Ritual, Change and Weisbord’s Future Search Conference
September 25, 2015 Leave a comment
Organizational change creates unavoidable uncertainty, resistance and chaos. Systems thinking can help in identifying negative consequences and to achieve positive outcomes. But the impact of transformation requires looking at people, groups and the larger system. By taking this approach, organizations can build change coalitions with employees at all levels. In times of uncertainty it is essential that everyone has the opportunity to provide input and feel empowered to make decisions.
Formal rites of passage or rituals are important and often an overlooked tool to overcome these challenges. Rituals build culture, strengthen relationships and are particularly important for acknowledging challenges, celebrating wins or forging new paths. In times of change, stakeholders often need a way to declare it is time to say goodbye to the old way of doing things because there is no turning back. The idea of farewell as a process can pave the path towards embracing a shared vision for moving forward. Future Search Conference is one example of a tool that can help to successfully facilitate this process.
Future Search is a three-day planning event that gets a whole system (community, company, etc.) into one site to take part in the same conversation from different perspectives. For over thirty years, it has successfully been used by organizations facing high conflict and uncertainty, to deal with change.
The concept of Future Search is borne out of research demonstrating that diverse groups will cooperate and listen when effective dialogue is facilitated. The shared conversation explores the series of events has brought the organization into its current reality. In the end, it motivates system participants to do something they were not ready to do before the exercise, pull together and build a new future.
The act of rituals can be smaller in scale and don’t have to be a full three-day offsite. Systems create complexity with many solutions. It is especially important that in times of change, all stakeholders have the ability to provide input, acknowledge their current reality and feel they have some control about the direction of a new path.
Thanks for visiting my blog. I would love to hear from you. What are some examples of company rituals you have experienced or heard of in your organizations?
This post is part of The Weekly Photo Challenge over at the Daily Prompt, asking us to show what change looks like to us.
 Burke, W. W. (2008). Organization change: Theory and practice. Los Angeles: Sage Publications.
Kanter, R.M. (2008). Transforming giants. Harvard Business Review, 86(1), 43-52