Photo b iStockphoto.com
| july 2008
It incorporates six or more people,sitting in a circle, with others with whom they are least familiar, talking about things that matter. Even if hun-dreds are in the room, when peopleare configured into small groups, realchange is created.
Leadership means convening
Convening means we change the world one room at a time. The roombecomes an example of the future we want to create, and in this way, there isno need to wait for the future. The way we structure the assembly of peers isas critical as the issue or new orga-nizational possibility that we cometogether to address.The mindset that we can programand engineer our way into the futuredoes not take into account the impor-tance of context and the linguistic,conversational nature of community.If we want to see a change in ourorganizations and communities, wemust let go of the conventional orreceived wisdom about how changeoccurs. In doing so, we reject, or atleast seriously question, the beliefsthat communal change occurs underthese circumstances:and involvement of employees. Teer-link called himself a spiritual leader, andBakke wrote a book about the impor-tance of employees finding joy at work.They knew how to get people con-nected to each other, which could becalled “the capacity to convene.” Inother words, they knew how to buildcommunity. This role of leadership is what is being defined here.
The small group
Communal transformation is bestinitiated during those times when wegather. This means that each gathering takes on a special importance as a lead-ing indicator of the future. Every meet-ing or special event is that place wherecontext can be shifted, relatedness canbe built, and new conversations canbe introduced. When we gather, weare able to draw conclusions about thekind of community in which we live.The capacity of leaders to buildcommunity is therefore dependenton understanding the importance of small groups. The small group is thatstructure in which employees andcitizens become intimately connected with each other and in which the busi-ness becomes personal.
We count on an aggregation of indi-vidual changes.
We have seen this inattempts by large organizations trying to transform their culture throughlarge-scale training and change efforts.Communities initiate large-scaledialogue programs and book clubs. And no matter how well intentioned,these efforts largely fall short of theirgoals because while individual livesare touched, the organizational cultureand the community are unmoved.The missing element is that theseefforts do not recognize that there issuch a thing as a collective body. A shift in community can benefit fromshifts in individual consciousness, butit also requires a shift in the way thatgroups come together. And to pro-duce a foundation by which the entiresystem can move, there needs to be acommunal structure for belonging.
We think in terms of scale and speed.
As David Bornstein points out in hisbook,
How to Change the World
, large-scale shifts occur only after a long periodof small steps, organized around smallgroups that are patient enough to learnand experiment, and learn again.
We focus on large systems and topleaders for implementation.
Wetarget senior leaders and large systemsto execute better problem solving,clearer goals and vision, and enhancedcontrol of the process. Large-systemchange is a useful way to think, buttransforming action is always local,customized, unfolding, and emergent.The role of leaders is not to be bet-ter role models or drive change. Theirrole is to create the structures andexperiences that bring citizens andemployees together to identify andsolve their own issues.Communal transformation occurs when we accept certain beliefs.
There needs to be a focus on thestructure of how we gather and thecontext in which our gatherings takeplace.
Collective change occurs whenindividuals and small, diverse groupsengage one another in the presence of many others doing the same. It comesfrom the knowledge that what is occur-ring in one space is similarly happening
A shift in community can benet from shifts in
nvul concoun, but t lo qu ft n t wy tt gou com togt.an to ouc founton by wc tnt ytm cn mov, t n to b communl tuctu fo blongng.