Evolution Toward Large-Scale Transformation

Here are some thoughts on how large scale transformations happen by linking and leveraging assets through networks. Yesterday, I was talking with a colleague in the UK about the challenges of making large-scale transformations in UK’s education sector.

In my experience, every large-scale transformation starts with a small core team. This core team designs and implements small-scale Pathfinder Projects. Through fast learning-doing cycles, the core team builds bonds of trust and a pattern of distributed leadership. As trust within the core team builds, members of the initial core team reach out and assist other core teams to form.

These second-generation core teams are more narrowly focused. So, for example, let’s say that an initial core team envisions transforming the learning experiences for children in an elementary school. A secondary core team might focus on integrating science, math, and reading curricula with project-based experiential learning. Another team might focus on integrating support services for at-risk students. These secondary core teams also begin their work together by focusing on Pathfinder Projects.

A word about Pathfinder Projects: they are time-limited experiments that test key assumptions to design new systems. The best Pathfinders last no more than 180 days. They explore potential opportunities. They generate knowledge about what could work to reconfigure existing assets into a new system.

This process can evolve into a managed network of a core team, strategic focus area teams, and project teams. With a common open-source operating system provided by Strategic Doing, the network can begin moving assets from old arrangements into a more dynamic and productive system. It will be a more flexible, team-based organization.

(This idea is not new. It’s been around since the 1990s, but organizations have not implemented the practice very well. At the same time, the pressure to move toward team-based organizations is increasing: https://bit.ly/3z5zqdf .)

The new system emerges from this network, as protocols evolve to scale successful experiments. The best way to visualize this process is through S-Curves. A rigorous process of continuous experimentation enables organizations to jump the S-Curves. The process provides both direction and discipline.