Unleash your organization’s possibility
The legendary Organization Workshop, pioneered by systems thinking expert Barry Oshry, is one of the best-known ways to help organizations change the conversation from politics and personalities into productive partnerships. Domain7 is certified by Power+Systems, the company founded by Oshry, to deliver the Organization Workshop.
(All photos & video by Britney Berrner Creative)
Imagine what your organization could be...
You want your organization to adapt to the future, but old habits hold you back. You want to find people-centric ways to pursue innovation, but there seems to be some invisible pattern you keep stepping into. If only there was a way to help your whole team see a new way was possible.
“It was as though the light had just been turned on in a room that I previously thought was well lit; much of what I had learned about what drives human behaviour in organizations was being turned on its head.”
- Domain7 Organization Workshop facilitator James Phillips
How teams change with the Organization Workshop
Discover a new framework for seeing the systems in any organization
Develop a common language for your team to communicate about their conditions and challenges, back at work
Help team members choose partnership in their daily work lives
Build a new vision for what your organization can become
Provide a stimulating, memorable experience that brings your team together
Step inside one of the world's most infamous leadership development experiences
"I don't think I've attended an all-staff event that has been more deeply transformative or that has more powerfully inspired in its participants a true sense of partnership in the organization."
- Organization Workshop participant
A one-of-a-kind workshop
Some workshops are just content delivery, where a lecturer monologues at you. In the OW, content delivery is built into the experience, so team members are being given a new framework and a common language that feels like learning through osmosis.
A safe space for dialogue
Some workshops are all about problems, with all your company and personal business all awkwardly on display. The OW creates a fictional organization, which creates a context for people to have tough conversations and personal epiphanies, without the baggage.
Game-like, but dead serious
Some workshops are about brainstorming and post-its: people can feel self-conscious about their ideas and contributions. The Organization Workshop is conducted as a simulation. This means it’s an immersive, game-like experience in which participants immediately find themselves lost in running a true-life organization.
"I’ve got dozens of different workshop formats in my toolkit. The OW consistently delivers the most visceral learning experience of them all.”
- Domain7 Organization Workshop facilitator Kevan Gilbert
Discovering the power of system sight
“The profound insights...represented a tectonic shift for me,” writes James Phillips, in his much-shared Medium piece called From System Blindness to Sight. Here, you can read first-hand the experience James had with the Organization Workshop. James goes on to say, “The realization hit me hard: I was suffering from system blindness, and even worse: in this blindness, I had participated in — and perpetuated — patterns of behaviour that consistently produced results that I didn’t want.”
“People in positions in any human system react in familiar, predictable ways,” says Organization Workshop creator Barry Oshry. “And we can help them choose better ways.”
Oshry has taken his learnings after 40 years of running experiential simulations for organizations, including his many influential books on systems thinking, and adapted it to a two-day experience that helps enlighten participants to the reality of system life. Out of this comes the Organization Workshop.
How the Organization Workshop works
1. The activity: Running a fictional company together
You create an organization that has all the parameters of a real organization: budgets, clients, deadlines, hierarchy, and more. It's the job of the participants to run the company: serving clients, running projects, getting paid, and dealing with conflict. It’s a simulation, an experience, an event; but not a role-play. You are here to play as yourself, not as a persona. It’s amazing to see what emerges.
2. The framework: Zooming out to name what’s happening
At the beginning, middle and end of the activity, participants come together to debrief, compare notes, and receive content on the topic of system life. You will see that what you're experiencing so intensely in your groups is both extremely familiar, and extremely predictable—and not at all inevitable. You learn there are new, alternate, promising possibilities and discover what life is like for people in other parts of the system.
3. The application: Putting it into practice
Now, we get to the components that can be taken back and applied immediately to your organization. You see how familiar patterns can be broken, how your organization can identify its own habits and patterns, and how what you thought was personal may actually be “life in the system.”
Who is the Organization Workshop for?
Not just organizations on the cusp of change, but anywhere where people come together in groups to accomplish work, the Organization Workshop can make a difference. From larger organizations to emerging startups, from places of hierarchy and tradition to ones where flat structure reigns, the OW helps illuminate the systems within.
Types of organizations where this workshop is often run:
Non-profits and charities
Education and instructional communities
Fortune 500s and large enterprises
Through the global network of certified facilitators, the Organization Workshop has reached many companies, including:
Government of Canada
BC Teacher's Federation
Fraser Health Authority
National Park Service
Meet your facilitators
An alumnus of Accenture, a Royal Roads Master of Leadership grad, and a Domain7’s VP of People and Culture, James occupies the intersection of business transformation and individual growth. His certification in the Organization Workshop came as a result of his own profound experience with the methods and theories of Oshry’s systems thinking, which you can read about in James’ article on system blindness.
A facilitator, strategist, writer and coach, Kevan is a “co-creation evangelist” who has helped Domain7 and their partner organizations bring empathy-focused, human-centered design methods to the core. Kevan was introduced to the Organization Workshop through James’ own learning, and has found it to become the most powerful tool in his workshops toolkit.
Questions & Answers
What do I need for this experience, in terms on mindset, people and space?
A commitment to an immersive, enlightening experience; At least 16 participants (but it can grow to accommodate 100 or more!), and the right space (or willingness to move to the right space)
How much time is needed?
The OW can be customized for your needs: The original design is a two-day experience, but the most common adaptation is the one-day experience. A half-day experience is also possible, usually done in conjunction with other retreat-style or business planning activities.
Can we lead this workshop ourselves?
Our facilitators have been certified by Power + Systems to lead the Organization Workshop. You can certify trainers in your own organization to lead this experience through the Power + Systems’ training program.
Ready to run an Organization Workshop for your team?
Give your team the chance to experience the learning experience of a lifetime: an intense, illuminating, transformative event that helps participants see the system they are within, to help organizations choose a healthier path.