Invigorating the quality of collaborative change initiatives

In my last blog I wrote about the importance to shift from focusing on events to processes. With such shifting attention, events become milestones in a process and are carefully designed to serve a larger purpose – only then can we create a spirit of collective leadership. Events need to be seen in the context of good process architecture (e.g. for better water management, energy efficiency, or responsible supply chains) where it is the ability of differing stakeholders to think together and lead collectively that counts.

How can we use the Compass as a check for the quality of change processes?

Here is a glimpse: While zooming into the aspect PROCESS QUALITY that belongs to the dimension of ENGAGEMENT, we can use all dimensions of the Compass to inspire design concepts that point to necessary elements of successful collaboration.


Ghandi’s philosophy that “we need to be the change we want to see in the world” carries a deep truth. Every step in a process design needs to reflect the goal we want to achieve. We build the future by living the future now. This means we need to operate right from the start in exactly the same way we want the collaborating actors to operate. Keeping the goal high on the agenda is paramount. If conflicts arise it is the emotional connection with the goal that gets people back on track.


A cross-sector core group of actors emotionally engaged with the goal can hold the collaborative process as a kind of container – an image that conveys that people in a well functioning group of actors jointly carry the process forward, hold each other in mutual respect and keep the connection to the goal. The stronger this core group and the better equipped it is with collaboration skills, the better they will be able to whether the storms of complex stakeholder settings. At times the complex environment of a collaboration process can feel threatening to participants. The most normal human reaction is to criticize process or content (when one is not in charge) or to tighten control (when one is in charge). A transparent and agreed upon process design serves as a GPS device for all stakeholders.


Acknowledging existing expertise within the group is important. Bringing in expertise from outside is helpful when it encourages people to step out of their comfort zone, get inspired by something new, or learn more by receiving information they did not have before. Working together across sector can be challenging. Balancing plenary dialogues with delegating difficult content issues to expert working groups creates trust.


People who acknowledge each other as people, more easily overcome differences. People who we want to engage need to be taken care of. Building trust, keeping participants informed, showing appreciation for expertise all contribute to success.


Good conversations change the way people think and act. Small group dialogues help a lot. A joint diagnose of the current reality is much often more important than analytical expert input. It helps people to also jointly design a desired future. When people work on a task together and achieve a joint result, they align and produce tangible outcomes more readily. Differences are opportunities for progress. They may be inconvenient, but improve outcomes.


It is much easier to enter a common space when people understand the why and the how of each other’s differences, and when they can see the story and the logic behind their positions. It is that acknowledgement that opens a pathway to at times compromise and at times a better and new solution. There is always a common ground that people can access. If people feel that they can make a difference, they keep engaged. If people see their initiative in a larger context of a change system they have more clarity how best to contribute.

When we start designing process architectures for high quality collaboration, we notice how events become pearls on a chain towards success. That’s their purpose.

My next blog will focus on building good containers. Don’t miss it!

This blog post looks at the dimension of ENGAGEMENT in the Collective Leadership Compass and zooms into the aspect of PROCESS QUALITY, specifically at the level of collaboration systems – what helps to create a spirit of collective leadership. It shows how to zoom into one aspect and invigorate the entire compass.

For more insights on leading collectively with the Compass, subscribe to my blog.

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