creative process, which usually means that you should choose which of the performing arts and which of the theoretical foundations you believe in yourself. If you invite people into the universe of a theater production you will be surprised how skilled they are in creating a fantastic play.

If you use the metaphor of a circus production, you can ask people to build a circus performance like this: Divide the participants into groups, who have to invent and rehearse their act, one group is the clowns, other groups are the wild beasts, the orchestra, the acrobats, the jugglers and so on. You give each group 2 hours to prepare the act and tell them where they can find materials for their performance and where the circus performance is going to take place. They have to coordinate the performance while they rehearse. They have to give the order of the performance to the director of the circus, who is going to do the introductions.

In a change process you create the stages and provide the things people need to build the play. You probably need help to create the theater and the sets for the stages in the play. If you provide professional support for the participants they can build the sets for the stages themselves.

In total theater the idea is to create space and time for that make it possible for the participants to be capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason. Total theater aim to explore ideas and points of view and open the doors for alternative models of perception, organization, and understanding. Of course as times, technologies and experiences develop strategies on how to achieve this will have to shift as well.

What you need to bring in your change process toolbox is knowledge on how to do the different logical tasks presented here. You need to have examples of

  • Well proven overall methods for change processes in large groups, I suggest you should know Open Space Technology, Appreciative Inquiry Summit, Real Time Strategic Change and Prosperity Games
  • Well proven ideas on human change and learning processes for individuals, groups and organizations, Social constructionism is at the centre of the methods for change processes in large groups
  • Well proven ideas on performing arts where storytelling is at the heart of all of them
  • Well proven exercises, scripts, timelines, invitations, agendas and everything else you need in the design and planning of the change process

You do not need to have experience with all of these but it is much easier to make a change process design if you have been a participant or facilitator yourself. If you need help, you should be able to find people with experience in the many different areas involved in the design process. And you will need many of them to participate in the construction of the exercises and sets and as facilitators or practical assistance in the process.

If you want a more scientific introduction to what you are doing in a change process, you can search for the science of Lego Serious Play. I can be a good source if your client wants to know why you are doing things in this way.

The last time I searched for it, I found it here:

Categories: Design tasks

Principles in change process design

November 26, 2009 Leave a comment

A change process is a journey of exploration. The principles you need to apply are not the same as you usually work with. Here I have collected some of the most important principles.

The purpose of the journey is to find a new and improved set of well functioning solutions to the challenges you are facing. This means these solutions are interconnected and you need to keep that in mind in the whole process.

So the first principle is to give up your habits and habitual thinking.

The second principle is to give up the habit of discussion and have a dialogue instead.

Collective dialogue works if all the participants

  • Give up goal orientation
  • Explore different points of view
  • Co-create new points of view
  • Play, imagine and construct ideas and new practices

Inner dialogues work when you formulate your own points of views clearly, listen for the inspiration in other points of view and shuffle them all and re-formulate your new ideas. This is really hard work, so it takes some time. It is hard work because the brain uses at least 25 percent of the total energy of the body. And usually people need to sleep before they have made sense of all the impressions. Technically the brain rebuilds itself while you sleep.

To achieve dialogue you have to introduce these rules:

  • Find the spirit of free play with ideas
  • Leave the weapons outside
  • Give up goal orientation
  • Explore different points of view

The third principle is involvement and transparency

If you invite people to participate in the exploration of possible futures, you will benefit from their experience and knowledge. They will know why new set of solutions are necessary and the probability of gaining their support for the new set of solutions will grow.

If you do not invite them from the beginning you can involve them along the way. In the worst case they will be very surprised when you introduce new solutions without telling them. They often react with confusion, skepticism or even anger.

They will always ask: Why is this important and which consequences will it have for me?

You need to keep the whole process transparent if you want to have access to their experience and knowledge and to avoid surprises. It is always a good idea to inform as open as possible about the progress.

The fourth principle is to be over prepared and under decided. On the journey of exploration you need to be able to react if something unexpected and important happens on the way. You have to be prepared for the unexpected and you have to decide along the way as you learn what is needed.

The fifth principle is to have the end in mind all the time and take the first things first.

You will benefit a lot from reading Stephen Covey’s book 7 Habits of highly effective people.

Categories: Design tasks

Beginnings and endings

November 26, 2009 Leave a comment

A good beginning is half of a success. Maybe the other half is a good end. In a change process the participants seem to remember the ending of an event like a workshop.

Most of them do not remember clearly what happened in between the beginning and the end. If a dialogue is working very well people will be tired and their points of views has been challenged and often changed because they have entered a new perspective on things.

A successful change process is like a good fairy tale. The journey of exploration starts at home, where the hero lives in relative order. Then something happens and the hero begins the journey. Before leaving the home the hero goes through a dragon gate.

At the dragon gate the dragons ask: Do you really want to go on this journey? Do you think you have what it takes?

Your job is to invite people to this journey of discovery and persuade them to feel safe even when they face ambiguity, disorientation and uncertainty. In a change process you will

  • be without a clear sense of direction
  • leave the normal protection from ambiguity and uncertainty
  • leave a clear sense of role and sense of time and space
  • experience the diversity of interests
  • build new standards for behavior

So you need to help people find the answers to the questions of the dragons:

Why are we entering this journey?

What have we done to prepare well for the unexpected things we will experience on the journey?

You can make the answer to these questions in really technical and academic. But a journey of exploration deserves better. So give it all a catchy name that opens people’s imagination. “The journey of exploration to the most attractive organization in the world!”

If you use the best traditions of storytelling in your practice you will be closer to a good beginning. You are starting on an adventure together!

One good way to invite the participants into this spirit is to ask them:

  • What are your hopes and wishes for the outcome of the journey?
  • What are your hopes and dreams of how the journey will be like?

You document their answers so you can use them when the process ends and the dragons ask you: Was it really worth the trouble? Did you find any treasures on your journey? Wasn’t it a horribly hard journey?

At the ending you should give the participants the possibility of telling their stories. It is called a debriefing, where they can present the outcomes of their journey and the experiences they would like to share. Now you all are seasoned travelers and need to tell your stories.

The host, the design team and the practical helpers also deserve to know how you appreciated their help.

If you know a good ritual that celebrates a good home coming of a winning team you know what the participants really deserve. Give people a change to say thank you!

Categories: Design tasks

Exercises: Designing, choosing and planning exercises

November 26, 2009 Leave a comment

An exercise is part of a series of activities that are designed to create a specific set of desired outcomes. Each exercise has to play part in building these outcomes and should be organized so there is a progression over time.

Progression over time

Since this progression is the main purpose of the series of exercises, there are many connections between the exercises in a workshop.

A normal progression is to start with identifying the tasks that has to be done in the workshop, doing the tasks in smaller groups, sharing the results across the groups, judging the results and debriefing. The process should make it possible for everyone to offer their experience and knowledge, so everyone is invited to participate in a way that makes it possible for them to contribute and learn as much as possible.

So it is a good idea to start by making a sketch of the exercises you need and finding the most important connections. Then you can start with the last exercise and work your way back to the first exercise.

The process of contributing and learning is often more important than the visible outcomes of an exercise.

To give you an idea about what you need to do here are three different ways of conducting an interview and how this will influence the possibility for contributing and learning for the participants in the workshop.


Contributions to the invisible outcomes

Learning possibilities

In pairs

Two different points of view

Exploring two points of view

In groups

Several different points of view

Exploring several points of view

In plenary

Sharing all points of views

Exploring all points of view

This is the main explanation for the part called organizing in each exercise. It is the diversity in the participants in the process that make it possible to share different points of views and what is known as tacit knowledge (things we know but usually do not tell) and become curious about the different points of view.

With the outcomes and the organizing in mind you can begin to identify the steps in the exercise.

Choosing, designing and planning exercises

Exercises are the smallest unit of a process. The core of an exercise is three interdependent parts. First you have the outcomes you want from the exercise. There are visible outcomes, which often is a written or drawn statements and there are invisible outcomes, like personal learning, self images and personal relationships which are mostly located in the minds of the participants.

The exercise has a series of steps following each other. The steps are usually a combination of instructions, questions and assignments that the participants go through. The organizing is often very important because it secures the quality of the outcome. Here is an example of an analysis of a series of steps in an exercise and the shifts in organizing. The focus is on the activity in the step and the different roles used in the steps.








First instruction


Listening and asking questions

Practicing saying good morning


Self-organized participation

Debriefing on practices of saying good morning

Interviewing and writing on a whiteboard and expanding the reflections with own stories from practice

Reflecting one by one inspired by different points of view

Second instruction

Writing questions on the whiteboard and instructing

Listening and asking questions

Talking in pairs


Talking and taking notes

Debriefing on questions

Interviewing and writing on a whiteboard and expanding the reflections with own stories from practice

Reflecting one by one inspired by different points of view


Looking back and forward

Listening and commenting

This is a very small example that takes about 20 minutes. There are 8 steps and each step has its own organization of the group and the interactions in the group. Normally the participants will not even notice how many changes that take place in the exercise.

Before you start designing your own exercises from scratch, you can take a look at the hundreds of exercise that exist in the world. You can find lots of them on the internet. One place to start is the catalogue from Grove Consultants International:

They have both the individual exercises and sets of exercises for a specific topic. The exercises can be used for change processes for individuals, teams and organizations.

You should choose the kind of exercise based on the outcomes you want to create. Usually you will have to find the best ways to organize the participants and find a sequence in the steps. It is not very often you can apply an exercise without modifying it.

You will end up with an instruction for each exercise but you also need a script for yourself with all the details you have to be in control of.

You can use this generic instruction as a checklist to create both the instruction and the script for an exercise.

Title of the exercise

Purpose of the exercise

Looking back and forward

Desired outcomes of the exercise

Presentation of central ideas that has to be used in the exercise

Roles in the exercise

Step by step description of the process



Desired outcomes

How the outcomes are going to be used later on

Rules for the activity

Where to do the exercise

Use of the facilities and materials in the room

Expected time

Total expected time for the steps


Looking back and forward

Materials, facilities, handouts, presentations, responsibilities

 While you are designing and redesigning the exercises you can build a detailed script in a stream analysis like this.


In plenary

In groups

In pairs







































Along the way you will discover many connections that requires small adjustments in the exercises, in the workshop and maybe even in the whole process.

Potentials of success and failure are hiding in the details of the connections between the exercises and the overall design of workshops and the whole process. Your job as the designer is to handle these potentials and adjust your choices in the whole process so the desired outcomes will be found but also building unexpected desired outcomes.

Categories: Design tasks

Workshops: Designing and planning workshops

November 26, 2009 Leave a comment

Before you make too detailed a design of the workshop you should have a general picture of the timeframe you can use for the workshop, an idea of how many people you expect to be participating in the workshop and the design of the whole process.

After this task you will have:

  • A timeline for the workshop
  • A series of activities you need to plan
  • A series of exercises based on the logical steps in the process
  • An idea on when to put in breaks in the workshop
  • A estimate of what is possible to do in the workshop with the chosen timeframe
  • A sketch for an agenda for the workshop and an invitation to the possible participants
  • A sketch of a script for everyone participating in the planning and conducting of the workshop. A script is an expanded to-do-list.



You often need a registration of who is attending and where you pass out materials and name badges. If people need to be able to contact each other after the workshop you can ask them to share contact information with each other. It is possible to take picture and make a space on the wall where people can see each other and the names. With electronic tools you can collect all the information you think is useful. Keep it to a minimum at the registration.


Introductions usually include a formal greeting by the host of the workshop and the facilitators. If it is possible and useful you should give all the participants a name plate to put on the table, so they all can see who is speaking and you can address them by name in the process.

You can make a name game where everyone gets the possibility to present them self to the group. Just be precise in which information they have to present and how long they have to present it. Some people can talk for a long time about themselves.   

Looking back and forwards

If the workshop is part of a series of workshops and projects it is a good idea to look back to see why we are here and what has been done before. If some projects were expected to be finished and presented in the workshop it is important to inform about the status of the projects especially if they have been delayed and the workshop has to be changed because of the delays. It could also be important to inform about important things that have happened.

It is also important to look forwards and tell how the workshop is going to produce outcomes for projects and other workshops. In general you should describe the expected outcomes and how they are going to be used in the follow up.


I DO ART is an abbreviation of Intention, Desired Outcomes, Agenda, Rules and Roles and Time. You should inform the participants about these things.

To build the agenda you need to include planned breaks for coffee, meals and natural shifts in the process. You can include specific times in the agenda. I would put an approximate in front. In a process the outcomes are more important than keeping a deadline. People need to know so they can plan private activities or socializing.

It is very important for some participants to know when the workshop finishes and that you keep this time. It is usually a good idea to have a debriefing and evaluation before people start to leave. If people has to leave ask them to tell you, so you don’t get confused about what happened.


At this moment you can create an overview of the logical steps in the workshop based on the overall design of the whole process. It is really hard to estimate how long an exercise will take. So you have to apply the principle of being over prepared and under decided here. Bring too many exercises and make sure you know which parts of an exercise you have to keep and which parts you can cut if you need to prioritize which exercises and parts of exercises to cut or put in as extras.

You can include exercises that are not part of the logical steps. See the Post: Icebreakers and energizers


Debriefing is simply a conversation where everyone has the opportunity to share their experience of the whole workshop. It can be done in many different ways. See the Post: Beginnings and endings


Evaluations are mostly a feedback to the host, the designers and facilitators and the practical teams. The evaluation is connected to the debriefing.

Categories: Design tasks

Change process or development project?

November 26, 2009 Leave a comment

Usually we call all kinds of change for change. When you start dealing with change process design it is a special kind of project we are talking about. There is usually some confusion about change processes and development projects.

Desired outcomes


Negotiation process





Development projects

Technical projects



Negotiation project

Planned tasks

Before you start designing a change process, you should make sure that you are dealing with a development project, where both the desired outcomes and the negotiation process are relatively unknown.

A technical project can usually be solved by using normal project management and a negotiation project can usually take place in a set of known structures.

All three categories can benefit from many of the ideas in change processes. But you do not need them.

Categories: Design tasks