History and Philosophy

The quality of management is the number one factor in success or failure of organizational improvement efforts. The System Effectiveness Management program is a multi-year training program designed to raise the quality level of the best leaders.

Starting in 1994, each year’s “class” has been composed of up to 16 leaders, from a number of different organizations, willing to share experiences. The class is led by Jerry Weinberg with the assistance of graduates of previous classes.

A class meets face-to-face for four weekend workshops during the year. Between workshops, the members of the class work on assignments that apply learnings on the job, and remain in constant contact through an electronic mail group and other media to share consulting, support, feedback, and problem solving.

After the entry year, the class joins the larger SEM community, consisting of all previous classes. They become eligible for other evens such as the SEM Writers Workshop, all-SEM meetings, geographic SEM communities, and SEM family camp.


Members of each SEM class are graduates of both PSL and the Change Shop, giving the class a large common vocabulary and set of models. Each member must be willing to commit for a minimum of one year.

Jerry Weinberg selects the class to maximize learning from group diversity. Members come from a variety of highly skilled contexts, such as, software, hardware, organizational development, testing, medicine, consulting, education, and quality assurance.

What Topics are Covered?

In order to understand and improve system effectiveness, organizations are going to have to understand and improve the intellectual and emotional functioning of managers and other leaders.

Organizations need congruent leaders who possess three essential abilities:

• to take in information about actual and desired performance
• to process that information congruently

• to act in an appropriate manner

In short, organizations need leaders whose personal effectiveness will bring together all components of system effectiveness management.

Shared Experiences

Some of a leader’s personal effectiveness comes from training and experience&emdash;feedback from past contexts&emdash;and some of it comes from the ability to take in what’s happening in the present context. But life is short, and one’s direct personal experiences are necessarily limited. SEM accelerates the process of learning through experience by sharing the experiences of many outstanding leaders, under the direction of a facilitator with over 40 years of experience in developing change artists. According to one member, one year in SEM is “worth five years of on-the-job-experience.”

Real Work Issues

Even more personal effectiveness comes from one’s experiences as a human being functioning in the world. These experiences are shared in each class, using behavior models based on the work of Virginia Satir and others. Each participant learns how to sort personal issues from work issues, and how to use unique personal strengths in solving the tough interpersonal and systemic problems of organizational leadership.

The Private Electronic Forum

A private forum is established for class members. This forum enables universal exchange of electronic mail, either private between class members or shared by the entire class. It is also used for processing homework and shared readings. In addition, members of any class can share questions and experiences with the entire SEM community.

Supervised Homework

On-the-job assignments are given to each class member (or team from a single organization) to complete between workshops. Regular reporting and feedback about these assignments takes place over the forum.


The four weekend workshop meetings in New Mexico form the backbone of the class. Workshops take place in February, April, June, and August. They start on Thursday evening and run through Sunday afternoon, with an extra day on Monday for those who can stay over.

Workshops concentrate on experiential learning tied to real situations brought by each participant from the work context. There are simulations, problem solving, and review of plans and situations brought by participants.

After the entry year, each member becomes part of the permanent SEM community, and the class designs its own ongoing programs.

Some Typical SEM Activities

* Personal case studies on influencing: bring a short, written description of a time that you were successful at influencing and another where you were unsuccessful

* Personal case studies on bringing two organizations together: bring a short, written description of an experience you’ve had in bringing two organizations with different cultures and geographies together

* Transition ideas and methods: bring ideas on exercises you would like to lead or participate in to transition the group into and out of our sessions

* Comfort artifacts: bring something – a physical object – with you that gives you comfort and strength

Informal Gathering and Dinner
Checking in
Sharing what we learned
Schedule introduced and finalized

Discuss experience with influencing people
Stretch Module preparation

Stretch Module
Experiences with bringing two organizations together

Musical Recital

What is centering?
What we think want from centering
Discussion on capturing SEM Knowledge

Parts Party
Family rules and transformations

Potluck BBQ and Beverage Tasting

Planning for next session
Role Clarification
Transition methods

Group hike

Ad hoc time


Ad Hoc Time for those remaining:
alone time, personal processing time
small group sessions on any of the unscheduled topics
small group sessions to continue some of the scheduled topics
interaction with Nature
interaction with Albuquerque and other towns