Creating the Conditions for Change

Creating the Conditions for Change was a strong addition to my systems thinking approach, which I incorporated into my work in 2011. In 2019 I developed materials to help others use the same approach. These were updated again in 2021 and in 2022. The materials are intended to accompany a workshop to describe the approach and use it on a case study of a piece of work I actually did. They consist of a 20 page A4 booklet, a Systems Thinking Change Wheel infographic and a set of 120 action cards. After that, participants are well placed to start understanding the approach and using it for themselves, although some ongoing coaching is often a welcome addition to the workshop.

This was the workshop booklet from 2019. This has since been superseded by a 2021 version of the booklet, which included changes to the booklet narrative, wording of the Systems Thinking Change Wheel and additions and changes to the accompanying action cards.

A summary of what my approach is about:

  • It is about purposefully observing – ourselves and the situations we engage with
  • It is about purposefully learning
  • It is about adapting over time

These three things are central to the approach and are embedded throughout. It is also about:

  • Dealing with complexity at the right place – not passing it around like a hot potato
  • The right people having autonomy to make decisions, within reasonable boundaries –a model of decision making
  • Distributing power and control – a different model of governance
  • Having the right balance of autonomy and control
  • Considering everyone as a leader – a different model of leadership
  • Recognising and purposefully working with awareness of purpose and identity
  • Bringing humanity back into the work
  • Using the gifts that everyone brings
  • Supporting people to take measured risks
  • Experimenting
  • Self awareness, vulnerability and allowing people to say ‘I don’t know’
  • Co-creating with others
  • Building collaborations and relationships – deliberately building in relationship enablers and interaction channels
  • Reciprocation – deliberate reciprocation strategies
  • Effectiveness, not just efficacy and efficiency
  • Monitoring, not just performance managing – monitoring for system health


In my Creating the Conditions for Change workshops, I take people through questions such as the following:

  • How might you engage in peer to peer collaborations?
  • How might you instigate and implement change yourself, within the span of your autonomy;
  • How can you strengthen community, develop networks, collaborate and work together with people outside of your own team on an ongoing basis;
  • How can you contribute to internal system coherence;
  • How can you bring humanity and balance back into the work;
  • How do you make joint decisions, decide upon joint goals and decide what level of performance is reasonable;
  • How do you ensure effective system characteristics;
  • How do you create congruence between the system and its vision;
  • How do you build external relationships and gather intelligence about the world around you;
  • How do you ‘pivot’ and change quickly enough;
  • And how do you get that small element of joint vision, meaning, purpose and identity, whilst still allowing and accepting difference?

It is all about

  • Building healthy work ecosystems
  • Creating the conditions for change at each level – an individual, a team, a service, an organisation, a place

It is NOT a productised model. It is a set of ideas, principles and questions that you can apply to a situation to help you create the conditions for change for the moves you want to make next. It is heavily based on Stafford Beer’s viable system model and it a creative interpretation of that model but focussed on what humans actually do and what can bring humanity back into the work.

Supporting you in your team/service/department/organisation or geographical placed based work

I also use the ‘Creating the Conditions for Change’ approach as part of my consulting approach when working on site with organisations. I do not ‘do change to’ people, I help them think about the situation themselves and create their own options for improvements. Creating the conditions for change is down to you and I can help you to start thinking about how you might do this.

Please note that the Creating the Conditions for Change Kit is covered by UK copyright

Please get in touch if you are interested in running a workshop for your organisation or ‘place’ or if you are interested in consultancy support. Contact: