A corporation can be viewed as a network of communities with interlocking membership and fuzzy boundaries or edges. A community is clearly identifiable at its core but, as members become more peripheral, it becomes less clear if they are included or not.
The communities of a corporation are communities of practice, of interest, of proximity, etc. These communities tend to be forces of preservation and persistence of what is.
Corporate change occurs when a community of intent emerges which is focused on and forms around an intention to change.
The intention for a change, combined with new information and commitment, has sufficient energy to move a corporation. While a change effort may begin from a single individual, more usually it will emerge from a dialogue between a number who see greater possibility and begin to focus attention on that.
Until a community of intent emerges from such dialogue, no significant and sustained change effort will occur. A community of intent requires that its members’ attention and intention be primarily focused on a change in such a way that a larger community develops and continues to attract others.
It is the interlocking, overlapping, fuzzy-edged nature of communities which allows continual expansion throughout a corporation. Individuals need not give up membership in other communities – except communities of complaint – to participate and become members of a community of intent. In fact, to be a successful new community, members need to retain active, visible membership in their old communities.
When the community of intent predominates in the other existing communities, then corporate transformation is merely a matter of time – and probably not much time compared to normal expectations of the corporation in which it is occurring.
A chemical plant, part of a conglomerate, increased throughput by 50% in two years by the creation of a large community of intent created a few facilitated gatherings and some support structures. Customers and suppliers asked why they hadn’t been notified of such a major planned expansion, as though it had been a normal capital investment program. Few believed that mere culture change efforts could accomplish such a result. But they did!