Theory U for the Process Team

This document provides some detail on how Process Team Working Groups could use of Theory U as a framework for action.

Theory U and PT Working Groups

What can working groups “do” with Theory U? In general, Theory U can support each working group to:

    • Identify key questions or topics to explore
    • Conduct listening and learning journeys – everything from data collection to in-person retreats – to understand how those topics are functioning in the community at present
    • Engage in deep, open, preconception-free, generative conversation with the community
    • Identify and rapidly test ideas emerging out of those open conversations
    • Test, strengthen, and refine prototyped ideas into recommendations for widespread change

Each working group will adopt and benefit from Theory U differently, depending on its topics and its work up to this point. Theory U is about adapting and holding the work we are already doing into a broader flow that can lead to real change – not asking us to start over or discard anything.

Theory U Learning and Practice

To practice Theory U with the Shambhala community, many of us on the Process Team will need to learn its methodology in depth.

This learning is not really studying a new system of knowledge, like accounting. It’s more a form of applied practice: How can we bring awareness, inclusivity, and an open heart (and mind and will) to our conversations with the Shambhala community? How can we move those conversations into action, while not losing the sense of co-creation and deep listening?

In other words, our practicing Theory U together is a process of learning to apply Shambhala’s spiritual principles to social change.

We understand that not all of us will want or be able to learn Theory U extensively. This is fine: we have a diversity of roles and interests. The opportunity before us is to have a “critical mass” of people who are experienced in our core responsibility of conducting deep, open-hearted listening for social change.

Overall Rhythm “Down” and “Up” the U

The journey “down the U” (data collection, “listening journeys” that could take the form of informational interviews and in-person retreats, and so on) and “up the U” (piloting new ideas locally, taking on small-scale projects to demonstrate larger ideas, collecting data on and refining the new approaches, and finally making widespread recommendations) will take time.

We hope working groups can guide the community “down the U” on their particular topics beginning in September 2019, and “up the U” in the early part of next year. This aligns with practice opportunities that can help us engage together as a community. It may also help encourage regional retreats oriented around deep listening (in the fall) and prototyping (early 2020). And it gives our work an overall sense of rhythm and progression, which can help align expectations and action.

Of course, all working groups are doing different work and are in different places in their progress. Sequencing our work together in this way is not designed to limit or delay this progress. Rather, we hope to better support the working groups with a sense of overall planning and sequence.