Seasonal thoughts from the toolshed

>I wrote this message for participants in the RedQuadrant Way tool shed, and thought I might share it more widely<


Hello all

This is a little thought from the toolshed by way of season's greetings, as I have a chance of some reflective time. I think that an important part of understanding this practice we call consultancy, or change, or systems change, or whatever… is to understand the roots, and the history, and to listen to the elders. You'll find a lot of that in the toolshed, one way or another.

For years, I've been trying to find a piece I wanted from Marv Weisbord, which I thought was a reflection at the end of his long consulting career – which encompassed work in Bethlehem Steel, where FW Taylor undertook his famous experiments – and from which I vividly remember two quotes – one was 'let sleeping dogs lie' – don't discuss the undiscussable, and the other was a piece about a senior executive who was always disclosing his desire to retire. This was greeted positively by his team, and the consultants helped them work through implications and possibilities. Then they came back a year later – and there he was, still working, still talking about his plan to retire… soon.

I always thought this piece was 'Techniques to Match Our Values' – until I actually read it again 🙂

Thanks to my twitter network, I now know that I was really thinking of 'Let People Be Responsible'. Both pieces, and another one headlined 'Requiem for Bethlehem' are attached.

Techniques to match our values –

Requiem for Bethlehem –

Let people be responsible –

What I find fascinating is that 'let people be responsible' ​​is the piece I wanted, but isn’t quite the piece I ​​remembered. What I really want is a mashup of the history in Techniques to Match Values/Requiem for Bethlehem… and the ‘let sleeping dogs lie’ (not actually quoted in here – I was sure it was!) of this piece 😀

​It does contain some of the essence of that, though (and, btw, is co-written by Weisbord’s partner in business and life, Sandra Janoff). The quote I’m looking at is:

“Let People Hide Their “Hidden Agendas.”

“We never ask people what they are not saying. We see this as a form of subtle coercion that undermines a group’s willingness to accept responsibility. If people wish to conceal their “real” feelings or “real” data that is a choice they must live with. Their choice is, for us, the real data. In our philosophy, people have a right to hold back.”

You’ll hear a similar thing if you listen to these two reflective consultants, perhaps in their twilight years: Peter Block (episode 41) and Ed Schein (episode 49) on the Amiel Handelsman show –

​So, the Christmas message I have for you is this. Yes, there are many crises out there and in here, several of them existential. Yes, we can be forgiven a sense of urgency. And sometimes we need pace and drive and bravery and determination and even self-sacrifice. And, sometimes, an alternative is to let people live with their choices. To turn to our communities, to gifts, to ourselves, to care and gentleness. To let sleeping dogs lie. Allow yourself that that is a possibility.



​PS oh yes – and one of the original triggers for this is that Marvin Weisbord did retire. And he went back to one of his other careers, as a pianist – I got the below this month from the Future Search Network mailing list 🙂

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

We thought you would like to know what Marv is up to these days!

Not one to completely retire, he and his friend Alan Tripp have created theSenior Song Book – an album with Alan’s lyrics and Marvin’s music, with vocals by a few local FSN Members.

Marv says…. “ I never dreamed I’d be doing this in my old age, nor that I’d be having so much fun. Send my best to the FSN members, and wish them a happy seniorhood when they’re done hanging up flip charts.”

Click the “TV and Press” link on the home page for news and interviews with Marv and Alan. The Washington Post is running a feature on them soon, and PBS will film them this week!

Enjoy the website, download a few tunes and purchase the CD!


The inspirational story behind

The Senior Song Book™”


At age 99 Alan Tripp wrote a poem called Best Old Friends” to celebrate the many new friends he made a the Pennsylvania retirement community where he lives. As a gift for Alan’s 100th birthday, his younger friend and neighbor, 88 year-old Marvin Weisbord, set the poem to music. That was the spark that launched Senior Song Book with this dynamic songwriting duo, and inspired a whole community to sing, dance and perform along with them

Alan had long lamented that there was no new music being written for seniors, and he vowed to fill that void. He wrote many more lyrics, imagining how they would sound as show tunes and pop songs – from swing and tango to rumba and rock ‘n roll. Marvin, an accomplished jazz pianist, set the words to music and with his band, the Wynlyn Jazz Ensemble, performed the songs live for their enthusiastic neighbors, and fine-tuned each number to the “swing of the crowd.”

At age 102 Alan decided to take the now substantial collection of songs into the recording studio and produce an album.

The result is The Senior Song Book – music that will transport you back to the 1940s, with lyrics written in the 2020s.

Enjoy the website, download a few tunes and purchase the CD!

EDIT 2022-12-20 (since I can’t reply, not sure why)
Updated links for those two podcasts:

Episode 41: Peter Block On Ambition, Authenticity, And Community [The Amiel Show]

Episode 49: Ed Schein On Humble Consulting [The Amiel Show]