U-procedure and Theory U

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search

U-procedure and Theory U is a change management method to change unproductive patterns of behavior. It was developed by Dr Friedrich (Fritz) Glasl and Dirk Lemson of the NPI (Netherlands Pedagogical Institute) in 1968[1][2] and presented systematically from the 1980s. It has been used in organisation development and social development since that time.[3][4][5] Following Dr Glasl's special interest in conflict issues, the method has also been explicitly developed to handle to the consciousness and process issues associated with relational dynamics and conflict resolution.[6]

Since the early 2000s it has been elaborated as Theory U (also called "U" methodology) by C. Otto Scharmer, incorporating also his theories of presencing[7] and capitalism 3.0.[8] This work itself draws on collaboration between Scharmer and his colleagues Peter Senge, Joseph Jaworski and Betty Sue Flowers.[9]

U-procedure or U-process[edit]

The initial method developed by Glasl and Lemson involved a social technology process involving a few or many co-workers, managers and/or policymakers proceeding from diagnosis of the present state of the organisation plans for the future. They described a process in a U formation consisting of three levels (technical and instrumental subsystem, social subsystem and cultural subsystem) and seven stages beginning with the observation of organisational phenomena, workflows, resources etc., and concluding with specific decisions about desired future processes and phenomena. The method draws on the Goethean techniques described by Dr. Rudolf Steiner,[10] transforming observations into intuitions and judgements about the present state of the organisation and decisions about the future.

The U-procedure was used extensively in projects in at least USA, Brazil, Europe (including the UK), South Africa and New Zealand by members and associates of the NPI and other consultants,[11][12] and subsequently by members of the Association for Social Development[13] (see for example Büchele, 1997), where it was discussed in the 1997 Conference in Spring Valley, USA.[14] Dr Glasl, later Professor Glasl, published the method in Dutch (1975), German (1975, 1994) and English (1997).[15] Fr

The seven stages consist of:

  1. (Factual/phenomenal level, technical and instrumental subsystem:) Observation of phenomena. How do processes and workflows function? Instruments, resources.
  2. (Imaginative level, social subsystem:) Forming a picture of how the organisation works. Understanding the social subsystem and how functions, roles and management are distributed.
  3. ("Inspirational" level; cultural subsystem:) Idea. Understanding the implicit/actual values, rules and policies that shape the organisation. How and why things happen.
  4. Is this what we want?
  5. (This maps onto 3.) What values and guidelines do we want for the future?
  6. (This maps onto 2.) What does that mean for new functions and roles? How should the organisation of the future be visioned?
  7. (This maps onto 1.) How can processes be developed in future? What phenomena and facts will characterise the organisation of the future?

Theory U[edit]

During his doctoral studies at Witten/Herdecke University, Claus Otto Scharmer studied the method in classes taught by Dr Glasl and also interviewed Glasl. He also attended the 1997 ASD conference, where practitioners discussed their use.[16] He then took the basic principles of this process and extended it into a theory of learning and management, which he calls Theory U.[17] The principles of Theory U are suggested to help political leaders, civil servants, and managers break through past unproductive patterns of behavior that prevent them from empathizing with their clients' perspectives and often lock them into ineffective patterns of decision making,.[18][19]

Some notes about Theory U[edit]

Fields of attention[edit]

  • Thinking (individual)
  • Conversing (group)
  • Structuring (institutions)
  • Ecosystem coordination (global systems)


The author of the Theory U concept expresses it[20] as a process or journey, which is also described as Presencing, as indicated in the diagram (for which there are numerous variants).

At the core of the "U" Theory is presencing: sensing + presence. According to The Learning Exchange,[21] Presencing is a journey with five movements:

We move down one side of the U (connecting us to the world that is outside of our institutional bubble) to the bottom of the U (connecting us to the world that emerges from within) and up the other side of the U (bringing forth the new into the world).

On that journey, at the bottom of the U, lies an inner gate that requires us to drop everything that isn't essential. This process of letting-go (of our old ego and self) and letting-come (our highest future possibility: our Self) establishes a subtle connection to a deeper source of knowing. The essence of presencing is that these two selves-our current self and our best future Self-meet at the bottom of the U and begin to listen and resonate with each other.
Once a group crosses this threshold, nothing remains the same. Individual members and the group as a whole begin to operate with a heightened level of energy and sense of future possibility. Often they then begin to function as an intentional vehicle for an emerging future.

The core elements are:

  1. Co-initiating common intent: Stop and listen to others and to what life calls you to do.
  2. Co-sensing the field of change: Go to the places of most potential and listen with your mind and heart wide open.
  3. Presencing inspiration and common will: Go to the threshold and allow the inner knowing to emerge.
  4. Co-creating strategic microcosms: Prototype the new to explore the future by doing.
  5. Co-evolving through innovations: ecosystems that facilitate seeing and acting from the whole.

"Moving down the left side of the U is about opening up and dealing with the resistance of thought, emotion, and will; moving up the right side is about intentionally reintegrating the intelligence of the head, the heart, and the hand in the context of practical applications".[17]

Leadership capacities[edit]

According to Scharmer,[22] a value created by journeying through the "U" is to develop seven essential leadership capacities:

  1. Holding the space: listen to what life calls you to do (listen to oneself, to others and make sure that there is space where people can talk ...)
  2. Observing: Attend with your mind wide open (observe without your voice of judgment, basically means to get rid of past cognitive schema)
  3. Sensing: Connect with your heart (facilitate the opening process, i.e. look interconnected wholes)
  4. Presencing: Connect to the deepest source of your self and will (act from the emerging whole)
  5. Crystallizing: Access the power of intention (e.g. make sure to find a very small group of key persons commits itself to the purpose and outcomes of the project.)
  6. Prototyping: Integrating head, heart, and hand (basically, it means that one should act and not let various sources of paralysis like reactive action, too much analysis, etc. interfere)
  7. Performing: Playing the macro violin. (e.g. find the right leaders, find good social technology to get a multi-stakeholder project going)


Theory U now constitutes a major body of leadership and management praxis drawing from the original work of Glasl and Lemson, the contribution of organization development consultants over several decades and more than 10 years work by C. Otto Scharmer. Key attributes of this praxis include:[23]

  1. Specific linkage of the consciousness of the leader/leadership team with the results of their work.
  2. Individuals and teams move through a whole system integrated planning process involving observation, knowing and visualized decision-making.
  3. Innovation is integral.
  4. Policy making (as the elaboration of conscious design principles for the organization) is connected and integrated with the vision of what is to be brought about.
  5. Relevant to both individual development and practice and organization development and practice, and indeed explicitly connecting these.
  6. A social technology that contributes to either or both of conflict resolution and social engineering.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Bos, A. H. (1974) Oordeelsvorming in groepen: Polariteiten riture als sleutel tot ontwikkeling van sociale organisenen. Veenman & Zonen BV, Wageningen. University of Wageningen doctoral thesis
  2. ^ Glasl F. and de la Houssaye, L. (1975) Organisatie-ontwikkeling in de praktijk, Amsterdam/Brussel: Agon Elsevier ISBN 90-10-10547-4, pp. 135 ff. This was subsequently translate into German as Glasl F. and de la Houssaye, L. (1975.) Organisationsentwicklung. Das Modell des Instituts für Organisationsentwicklung (NPI) und seine praktische Bewährung. Bern/Stuttgart: Verlag Paul Haupt ISBN 3-258-02387-5, pp 114 ff.
  3. ^ Allison, J (2008) A Teacher’s Book. Immortal Books. ISBN 978-0-9750553-6-6. Chapters available at http://www.johnallison.com.au accessed 21.11.09
  4. ^ * Developing a Managed Health Partnership - Organisational Development Toolkit, Management Process, Tools and Tips, GOSH Trust, wwwgosh.nhs..uk/cypph . Co-developed by the Partnership Development Team at Great Ormond Street Hospital and Relay Consultants. Accessed from http://www.ich.ucl.ac.uk/cypph/downloads/Organisational-Development-Toolkit.pdf
  5. ^ * Büchele, U (1997) Modellversuche: Erkenntnisgewinn für Forschung und Praxis? in Euler, D. (1997) Berufliches Lernen im Wandel Konsequenzen fur die Lernorte? Dokumentation des 3. Forums Berufsbildungsforschung 1997 an der Friedrich-Alexander-Universitat Erlangen-Nurnberg. Institut fUr Arbeitsmarkt und Berufsforschung der Bundesanstalt fur Arbeit, BeitrAB 214. Accessed on 21.11.09 at http://www.dgfp.de/perdoc/document.php?id=67494
  6. ^ * Ballreich, R. and Glasl, F. (2001 ) Team Development and Organisation Development as a Means for Conflict Prevention and Conflict Resolution. Pub. Berghof Handbook for Conflict Transformation. ISSN 1616-2544. Accessed at http://web.mit.edu/peso/Pes2/team%20development%20for%20conflict%20avoidance1.pdf on 21.11.09
  7. ^ Scharmer, C. Otto (2006), Excerpt from: THEORY U: Leading from the Emerging Future. Presencing as a Social Technology of Freedom: Introduction. (DRAFT). Can be found at http://www.ottoscharmer.com/
  8. ^ "Home | MIT Video". Mitworld.mit.edu. Retrieved 2012-05-16. 
  9. ^ Senge, Peter M., Scharmer, C. Otto, Jaworski, Joseph, Flowers, Betty, S. (2005) Presence: Exploring Profound Change in People, Organizations and Society. Nicholas Brealey Publishing, London
  10. ^ Steiner, R. (1978) Goethean Science. Mercury Press. ISBN 978-0-936132-92-1
  11. ^ Crum, D. (1977) Interdingen door DC Erjdens het derde blok. Leergang Organisatie Ontwikkeling, 8–11 February 1977. Archives of the NPI, Zeist
  12. ^ Glasl (2008) Enriching Conflict Diagnosis and Strategies for Social Change. A Closer Look at Conflict Dynamics. Published in Martina Fischer, Hans J. Gießmann, Beatrix Schmelzle (Ed, ) Berghof Handbook for Conflict Transformation. Berghof Research Center for Constructive Conflict Management, www.berghof-handbook.net. Accessed at http://www.berghof-handbook.net/uploads/download/dialogue6_glasl_comm.pdf on 21.10.2009
  13. ^ http://www.worldofasd.net (accessed 19.11.2009), now ASD-international.org
  14. ^ Report of the Facilitating Group, ASD, 1997. Private text distributed to members.
  15. ^ * Glasl (1994) F. Das Unternehmen der Zukunft. Freies Geistesleben, Stuttgart, Germany. ISBN 3-7725-1234-8, pp 67 ff. Published in English as Glasl F. (1997) The Enterprise of the Future: How companies Develop. Hawthorn Press Stroud, England.
  16. ^ Records of the ASD
  17. ^ a b Scharmer, C. Otto (2007) Theory U: Leading from the Future as it Emerges. The Society for Organizational Learning, Cambridge, USA.
  18. ^ Frannie Léautier, retrieved 15:53, 27 July 2007 (MEST)
  19. ^ Scharner, C. Otto (2007), Addressing The Blind Spot Of Our Time. An executive summary of the new book by Otto Scharmer Theory U: Leading from the Future as It Emerges. HTML, retrieved 15:53, 27 July 2007 (MEST).
  20. ^ Scharmer, C. Otto (2006), Theory U: Learning from the Future as it Emerges, Fieldnotes: An online Newsletter of the Sahmbhala Institute for Authentic Leadership. PDF. Can be found at http://www.ottoscharmer.com/
  21. ^ retrieved 15:53, 27 July 2007 (MEST)[dead link]
  22. ^ http://www.presencingglobalclassroom.com/uprocess/seventheoryu.shtml[dead link]
  23. ^ http://mitworld.mit.edu/video/795, accessed 30/7/2010