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What is this module for

  • To reflect upon the experiences of what was working and not working in implementing person person-centred practices in the area of work and respective organisations.
  • To identity barriers and possibilities for successful organisational change and be able to develop action plans based on the aggregated learning from individual plans.
  • To understand the philosophy, values and tools of person-centred thinking and planning as a continuum in the light of service, networking and community competence and to understand the role of organisations.
  • To develop an understanding of the importance of a person-centred organisational culture and find practical ways of putting it into practice.
  • To be able to use person-centred tools within an organisational context to develop a person-centred organisation

What is it about

The final module of the “New Paths to Inclusion” Training Course in Person-centred thinking, planning and action focuses on the consequences of Person Centred Planning which should lead to organisational change. This requires taking a closer look at the strategic context of person-centred planning. It starts from the assumption that it has so far been a common weakness that person-centred planning was perceived as just a different kind of planning process that could be delivered in a vacuum without significant organisational change. If our focus is to achieve real positive differences in many people’s lives, than we must purposefully focus on building capacity or competence(s) on four different interrelated levels of change and actions over time, which mark the conditions for successful person-centred planning. These four levels are:

  • The individual level in increasing possibilities for change through person-centred planning and action
  • The organisational level in building capacity to learn from changing individual demands, to guide sustainable organisational change in ways that increase people`s ability to lead better and effectively control their lives.
  • The local or community level in aligning forces to develop capacity for social inclusion in opening mainstream services and building local social capital.
  • And the national level in developing policies that reflect the shared values and steps inherent in the UN-Convention of the rights of people with disabilities.

It is important to have these interlinked areas of change in mind, but the main focus in this module will be to focus on the organisational parts of change. Many available services for people with disabilities are and were not designed to provide tailored supports to people in valued roles in ordinary settings. There is an urgent need of a cultural change in the ways that services are comprised and delivered. The main aim of this module will be to take a closer look at these cultural issues that serve as a precondition for a mindful, successful and sustainable implementation of Person-centred planning that is sensitive to the philosophy and values underpinning these approaches.

How can the message be delivered

It can be of great added value to open the last module to a bigger audience and to intentionally invite those people in the organisation who hold the power to initiate and affect change. Thus the module starts off with an introductory round, for which NEULAND`s Emotioncards can be used. The participants are asked to choose one or more pictures that would serve as images for the framing questions for the introductory round:

  • How do I see the current situation in my organisation?
  • What is my vision for my organisation?
  • What is my role in the organisation?

Following the introduction the trainer introduces the concept of Comfort, Growth and Panic as a metaphor to understand the possible dynamics that arise in organisations when committing to change. With the help of the course participants all of the person-centred methods learned and practiced in the training course are being reviewed in the light of Service-, Networking and Community Competence to understand that all of the approaches are powerful at creating change but distinct in the place of change and the roles that classical organisations for disabled people play in this context. The participants are invited to share their stories and experiences in and out of organisational contexts, while the trainer records the learning.

As a group exercise the participants are asked to join in groups consisting of members of their organisations and to practice a Person-Centred Organisational Review focussing on ‘What was working and what was not working’ within their respective organisations when trying to implement person centred approaches. In this exercise the focus is not jet on developing an action plan but to start collecting as much information as possible.

The trainer then goes on to present and discuss some stories about organisations that have undergone organisational change efforts and to present empirical results about identified barriers and possibilities. Organisational culture is identified as the primary factor for success. As both theoretical and practical background the trainer then introduces Otto Scharmer`s Theory U and the concept of 'Presencing' (learning and leading from a visionary future) as a possible blueprint for a mindful approach to the implementation of person-centred approaches. Within this approach the trainer stresses a wide application of the concept of leadership, which applies to every person that is involved in some of the challenging tasks of assisting people to lead better lives. Among these leadership roles the importance of people with disabilities and parents who can act as role models are especially pointed at.

The first day ends with another group exercise in which the same groups use the '4 questions reflection' format to gather more information about their progress in achieving person-centred change in their organisations.
Alternatively if the group has so far not been introduced to the method of ’peer group supervision’ the trainer can choose to present the concept as a tool that fosters a supportive organisational culture and have the group practise the method in two-three small groups.

The second day starts of with an introduction and by the trainer into the 'Working together for change' process which provides a simple six stage methodology that uses person-centred information that is gathered within individual person centred review meetings to inform strategic planning understood here as the necessary change conditions to achieve actions steps to work towards solutions for the key question 'are individual plans and actions revealing organisational barriers and shortcomings as well as informing our practice in how we can be more successful in promoting individual and self-determined life styles in- and outside of our organisation?'.

The groups are then asked to join back into their groups to practise a slightly adapted version of this process. First the groups are asked to write all of the barriers they have indentified in the two exercises on the previous day on coloured cards and to try to cluster the information into similar themes. As the time only allows focusing on one or two issues the participants are asked to dot vote for what they see as the most challenging barriers. In a next step the group is asked to look at the chosen problem from the perspectives of their most important stake holder groups that are affected by it, f.e. users, parents, direct service workers, management, etc. and to try to formulate “I-statements” within these perspectives. From looking at the different statements the groups will see that, in most cases, the problem will appear in a different light from different perspectives. The group goes then on to concentrate on those perspectives that are most affected by the problem and to practise the ‘5 Why questioning technique’ to reach to the root of the problem. It proved to be helpful if one-or two members take charge of facilitating this step – as this technique requires close attention to really dig deeper at every point, as groups tend to navigate in a circular way always coming back to the first “I-statement”, f.e. “I don’t have enough time to do this”.

Once an agreement has been reached in the group that a root cause (that does not necessarily have to be after the fifth why question) has been identified, the group develops a “Success-Poster” asking “how would success look like if we had found solutions to overcome this problem?”. Again the groups are asked to produce “I-statements” from the perspectives of the stakeholder groups affected by it.

After coming back to the plenary the groups present their results and the trainer facilitates an intra group discussion.

All of the developed information is in the last step of the module taken into the process of Action Planning, for which the trainer introduces a slightly adapted version of the PATH process. In the last exercise the groups are asked to develop an Action Plan using the PATH process to plan concrete goals and corresponding action steps for the next year.

Tips for training

It has proofed as very effective within the Austrian course to actively invite managers and representatives from funding agencies to participate in this two day training, as this module really aims at developing concrete and accountable action steps and strategies toward change. Alternatively this module can also be offered as an In-house seminar for organisations who want to concentrate on their specific situation and to invite the main stakeholder groups. A prerequisite for this must be that some members of the organisation have attended the entire course (or at least the “Service” competence orientated modules of Person-Centred Thinking and Essential Lifestyle Planning including Person Centred Reviews) and have started practising it in their organisations.
Especially in the very intense group exercises in this module the role of the trainer is mainly as process facilitator moving from one group to the other. If there are participants in the course who do not work in the same organisations as the majority of the participants, they are invited to join in some of the other groups and either take the role of a critical friend and/or take charge and practise their facilitation skills.
When groups are developing the North Star within the organisational PATH it has proofed helpful to direct the group’s attention in the beginning away from the changes they want to achieve for their users and to try to focus on the environment and organisations they would like to be working in. Person centred culture can only thrive if everyone (and that includes first and foremost the people employed in these organisations) feels welcome and appreciated.

“You must become a change target before you can be a change agent”

Further references

AMADO, A. & MC BRIDE, M. (2002): Realigning Individual, Organisational and Systems Change: Lessons learned in 15 years of training about person centred planning and principles. In: HOLBURN, S. & VIETZE, P. (Hrsg.): Person-Centred Planning: Research, Practice and Future Directions. Baltimore: Paul Brookes Publishing, 361-378
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH (2010): Working together for change: using person-centred planning for commissioning. Online unter: 
HULGIN, K. (2004): Person centred services and organisational context: Taking Stock of working conditions and their impact. In: Mental Retardation, Vol. 42 (3), 169–180
ILES, K. (2003): Becoming a learning organisation: a precondition for person centred services to people with learning difficulties. In: Journal of Learning Disabilities, Vol. 7 (1), 65–77
JOHNSON, K. & WALMSLEY, J. (2010): People with intellectual disabilities. Towards a good life? Bristol: Policy Press
KENDRICK, M. (2000): When People matter more than Systems. Keynote Presentation for the Conference “The Promise Of Opportunity“, Albany, NY, March 27–28, 2000. Online: 
KILBANE, J. & MCLEAN, T. (2008): Exploring the history of person centred practice. In: THOMPSON, J.; KILBANE, J. & SANDERSON, H. (Hrsg.): Person Centred Practice for professionals. Berkshire: Open University Press, S.3-25
KOENIG, O. (2008): Persönliche Zukunftsplanung und Unterstützte Beschäftigung als Elemente in institutionellen Veränderungsprozessen. In: Behinderte Menschen Heft 5/2008, S.2-19
O`BRIEN, J. (1989): What’s worth working for: leadership for better quality human services. Responsive System Association. Online unter: 
O`BRIEN, J. & O`BRIEN, C.L.(2000). The Origins of person-centred planning. A community of practice perspective. Online unter: 
O’BRIEN, J. & TOWELL, D. (2003): Person Centred Planning in its strategic context: Towards a framework for reflection in action. London:    Centre for Inclusive Futures / Responsive Systems Associates. Online unter: 
O`BRIEN, J. (2006): Moving past the limits in person-centred planning. Responsive System Association. Online: 
QUINN, G. (2009): Bringing the UN-Convention on rights for persons with disabilities to life in Ireland. In: British Journal of Learning Disabilities, Vol. 37, 2009, H.4, 245-249.
ROBERTSON, J.; EMERSON, E.; HATTON, C. et . al (2007): Person centred planning: factors associates with successful outcomes for people with intellectual disabilities. In: Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, Vol.51 (3), 232–243
ROGAN, P. (2007): Moving from Segregation to Integration: Organisational Change Strategies and Outcomes. In: Wehman, P.; Inge, KJ., Grant Revell, W. & Brooke, V. (Hrsg.): Real Work for Real Pay: Inclusive Employment for People with Disabilities. Baltimore: Paul Brookes Publishing, 253–272
SCHÄDLER, J. (2002): Paradigmenwechsel in der Behindertenhilfe unter Bedingungen institutioneller Beharrlichkeit: Strukturelle Voraussetzungen der Implementation Offener Hilfen für Menschen mit geistiger Behinderung. Universität Siegen: Dissertation. Online: 
SCHARMER, O. (2009): Theory U: Learning from the future as it emerges. San Francisko: Berret-Koehler Publishers
SMULL, M.; BOURNE, M.L.; SANDERSON, H. (2009): Becoming a person centred system: a brief overview of what we are learning in the USA and UK. Online: 
VERMEYLEN, K. (2010), “Living at the boundary”* Growth circles & edgework as a model to facilitate experiential learning processes. Outward Bound® Belgium, Leuven, not published article.
WILLIAMS, R. & SANDERSON, H. (2010): What are we learning about person-centred organisations. Online:

Links - provides a range of theoretical and practical information as well as examples for person-centred organisational change