The Fifteen Commandments of Crosby OD*

  1. Thou shalt not bow to the market pressures of rejecting the old and worshipping the “new”
  2. Thou shalt not impose your bias against authority and hierarchy on others and call it sound theory
  3. Thou shalt not confuse “action-research” with the ineffective expert model of gathering data and then telling people what to do
  4. Thou shalt not over-function by speaking and thinking for others (through anonymous feedback, etc.), thereby encouraging under-functioning in the system
  5. Thou shalt not only coach leaders one-on-one, or separate from their system
  6. Thou shalt have a bias toward action, and towards helping the people facing the problems come up with their own solutions
  7. Thou shalt transfer thy theory and methods throughout the client system so as to increase their capacity to solve their own problems
  8. Thou shalt work at every level of the system so thou art not blind to the whole and do not become part of the fragmentation of the system
  9. Thou shalt foster Kurt Lewin’s democratic principles of leadership throughout the system (a balance of authority and empowerment) over autocratic (over-functioning leadership) and laissez-faire (under-functioning leadership)
  10. Thou shalt help the leadership align the system around measurable goals, beliefs/values (such as Lewin’s democratic principles of leadership), and behaviors (such as single point accountability)
  11. Thou shalt be alert to pitfalls such as goal conflict (jeopardizing quality and/or safety in pursuit of production), confusing goals with activity (tasks, meetings, trainings, projects, etc.), and tunnel-vision (focusing only on what is measured)
  12. Thou shalt help foster decision clarity throughout the system, with a bias towards empowering people to take action and make decisions as close to the action as possible
  13. Thou shalt actively “re-educate” and teach “use of self” to the system via T-groups and other means – grounded in the work you continue to do on yourself
  14. Thou shalt be a catalyst for “unfreezing” the current homeostasis by decreasing restraining forces such as avoidance, mistrust, and disengagement, and for “freezing” high-performance culture into a sustainable homeostasis
  15. Thou shalt be willing to take a stand for what is right, including the effectiveness of every role and the dignity of every human being in the system

*Much of the above was handed down by Kurt Lewin and unlike Mel Brooks we didn’t drop our third tablet

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Lewin on Democracy in Organizations and Nations

My latest webinar!

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T-groups Adapted for the Workplace

Gilmore Crosby is published again! He has authored a chapter of the Collaborative Change Library that is now available on the myLibrary app ( – you can access it on your phone, tablet, or computer. The chapter is: T-Groups Adapted for the Workplace […/T-Groups%20for%20the…]. There are videos and supporting materials as well. We’re curious to learn what you think and look forward to your feedback!

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Lewin on Racism: The Methods Exist, The Will is Required

The tools exist to greatly decrease racism in the United States. The time has come to use them. Social Scientist Kurt Lewin (1890-1947) demonstrated that “incorrect stereotypes” (prejudices) are functionally equivalent to wrong concepts (theories),” and could be changed through a “re-education” process based on dialogue and free expression (Lewin, 1945, 1997. p52). To do so individuals had to come to their own conclusions, but those conclusions could be reliably influenced by “group belongingness” (positive peer pressure) (Lewin, 1945, 1997, p55). Only a critical mass has to change for a work culture or indeed an entire country to change. This was proven by the successful cultural reconstruction of Germany and Japan after WWII. Lewin had passed away but had been a strong influence in the US State Dept, which wisely engaged both countries in their post WWII transition. They could not be forced to change, and neither can we. We, the US, need a cultural reconstruction today.
Lewin’s field theory provides further clarity. Every social condition is held in place (homeostasis) by a field consisting of driving and restraining forces. Increasing the pressure of the driving forces (such as “law and order”) increases tension in the system. Decreasing the restraining forces is much more likely to create lasting change. To do so requires analysis by the people facing the situation. In the case of racism in the US, we need a national analysis of restraining forces and national action, coordinated with analysis and action at every local level. In the absence of national leadership, we can still work locally.
It is time. Lewin has already done the research, including the 1946 workshop for the Connecticut Interracial Commission, the Commission on Community Interrelations (CCI) study on “Handling Bigots” (which concluded that calm quiet responses to bigoted statements were more effective than silence or anger), along with CCI’s action research on gang behavior, integrated housing (integration, done properly, decreases racism), and integrated sales staff. Lewin’s research on racism and minority relations comes to two clear conclusions: 1. As Dr. Rodney Coates puts it, “Race is socially constructed. (Coates et all, 2018).” Racism, and even the idea of race, is a mistaken hypothesis and people can unlearn any mistaken hypothesis. 2. “…so called minority problems are in fact majority problems” and will only truly be solved through real social, economic and political equality (Lewin, 1946, 1997, p151”).
We will have racism until we truly unfreeze the homeostasis in the US. We will have riots as long as we have people who have nothing, have been treated as nothing, have been controlled through violence, and have nothing to gain by “behaving” and nothing to lose by “misbehaving.” We will have police brutality in response. We can and must do better.
Lewin concluded in 1946 “…that this job demands…an utmost in courage. It needs courage as Plato defines it: ‘Wisdom concerning dangers.’ It needs the best of what the best among us can give, and the help of everybody (Lewin, 1946, 1997, p.152).”
Coates, R., Ferber, A. and Brunsma, D. (2018). The Matrix of Race: Social Construction, Intersectionality, and Inequality. United Kingdom. SAGE Publications.

Crosby, G. (2020). Planned Change: Why Kurt Lewin’s Social Science is Still Best Practice for Business Performance, Change Management, and Human Progress. Boca Raton, FL. Taylor & Francis. Due out by October 2020. Preorder today:

Lewin, K. (1997). Resolving Social Conflicts & Field Theory in Social Science. Washington DC. American Psychological Association.

Posted in Culture Change, Diversity, Gilmore Crosby, Groupdynamics, Lewin, Organization Development, Racism, Systems Thinking | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Staying sane in relationships in these perilous times – 10 tips from Robert P Crosby

In communication one party has an intent which is translated into words and actions which impacts the other. Because of the ‘arc of distortion’ the person sending may not send it in a way that fulfills the intent or the person receiving may be impacted in a way that was never intended!
Tip 1) Don’t let impact win the battle over intent! If you’re impacted in a negative way, check out to see if you even know the words the other said let alone the meaning intended.
Tip 2)”Of course!” Things break- liquid spills- “of course” is the beautiful response! “Oh, that’s how that beautiful cup finally ended it’s life” Regret is appropriate. Blame does not fix it!
Tip 3) Forgo “what if”. Embrace “what is” as each fleeting moment is present!
Tip 4) Be confident enough in yourself to embrace the phrase “always within me there is the rumor that I may be wrong- and that’s my growing edge!” Graciousness and lightness will embrace you!
Tip5) if your partner forgets something and is becoming more prone to forgetfulness, don’t say, “Don’t you remember?” Rather say nothing, or if they’re aware that they forgot, say “We all forget”. Repeating what’s written above, accept “what is”.
Tip6) Say “Thanks” and “Your welcome”.
The German priest Meister Eckhart wrote 700 years ago, ” If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is’Thank you’ it will be enough!”
Tip7) In conflict moments realize that your judgments about the other are inside you and therefore about you. What is outside you is what the person actually intended, said, and did. That’s what needs to be clarified.
Tip8) Romance, that is being in love with the fantasy part of the other, is beautiful, but what sustains a partnership is commitment to the relationship.
Tip9) Take a deep breath, settle down, remember past beautiful memories perhaps still captured in photos.
Tip10) Remember to say, “I love you.”
Credit: Warren Bennis (Intro), Rodney Coates (Tip 1), Stephen Levine (Tip 2), Howard Thurman (Tip 4), Meister Eckhart (Tip 6).
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The Adventus Initiative: From Lock-Down to LEARNING and from Re-Set to RENEWAL

From our friend and colleague John Scherer:

When this lock-down started 8 weeks ago, an HR Director in Warsaw asked me if we had anything that might be helpful to their 4,000 employees who were sitting at home.

That request triggered me thinking about what we (a group of friends and change facilitators, including Gil Crosby) could do to facilitate meaningful conversations during lock-down: What might help people reflect on what had been working—and not working—and invite them to create a ’new normal’.

The result is here:

(22 minutes) A GoogleDocs link to the worksheets (also shown in the Vimeo details):

The planning group of around 40 people came from 14 countries made it a truly global effort.

I hope you will give it a try personally—and if you feel moved to, send it to your friends and colleagues! I mean, why the heck not?! (BTW, there is no copyright on this. It’s ‘open source’ in concept, so copy it, steal it, translate it, modify the heck out of it.)



Dr John Scherer, Co-Creator

The Adventus Initiative

From Lock-Down to LEARNING and from Re-Set to RENEWAL

#adventus #change #adapt #learning #lockdown #pandemic #crosbyod

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Work culture as a restraining or a driving force in change management

A colleague posted about the importance of effective change management in concert with project management. He lives and works in an country with an authoritarian government. According to Kurt Lewin (1890 – 1947), broadly acknowledged as the founder of organization development (OD), effective planned change is based on democratic principles, which are hard enough to do effectively in a democratic culture, let alone in  more autocratic culture. Here is my response to his post:

You are raising important issues. Another consideration is whether the cultural essence of change management – democratic principles of engaging people within a clear decision-making structure – fits the broader culture of the organization and even the society within which the organization operates. If so, which is rare, there is ample research to show that both performance and morale will be high. If not – if the organization is either too authoritarian or too passive (or a combination of both) in their leadership culture, which is the norm even in democratic societies – then you have an uphill battle to get results, but also a great opportunity to use the project as a means to change the culture. If you can get alignment with the leadership that democratic principles are the goal because they increase productivity and morale, then the project change management becomes a tool for broader culture change, which can happen within any organization in any society.

Allow me to add to that response. The same potential lies in any major cross-functional project. Not only can change management based on the Lewin’s planned change greatly increase the odds of successful implementation of the project, it can also be a platform for driving cultural change in the entire organization, as part of or the foundation for a broader OD strategy.

Despite dismal statistics for IT and other project implementations, change management is often seen as a “nice to have” instead of an essential part of project management. When change management is included, it is often watered down into a lame project pr campaign, limited to an executive speech, newsletters, banners and coffee mugs. No wonder understandably cynical project mangers often skip it altogether. They want to get on with the real work of over-functioning and shoving in the change whether the organization is aligned with it or not.

Effective planned change engages the end users and others to be impacted in planning, problem solving (anticipating barriers/restraining forces), influencing decisions, and implementing the change. Lewin’s principles applied to IT implementation reliably leads to on-time, on budget, high quality outcomes, yet are known and practiced by only a few.

And that is only the tip of the iceberg of possibilities. Our founder (and father) mastered using large cross-functional projects as an opportunity to drive culture change. He helped PECO Nuclear shorten their refueling outages from an average of 70 days to the current industry standard of 30 days or less and in the process helped the PECO leadership learn how to lead in a new way, while helping the workforce learn how to engage more effectively so as to raise and resolve issues. The same strategy worked time and again in a variety of organizational settings, and continues to do so today.

Managing a business critical project without effective planned change is foolish. Applying effective planned change only to the project is thinking small, but is still the best chance you have of shifting the culture effecting the project from resistance, or a restraining force, to a driving force for implementation success.

Let me say more about Lewin’s idea of “forces.” Borrowing from the natural sciences, Lewin noted that systems tend towards homoeostasis. There is a field of forces, especially culture (beliefs, behaviors, emotions), that are both driving and restraining change, and thus creating a balance that that holds things in place. Lewin conducted numerous experiments that showed that simply pushing harder, as most management teams try to do, creates a counter-reaction or counter-force. Hard won gains are less than desired, and fad away. Lewin’s research also showed that the application of democratic principles, such as letting the people facing the challenge (whatever it may be) think for themselves through dialogue with their peers, reliably led to group commitment to the change and high rates of sustained implementation of new practices. Whereas most try to overpower the restraining forces, through this process the restraining force of employee attitude is shifted into a driving force. Furthermore, the end users will address other restraining forces by surfacing and helping to solve problems that only they can be aware of through their hands on experience in the organization – and that is the culture that also drives high performance in daily operations.

Using cross-functional projects to drive effective democratic principles into the organization is visionary. Such a strategy is needed in most organizations but especially so if the organizational culture and the broader social culture are autocratic. Starting at the top, or at least at the top of the portion of the organization that you are targeting to change, it can be done.

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Feedback (Unsolicited) To Margaret Wheatley

I had the pleasure of hearing Margaret Wheatley speak at last week’s Organization Development Network 2019 annual conference.
I’m a fan of physics and enjoyed Wheatley’s first book, which she mentioned came out 25 years ago. She referred to is as a failure, in that it didn’t have the influence she had hoped. Personally, I hope to have a failure that sells 300,000 copies. Perhaps my next book, “Planned Change: Lewin for Beginners, Lewin for All!”
Her analysis of why it failed to have the impact she hoped diverges from mine. She seems to think it is because business leaders are stuck in old ways of thinking. She mentioned Einstein’s “Insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results,” as well as other similar quotes.
I want to tell her that I think she has a blind spot that traps her in the same dilemma. I will try to offer this unsolicited feedback, but first I want to post this for you to ponder, dear readers.
I think the OD profession is dominated by academic (theoretical) and socio-centric thinking (consensus is good, authority is bad) and that is reflected in Wheatley’s thinking. The problem with “Leadership and the New Science” was not that leader’s rejected it. It was that application, especially of “self-organizing systems” as found in nature, reinforced passive leadership (already an epidemic, according to research and my own experience) and chaos. In other words, many tried to do what she said, and most failed to get any thing close to desirable results.
Now she is asserting that business leaders should always ask above all else, “how will this effect relationships?” A good question. I like it. And a one-sided question. She started her presentation by dissing scorecards as worthless, and by implication business metrics. I agree most make scorecards and metrics into such a complicated morass that they are essentially worthless, but throwing out metrics because of that is like throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
Relationships and goal clarity are both important. Damage either and you have trouble.
I am confident if Wheatley took the Social Style behavioral profile she would be a strong Amiable, probably with analytic as a secondary style, although she also has expressive and driver traits. Her values come almost entirely out of Amiable, which places relationships above all else. An important potential learning from taking such an assessment is that you realize that it is easy to project your style traits onto everyone else and the universe, and to judge others through that narrow lens. I think Wheatley is doing that and is apparently unaware. By shifting from self-organizing systems to “get off command and control and focus on relationships” she is not really shifting at all but rather is doing the same thing and hoping for different results.
No offense intended. She’s not a practitioner, she’s a theorist. She expects other people to put her theories into practice, rather than applying them to organizations herself. Without being a practitioner, or at least teaming with practitioners (as Lewin hoped ALL academics and practitioners would do) the feedback loop is missing.
So, in a nutshell:
She spent about 30 minutes detailing how bad things are in terms of plastic in the eco-system, etc.
She told us being “a warrior for the human spirit” and “relationships” is the only way forward.
The (socio-centric) audience loved it. I loved it too…except it is not OD, or only one important (but not new) aspect of OD.
No doubt others view it differently.
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From Conflict to Collaboration – A true T-group story

Be the change you wish to see in the world.
—Mahatma Gandhi

The T-Group based workshop has just begun. The 24 participants and the 3 faculty members have introduced themselves, and the CEO (who is himself participating) has briefly explained why he has sponsored this week-long workshop and its follow-up session. The plant he runs has been losing money for years, and he believes that the people must learn a new way to work together if the plant is to survive. Relationships are tense throughout the organization, especially between management and labor. Because of his trust in the facilitators, the CEO has taken the risk of inviting twelve members of the Union leadership, including the President, who is barely on speaking terms with the CEO, along with eleven other members of the plant leadership team. There are formal and informal layers of reporting relationships in the mix, and years of animosity. As the participants sit in a large circle (un-encumbered by tables) to begin the week, there is no escaping the initial awkwardness. The Union President choses to stand near the door, in his own words “uncertain” as to whether he will stay.

The workshop, and a broader OD strategy is designed to help the organization decrease tension while increasing business performance. The facilitator has already worked with the management team on their own group dynamics and, with his colleagues, will be working with every team in the organization during the weeks and months to come. He has also met with the Union leadership, both to show respect, to inform, and to allow them to get their own feel for the OD strategy and his team of facilitators. It doesn’t hurt that one of the facilitators used to be an electrician in a manufacturing plant.

Following the CEO’s kickoff, the lead facilitator asks the participants to talk in pairs. Working in pairs is a critical part of the workshop structure. He explains that they will be doing this a lot throughout the week, and they will be learning as much from each other as they will from the facilitators. He even walks the room, saying, “So you two are a pair, and you two, and you two,” etc. to assure that pairing occurs. The task is to talk about what they just heard…what they think and feel about it. Instantly 50% of the room goes from being quiet to being verbal. This simple structure is repeated throughout the week, with different pairings, and is a big asset both to learning and to decreasing stress. Lewin knew that group change was more powerful than individual change…pairing brings peer-to-peer influence to life, while also allowing some privacy for processing one’s experience. In these workshops, people quickly get it that they are all peers in being human, even while they have different roles in the organization.

Now the room is buzzing with talk. The facilitator regains attention and invites anyone to speak. After an anxious silence, the conversation with the CEO begins. People admit their fears, “You guys are just here to brainwash us,” and their hopes “We need to work together so maybe this will help.” The CEO admits that he doesn’t have all the answers, and that he and the management team had made some mistakes. The HR Director explains why he thinks the workshop is needed. The Union VP says, “I don’t know what he just said, but I’m against it!” The room goes silent. The HR Director begins to fight back. The facilitator says something like, “This is a good example of why we are here” and manages to lighten the mood without taking sides. Even though the facilitator is working for his customer (the CEO), neutrality when helping with interactions is vital to effective facilitation. Everyone relaxes. The President choses to stay. The workshop proceeds.

While it is possible to stubbornly stay outside the learning process during one of our workshops, it isn’t easy. This is in no small way due to the brilliance of Lewin’s understanding of group dynamics. It’s hard to stay separate when your peers are participating, and even harder when the peer pressure is coming in the privacy of paired conversations. Most people are willing to give the process a chance, and the next thing you know, people are learning about themselves and trying on new behavior! It’s tough to resist.

The same was true during the management-labor workshop above. The process was rolling along, and then sometime shortly after the “Active Listening Skills” a critical incident occurred. Sitting in the same T-group, and talking to each other directly, the Union President looked the CEO in the eye and said, “I don’t usually listen to you when we talk. I’m just wrapped up in what I am wanting to say.” The CEO said, “I do the same thing. I don’t listen to what you are actually saying either.” From that moment on they made a commitment to actually listen to each other and to be honest if they don’t think it is happening. They shifted from adversaries to collaborators for the remainder of that president’s term, and the entire plant shifted into a more collaborative direction. It wasn’t just a critical incident for the workshop…it was transformational for the organization.

Amongst many emergent joint management and labor strategies that followed, they also became co-sponsors for a series of T-group based workshops, and the Union President became a reference for our work.

When a critical mass in an organization increases their capacity to foster a productive and safe work environment by giving clear direction, taking a stand for what they believe in, holding themselves and others accountable, fostering communication up and down the hierarchy, managing conflict, connecting with emotional intelligence (EQ) to all levels of the organization, and continually developing themselves, others, and the organization, high performance as measured by industry metrics follows. Participants consistently say T-group learning enriches their personal and professional lives. My hope is that T-group learning, with proper discipline, once again becomes a “movement.”

Excerpted with permission from, “T-Groups Adapted for the Workplace” an unpublished article by Gilmore Crosby

Posted in Change Management, Culture Change, Emotional Intelligence, Gilmore Crosby, Leadership, Organization Development, T-Groups | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

OD Soup a la Crosby

An OD student recently asked about favorite OD models on a social media site. Here, with a pinch of pepper,  is my reply:

I appreciate Edwin Friedman for putting leadership into a systems perspective. It’s not a visual model. It’s a way of thinking which includes the following core concepts (but is not limited to): self-differentiation (the capacity to distinguish between self and other, thinking and feeling, and past and present) and self-differentiated leadership (the capacity to take clear stands, stay connected, and manage emotional sabotage), homeostasis, emotional fields, triangulation, over-functioning and under-functioning, the tendency of systems to get organized around the least mature members, problems of symptoms of the system, the five characteristics of chronically anxious systems (reactivity, displaced blame, herding, quick fix mentality, and lack of self-differentiated leadership).

As a colleague mentioned in reply to this question, being stuck on one or two “models” would be a mistake. On the other hand (I often disagree with myself lol), one could probably be very effective in most situations if they mastered one or two, just like most organizations if they stuck with one or two “solutions” and mastered them (TQM for example), would probably get great, reliable and consistent results). Alas, most organizations and the OD profession in general are caught up in Friedman’s quick fix mentality.

Nonetheless, integrating various models and applying situationally makes more sense to me and tickles my fancy more as well. I love cross-disciplinary thinking a la Kurt Lewin (and my father, Robert P. Crosby) and I love integrating models. So, besides Friedman, models I love and integrate together include:

The Interpersonal Gap by John Wallen

Sponsor Agent Target Advocate by Daryl Conner (as adapted by dad)

Action research by Kurt Lewin (as adapted by dad)

T-groups by Kurt Lewin (as adapted by dad)

Planned Change by Kurt Lewin (as adapted by dad)

Emotional Intelligence as popularized by Daniel Goleman

Decision Making Continuum by Tannenbaum and Schmidt (as adapted by dad)

Along with the fields of:








…from whence comes a tasty OD soup.

Posted in Change Management, Cross-Functional Work, Culture Change, Emotional Intelligence, Friedman, Gilmore Crosby, Groupdynamics, Leadership, Matrixed Work, Organization Development, Robert P Crosby, Systems Thinking, T-Groups | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment