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The mission of this e-publication is to be a practical guide to the application of an integral perspective to the challenges of leadership in business and life and to the effective relationship between executive/business coaches and their clients. My vision includes that this will be a place where others, as well as myself, can continue to develop and share ideas about Integral Leadership and integral coaching.
> Russ Volckmann
Bill Torbert and Associates, Action Inquiry: The Secret of Timely and Transforming Leadership, San Francisco: Barrett-Kohler Publishers, Inc., 2004
Summarizing a book is beyond the boundaries of this section. Mainly, I want to make you aware that this work provides and augments materials published in earlier and more difficult to find works by Bill Torbert and offers a strategy for development worthy of attention.
[For those who] have read my previous book (with Fisher and Rooke, Personal & Organizational Transformations)…although there is much that is different about the two books (the focus in the new book on triple loop learning, the orientation toward time and different meanings of timeliness, the exercises, new stories of different leaders, a scientific appendix, and this whole book shorter and more reader-friendly), it is also true that 50% of the material is the same or only slightly edited.
If you are not familiar with Torbert’s work here is a place to start. His use of the action-logics of Susann Cook-Greuter’s Leadership Development Profile is couple with attention to use action inquiry as an ongoing learning process for individuals and organizations.
The middle portions of the book address the action-logics in the individual – Opportunist and Diplomat, Expert and Achiever, Individualist and Strategist, and Alchemist (Magician…) – and provides exercises for enhancing our capacities at each level and moving to building strength at higher levels.
In looking at organizations, Torbert and Associates show us how to recognize the levels of development of the organization and suggest strategies for addressing these as consultants. A process of collaborative inquiry is described for application in these contexts.
Action inquiry is a process for using single-, double- and triple-loop feedback in a learning process. Single relates to the relationships between our goals, our behavior and our results. Double relates to the examination of goals and strategies for improving effectiveness. Triple uses our own ongoing awareness to examine our experience and “the legitimacy and integrity of our actions.”
These relate to four territories of experience: visioning, strategizing, performing and assessing. While this is not explored in the book it would be interesting to compare Mark Edwards’ Cycle of Knowledge Creation to this model.
Tobert, more than most others, focuses his work on individual and collective dynamics. Levels of development pertain not just to individuals, but to social systems, as well. Consequently, one might expect a comparison of this work with integral models. That will not be found here.
I asked Bill if he thought it would require a higher level of development for people to actually use the exercises he offers in the book. He wrote:
I think you are right that virtually no one who is not already at least an Achiever with a secret yen to move on to Individualist will engage in disciplined, prolonged practice of the exercises on his or her own. Like P&OT this book is really a curriculum (but I think a more accessible one) to be used by consultants, executive coaches, and teachers in interplay with working groups, communities of practice, etc., which is why we keep emphasizing the importance of creating such groups right up to the final paragraph. Paradoxically, I also think the exercises are valuable even if readers don’t do them. They make it clearer what the scale of the challenge of practicing these ideas is and that you cannot claim mastery of this theory unless you take on the challenge of practicing it.
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- Russ Volckmann, PhD, Coaching Leaders in Business and Life
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