Archive for August, 2014

A free download: One of the greatest books on whole system intelligence

August 30, 2014

Very simply, one of the greatest benefits of my whole system transformation work is that it creates system intelligence.

Who is the smartest person in the organization. It is the organization collectively.

Roland Sullivandiagram

A great book list on positive social organization psychology.

August 30, 2014

A prerequisite for all I do!!

The change management or organization development formula that I have used extensively for years.

August 25, 2014

From one of my publications:


Collectively Creating a Paradigm Shift

            WST leads to dramatic differences – again, not just change, but transformation. Characteristics of organization transformation by definition suggest radical changes in how organizational members perceive, think and behave and manage themselves (Cumming & Worley, 2000.)

In our case, our theme became “getting different.” The Leadership Sponsor wanted the journey to create a deep paradigm shift – a breakthrough. This breakthrough meant a personal transformation for every person, and a collective shift in mindset across the division.

  • “We cannot get different results without getting different ourselves. It’s not a ‘feel good’ and it is not like any other conversation we have had. It is not business as usual; it’s about getting different.” John Parker

            This mantra translated into our WST model in important ways, one of which included adapting as a foundation for classic Beckhard transformation DVF Formula—a theory on creating a collective paradigm shift (Dannemiller, 2000). The external change agents revised the formula for this project based on Beckhard’s original work:

Dissatisfactions (D) x Vision (V) x First Actions (FA) > Resistance to Change. This formula was revised by the internal change agents to be:

Dissatisfactions (D) x Aspirations (A) x First Actions (FA) x Belief (B) x Others (O) = Transformational Breakthrough (TB).


This formula describes the conditions necessary for a collective paradigm shift.

 “D” – means allowing participants to voice dissatisfactions with the current state. Contrary to traditional OD approaches, this equation pulls from the Gestalt theory to resistance, based on the paradoxical theory of change. The paradoxical theory of change was a concept originated in 1970 by Arnold Beisser and then adapted by Fritz Perle’s Gestalt approach to change. The paradoxical theory is based on the belief that change rests on the full acceptance of status quo and assumes that resistance is expected, healthy and must be supported in the process. The Gestalt theory is covered in Chapter 34.

“A” – stands for engaging with aspired future. The word vision was changed to aspiration to fit the organization’s desire to become the butterfly, an organization that “thrills the customer” and is dramatically different.

FA” – stands for first steps and longer-term actions. Actions focused on getting the commitment and momentum to make the difference.

“B” – stands for belief. It represented the transformative belief to collectively being dramatically different.

“O” – stands for including and engaging others. This reinforced the inclusive culture they created, as described later in the chapter.

            The formula suggests that a collective paradigm shift occurs that is greater than any change resistance when applied. Research suggests it is impossible for an organization to return to its old ways of being once it has achieved the breakthrough (Dannemiller, 2000). Once the shift happens, organization members see themselves for the first time and the company differently, they have new mindsets both individually and collectively. This breakthrough in mindset gives the organization the ability to shift their behaviors to align with the future they aspire for instead of repeating unproductive patterns of the past.



From Dr. Ron Koller, one of my closest colleagues. 



“I was recently asked to contribute to an article on the Change Formula and interviewed a guy that was IN THE ROOM when Gleicher drew it up. The “guy” is Barry Stein, and is married to Rosabeth Moss Kanter. I thought some of you would be interested in the following excerpt:

A Formula is Born: Understanding Change

It was in the early 1960s when Raymond M. Hainer, a chemist who had worked on the Manhattan Project (Behrendt, 1955), was the head of Research and Development at Arthur D. Little (ADL). Not only did Hainer want to unlock the mysteries of the physical sciences, but also of the social sciences, namely organizational behavior. He directed David Gleicher (pronounced g-like-her), Barry Stein, and a few other scientists to take up the challenge. Hainer hired Sherman Kingsbury to be the group’s leader (B. Stein, personal communication, 2014).

Created on a Chalk Board

As a Boston based group, the scientists from ADL, sought out the best organizational minds they could, most of which lived and worked in fairly close proximity. The exception was OD legend Herb Shepard, who mentored the original four PhD graduates at Case Western Reserve in the early 1950s. ADL hired all four of the graduates. Shepard was the intellectual godfather of the ADL group, working as a consultant. ADL also hired a few local organizational professors as consultants Warren Bennis, Dick Beckhard, and Ed Schein from MIT, Ken Benne from Boston University, and Chris Argyris from Yale. This founding group worked on what became known as Organizational Behavior at ADL (B. Stein, personal communication, 2014).

One day, as the group was meeting, David Gleicher walked up to the blackboard to share his observations about the behavioral problem-solving work they were doing in organizations. He then wrote C=(ABD)>X on the blackboard. To Gleicher, it was nothing special, just a common sense way of thinking about the work that the group was doing. To the group, however, the formula became the go-to framework, especially for difficult problems that required an incredible amount of energy to resolve (B. Stein, personal communication, 2014). From its inception, the formula has evolved through three generations of development.

The Change Formula’s First Publication

The earliest known publication of the model was in Beckhard (1975). The original publication (Beckhard) included an attribution to David Gleicher by stating, “in determining readiness for change, there is a formula developed by David Gleicher of Arthur D. Little that is helpful” (p. 45). In the Sloan Management Review publication, the equation went from being called an equation to a formula and was printed as:

C = (ABD) > X, where …

C = Change,
A = Level of dissatisfaction with the status quo,
B = Clear or understood desired state,
D = Practical first steps toward a desired state, and
X = “Cost” of changing

The next time the formula was published was by Beckhard and Harris (1977). In Organization Transitions, Beckhard and Harris introduce the formula for change with no attribution to or mention of Gleicher. Gleicher’s formula appeared with slight revisions to B and D; where B = Desirability of the proposed change or end state, and D = Practicality of the change (minimal risk and disruption).

The first thing to note about the change formula is that it includes a multiplier effect. Each of the three (or four) elements needs to be shared collectively and significantly for change to occur. Depending on the organization and current realities one or more of the elements of the formula may need more attention. The goal is to create a solid and shared understanding in a critical mass of the organization around each factor.

Second Generation: Large-Group Events

In the 1980s, change was viewed as a mysterious, theoretical, and complex subject. Gleicher’s intent was for the formula to demystify change and serve as a guide for individuals, groups, and whole organizations in creating their preferred futures. This is when the second generation or iteration of the formula began to take shape.

Kathie Dannemiller of Dannemiller Tyson Associates (DTA) was studying and working at the University of Michigan under Ron Lippitt, who begin his early work through his dissertation with Kurt Lewin. Dannemiller was one of the first members of the National Training Laboratories (NTL); and, it was through the NTL experimentation and collaborative culture that several core organizational behavior theories and models were born. It was during that time that Dannemiller was introduced to the formula by Beckhard and Harris (1977) in their book Organizational Transitions. Beckhard’s book provided the formula, without a mention of Gleicher. Later, Dannemiller corrected herself when she learned the full story (i.e., the Sloan Management Review article in 1975) and found out that Gleicher and Beckhard worked together (K. Dannemiller, personal communication, 1998).

With a passion for usability and common sense, Dannemiller considered the formula from Beckhard’s book helpful, but not accessible enough for the general public. She thought Gleicher’s formula was brilliant, but looked and sounded too theoretical. She wanted people to feel smart rather than not enough or inadequate. It was her experience that people could not easily relate to Gleicher’s formula was what drove her to revise it. Dannemiller set out to preserve and honor the integrity of Gleicher’s formula while making it more usable, and therefore, more accessible to the world (J. Jacobs, personal communication, 2014).

Dannemiller distilled the essence of the formula in a descriptive fashion, rather than prescriptive. She had an egalitarian spirit and wanted this knowledge to be just as useful to everyone, from those working on the front-lines as it could be to the CEO and top leadership team (J. Jacobs, personal communication, 2014). Dannemiller and Jacobs first published the more common version of the formula in 1992. Paula Griffin (Wheatley et al., 2003) described the sequence of events as Gleicher starting it, Beckhard and Harris promoting it, and Dannemiller helping it take off when she made it easier to remember and use.

To make the formula more accessible, she used a mnemonic device in the revision. By mnemonic device, she changed Gleicher’s first element (A) to a D because D stands for dissatisfaction. As a result, the formula garnered higher face value as people felt validated when it was presented to them. Dannemiller (Dannemiller Tyson Associates, 1990) re-framed the Change Formula as the product of dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs (D), an ennobling vision of what we yearn to be – i.e., what is possible (V), and concrete first steps to take in the short term that are necessary in order to reach the vision (F). The product of these must be greater than the resistance to change (R) in order to bring about real change.

D x V x F > R

To bring about a palpable paradigm shift in a large group, she proposed that participants work on real organizational issues:

Start with building a common database about:
how we all see the past (dissatisfaction) and why we need to change,
a positive picture of the future we all prefer (vision), and
actions we can all agree are worthwhile in order to begin to change (first steps) (p. 8)

The formula is based on each element being multiplied by the others. There are two helpful conversations one can have with someone when applying the formula to a situation or in designing a participative intervention. Both rely on the multiplicative nature of the formula. First, if any one element is low it leads to the product of the entire equation on the left side being low, making it unlikely to impossible that change will occur, since most people resist change at least to some extent. This conversation focuses on interventions designed to increase D,V, or F, while decreasing R. Second, if any of the elements are missing (i,e., zero), the resulting product will be zero; therefore, D x V x F = 0, which is not greater than resistance (R). This conversation is more stark and addresses the issue of leaving out one of the elements, all together. For example, a leader might observe that they have created a compelling vision (V), yet left the strategic planning session without any discussion of first steps (F); hence, that is CEOs here comments that vision is meaningless and the strategic plan is collecting dust.”

Excerpted References:

Beckhard, R. (1975). Strategies for large system change. Sloan Management Review, 16(2), 43-55.

Beckhard, R., & Harris, R.T. (1977). Organizational transitions: Managing complex change (1st ed.). Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley Publishing.

Behrendt, E. (1955). What really happened at Texas City. Popular Science, 166(4), 151-154, 268, 270.

Dannemiller Tyson Associates (1990). Interactive strategic planning: A consultant’s guide. Ann Arbor, MI: Dannemiller Tyson Associates.

Dannemiller, K., & Jacobs, R.W. (1992). Changing the way organizations change: A revolution in common sense. Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 28(4), 480-498.

Wheatley, M. J., Tannebaum, R., Yardley, P. Y., & Quade, K. (2003). Organization development at work: Conversations on the values, applications, and future of OD. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons.

The Awe moment OD was realized

August 17, 2014

In memory of Dr. Warren Bennis who in my mind was the clearest writer of the early principles and practicing of Organization Development.

The second video is key with his recent reflections of the awe moment that OD was discovered by Lewin along with my mentors: Benne. Lippitt and Bradford.  

I of III



Roland’s Forward to Dr. Rao’s upcoming book of “Leadership Stories”

August 14, 2014

I am famous for telling stories as I teach leaders around the world how to lead organization change and transformation.

Why do I do so?

Because story’s are one of the best ways to support change and learning.

As I reflect on this honor to be invited by one of India’s International leadership gurus in Professor Roa, I came up with the following principles for storytelling.

  1. Tell your story with universal appeal so that it touches everyone in a familiar and personal way
  2. Practice, practice, practice until the delivery is shared smoothly in a natural and genuine manner – do not forget the humor
  3. Ensure that your story elucidates clearly the priority teaching point of the moment
  4. Tell your story to transform your self as you develop and grow beyond your own real stories of life
  5. As the leadership guru of the last century and my professor Dr. Warren Bennis said:
    1. make an emotional connection that is authentic
    2. have a conscious self awareness of your impact


  1. In sum, share stories that are:


  1. Fast paced
  2. Accurate and truthful
  3. Entertaining
  4. Dramatic
  5. Captivating and engaging
  6. Persuasive
  7. Meaningful
  8. Supportive of action and commitment that create positive individual and system change.

Now allow me to tell you a story.

Once upon a time, as I was reflecting on life after doing yoga for 7 years, an internal mysterious and indescribable joy began to rise from my meditative sittings. Living in Chicago, I scanned the yellow pages and found an add by Sri Nerode that said. “Have taught Yoga alone in the USA since 1920.” After meeting with him on a regular basis, I learned that he was the first man from India to marry a Caucasian woman from the United States.  Shortly after the wedding, the announcement was made on the front page of the Bombay Newspaper.  You can Google “Yogananda wedding” to see the cermony that occurred in 1931. After his transformative leap to the “Divine Life, Srimati Agnus, his wife, was one of the official presiders at my wedding.

Now that the stage is set, here is the true story.

I was with Sri Nerode on his 90th birthday.  He told me that he transformed more in the last year of his life than he did his entire life.  Wow! What a declaration! For those of us who are consciously growing, developing and transforming, the best is yet to come. Commit right now to lead a beautiful life of joy and bliss.

This past week, my mentor Dr. Warren Bennis transformed to the Divine Life. I have him as one as the most significant leaders of leaders in the last century. He was the consultant to four USA Presidents.

Warren shared with me that more change would occur the rest of our lives since the beginning of recorded civilization, 4500 years ago.

I have told that story in each and ever public lecture in the 40 countries and 1,000 systems I have consulted with since first hearing it in 1969. Think about it. The impact on your life is humongous.

A major theme over the years for Dr. Bennis has been that leadership development starts with Self-Discovery and Self Awareness. Stories can be a nice way for you to discover and be aware of who you are becoming on your path to being a extraordinary leader

More recently, Warren shared stories with me that I pass forward regarding how all our organizations are in a crucible. Thus, he said, strong powerful leadership matters more today than ever before.

Click here for Part II of III: In Memory of Dr. Bennis

Perhaps your increased greatness as a leader starts today by reading the contained here in stories from Prof. Rao. I implore you to feel an urgency to change and learn to become a preeminent leader day by day.

India has the potential to lead the world in all aspects by the end of the century or sooner. Such will happen faster and deeper if India masters leadership at all levels.

I invite you to become involved in Professor Roa’s dream of teaching 1 million students to become formidable leaders. Master your ability to be an awesome guide and your rewards will be tremendous.

Those that know me come to realize that I always have one more story.

This story is about the great Dr. Sivananda who brought me to Rishikesh, India in 1963 from the USA. Since then I have read 100’s of his stories that have inspired, challenged and lifted me to be more than I ever hoped to be growing up as a simple rural farm boy.

Master Sivananda also inspired, and lifted His Excellency, Dr. A.J.P. Abdul Kalam,
President of the Republic of India when he was depressed in his youth. Sivananda gifted Mr. Kalam 20 of his books filled with stories of how to live a beautiful life. Abdul gave credit to Sivananda for his leadership success. Reading books can change lives.

Hear now! Heed Professor Roa’s stories that teach us “Life Leadership” so you can go about leading an “Amazing Yourself.” If you change, others that you lead can increase their ability to lead living beautiful and realized lives!

Read this book seriously with in a spirit of self-discovery, awareness and contemplation as you commit to changing your life. Now! Today!




Warren Bennis: Reflects on the moment OD was discovered

August 12, 2014

Google “Roland Sullivans videos on vimeo   and look for the Bennis sector.

Sorry,  my WordPress expert is taking a statistics exam for a PhD in OD.

The second part is key as I read quotes from Bennis as he tells us what was discovered by Lewin in 1946.

I begin to tear up someplace in one of the videos because like that famous 1946 racial dialogical meeting, I had been involved in working race relationships on the south side of Chicago in the 70’s. It was in the Chicago community of Beverly where I did my T-groups weekly for 9 months. Beverly as far as I know, is the first community to stay integrated on the southwest side of Chicago. It still remains such today. The experiences I had were absolutely phenomenal. I owe all those experiences to my learnings at Loyola University under Professor Gerry Egan. My first text there in 1969 was titled “Organization Development” by Warren Bennis.

I learned first in the T-group to accept all people regardless of creed, race, or country origin.

May all in the world begin to realize what a wonderful world we will have if we can come to accept and understand those that are different.

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