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Whole Systems Approach

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For More Information: Whole Systems,

To effectively weave multiple organizational initiatives into a well-designed, highly effective organization-wide change effort that creates employee engagement, buy-in, and results. 
Create a world of work where people and organizations thrive by streamlining work processes, creating shared meaning around work, and accelerating and substantially increasing results 

When to Use: 

  • A need to fundamentally change or transform is evident 
  • A new organizational focus is required 
  • Existing efforts require integration into a comprehensive whole 
  • Large-scale engagement/commitment of stakeholders is desired 

When Not to Use:
No top-level commitment, leadership, and full involvement 

Number of Participants: 
All organizational members and stakeholder constituency representatives 

Types of Participants:
Representatives from every stakeholder constituency and all employees 

Typical Duration:
  • Set the Stage: 3–12 months 
  • Change the Business: 12–18 months 
  • Transition: 6–12 months 
  • Run the Business: 6+ months 
  • Entire effort: 30–48 months 

Brief Example: 

Carlson Companies, Inc., a privately-owned, family enterprise, has more than 190,000 employees in 50+ countries providing services in travel, hospitality (hotels and cruises), marketing, and the restaurant industry. For more than 50 years, Carlson operated as a holding company with six distinct business units managing more than 16 brands. In 2003, Carlson leaders strategically chose to move from a holding company to an integrated operating company focused on the customer. The changes have been massive, far-reaching, and impact every area and system of the organization. Carlson has realized substantial business results. 

Historical Context: 

Developed in 1985 by Bill Adams and Cindy Adams, encompassing years of research and “day in and day out” work partnering with leaders and organizations to successfully realize their change goals.