I still have more to learn from Ed Schein – a salute

Don’t panic!  Ed is alive and well, although soon to move from the east coast to west – riding off into the sunset as we see it here in Cambridge. I’m not going to try to be comprehensive in acknowledging Ed’s many contributions, particularly to organizational development and organizational learning.

Ed Schein

Ed Schein

For those of you less aware of the role Ed has played in defining what culture means in organizations, and how those of us who attempt to help can best engage in process consultation, I’m providing a link to a piece Ed wrote a few years ago in reflecting on his career for SoL’s journal, Reflections.

From Brainwashing to Organizational Therapy:
A Conceptual and Empirical Journey in Search of “Systemic” Health and a General Model of Change Dynamics – Drama in Five Acts
(click to download)

The title captures so much of what I appreciate about Ed which I’ll summarize in few key guiding ideas:

  1. Get out of your comfort zone – and integrate what you learn. Most of us tend to continue to do what we do well. We tend to associate with others like us.  However, it’s well documented  that using a wholly different lens makes the familiar richer, providing new insights about both theory and action. If one take this interdisciplinary journey, integrating the learning should be seen as part of our new work. Discerning the patterns in the seemingly unrelated and making sense of them requires a commitment to reflect.  (Ed was the advocate behind launching SoL’s journal, Reflections, and served as its editor for the first four volumes. He was a frequent contributor, modeling the way.)
  2. Theory and experience are iterative. Ed refers to his conceptual and empirical journey. If you’ve read this far, you probably have an interest in the theoretical.  Of course the challenge of favoring a theoretical approach is that we can always find plenty of data in support of our ideas. And yet, the world will also easily provide plenty of evidence that our ideas are incomplete at best.  What I love about Ed’s approach is that it always seems systemic without searching for the holy grail of a grand unified theory. I appreciate the encouragement to be perpetually curious about the complexity of human systems, expecting to be amazed but not quenched.
  3. Health is what we want to nurture, addressing pathology is secondary. Some therapists and consultant make their whole practice about identify and fixing what isn’t working.  After all, we usually don’t seek help if everything’s fine.  Still, we are most likely to put the weakness in context by evoking strengths and what is working.  When we can see the diversity in our organizations as a source to draw on, much more is possible.
  4. Bring your whole self to your work and help others do the same. From the standpoint of psychology, I think Ed would make the case that we really do bring the complexity of our history and relationships with us to work anyway!  If we use the premise about learning from outside your comfort zone and integrating these insights from a professional standpoint, why not use it from a personal standpoint as well?  Ed’s choice to tell his story in the form of a play is a small example of using his experience of the arts in reframing his professional work. We have more strengths and passions than we offer or elicit – another source of health and abundance.

I guess it should go without saying, but I’ll just summarize with this: Ed is a great model as life-long learner.  I was prompted to share this with you because Ed will be offering a 4-session on line seminar this fall (Oct 21, Nov 4, 18, Dec 9) hosted by The Presencing Institute.  It’s called: Process Consultation: Leading Change in a Multicultural Networked World.  How timely is that? I’m not going to let this rare opportunity pass by – I still have more to learn from Ed.

Click here for more information on the seminar.

A few of Ed’s classic contributions (in addition to the article above) include:

Schein, Edgar H. (2009) Helping: How to Offer, Give, and Receive Help, Berrett-Koehler, San Francisco, CA.
Schein, Edgar H. (2004): Organizational Culture and Leadership. 3rd Edition. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, CA.

Schein, Edgar H. (1999/2009): The Corporate Culture Survival Guide. Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, CA.

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2 Responses to I still have more to learn from Ed Schein – a salute

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention I still have more to learn from Ed Schein – a salute | Heaven & Earth Incorporated -- Topsy.com

  2. Kelvy Bird says:

    yeah! Jim Verzino forwarded your post to me, to delight. thanks for highlighting Ed’s contribution in such a succinct way. scribed for him this AM on healing, cultural islands, and multi-cultural teams – and his clarity in presentation and learning contexts is a gift indeed. a humble giant.

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