Collectively Creating a Paradigm Shift

Whole System Transformation (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.

Reposted with permission. Originally published on
Author: Roland L. Sullivan

Roland is an original 100-change Agent who has consulted in 35 countries with 1,000 organizations. He has taught organization development in over 12 universities. With Professor Rothwell, he is known for his competency work in change. Currently he is co-editing the Fourth Edition of Practicing Organization Development. His graduate studies in OD have been at Pepperdine University in Los Angeles as well as Loyola University of Chicago.