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The 4 Quadrants of Change

Systemic change is exceedingly complex, and for any change effort to be successful it must address 4 quadrants of change. Studies show that when change efforts are unsuccessful it tends to be as a direct result of critical variables being ignored. It is often the more invisible, insidious,  quadrants of personal and cultural change are often ignored.

Quadrant 1:  individual/internal aspect of change. This is  the area of cognitive,  and psychological development. In this  quadrant leaders attend to the inner development of people, recognizing that no substantive change is possible without a prior change in consciousness.

Quadrant 2 : individual/external aspects of change. This is the domain of technical and interpersonal skills as well as the science (physiology/neurology/ psychology) of peak performance.  Leaders pay attention to skill development, motivation, and ensuring peak performance.

Quadrant 3: the collective/ internal aspects of change. ie., culture  This is the interior, (often hidden), assumptions and images that we share with others.  Leaders need to pay attention to the deeper meanings of symbols, purpose, vision and values-not so much as written, framed, statements, but, as the subtle messages encoded in our day-to-day interactions.

Quadrant 4: collective/external aspects of change, the social organization system.

Organizational design, technology workflow, policies, and procedures. System design  determines performance and that if we want to get the system to perform at a substantively higher level, we must design for it.


Each of these quadrants is related to all the others. Development of one quadrant is inextricably bound up with all the others, and ignoring one will undermine attempts at sustainable change. e.g.,

Culture stimulates (or impedes) individual development and vice versa.
Organizational structure shapes culture (and vice versa), which defines the  opportunities people have/take for self-expression and growth.
Consciousness shapes and guides the design of the system and vice versa.

Author: Bob Anderson – The Leadership Circle