The (Re)defining of Groundwork

“Just as every good farmer focuses all his attention on sustaining and enhancing the quality of the soil, every good organisational leader focuses all her attention on sustaining and enhancing the quality of the social field that she is responsible for. For they know that the quality of the field determines the quality of the yield.”

Otto Scharmer

What is the DNA of great organising and collaborating? We usually recognise it and appreciate it when we experience it but how often do we consciously plan for it or take the time to reflect on what it was that made it work so well?

It’s common sense that conscious preparation enhances performance but it’s often unclear what this means in an organisational context, particularly if we’re working within the realms of complexity and change.

Over the last 4-5 years we have been exploring these questions as part of our work around preparing the ground for effective organisation, powerful collaboration and meaningful results. It seems self-evident, but what we are learning is that building and maintaining solid foundations to support us and strengthen our shared work is absolutely fundamental. It’s not a box to be ticked and then move on. It’s an ongoing practice and we call it Groundwork.

Groundwork is applicable to groups, teams and organisations of any size and context, but it is also relevant for each of us as individuals. The importance of inner Groundwork is widely acknowledged these days given its impact on how we show up and work with others.

An awareness of these foundations and what they enable allows us to work more consciously with them to create conditions in which people feel they matter and belong, and through which meaningful results can manifest.

In the last 12 months, we have begun inviting others to share and explore Groundwork with us through workshops in Copenhagen, Brisbane and Halifax. These events have all generated considerable interest and excitement, as well as being really helpful and meaningful to people who attended.

These workshops offer a space for exploring Groundwork through a simple framework for organising and collaborating effectively. The framework consists of six foundations which apply to any collaborative endeavour.


Need and Purpose Foundation

What is the current need that wants to be addressed?
What is the purpose (or future possibility) that we are working towards?

Cultural Foundation

Who are we, and how are we working/being together?

Strategic Foundation

Where are we going and how will we get there?

Structural Foundation

What structures are needed and how will we organise ourselves within them?

Practical Foundation

What actions are required and how do we execute them skilfully?

Economic Foundation

What resources are we drawing on and how are we using them?

Working with this simple framework creates real value for teams, project managers, leaders, managers, social entrepreneurs and consultants who want to bring more clarity, alignment and meaning to their work. It includes exploring or clarifying mindsets, values and principles, as well as some of the practices, tools and resources that can support effective organising and powerful collaboration.

Participants (both individuals and teams) focus on an actual project – something they are currently or soon to be working on. The only criteria is that the project involves some form of collaboration, but let’s be honest, it’s hard to think of a project that doesn’t.
During the workshops participants get a fresh look at their project through the Groundwork perspective while receiving input, feedback and coaching on their work from peers. The beauty of these workshops is that they allow teams to focus on what is most relevant for supporting them and their project.

If you’re curious to learn more about Groundwork practice there is a Groundwork training coming up soon in Copenhagen from 8-10 June.
We’d love to hear your thoughts on this work and how we can make it even more relevant, applicable and accessible. And of course we’d be grateful if you would share it with anyone you know who might find it useful.

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