You are on page 1of 4

May 18-19, 2000

McCall Field Upper Darby, Pennsylvania

"Organizations are like organisms. They constantly adapt to change and new challenges, striving to ensure that needs are recognized and met. They work to stay in harmony and balance, and to keep important inter-relationships functioning smoothly, leading to the ultimate goal of survival and growth. " Or ... An organization is a machine that occasionally breaks down, and requires the services of an external expert to fix it. When that happens, it needs to be re-tooled or leveraged to become more efficient and may even require periodic re-engineering in order to remain "cutting edge". The metaphors we use reflect the way we experience and understand our worlds and in fluence how we engage and are engaged. On May 18-19th, the last PRODN special event of the 1999 - 2000 season sponsored Bob Marshak, internationally recognized for his work with metaphors and organization change. We spent two days with Bob Marshak exploring how language illuminates the way we make meaning for ourselves and the organizations we live in. Bob provided us with models that "framed our thinking". We also spent time in conversations exploring how our own words provided doorways into our unconscious During the introduction one participant imagined that the two days we would spend together would be like the "Wizard of Oz". Bob smiled and said, "I'm just the Wizard, you will pull back the curtain and find that each of you have within yourselves the skill you seek." And with that the sky darkened, the wind picked up, the rain fell and we were off on our own journey of discovery (literally and figuratively!). "By changing the controlling rhetoric, metaphors and images, you can change reality" - Bob Marshak Bob, in his article "Managing the Metaphors of Change", Organizational Dynamics, 22 (1), 44- 56 1993 identifies four types and metaphors of change. (Figure 1)

1 |Page

Figure 1

Types and Metaphors of Change

Repair Person Mechanic Maintenance Worker Trainer Coach Developer Tool Kit Fix Whats Broken Restore Avoid Down Time Development Plans Build Foundation Enhance/Increase Targets & Goals Maps & Timetables Right Path Avoid Obstacles Destination Get Out of the Box Awaken or Inspire New Possibilities Renew, Reinvent, Reengineer

Fix & Repair


Build & Develop Move & Relocat e Liberat e & Recreat e



Planner Guide Explorer


Liberator Visionary Creator

2000 by Robert J. Marshak, Ph.D.

In the session, we real organizational change issues in terms of each of the four types of change. We learned through this activity how to identify how we were framing the kind of change we were facing through the language we used in our descriptions. We came to understand how metaphors are used both consciously and unconsciously. Leveraging language for organizational change would require us to listen on multiple levels. (Figure 2)
Figure 2

Leveraging Language for Change

Types of metaphors to listen for: Metaphors that are consciously created analogies or comparisons. For example: "This organization is a pressure cooker." Use to assess what is Use to imagine what could be Metaphors that are unconscious cognitive patterns that structure/describe experience. These may be expressed or revealed as: Metaphorical images or symbols that emerge in discussions, but are not explicitly created for purposes of analogy or comparison. For example: "Everyone was dancing around the real issues in the meeting."

2 |Page

Underlying image schematics or metaphors that shape or inform descriptions/discussions. For example: "I had to get over a few rough spots and get back on track before I was able to move forward in my life." (Life is a Journey) 2000 by Robert J. Marshak, Ph.D.

Bob offered some tips for working with metaphors:

Listen for metaphors and images, explicit and underlying organizing themes. Listen for the meaning made by the person using the metaphor not for the meaning you would attribute to the metaphor. One person's pelting downpour may be another person's nourishing rain. Try getting in "sync" with the metaphor and meaning. Actively listen to draw out their meaning and imagery Inquire about the unspoken or neglected aspects of their metaphor based on your understanding of the situation. Suggest ways to rethink the metaphor by repudiating, re-framing and replacing it. Remember the most powerful aspects of the metaphor may be unconscious or out-ofawareness. Don't force insights. Invite curiosity and speculation.

By the end of our time together, each person in the room recognized the power of metaphor. We spent time near the end of the session talking about the ethics of what we had learned. This work requires clarity about contract and purposes, dynamics and issues of the situation, and must always be in service of client needs and objectives. We left on cloud nine!! --Ilene Wasserman and Nancy Roggen

Robert J. Marshak, PHD, is an internationally renowned organizational development consultant known for his pioneering work on the use of metaphors and symbolic data in organizational diagnosis and change. His article, The Tao of Change, which compares North American and East Asian culturally based models of change, is considered one of the classics of organization development. He is on the editorial board of the upcoming special issue of the Journal of Applied Behavioral Sciences, devoted to the use of metaphors in organizational consulting. Dr. Marshak has over twenty-five years experience working with corporations, associations, and government agencies to:

Create future direction and purpose through strategic planning, organizational assessment, and/or new mission development Reorganize or design new organizational structures and systems to meet changing opportunities and challenges Build teamwork, partnerships and alliances within and across organizational components, Address globalization issues, including strategic, structural andmulti -cultural dimensions

Dr. Marshak also maintains part-time affiliations with universities and institutes in the United States,

3 |Page

United Kingdom, and Republic of Korea where he leads seminars and workshops on organizational consulting and change.

4 |Page