This paper presents the theory and practice of search conferences, illustrated with the case study of a recent merger. Increasingly, business leaders want to engage with their workforces and stakeholders in together deciding what they want to achieve and how to get there. Leaders see participative strategic planning as a significant opportunity, although hitherto the lack of techniques for large group involvement has been a blockage. Search conferences ‐ whether with staff, managers, suppliers or customers ‐ offer a tried and tested process for co‐operating together effectively. They enable the maximum use of human resources, commitment, learning and flexibility so that innovation is unlocked. Originally invented by Eric Trist and Fred Emery of the Tavistock Institute in the 1960s, the basis of the search conference is in open systems theory and active, adaptive planning.
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