Delft, 1 August 2018 — What if you could bring the future into the present?
Disruption is the name of the game that makes innovation suddenly look necessary and urgent. It pushes us to get round to making the changes that are needed, in a hurry, and even when change is still habitually resisted.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if we had a technology that would help us introduce positive changes more proactively and less disruptively, and make people open up to change voluntarily?
Well, it turns out that we have such a technology already!
In the late sixties, a method called the U Process was developed by Friedrich Glasl and Dirk Lemson of the Netherlands Pedagogical Institute. In the early 2000s, Otto Scharmer expanded on their method and called it Theory U in his now famous book Theory U: Leading from the Future as it Emerges.
I prefer to call it the U Process, if only because it is much more than a theory, having already been applied in a practical way to design and implement numerous change processes in countries around the world, as described in Scharmer's work.
To me, the U Process is unique because it helps to bridge several dimensions of transitioning into the future. Scharmer calls it Presencing the Future and I like this term because it promises to bring the future into the present.
Scharmer's method for presencing the future works by bringing people to a point where they become open to generate positive changes together in a way that bridges objective (factual) and subjective (empathic) truths. It takes navigating through the U process to get to the point where presencing becomes possible.
To help navigate the U Process, Scharmer identifies four kinds of listening. Realizing that their value extends beyond listening into facilitation and coaching, I adapted Scharmer's visualization into the Leadership Presencing Model below, showing in a 4x4 matrix where our 'I' is in each of these four ways of interacting, moving from the habitual I in Me to the analytical I in It and the relational I in You, to finally reach the point of generative leadership in I in Now sensing and listening.
For leaders—especially enabling leaders who work as facilitators and coaches—Scharmer's U Process offers a fascinating and powerful opportunity to usher in positive changes. Just watch where your I is in your next discussion with a client.
Floor de Ruiter—my collaborating partner at FlyingElephants.nl—builds on Scharmer's U Process in his monumental 2018 book Driven By Dialogue, where he explains the unique roles that facilitators can play in presencing the future by framing the values and speaking the language of their audience. I highly recommend that you read this book if you want to become a generative leader who presences the future in your work with clients and partners.