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Bernd Schmid (Ed.): Systemic organizational development

Bernd Schmid (Ed.): Systemic organizational development. Shaping organizational culture and change together. Schäffer-Poeschel Verlag für Wirtschaft · Taxes · Law GmbH (Stuttgart) 2014. 278 pages. ISBN 978-3-7910-3281-8. D: 49.95 EUR, A: 51.40 EUR, CH: 67.00 sFr.

Row: systemic management.
Research at DNBKVKGVK

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“How do you manage to anchor changes in companies in the long term? How do all employees become active designers? By not simply implementing changes from the outside, but by getting everyone on board to give the organization a new direction that corresponds to both the company and the people who work in it. This is what systemic organizational development achieves: an understanding of what is important in the organization that has arisen through experience and is anchored in action. The author illuminates the relevant fundamentals, methods and working methods and illustrates them with case studies from well-known companies. The book provides consultants, coaches, trainers, but also internal personnel developers, organizational developers and executives with a powerful methodological basis and exemplary procedures for complex organizational development projects. "(Blurb)

Editors and Authors

Dr. Bernd Schmid is the founder and leading figure of the Institute for Systemic Consulting (isb) in Wiesloch. The publisher introduces him as honorary chairman of the executive committee of the German Federal Association of Coaching DBVC, as an honorary member of the Systemic Society SG and as a prize winner of international societies and as one of the pioneers of systemic approaches. Numerous publications (books, audios, videos) on the topic. Bernd Schmid is the 2014 winner of the "Life Achievement Awards", among others. awarded by the umbrella association of further training organizations.

Almost all of the authors represented in the book are teaching trainers or otherwise associated with the isb Wiesloch.


The book has three parts.

Part 1: OE as the development of human systems

1. The ISB approach to organizational development (Author: Bernd Schmid). In the first section, five positions of the Institute for Systemic Consulting are presented in an overview and then explained. The core idea of ​​these positions: Organizational development (OE) must not start with the content, but must primarily focus on the learning culture of the organization. The main themes for this are:

  • What pictures of OE are there?
  • Which skills acquisition is focused (roles, structures, processes ...)?
  • Service is service (subject: the "being together" in an organization)
  • Development of the essence of organizations
  • Proven isb concepts and principles (e.g. framework clarifications and contracts, realistically timed and prudent approach, crystallizing approach and trial staging, multipliable system, complexity-controlling approach, approach that minimizes transfer problems, etc.)
  • Secure cultural principles in all sub-processes
  • Dialogic and exemplary approach (dialogue between managers as a "community of responsibility")
  • Vertical team development
  • Workshops as a medium for OE learning

These topics are all dealt with very briefly (pp. 7 to 23).

2. Maturity levels of professionals and organizations (Author: Bernd Schmid). The topic of this chapter is presented on page 27 as follows: “Unrealistic projects in particular are often dictated by unreflected ambitions or fears. Critical appraisals can cause insults or even despair. (...) A realistic assessment of the degree of maturity of the organization, the environment and the important individuals is actually the prerequisite for avoiding harmful risks and leading meaningful projects to success. "(P. 27)

To determine the degree of maturity, a "Practical box for maturity assessment" is presented (p. 29/30). The chapter ends on p. 33 with the topic “Didactic challenge in dealing with maturity levels” and an “orchestral metaphor”.

3. How and for what purpose should culture be designed? (Author: Bernd Schmid). "Design the beginnings!" Is the programmatic motto here and begins with a practical example of cultural change, in which an (internal) manager drives a workshop against the wall with systemic questions, while the (external) consultant cleverly saves the process.

We get to know the isb understanding of culture ("Culture is a collective term for how reality is consciously and unconsciously, habitually or creatively shaped together.", P. 38), learn something about the isb slogan ("Ultimately, culture arises through culture and Examples go to school ", p. 39), about" Cultural development as a medium of organizational development ", while then unexpectedly and somewhat across the line, the chapter" Culture becomes hip "(sub-chapter: professional cultures, association culture and entrepreneurship, learning cultures, the isb learning culture) is inserted. It also follows very briefly: system intelligence and culture, international cultural encounters as well as personality and culture. The chapter ends with the beautiful "Wiesloch competence formula": personal competence in the job = role competence times contextual competence times sense / fit. The reader is on p. 49.

4. OE-KE-related coaching (Authors: Marc Minor and Bernd Schmid). After the staccato of the first 50 pages, the concept of embedding coaching in organizational projects is presented in more detail. It is an exciting chapter that deals with the “level of maturity of team players” and “derives consequences for the project and measures for organizational learning” (p. 54). In this form of coaching, which is not entirely unproblematic, each player develops "his / her maturity profile in relation to the project" (p. 55), with the participants openly discussing how the more competent players can support the less competent. If you don't like that, you can of course leave it alone. But: "Those who do not want to take part in the scanning cannot perform an essential function either, that is, they belong to the pool of those who perform essential design roles." (P. 55) This is probably to understand what the authors of "voluntary compulsory coaching" mean. name (p. 52).

Part 2: OE practice today and tomorrow

1. Organizational development today (Author: Markus Schwemmle). Markus Schwemmle OE once again tackles fundamentally: “What does organizational development want?” he asks himself and us and works out central problem areas of OE. On the one hand there is the "handling of complexity in organizational development", which can lead to two extremes: Either you answer the complexity by trying to grasp everything and overwhelm yourself (and others), or you simplify ("simplify") which leads to under-complex solutions. His solution: "It is then probably about the good choice of effective perspectives and the honesty of the consultant not to convey in his appearance that every heuristic is the perfect truth." (P. 64) With the "triangle of organizational development" becomes a “Classics” of the OE briefly lecture, while the chapter “Campaigns” deals with change through rousing staging and cultural development through missionary work in the organization. In the section on “multiplier-based approaches”, inter alia, touched on the following topics:

  • Convinced key people help others (question of the effect of multipliers)
  • Tension between line organization and change organization (parallel organization by change agents)
  • Multipliers as standardized changers
  • Change in the pyramid scheme

The section "Change by Consulting - I'll tell you how it works better" deals with a number of "misunderstandings" (e.g. "It works without personal qualification", "Those who do not participate will be replaced", "Done without implementation", “Rescue dynamics in the event of a crisis”). The article contains twelve more chapters on the next ten pages (change by toolbox, tool factories flood the organization, fallacy of speed through central action, specifications of financial indicators, Kotter's 8-step change model, an example of trial and error, specifications of new skills / abilities / skills, competence management controls the skills of the employees, introduction of competence management in large corporations, specifications of new structures, restructuring, merging of units or organization).

2. Heuristics of experienced organizational developers (Author: Markus Schwemmle). This chapter deals with "heuristics", by which the author means "procedural moments, mental models or maps", "which in their own way do not meet scientific criteria (...), but are above all practical and effective." (P. 87). To this end, three interviews will be conducted: with Rudi Wimmer - Leadership Task Fields, Alexander Exner - Corporate (self) control, and Marianne Grobner - Applied Organizational Development.

3. OE and KE learning (Author: Bernd Schmid). KE means cultural development. "This chapter describes some forms of work for the learning associated with every OE project." (P. 119) Following the frequent references to the isb procedures in the first chapter, some specific methods are presented:

  • Design OE workshop
  • Exercises levels of maturity

This is followed by further sections, which are headed "Clarification of competencies and matching dialogues", "Responsibility dialogues", "Compare understanding of reality", "Reflection and inner images", "Role agreement and role security", "Integration-oriented professionalization".

4. Internal workshop OE-KE learning - responsibility dialogues (Author: Irmina Zunker). The author is a teaching trainer at isb and describes the “learning philosophy” of isb Wiesloch. She makes this clear using the practical example of an "internal OE learning workshop".

5. Coaching-based organizational culture development (Author: Marc Minor). Here is a very clear example of an OE measure from the company's inquiry to the start-up workshop and the one-to-one interview with the managing directors in the plenary session to the conclusion from the workshop. This example clearly shows the modes of action that the author calls "Responsibility Dialog".

6. Cultural development complex and concrete - from the practice of a global medium-sized company (Author: Volker Köhninger). The author's question is: “How can large-scale cultural development be visibly successful in a company with 10,000 employees? (…) Which advisory skills and concepts are required to initiate and successfully support a KE that is set up for years? ”(P. 163) The author describes the course of the project. The individual stages of the project presentation:

  • The customer
  • Our entry into the customer company
  • A vision should be "proclaimed"
  • A dialogical large group event
  • Order to change culture
  • Our core competence: architecture and design work
  • Phase 1: Culture survey with pictures
  • Phase 2: Definition of a target culture
  • Phase 3: Implementation of the target culture

Part 3: Further considerations

1. On the subject of the system (Author: Bernd Schmid). “This chapter distinguishes between system and systemic and different understandings of system (sic!). This requires a meta-viewing that brings the viewer into the picture. ”(P. 193) Here a somewhat idiosyncratic definition of“ system ”is presented (“ system is not a thing in itself, but a thing from the viewer's point of view ”, p . 193).

This is followed by explanations of the topics "system and environment" as well as three types of system descriptions (structural system, functional systems, human systems).

In the section “System Understandings and OE Approaches” there is the concise sentence: “And since new cultural components only become self-supporting and effective when people feel that their understanding of meaning and culture is addressed, this belongs in the field of vision. As in chap. 4 already explained, culture is only stabilized if it is mutually activated and practiced in a variety of ways. It therefore makes sense if this is practiced in OE and KE with the actors and first with the key figures. "(P. 197)

2. How many people? How much organization? - the two perspectives at the OE (Author: Bernd Schmid). This article answers the question of whether OE should look at people from an organizational perspective or organizations from a human perspective.

As a "contribution to a scientific discourse" the author describes a letter that he wrote to an organizational consultant friend after his lecture with discussion.

3. OE or change management? (Author: Bernd Schmid). "In this chapter the terms organizational development and change management are examined for their word meaning and differentiated from each other." (P. 209)

The style of this article can be seen in the structure:

  1. What it's about (p. 209)
  2. Meta-considerations (p. 210)
  3. Organizational development (p. 212)
    1. Organization (p. 212)
    2. Development (p. 212)
    3. Organizational development (p. 212)
  4. Change management (p. 213)
    1. Change (p. 213)
    2. Management (p. 213)
    3. Change management (p. 214)
  5. Change management or OE? (P. 214)
  6. Mind games based on a metaphorical example (p. 215)

4. The elastic organization (Author: Dagmar Wötzel). After clarifying the initial situation and suspected factors for widespread failure, success criteria for strategic projects are named. The actual thesis of the contribution (“elasticity as a strategic goal”) is now being developed. "Elasticity" is about the adaptability of an organization that "can successfully create its routine and also deal well with self-generated or externally demanded innovations or disruptions." (P. 222) Factors for an elastic organization are named as well as those Dimensions for elasticity development (reward system, implementation, maintenance of an "elastic" culture, cooperation and trust, elasticity curator). The article is didactically relaxed with a fictitious case study that runs through the entire text.

5. The healthy organization (Author: Thorsten Veith). “When it comes to the development of organizations as human systems, organizations as humane working environments come into focus. Especially today, when the phenomena of burnout, internal resignation and the increase in mental illness are present on the front pages of the mass media and as a topic of public discussion, the question of disease-causing and especially health-promoting conditions for healthy work and performance arises anew. "(P. 233) This chapter deals with the connection between organization and health, but also between salutogenesis and pathogenesis within an organization. Health is perceived as a system quality and the role of managers as cultural protagonists is emphasized.

Since - according to the general thesis of the book - a certain “degree of maturity” is necessary for everything, the degree of maturity is also examined here. In the sections “Working with Maturity Levels on the Subject of Health - A Diagnostic and Resource Model” and “Maturity Level Dimensions on Health”, a questionnaire is offered to record the maturity levels of the organization (institutional development) and the person (personal-professional development) .

6. The networked organization (Authors: Martin Lindner and Lutz Berger). Based on what the authors (according to the list of persons, incidentally, the only two who have nothing to do with isb Wiesloch) call "digital climate change", they describe the upheavals caused by digitization. It sounds like this: “And so we write this essay together on an Etherpad, a website on which you can write and edit texts together in real time. The concept was developed in Skype audio conferences, supplemented by chat and Google. Lutz also posts videos on his YouTube channel, which has now reached a million views. Martin discusses the synopsis of a book (...) with his network community of the same name on Google+, which has reached over 1000 members in just a few months. And at the same time, both of them follow the Twitter short messages from their network, where every day hundreds of impulses (sic) and signs of life flash up from tens of (sic) different people who are usually connected by nothing but common topics, interests and tones. "(P. 247)

(The reviewer feels very lonely right now, so alone in front of his ancient PC without Skype, Twitter, blog and without any community flashing ...).

The consequences for the OE: from archive to river, from line organization to networked organization, “on the way to network organization”.

7. Appendix: Final reports isb curricula


In the course of the many years in which the reviewer processed texts professionally, two types of books worth reading have emerged: On the one hand, there are scientifically sound basic texts whose strength lies in the fact that they summarize the state of knowledge of a subject with scientific expertise. On the other hand, there are well-made practical books that cheerfully report on their own experience and invite the reader to take a look at the author's "workshop". The reviewer took a liking to both types. How is this book to be classified? In any case, it is not a scientific work, and it probably doesn't want to be either. Of the eight pages of bibliography, four pages are only works by the editor, which on the one hand indicates that he publishes an incredible amount and diligently, on the other hand it shows that at least in this book, no great emphasis is placed on “external reference”. This finding is also supported by the fact that theses are mostly justified with empirical knowledge from isb Wiesloch, not with scientifically proven knowledge. The first part in particular speaks of “tried and tested isb approaches”, isb principles, isb slogans, isb curricula, etc., and the reader is referred to the publisher's publications. The reader of this book eludes whether scientific sources are processed there (but our review can only deal with this). Anyone who mainly refers to himself and at the same time names the few studies that have been evaluated (e.g. Ernst & Young, p. 69) but does not cite where the source can be found does not seem primarily interested in a scientific discourse. He is sure of his cause even without external reference, in positive terms: he obviously has a reliable knowledge of experience.

So a practice book? Yes, at least in the second and partly in the third part, we are allowed to take a look into the “kitchen” of the organizational consultant. The second part of the book is certainly its "have side", the reviewer found the article by particularly good Marc Minorwho was able to characterize the practice of OE very well using a case study; also Bernd Schmid uses practical examples to show his “OE workshop” in a very concrete and clear manner. What is meant by “practical tools that can be used immediately” (advertising text from the publisher) cannot really be made out. But since we are skeptical about the author's “tool factories” Markus Schwemmle Understand well (“A fool with a tool is still a fool”), that seems justifiable (why the publisher puts “tools” at the center of advertising is not apparent from the content of the book). But even without many tools, a number of certainly usable practical methods are presented, in particular the common philosophy of organizational change through cultural change in the practice-oriented chapters is very easy to understand. Authentic experiences are certainly just as valuable for the practitioner as some theory.

What stands out is the constant reference to the isb Wiesloch. As a reader of Volker Köhninger has learned that one can also express thoughts in metaphors and images, try that here: To the reviewer it sometimes seems as if the book is a kind of family get-together, where the "father" (called "leading figure") abundant of his own Experience speaks and this is packaged in graphics that are suitable for flipcharts and a successful motto ("Step on the gas is only recommended if the track is right ...", p. 17). The "children" (called "teaching trainers") tell their own stories and show that they are connected to the spirit of the family. Therefore it is not necessary to present the individual theories in detail, because in the "family" allusions are sufficient and everyone knows about it. As a non-“member of the family” you are left out, and as an interested reader you would like to have fewer headlines and more backgrounds, especially in the first part.

In the very constructivist sense, one last comment should be allowed: The reviewer is a scientist, and as such he misses the external reference, which is only rudimentarily available (e.g. in the article by Veith, which seems scientifically well connected), the three interviews according to the heuristics are an attempt (albeit a very "tame") attempt for which one is grateful in this book. You are also happy about the fresh and unconventional way of writing Lindner / Bergerwhose world one stands in amazement. With the help of external reference, with the after Luhmann one's own system can be "irritated" (and thus changed), the question could also be clarified what is "systemic" about this approach if practitioners, as is known on the first page, only deal with "mental dislocation" ( P. 1) can think like Luhmann. If “systemic” is not just used as an advertising icon, as is currently the inflationary norm, or if you want to garnish your own ideas with a good label, you just need them, the good old theory. You have to explain what the "scientific community" thinks about it, delimit your own position from it or integrate it into what others have already written on this topic - at least that's what the reviewer would like.


People like to pick up the book because it is well equipped: practical examples are placed in boxes, practical exercises are optically and graphically good, the illustrations are attractively designed. You would still want an index, but you can't have everything.


We are dealing with an extremely practice-oriented specialist book that is recommended to those who are interested in organizational development under the special aspect of cultural development.

Review by
Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Klug
Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt
Faculty of Social Work
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Suggested citation
Wolfgang Klug. Review from 13.05.2014 to: Bernd Schmid (Hrsg.): Systemische Organizationsentwicklung. Shaping organizational culture and change together. Schäffer-Poeschel Verlag für Wirtschaft · Taxes · Law GmbH (Stuttgart) 2014. ISBN 978-3-7910-3281-8. In: socialnet reviews, ISSN 2190-9245, https://www.socialnet.de/rezensions/16709.php, date of access May 23, 2021.

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