Envisioning Transformation: RoundMap’s System of Change

Envisioning Transformation: RoundMap’s System of Change

First, let’s have a quick look at how the ancient Greeks thought about change:

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesus (535-475 BC) was famous for his insistence on ever-present change (known in philosophy as “flux” or “becoming”). He believed that change is the characteristic feature of the world by stating, “No man ever steps in the same river twice,” and panta rhei (“everything flows”). Heraclitus believed the world is following Logos (meaning: “word, reason, or account”) and made of fire. Fire may have been his metaphor for change.

The phoenix is probably one of the best examples of the role of fire as a symbol of change. According to Greek mythology, the phoenix lived for 500 years, died, and emerged from its ashes. To some extent, all change involves destroying something old to give life to something new.

phoenix 1024x5741 1

You might think that the image above is excessive when addressing change.

But is it?

This is what Tim O’Reilly, publisher, author, and venture capitalist has to say on recent change:

“Every successful organization has to make the transition from a world defined primarily by repetition to one primarily defined by change. This is the biggest transformation in the structure of how humans work together since the Agricultural Revolution.”

That’s a pretty bold statement.

It inspired us to develop RoundMap’s System of Change, an Integral Approach to Change Management. In a scheme, our System of Change looks like this ─ designed in Greek tradition:


System of Change

The RoundMap® System of Change contains five elements:

  1. The Change Map ─ Leading to a Change Action Plan (CAP)
  2. The Four Pillars of Systemic Change (4Ds)
  3. The Change Circles™
  4. The Triad of Integral Change
  5. The Change Matrix™

Before we look at each of these elements, please understand that systemic change can be captured in a simple formula:

Old State (oS) multiplied by Change-over-Time (C/T) equals New State (nS)

Mind the multiply operator. As stated by Russell Ackoff, “It is far better to do the right thing wrong than to do the wrong thing right.” Doing the wrong thing will cause havoc to the business. That is why we’ve built-in contrasting instruments: critical thinking is vital.

The Change Map and Change Action Plan

To make change happen, we need to understand:

  • What is our current state?
  • What motivates us to change to another state?
  • What urges us to change? (without urgency, change is unlikely to happen)
  • Who at the top is supporting the change?
  • What and who will be impacted by the change?
  • What is the desired future state?
  • How to communicate the change?
  • What new skills and capabilities are needed to perform in the new state? (gaps)
  • Who is leading the change?
  • What do we need in terms of organization and management system redesign?
  • What is keeping us from changing? (constraints)
  • How are we going to measure the change progress?
  • And so on.

For that, we need a map: the RoundMap’s Change Map, co-inspired by the book Engage! Travel Guide for Change Adventures. Following a well-designed information gathering and validation process, a Change Action Plan or CAP will emerge from this map.

However, contrary to traditional change programs, we don’t believe large-scale change should start at the top, be engineered, and roll out. Several studies confirm that this is the least likely scenario of successful change. Please notice that the top-down diagnostic approach was the proposed method of change described by Kurt Lewin and John Kotter.

Nor do we believe that change could ever arise from the bottom, sparked by frontline activists or grassroots initiatives ─ they never seem to scale.

Large-scale change has to be a best-of-both-worlds approach: we need a hybrid of both techniques, top-down and bottom-up. Top-down for direction and bottom-up for involvement.

The Four Pillars of Systemic Change

We’ve identified four complementary types of inquiries and interventions to assess the dimensions (4iDs) of Organizational Change (OC) as objectively and effectively as possible:

  1. The Diagnostic Approach (Inquire)
  2. The Dialogic Approach (Involve)
  3. The Dialectic Approach (Inspect)
  4. The Didactic Approach (Instruct)

The diagnostic approach can be traced back to Kurt Lewin (and later John Kotter), who was instrumental in developing organization development and change management. The practice has long been the leading movement in organization development. They designed it on the premise that ‘the quality of an organization’s performance can be diagnosed objectively using action-based research methods, such as interviews, observations studies, and surveys.’ The kind of natural limitation of a diagnostic mindset is that we can only analyze what is there to analyze.

The dialogic approach does not consider change as ‘objective and planned,’ but rather ‘as something that emerges as shared meaning and interpretations as organizations start to shift. We humans do not act and change based purely on objective facts. Instead, we operate mainly based on our interpretation and perception of what we see happening around us.’ In our System of Change, we use Change Circles (roundtables) and Stakeholder Dialogue Sessions to gather fresh input to discover new ways of solving problems or doing better things. The openness of the dialogue mindset allows us ─ simply by having interactions with clients, employees, or potential partners ─ to create new ideas on how we can do things differently.

The dialectic approach got practiced by ancient philosophers like Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. And later by modern philosophers such as Hegel, Marx, and Engels. Heraclitus taught the two-way path: activism (new habits) and withdrawal (old habits). In essence, dialectics is a discourse between two or more people holding different points of view about a subject but wishing to establish the truth through reasoned argumentation. Similar to ‘intervision‘, this inquiry method can be used during training sessions and Change Circle sessions.

The didactic approach is a teaching method that follows a consistent scientific approach or educational style to present information. It contrasts with dialectics and the Socratic method. Didactics is a theory of teaching, and in the broader sense, a theory and practical application of teaching and learning. Part of our System of Change is leadership and management training.


Contrasting Pairs

You might have noticed that the diagnostic/dialogic approach and the dialectic/didactic approach are contrasting. We believe it is critical to discover the truth, but the truth can be obscured, hidden, twisted, distracted, confused, and so on. By using contrasting methods, we mean to prevent doing the wrong thing.

During a change assessment for a midmarket company, interviews revealed that a certain department regularly obstructed the free flow of information. However, the staff of that department denied any wrongdoing. During a training session, we highlighted the benefits of cross-silo communication and collaboration, while at a Change Circle meeting employees of several departments were encouraged to discuss their personal experiences with both conditions ─ siloed and integrated. Inspired by these stories, employees of the obstructing department decided to improve the exchange of information to an extend that even exceeded our expectations ─ thereby, essentially, taking down the silo barriers singlehandedly.

Change Circles™

Even though the Change Map and the Change Action Plan are effective instruments, according to John Kotter (Leading Change, 1996), nearly 70% of large-scale change programs fail to meet their goals. Since then, several studies have confirmed these unfortunate outcomes. Consequently, and contrary to the traditional top-down change methods, Gary Hamel, one of the world’s most influential business thinkers, suggests building a change platform, not a change plan. Change Circles™ offer precisely that.

We typically start with a Change Circle group of 20-25 people. This first group is the most critical part of the entire Change Venture. Once established, they will seed new Change Circles, allowing the Change Coalition to grow. Each table may influence up to 250 people, so we could potentially reach out to about 2250 people if we were to establish nine tables. And many more if needed, just by adding more roundtables.

It is essential that Change Circles keep each other in the loop, so we’re advocating to appoint at least one member of a roundtable to act as liaison toward other Change Circles. Using chat tools like Slack, Google Chat, or Microsoft Teams, is another way of sharing experiences and successes. Although meeting each other in person is the preferred way of communicating, you could also use video communication tools like Zoom, Google Meet, or Microsoft Teams to convene.


And don’t forget about the Kubler-Ross Change Curve that we mentioned in our previous post (bottom of the post). As stated by Kurt Lewin, change needs to follow a path of ‘Unfreeze, Change, and Refreeze.’ To unfreeze a stable situation, we need heat. This heat will come from friction, opposition, conflict, and aggression. Embrace it and deal with it effectively. And remember, you can’t will everyone’s heart, but you can win most of them.

The Triad of Integral Change

Necessary change has three components:

  1. The Person (or individual)
  2. The Team
  3. The Business

While some change programs focus on the affected processes, systems, or organizational structure, you can’t achieve change by ignoring the impact it has on the individual or the team. This ‘triad’ is another crucial element of the System of Change approach.


The Change Matrix™

Each change project is different, however, the activities are recurring. When you apply for a proposal, following a basic assessment, we’ll share our change project worksheet, containing a step-by-step overview of all the relevant activities related to your-size change project, including the planning of the hours involved.

P.s. Now you know why we’ve picked an image of The White House as a featured image: its entrance fits our Four Pillars of Systemic Change.


  • Edwin Korver

    Edwin Korver is a polymath celebrated for his mastery of systems thinking and integral philosophy, particularly in intricate business transformations. His company, CROSS-SILO, embodies his unwavering belief in the interdependence of stakeholders and the pivotal role of value creation in fostering growth, complemented by the power of storytelling to convey that value. Edwin pioneered the RoundMap®, an all-encompassing business framework. He envisions a future where business harmonizes profit with compassion, common sense, and EQuitability, a vision he explores further in his forthcoming book, "Leading from the Whole."

    View all posts
Share the Post:

Recent Articles

Versatility Unleashed: Unlocking Human Potential

Think Differently: Embracing the Next Era of Management Innovation

Beyond the Quarter: Embracing Long-Term Strategic Renewal for Sustainable Success

Coming Full Circle: A Journey of Transformation, Connection and Emerging Wisdom

Breaking Down Silos in Healthcare: The Critical Need for Cross-Disciplinary Collaboration

Impending Impact: Business Strategies Destined for Demise

Harnessing Informal Networks: The Key to Building Adaptability and Resilience

Navigating Uncertainty: From the 2D to the 3D Strategic Agility Matrix

Navigating Complexity: The Cynefin Framework and the Art of Adaptive Leadership

From Division to Unity: The Evolution of Community Design

Navigating the Future with the RoundMap’s Strategic Agility Matrix

Rise to the Occasion: Navigating Complexity with Strategic Agility and Foresight

Beyond Optimization: Embracing Transformation in the Digital Age

RoundMap’s Continuous Elevation Process: Cultivating Cyclical Growth

Beyond Ignoring Early Warnings: Exemplifying Adaptive Leadership in the Face of Disruption

Join Our Newsletter