3.2.1 Our Change from Within model®

Our Change from Within model is based on the Canvas for the Learning Organization. A holistic approach focussed on realizing changes on three levels at the same time: the organization, teams and individuals. Based on personal-, team- and organizational leadership. And leading to structural changes in your learning capacity, that is secured in your Learning Culture.

We will show you, step by step, how this model is developed. This will give you the necessary insight in how this model can work out in your practice.

The foundation of our Change from Within Model is based on this organizational learning model made by Peter Senge. It was published in The Systems Thinker – The Learning Organization: From Vision to Reality. 

  1. Generative order: It all starts with the 'reason of existence'. What value does the organization creates for society?
  2. Individual: There is no organizational learning without personal learning. So, in the domain of enduring change, individual staff members continually improve their skills and capabilities, based on their awareness and sensibilities and limited by their attitudes and beliefs.
  3. Organization: The organization is continuously working on innovations in the organizational architecture. Based on guiding ideas and supported by theories, methods and tools.
  4. Results: This proces of organizational learning leads to the organizational output; the products and services delivered to its customers.

This is what the basic model of the Learning Organization looks like in our Dutch SOL model. In the next steps we expand this model, based on new insights and learnings. 

We as the Society for Organizational Learning (SOL) see the organization as a living system that needs to be inspired. Simon Sinek delivered the Golden Circle theory where everything (should) start with asking the Why-question. 

See the Golden Circle methodology from Simon Sinek.

In our Learning Journey we focus ourselves on the HOW? => How to develop a Learning Culture?

The Individual is part of the Domain of Enduring Change. The learning capacity depends on Skills @ Capabilities, Awareness & Sensibilities and Attitudes & Beliefs.

The Organization is part of the Domain of Action. The learning capacity depends on Innovations in the Infrastructure, Theory, Methods & Tools and Guiding Ideas.

When we look at the interactions between individuals, teams and the organization we see formal and informal processes. This model based on this article is our inspiration for building our Canvas for the Learning Organization.

Teams are at the center of the Canvas of the Learning Organization. Team learning is vital because teams, not individuals, are the fundamental learning unit in modern organizations. 

Teams function in the Domain of Cooperation. With the focus on Experimentation (source of innovation) and Value Creation (source of income).

Formal and informal influence from the individual on teams and the organization is limited, leading to (natural) delays. But the same is true when we look at the internalization of ideas/measures etc. from the organization to teams and individuals. This also leads to (natural) delays.

The culture is what connects individuals, teams and the organization together. In this model of Peter Senge we see the importance of developing a Learning Culture for the organization.

In our canvas model we introduce the Learning Culture. What we see in practice is that natural delays in well developed learning cultures are much less. Often recognized as lean or agile organizations.

With a feedback system from the achieved results to the reason of existence, an ongoing process.

This is what the final Canvas for the Learning Organization looks like. Let's zoom in on the separate parts of the model.

Reason of existence

The reason of existence for an organization can only be found outside of the organization, in society. 

What is the added value of the products and services the organization produces? Is there sufficient distinctiveness for the long-term survival of the organization?

An important step for realizing a learning organization is the creation of a shared vision. According to Senge, a shared vision is essential to building a successful learning organization. A shared vision gives employees energy and focus. Senge believes that you learn best when you try to achieve things that are important to you.

A shared vision is what you and the other members want to create or achieve as part of the organization. A shared vision is not imposed by one or a few people as an organizational mandate. Rather, it is derived from the members of the organization, creating common interests and a sense of shared purpose for all organizational activities.

Learning Culture

To foster a more learning culture you have to realize changes on several levels at the same time. It sure is not enough only to invest in workshops and courses. It takes a systems approach to change a system. 

People need to feel and experience the difference. It is not enough to convince people with alarming facts, data and information, nor with solution-oriented applications/actions; people need to feel the urgency. It has to get personal; be internalized. Only when we experience that we are the system – that the system resides in us – can we change the system. A better world starts within ourselves!

  • Internalize & Operationalize: In these organizational processes there is a constant flow of information going from individual employees to collegeas, teams or the organization as a whole. This information/knowledge has to be internalized to make sense and to be of value to the organization.The other way around, information flows from the organization to teams/individuals that needs to be operationalized in practice to create additional value.
  • Natural delays: In this process of internalizing and operationalizing there are natural delays. It simply takes time to 'swallow and digest' the information.

Change from Within®: The stronger the learning culture, the better information/knowledge is developed and the faster this is internalized and operationalized! Leading to an increase of the structural learning capacity of an organization.


Personal mastery forms the base of all learning within organizations. If you want to change as an organization, it’s vital you can work with (intrinsic) motivated staff members. To make intrinsic motivated choices it’s important that these choices / changes are (see Daniel Pink);

  • meaningful => purpose,
  • that there is a sense of control => autonomy,
  • and that people have the confidence that they have the talents, skills and experience for it => mastery.

Change from Within®The power is in the middle. Professionals are intrinsically motivated when there is a balance between purpose, mastery and autonomy. It takes Learning Leadership to create and maintain a learning culture (see 3.3.2)!


“Teams, not individuals, are the fundamental unit of learning in modern organizations. This is where “rubber meets the road”; only if teams can learn can the organization learn.”

According to Peter Senge, team learning is a necessary discipline that an organization and its members must develop in order to build an effective learning organization.

With SOL we have good experiences with Learning Practice Teams (started by Evrim Calçavur of SOL Turkey). These Learning Practice Teams are deployed for setting up innovative projects or solving complex problems. 

The petals of our "Team flower" consist of the 5 disciplines for a learning organization (Peter Senge). In the team learning process these disciplines play a key role. We also call this the “Water Lily Model”. Water lilies are difficult to grow in a ditch. But, if one grows and blooms, in no time the entire ditch is full of blooming water lilies (multiply by dividing!). In this way we develop change from within!

Organizational change needs the backing of top management and the cooperation of staff. But the key succes factor is the care and support of operational / middle management!

Change from Within®The power is in the middle. Using all these five learning disciplines in a practical, recognizable and value creating way. The most important target group to realize team results are the teamleaders. It takes Learning Leadership to create and maintain a learning culture (see 3.3.3).


The highest goal of an organization is to become a living organization. A system that thrives on change. 

Such a system is based on TRUST, freedom and responsibility. Leading to a combination of hard results (financial, time to market, shareholder value etc.) and soft results (innovation, empowerment, agility etc.).

With the Learning Culture as a necessary foundation.

You can only develop TRUST if you can work in a meaningful working- and learning environment. It's all about facilitation!

Change from Within®: The power is in the middle. The most important target group for organizational change is Middle Management. It takes Learning Leadership to create and maintain a learning culture (see 3.3.4).


The last step brings us back to the beginning: Reason of existence.

A continuous reflection on our own functioning: Have we achieved what we wanted to achieve? In a way that we all stand behind? Do the results give cause to adjust the shared vision? Or are adjustments in the development process necessary?

The result of this Change from Within methodology is different for every organization. But extensive research by Bersin (interviews/research at 40.000 organizations) shows that organizations that are able to develop a learning culture are among the 6% best performing organizations worldwide!

Don't focus yourself on the learning itself (learning is a means, not a goal).  

Focus on the facilitation of learning. With the care, support and inspiration of Learning Leadership.

Patrick Bijman

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