Reflections and observations from people familiar with our work.

We invited some people who are working to change their organisation’s culture in different environments - business, education, local government, religious life - to reflect on their experience of taking a living systems approach to change and our CultureWork processes.

These organisational contexts are different, yet a common pattern of experience is the way this lens has changed not only people’s understanding of how change happens, but their sense of place and possibility. Their entire worldview.

You can read these by clicking on the list on the right of this page  

Other comments about CultureWork

In addition to the reflections on the right, brief comments from people who’ve experienced our work in various ways are listed below  


Seeing Systems (Insight)

“Complex ideas, beautifully presented.”

“The presentation on Systems put everything in context; it was inspirational and challenging, and brought great clarity to our situation.”

“Thank you for a very insightful workshop. You have certainly whet the appetite for more.”

“The feedback is extremely positive, and should make you feel very proud of your extremely high quality and professional work.”

“I’m not mad after all! The system’s mad!”

“Many thanks for your contribution to last week’s conference. Both verbal and written evaluations were extremely positive, and you contributed in no small way to that success.”

“A really lucid explanation of complexity and chaos.”

“You helped me understand what I know in a different way. You gave me a theoretical framework - and then you applied it.”

back to top


Q5 – New Leadership at Work (Insight)

“I found Q5 hugely motivating and I’ve been motivated to read many of the books referenced during the conversations and push forward a large environmental programme at my company.”

“I feel revitalised.... I am re-evaluating my career and my place in the world, and Q5 has been very valuable in helping me make decisions about my future.”

“Q5’s talks and conversations introduced me to a more appropriate vocabulary to discuss what is happening around us.”

“Every person in our organisation should do this programme. It would change the way we think about everything.”

“I really enjoyed the course and found it very interesting and useful.”

“Uplifting, energizing, challenging, educational, scary, rewarding, a wake up call. Some of the words I use to describe my participation in the conversation called Q5.”

“This is cutting edge - way ahead of its time. It has shifted the way I think in a way that’s subtle and powerful”

“I would love to see the day when school children are given the opportunity to explore the challenge that exists in Q5.”

“l enjoyed the reading material, many new authors. l have a scientific background but strange as it may seem l had never really considered ‘systems’ in the human situation. Thanks a lot for the sessions which were truly enriching for me.“

“The breadth of the considerations of how the world is and the depth of the realities underlying not only the nature of the problems but also illuminating the (I would like to think) true stature of mankind is enormous.”

“I loved the opportunity to discuss questions of values with such a wide variety of people.”

“The opportunity to explore real issues with like-minded people was one of the memorable aspects of Q5.”

“I enjoyed the programme very much, very stimulating and particularly enriching as it was a range of people I would not usually come into contact with... thanks so much for the effort, energy, courage in taking Q5 out to such a diverse group. I loved it.”

back to top


Presentations (Insight)

“Your presentation took the conference by storm.”

“This programme provides us with a language and a set of concepts that enable us to see ourselves as active agents in creating both the problems and the solutions, in a way that is articulate, passionate and inspiring.”

“Really, really inspiring stuff - a key building block of the residential.”

“What you said wasn’t new. What is very new is the way you connect up so many ideas.”

“It was radical - in the sense that a radical inspires hope rather than confirms despair.”

“A breath of fresh air.”

“Great presence, and great emotion and courage.”

“Brilliant session - perfect pace.”

“This was an incredibly powerful session.”

“These ideas are central to the human enterprise in the 21st century. Presented in a dynamic, engaging and empowering way, it is fascinating stuff. You’ll never see the world in the same way again.”

back to top


Focus & Direction (Direction)

“I’ve been in this organisation for thirty years, and for the first time, I know why I’m here. I feel such a sense of excitement.”

“We reached an inspiring clarity about who we are and what we are about. It will stand up to scrutiny not just internally but also, and very importantly, the scrutiny of our customers...“

“David and Paula worked us hard! But due to their professionalism, good listening skills and objectivity, they were able to get us to clarity and lead us to articulate who we are and what we are about.“

“They have a wonderful capacity to listen and to feedback what they heard us say.”

“Our whole reason for being is more inspirational now, not only because it clearly states what we’re about but because it situates us within the organisation, and in the wider world.”

“There seems to be a deeper sense of unity, commitment and openness among us. No one was holding onto their own point of view - it seemed that all of us were striving to reach decisions that were best for all of us.”

“We asked ourselves ‘What are we doing?’ in response to the complexity and the depth of the work? Now we’re so much clearer on what the project is about, what it actually does, and what it’s meant to do.”

“We’d just assumed that we were in agreement about where we were going, but we discovered we weren’t! Having a clear and shared purpose has created a different energy among us. It’s like everybody has come alive. And after choosing and working on our core values, the energy level increased even more.”

back to top


Culture Mapping (Values)

“It’s amazing to be able to ‘see’ what needs to change so clearly. Now we have a real agenda for change.”

“In all the years I’ve been here, this is the first time I can really see why things are the way they are.”

“It’s a fascinating methodology - an objective presentation of subjective experience that is both disturbing and exciting. And it doesn’t threaten or blame anyone, which is really, really good. It helps people to hear the truth.”

“This was a very fruitful and rewarding initiative. It gave us the freedom to have our own conversation about values.”

“This work on values is pushing us to clarify our own personal purpose and values.”

“The core values are for me, the source of energy and direction for living our purpose. The process to name them really challenged us to get to the heart of what is important for us at this time.”

“Incorporating our values into what we’re doing allows us to call each other to account. Having a set of behaviours flowing from those values leaves nothing at the aspirational level.”

back to top


Meeting (Relationship)

“It was a comparatively simple process, and yet we managed to say a lot and learn a lot in a relatively short time.”

“I was amazed by the depth of people's responses in the drawings, including my own. The similarities in the pictures people drew highlighted just how much we have in common.”

“Beginning with our stories instead of our opinions led to a different kind of conversation than we are used to having. It was very liberating.”

“I understood in a new way the value of taking concerns seriously. We gave a whole session to listening and responding to people’s concerns and that proved to be very important. The decision came very easily once that was done.”

back to top


Communicating (Relationship)

“The initiative made a real difference to the company and the experience of employees. It was as if everyone became re-connected with each other and with the goals of the company - even the most skeptical of senior executives acknowledged the tremendous achievements.”

“Overall our communication has increased enormously. We now meet regularly and make time for informal ways of learning from each other and exchanging ideas.”

“I learned that we need to find ways of speaking openly to each other, strategies for better communication and ways of engaging people at a deeper level so that their insights can have a chance to be heard and engaged with.”

“The process worked and was very well facilitated, and very educating. It took a lot of courage, openness and honesty from the whole group, and our overall relationships are much stronger as a result.”

“We are listening to each other much better, and appreciate difference rather than see it as a challenge or a barrier to be knocked down.”

“There’s greater trust between us now, but also in our relationship with the wider community.”

“There was a kind of maturing in the group generally. Others can see it in us. Our group process has changed dramatically....”

“The process enabled us to see where we were going, and it highlighted the vital necessity to communicate and to be open to communication...”

“At an ordinary human level, this process has allowed us to listen to each other without judgement. And to me that is absolutely fantastic...”

back to top


Organising (Relationship)

“At last we have a structure that we agree upon. We can now form and un-form groups at will, that can serve our needs and keep the participative and egalitarian ethos intact. This will ensure continuity and change at the same time.”

back to top


Learning History (Renewal)

“Although it started off as a task to be done, it ended up as a story full of ups and downs and a surprising sense of movement, life and hope.”

“The process of evaluation has been a real learning experience. It has encouraged us to action which has been a sticking point for us.”

“I learned a lot from just reflecting and writing my own review.”

“The whole learning review process is a hugely constructive and enriching way of taking stock, and I will definitely use it again.”

“From the very first moment, I felt there was something different here, a deeper learning. That feeling stayed with me throughout the two days.”

“The learning review process has given us more confidence and new energy and enthusiasm for the work.”

back to top


Action Inquiry (Renewal)

“The learning group was a very good process and gave both staff and board the opportunity to work on common issues. Having different perspectives in the room generated new energy and new commitment, as well as more ideas.”

“The new framework wasn’t imposed on us, it came from us, it was ours. And that was empowering.”

“I think we were fumbling in the dark to some extent before, hoping we wouldn’t fall over. But this process has given us clarity and confidence about who we are and what we do.”

“Reflecting back on the process I didn’t find it easy, and I think this was a common view. Change is always more difficult and painful than we imagine. I learnt to all the time force myself to look at the bigger picture as opposed to getting drawn into the smaller stuff.”

“We engaged in a learning review because we didn’t want to have an expert coming in to do an objective diagnosis. We wanted to engage in a way that would involve all of us in learning together.”

“Like no other piece of work we’ve done I feel we have actively changed in this process.”

“Let’s face it, most evaluations are very similar. This is the first time people embarked on a process that asked them to put conventional approaches aside and to think differently, which in itself has been really beneficial.”

“As our identity has become clearer we are more confident, and we’ve learnt to be more comfortable with each other. It is so much easier to work from a place of truth. We can even laugh at ourselves more openly now, and have come to enjoy our differences I think!”

back to top


Reflection 1
on embracing the chaos of change

Reflection 2
on the transforming effects of a systems perspective

Reflection 3
inspired to attempt big change

Reflection 4
the systems ‘lens’ - a breath of fresh air

Reflection 5
the relief and challenge of working systemically

Reflection 6
on creating internal cohesion on a large scale

Reflection 7
on learning from different perspectives

Reflection 8
from ‘fixing what's broken’ to ‘listening to patterns’

Reflection 9
confirmed and inspired by our own work

Reflection 10
really facing up to the challenge of change

changing the way
you change