Almost all of the whole system approaches to organisation and community change feature a design team (also known as a planning team or steering group) composed of people from the various interest groups that will be present at the gathering, together with the person with overall responsibility for the change effort and the lead consultant.

Although this planning and design work is time consuming, investment in the design team approach is important for a number of reasons:

  • If the plans include pulling together a large number of people, it is better to spend time in learning what will and will not work with a smaller representative community rather than risk the significant investment in people’s time and energy in the events/programmes themselves.
  • The design team will act as a critical reality check, giving the best possible opportunity of creating a highly effective programme. They know and understand their system: with the best will in the world, one or two system leaders with the support of one or two consultants cannot possibly have the same breadth of understanding.
  • The work they do will look comprehensively at the issues and scope out all of the work necessary to move things forward successfully at high speed.
  • A well chosen microcosm of the whole system. Many of the system dynamics will play out as they achieve consensus, and the plans will be based on a thorough understanding of what is possible and probable.
  • They will build a thorough appreciation and ownership of what they want to achieve and will continue to hold that sense of shared responsibility, including ensuring that changes are made as and when needed.
  • The design team work is a significant opportunity to live out new ways of working, to forge new partnerships across the system, to have new conversations and to allow people to play an active role in moulding their organisation or community as they address the issues concerned. Once the design team meets, the change work has already begun.

Using the DPPE planning formula

When working with design teams to plan almost any programme or event, we tend to use the DPPE framework to guide us. What is critical, is to understand the context (Data) and to clearly agree the purpose and desired outcomes before jumping into creating a potential plan. It’s surprising how often these steps are missed out.

As we get excited about the potential of the work we are planning, it’s incredibly tempting to say ‘oh we could do…’ etc. These ideas are great to hold to one side for now. Until we know why (purpose and outcomes) we are getting together, we have no way of knowing whether such-and-such activity is relevant or not. In the conversations on purpose you will frequently find that each person had a slightly different take on the ‘why’. Without this clarity from the start, you are setting yourself up for disappointment or failure, with each person imagining a different outcome.

So… to the DPPE formula, which was originally created by Dannemiller Tyson Associates:

DATA: What do we know about the situation, stakeholders and individuals? What is the context for the programme / event we are planning? Why are we considering gathering now?

  • What’s working?
  • What’s not working?
  • What are the challenges & opportunities in the system?

PURPOSE: What do we want to achieve?

  • What are the desired outcomes? What do we want to have (in our heads, hearts and hands) by the end of the programme or event?
  • What specific results or deliverables are required?
  • What would success look like?
  • What would be a motivating purpose statement?

PLAN: What series of actions or activities would lead us to achieve the purpose?

  • What information do the participants need in order to do good work?
  • In what areas do the participants have expertise of their own?
  • Who, if anyone, do we need to hear from?
  • What activities or processes would be interesting and meaningful for participants?
  • How would the activities best be sequenced?
  • How can we ensure we include all learning styles?
  • How can we add magic to our time together?

EVALUATE: How can we measure the effectiveness of our plan?

  • Will the plan achieve the purpose?
  • Does the plan fit the data?
  • Would we, as participants, be truly engaged in this event or programme?

Formula for change

This was devised by David Gleicher, popularised by Richard Beckhart, and modified by Julie Beedon.

Given that there is a natural human tendency to resist change, it is valuable to bear in mind the change formula when you’re wanting to move people through any kind of change—including within one event or meeting.

The formula D x V x F x C > R suggests that in order to overcome the resistance to change, you need to have:

D – Dissatisfaction with the present
V – a compelling Vision of the future
F – First steps towards that future
C – the Capability needed in order to take those first steps

If any of these factors is missing or insufficient, it is unlikely that people will change.