Food for a healthy organization


Collaboration is about people working together. Margaret Wheatley knows all about getting people to work together. I’m a big fan of her, her world view, and her wisdom. She is a leader in the systems thinking approach to organization development. I’ve read and listened to her, and find her ideas inspiring. Her book Finding Our Way is a good introduction to her ideas.

A key theme of her thinking is the paradigm of organization as a living system. Wheatley sees organization more as a process, less as a structure. Her ideas draw on theories of change, chaos, leadership, learning organizations, among others. With each new initiative, Wheatley advocates that an organization should:

  • involve everybody who cares
  • engage stakeholder creativity
  • depend on diversity
  • encourage diversity as the path to unity
  • expect to be surprised by people’s contributions

Her thinking is an authentic way to address complex issues and build collaborative solutions. She summarizes some key ideas in her ten Principles for Creating Healthy Community Change; principles which apply to organizations. Think of these principles as food for growing a healthy organization. See Wheatly talk about her principles at YouTube:

1. People support what they create
2. People act responsibly when they care
3. Through conversation we discover shared meaning
4. To change the conversation, change who is in it
5. Expect leadership to come from anywhere
6. Focus on what’s working and it releases energy
7. The wisdom resides within us
8. Everything is a failure in the middle
9. People can handle anything as long as we are together
10. Generosity, forgiveness and love are the most important

Her writings synthesize a new way to journey in these uncertain times. They ask us to:

  • give up the role of master creator and move into the dance of life
  • focus on the quality of relationships
  • find ways to do meaningful work together
  • have courage to change and create new ways of working together

What other principle(s) of healthy change do you serve up in your organization?

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Photo credit:: pinksherbet


  1. Food can be interpreted in a diversity of ways. As an eco spiritual designer who uses folk food, folk music and heritage seed in my project designs I think that ‘seed’ is the heart of local and community ‘food’. So few people think about seed and the power of seed to develop a diversity of relationships with plant, people and place.

  2. Sharon… Excellent point about the role of seeds as food and the role they can play in developing a diverse (i.e., healthy) environment. Thanks for sharing your view. Ben

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