Master Facilitator Journal | Issue #0227, October 25, 2005 | 7,000 Subscribers....
 

Dear friends,

I was reading a new book called "Presence" this morning by Peter Senge, Otto scharmer, Joseph Jaworski, and Betty Sue Flowers. I was struck by something they call, the theory of the U, and for two reasons. First, I thought it was strangely serendipitous as over the past couple days, I've been sitting with this question, "What greater purpose and direction is appropriate for Facilitator"U"? And second, because this simple model introduces the next wave of thinking for leaders that takes the high road towards sustainability and grand possibility. Today's article briefly describes this model and provides a hypothetical example of its use. Let me know what you think.

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Have a great week!

Steve Davis
Publisher

 
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The Point


The Theory of the U
 How to give up decision-making in favor of knowing

Logistics Skill


Reading the new book called "Presence" by Peter Senge, Otto scharmer, Joseph Jaworski, and Betty Sue Flowers, I was struck by something they call, the theory of the U, and for two reasons. First, I thought it was strangely serendipitous as over the past couple days, I've been sitting with this question, "What greater purpose and direction is appropriate for Facilitator"U"? And second, because this simple model introduces the next wave of thinking for leaders that takes the high road towards sustainability and grand possibility. Here is the model in brief followed by a hypothetical example:


Sensing

Sensing has us take a stance of radical observation. That is to observe so intently that you "become one with" that which you are observing. To do that, we must suspend our assumptions (ala the "Dialogue Process" revived by Peter Senge and David Bohm). What we typically do when we make an observation is to filter information through our mental models thus supporting our assumptions created in the past. In so doing, we carry the past into the present, again and again. This is largely what makes effective change so difficult.

Presencing

Our habitual response to making observations is to observe only long enough to find sufficient data to validate one of our existing mental models or assumptions. Then we react, usually rather quickly, with our typical responses. When we stay in the space of suspended assumptions, our ability to sense is enhanced, and the deeper into the "U" we descend toward the true source of that which we're observing. Staying "present," our perspective shifts from one who is trying to "figure out what to do," to one who is "waiting for inner knowing to emerge." Remaining "present" in a state of pure sensing, in time, will lead us inexorably to the source of creation of the particular issue we're exploring. At the source, we become aware of the potential offered up by the issue under observation.

Realizing

Having sensed the source of the issue under observation, we move up the "U" and return with a "knowing" of what to do, and who to be, in order to live into the potential shown us through our presence to the problem. This is not the standard approach involving the imposition of our will. Here we are operating from a larger intention embodied by the source we touched in our retreat and reflection. We now simply live into the potential shown by that source. We move from a perspective of "acting on the world" to "acting in the world." This shift means we change our perspective from someone trying to act externally to solve a problem "out there," to someone who realizes he/she is included in the dynamic of that problem. For example, a boss trying to change his organization realizes that the organization is in some way a reflection of him, and to exclude himself from that change is a recipe for continued struggle.

Example


The following is a example of how you might apply the Theory of the U with a group.

Imagine you're facilitating a cross-section of the staff of a manufacturing company. You are helping them deal with a number of very old issues resulting in cost overruns, high attrition, low morale, downsizing, and failing profits. You have all the players in the room: top and middle management, supervisors, engineering, marketing, manufacturing, labor, etc. The tension in the room is high and the mood is negative and low energy.

You begin with a session that allows everyone to voice their problems and perspectives. You break the group into dyads that you rotate throughout the morning so that people from different arenas get to interact with one another. You coach the group to practice reflective listening and suspending their assumptions. They are to listen to one another as if they are six-year old children who know nothing of the work that goes on in this plant. You ask the group to continue listening to one another's perspectives until they can stop the analysis and problem-solving that's going on in their minds.

Next, you ask the group to take a 20 minute silent break to simply reflect on their inner experience. When they return, you invite them to journal quietly for the next 30 minutes anything that comes to mind around what they heard and felt in their interactions thus far. Then allow them to share their insights, confusion, and their feelings.

Breakthroughs at this stage can occur when people have fully surrendered their need to serve up answers from the past and are willing to share their personal interests, vulnerabilities, and true feelings about where they are and what they want. The group energy may reach a depth of silence where a spirit of knowing enters the group and people are able to truly see and feel what's next. Yet these actions are unlikely to come in the form of typical "solutions." They may come instead from a new way of being rather than a new way of doing.

From this place of clarity and knowing, new plans of actions are formulated, usually rather quickly, that embrace a much larger perspective, that operates at the source of the prior concerns, and that people are inspired to live into.


Action

How can you apply the theory of the U in your own life or in your groups? Have you had any experiences in the past that are examples of this theory at work? If so, please email us, we'd love to hear them.

Reader Survey


Presence : An Exploration of Profound Change in People, Organizations, and Society, by Peter M. Senge, C. Otto Scharmer, Joseph Jaworski, Betty Sue Flowers

Presence can be read as a both a guide and a challenge to leaders in business, education, and government to transform their institutions into powerful agents of change in a world increasingly out of balance. Since business is the most powerful institution in the world today, the authors argue, it must play a key role in solving global societal problems. Yet so many institutions seem to run people rather than the other way around. In this illuminating book, the authors seek to understand why people don't change systems and institutions even when they pose a threat to society, and examine why institutional change is so difficult to attain.

This is not a typical business book. Mainly theoretical, it does not offer specific tips that organizational managers or directors can apply immediately; rather, it offers powerful tools and ideas for changing the mindset of leaders and unlocking the latent potential to "develop awareness commensurate with our impact, wisdom in balance with our power." --Shawn Carkonen

 
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