Organization Development Methods which are often used in Social Ecology Processes

Erik Lemcke (Association for Social Development, International)

Social Ecology in Holistic Leadership

ISBN: 978-1-80043-841-5, eISBN: 978-1-80043-840-8

Publication date: 24 February 2021


Lemcke, E. (2021), "Organization Development Methods which are often used in Social Ecology Processes", Social Ecology in Holistic Leadership, Emerald Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 241-250.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2021 Emerald Publishing Limited


  • B.1: Theory U and its Relation to the U-Procedure and the Lemniscate

    • B.1.1 Theory U and Its Relation to the Lemniscate

  • B.2: Related Organization Development Methods

    • B.2.1 Open Space

    • B.2.2 World Café

    • B.2.3 Fishbowl


This Appendix begins with a short introduction to the major concepts of Theory U including an overview of how Theory U is related to the U-procedure and Dynamic Judgment BuildingThe Lemniscate.

This is followed by a short introduction to three Organizational Development (OD) methods which today are widely used by holistically oriented facilitators and OD consultants. Their intention and focus on co-creation and co-involvement is very close to the theory and practice of the Lievegoed methods.

All three methods are rooted in holistical thinking and are mostly applicable when a consultant wishes to use a holistic method in a situation of change. Theory U is also rooted in spiritual thinking.

B.1 Theory U and its Relation to the U-Procedure and the Lemniscate

Since Otto Scharmer in 2007 wrote his book Theory U, it has been widely spread and acknowledged for its concepts and knowledge in relation to change management, social development, and transformation processes. 1

The basic model of Theory U can be found in his book on page 240, as Fig. 29 Creating three infrastructures.

Fig. 29. 
A Basic Model of Theory U.

Fig. 29.

A Basic Model of Theory U.

The left part of the U focuses on Co-sensing of the past. The task on this U-journey is to focus on three steps in observing and sensing what is happening in the field today. You have to listen to what is happening with an Open Mind and an Open Heart. To do that, you have to see things on Step 1 with fresh eyes and you must be willing to suspend former understandings. To step into the U, you have to be aware of the risk of not seeing things with fresh eyes, and instead downloading what you see which is merely repeating old patterns and understanding what you already know about how things are and should be. Step 2 is related to the area of the heart, the area of Feeling and sensing what is happening in the field.

The bottom of the U is Co-presencing which is the turning point from the past to the future. It covers the last step of focusing on the past which requires that you are willing to let go of old understandings and ways of doing. It requires an Open Will to go through this step to reach something new.

The turning point, the moment of transformation is called Presencing where you connect to the world as it emerges. Presencing is a new word which is a combination of Presence and sensing. 2

Presencing is the most challenging moment in Theory U as you or your group through practicing inner stillness have to connect to the source through which you reach a change in the field based on what is emerging. The moment of inner stillness can also be called a meditative process where the major question in focus is: Who is my Self? and What is my work?

In 2005, I had the pleasure of attending a five-day seminar with Otto Scharmer who made an early presentation and process in relation to Theory U. During this seminar, we had a talk about the understanding of Presencing. Based on this talk, Otto decided to quote me as a sculptor in relation to moments of Presencing in the chapter: “Moments of Truth, Beauty and Goodness.” 3

“My Hands Know

After having worked with a particular sculpture for some time, he told me about his work: “There comes a certain moment when things are changing. When this moment of change comes, it is no longer me, alone, who is creating. I feel connected to something far deeper and my hands are co-creating with this power. At the same time, I feel that I am being filled with love and care as my perception is widening. I sense things in another way. It is a love for the world and for what is coming. I then intuitively know what I must do. My hands know if I must add or remove something. My hands know how the form should manifest. In one way, it is easy to create with this guidance. In those moments I have a strong feeling of gratitude and humility.”

Erik's examples beautifully demonstrate that the essence of Presencing and the essence of the deepest creative processes are one and the same.”

To reach this moment of Presencing, you have to go to a place of inner stillness in yourself, to reach a meditative state where your perspective – the field – shifts in you. This is the place where the future can begin to emerge.

Through this moment of Presencing, you enter the upward path of the U focusing on the future, on what is emerging. You are still in the space of Open Will when you enter the Co-creating path. The last step prior to the moment of Presencing is letting go, the first step upward is letting come based on what is emerging. At this moment you and the group operate on a higher level of energy and have a sense of the future emerging.

The next step upward on the U goes through the area of the Open Heart again and is a Crystallizing of the vision and intention from our highest future so you can begin to act on what is emerging. This step is also called Enacting.

The next step upward is Prototyping which is to explore the future by acting, by trying different possibilities in practice, learning from it, and adapting before a solution is implemented. This stage involves three stages of intelligence. The intelligence of the head, the heart, and the hand. This step is also called Embodying.

The last step upward is putting what has been learnt from the U on the path upward into practice by incorporating the best features from Prototyping into a final product for future practice. This step is called Performing. Scharmer describes the stage of Performing as a shift from shaping a microcosm to shaping an evolving and larger institutional ecology, by letting it operate from a larger Ecosystem opposed to operating from the Ego system in each institution (Fig. 30). 4

Fig. 30. 
Performing as a Co-Evolving Process Acting Out from the Whole in a Social Ecological Context.

Fig. 30.

Performing as a Co-Evolving Process Acting Out from the Whole in a Social Ecological Context.

Performing can also be described as a Co-evolving process where the results are achieved by acting out from the whole. Acting on the basis of the whole in a Social Ecological context, this takes place in three different sectors which are very similar to the description of The Threefold organization which also in P4.2 is described as consisting of a Cultural (Civil) Society and Economic (Business) and Social (Government) subsystem. 5

Counterforces which you meet in the U-Journey

In the three different fields of the U, you meet different Counterforces which Scharmer names: Voice of Judgment (VOJ), Voice of Cynicism (VOC), and Voice of Fear (VOF).

  • VOJ is related to the mind. The Counterforce here is your inner voice telling you how things are and how they always should be, judging from past experience and what went wrong in the past. It is your locked patterns of Thinking and unwillingness to see new possibilities

  • VOC is related to the heart. This is the cynicism in you, it is your forces of antipathy which reject things or people from your area of the heart, your emotions/Feeling

  • VOF is related to the Will and is the voice of fear. It blocks the area of Will to act in an open and constructive way. We do not dare to let go of the old and fear for the new to come.

B.1.1 Theory U and its Relation to the Lemniscate

As the journey through the Lemniscate is already described in P3.1 Dynamic Judgment Building by using the Lemniscate, I shall in this chapter only make a comparison of differences and what the two methods have in common.

The graphic presentation of the two methods is very different. Scharmer's model is a U published in 2007, Lex Bos's model is an infinity sign, the Lemniscate first published in 1974 (see P3.1.1, Fig. 8). When you look at them closer there are a lot of similarities.

Both models focus on understanding and learning from the past and go through a point of transformation – a turning point – to reach a new and desired future.

The Lemniscate acknowledges that learning and development is an infinite process, where you at a later point can take a new round through the Lemniscate. The Lemniscate is both a phase model and a dynamic model for learning and development.

Both models use Co-creating and Co-involving processes.

In both methods something has to die (letting go) and something new has to come alive (letting come).

Both models – including the U-procedure – draw on the Goethean techniques described by Rudolf Steiner, and transform observations into intuitions and judgments about the present state of the organization and decisions about the future. 6

On the U-journey, you have to access your Open Mind, Open Heart, and Open Will. Here you risk to meet Counterforces in the form of VOJ, VOC, and VOF. The awareness of Counterforces in the area of Thinking, Feeling, and Will is an integrated part of all Social Ecological processes – they are called forces in relation to resistance to change (Table 9). 7

Table 9.

Resistance to Change: A Comparison between the Key Concepts in Theory U and the Lemniscate

Theory U The Lemniscate
Focusing on the past. The downward U-journey Downloading and Co-sensing by suspending and seeing things with new eyes This is the path of acknowledgement
Downloading is avoided through the process of Common Picture Building (Field B) where the participants in a Co-creating process present their observations in the form of facts and examples
Sensing from the field and re-directing the understanding of practices and connections which are observed Common Judgment Building where you – based on observation and facts in the Common Picture Building phase – go through an acknowledgement process to understand the field, the situation today on a deeper level.
This (Field C) is considered an area of Thinking
The transformation or the turning point Here you let go of old inappropriate patterns, thoughts, and actions. To enter the turning point of the moment of Presencing. To perceive what is coming, what is emerging. You let come On your way toward the crossing point in the Lemniscate (Field A) you are still in the phase of Common Judgment Building where you begin to look at the future in relation to which of the old patterns will be inappropriate in the future and which of these patterns have to be transformed or dismissed. You are in the process of letting go of the old and letting come of the new. The crossing point is considered judgment based on the heart, the area of Feeling.
This judgment phase ends in Field D
Focus on the future.
The upward movement of the U
This is the first step of Co-creating, where what emerges is crystalized based on visions and intention This is the path of Will or action
In Field D (based on what you can see is needed in the future) you use your imagination to create a picture of the future or a vision supplemented by goals

The next step upward is embodying where you prototype your findings

The road from Field D to E is called the Common Decision phase
Here you use moral fantasy to test the consequences of your visions and decisions in Field D, and adjust your plans based on that. This is the area of the Will
Performing or implementation and action Here your findings are integrated and implemented in practice Here you create a new reality by implementing your revised vision. You use moral techniques in implementation

Looking at the two Methods from a Practical Perspective

Theory U appeals to both academics and change makers who are interested in holistic change management. The concepts and the journey of Theory U are very easy to present as they have a number of very well-defined words and definitions. But to use them in practice in a development process is difficult for many as you for instance in the area of Presencing must find the emerging future by going to the source with questions like Who am I. To overcome this challenge, a mindfulness process based on a number of questions to reach to what is emerging has been introduced lately.

The Judgment Building process in the Lemniscate is very difficult for most people to grasp when the Lemniscate is described in detail. But the individual concepts of Common Picture Building (CPB), Common Judgment Building (CJB), and Common Decision Making (CDM) are very easy to use in a development process. These challenges in the Lemniscate have led to my choice in shorter seminars rarely to describe the Lemniscate in full, and only introduce CPB, CJB, CDM as the tools to be used based on listening and observation.

In some development seminars where the organizers want an introduction to Theory U, I go through all the key concepts of Theory U and then present tools to stop downloading and strengthening co-creating, communication, dialog, analyses, and Judgment Building. This involves the ability to observe, to listen, and the art of questioning. This includes tools which are used in a Judgment Building process based on the Lemniscate. In these cases, I present Theory U and use CPB, CJB, CDM in the practical co-creating process.

B.2 B.2 Related Organization Development Methods

B.2.1 Open Space

Open Space is a very efficient collaborative method where it is possible to work with a number of different topics proposed and selected by the participants simultaneously. Every participant contributes with his/her skills and competence.

The method has been developed by Owen Harrison in the 1980s, and you can read more in Open Space Technology: A User's Guide, 2008. 8

Over time, the Open Space method has been used in many different ways.

Four Principles and One Law in Open Space

  • Whoever comes are the right people

  • When it begins, it is the right time

  • Whatever happens is the only thing that could have happened

  • When it is over it is over

  • The law of the two feet (if you are in a group where you do not contribute or learn, move to where you can)

Open Space Process in Connection to Social Ecology

In most of my change processes, I am normally in a dialog/interview process – prior to a seminar – to find the main questions with which to work. The flow of the seminar is based on a selected number of these working questions. Sometimes I include time for an Open Space process as part of a seminar or for the whole seminar/meeting.

In relation to a Social Ecological process, I include the following in my work with the Open Space methods:


  • Step A. The owner of the question formulates very clearly the question to be worked with. Writes it on a piece of paper and places it visibly for all in the group.

  • Step B. Give the group members 2–3 minutes to formulate in silence relevant input to the question, and to make notes as points on a piece of paper. This secures that all members are prepared before sharing.

CPB Process

  • Step C. One by one the group members read what they have noted. The rest of the group listens in silence. If there are more than five in the group, the last group members select a few points from their notes and share them. This secures that everybody in the group who wish to speak have been heard.

CJB Process

  • Step D. Now the judgment and dialog process can begin. Members of the group listen carefully to each other. They build on the ideas of the others, and new insights can begin to emerge. The host can begin to capture the essence of the dialog and common judgments.

B.2.2 World Café

The purpose of using a World Café process is to give a group of people the possibility of tapping into the collective intelligence and through conversation that matters shape the future in dynamic group constellations focusing on a number of essential questions.

One of the co-originators of the World Café process is David Isaac, who in collaboration with Juanita Brown and David Isaacs has written: The World Café, which gives a very fine introduction to the methods. 9 The book is very well illustrated.

World Café Process in Connection to Social Ecology

If there in a seminar is a number of selected questions where the facilitator is interested in a dynamic change of groups around a specific question, World Café can be used as part of the seminar process.

B.2.3 Fishbowl

If you are not a fan of panel discussions where small groups of selected specialists give their perspectives and afterward answer questions, and you instead are interested in letting an entire audience take part in a dialog around a specific theme/question, the use of a Fishbowl conversation functions very well.

You can find a detailed description of the Fishbowl process in: Fishbowl: The art of active listening. 10

The Role of the Facilitator in a Fishbowl Process

He/she has the right to interfere when:

  • One in the center gives long monologues, does not give space, and does not listen to the others

  • If active listening does not occur and discussions happen in the group

  • If one specific person in the center never leaves when new people come in

  • The dialog gets stuck

The facilitator often documents the essence of what has been said. When time is up, the facilitator gives a summary of what has been said.

The Fishbowl Process in Connection to Social Ecology

If there in a seminar/meeting are a number of selected questions where the facilitator is interested in a dynamic change of dialog in the whole group around a specific question in the whole group. The World Café can be used as a part of a Social Ecological seminar process.


R2. Scharmer (2007).


R2. Senge, Scharmer, Jworski, and Flowers (2005).


R2. Scharmer (2007, p. 170).


R2. Scharmer (2007, pp. 217–23).


Appendix A.2.1: Fig. 23, p. 156.


R3. Steiner (1883–97, GA 1).


Appendix A.2.1, subchapter: Polarities in relation to resistance to change, p. 150.


R2. Harrison (2008).


R2. Brown with Isaacs (2005).


“Fishbowl – The art of active listening”, 2012.