The Illusion of Successful change requires the top person

kerry napuk k at
Thu Feb 22 03:31:28 PST 2001

Harrison et al

Inter-esting discussion.

I would guess almost everybody on the OSLIST believes in
participatory democracy.  It is very easy to impute virtue to the
bottom, because it is usually excluded or marginalised.  Theodore
Zeldin (An Intimate History of Humanity) said it well:

"Only when people learn to converse will they begin to be equal.  The
enemies of conversation are rhetoric, disputation, jargon and private
language or despair at not being listened to and not being

But, let's not forget the perversity of oranisations.  Organisations
have structures and, in the West, these are pyramids.  Somebody sits
on the top of all those pyramids, surrounded by senior teams and

The reason lasting change rarely comes from the pyramid is simply
because the top doesn't like to share power.  In fact, most tops have
clawed their way to that position, holding onto power as long as they
can.  Also structures are very real barriers to participation.   And
so it has been all through the ages whenever people came together and
create "the organisation" with is rules and structure.

Now, here's the dilemma:  people in power usually decide who is going
to tamper with their organisation.  Somehow, therefore, large group
processes have to deliver benefits that support the top by involving
the bottom, delivering tangibles as well as intagibles.

When people come to facilitators looking for help, you don't have to
sell anything - just find the most appropriate process with the best
outcomes.   In all other examples, the facilitator is selling, one
way or the another.  Do we sell Open Space?  Damn right we do.  If we
are not successful, there is a lost opportunity for positve change.

Kerry Napuk

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