A Bit About BillContents
- The Exxon Odyssey
- Sabbatical #1 and the ICOD Adventure
- Sabbatical #2 - A Deep Dive
- Groundhog Week and Finding New Paths
- Sabbatical #3 - Let Our Infinite Games Begin
Born and raised in the Mid-West, I received engineering degrees from the University of Missouri and then spent 33 years with Exxon engaged in three very different careers. The first involved a variety of engineering and management assignments. The second focused on computer planning systems where my specialty was creating mathematical models of Exxon's domestic refineries.
It was my third career within Exxon that really began to stir my juices. I pioneered the work of organizational design and change in Exxon USA, in Exxon Enterprises, and in Esso Nederland. During this third career I had the opportunity:
- To guide a major organizational renewal initiative at Exxon's flagship Baytown, Texas refinery.
- To initiate a highly successful innovative organization design for Zilog's Nampa, Idaho microprocessor plant.
- To serve as lead consultant for the redesign of the Rotterdam Refinery organization.
After leaving Exxon in 1985 I dedicated two years to a personal inquiry into the question:
Who has been successful in transforming large organizations, and what methodologies have best supported those efforts?
In this pioneering inquiry I interviewed 130 practitioners and corporate leaders and reviewed the change initiatives of 30 companies. This opened me up to a number of powerful "technologies of transformation" that had previously been outside of my field of vision. I was struck by the lack of cross-fertilization among obviously complementary technologies. It was as if each "guru" was sitting on top of his own mountain surrounded by devotees convinced they each had THE answer. It was also significant that no institution of learning, no corporation or government was addressing those inquiry questions.
Then, as an external consultant, I initially worked primarily with Canadian corporations. These started at plants but escalated into corporate level initiatives, including a "breakthrough" corporate merger. The size of these initiatives enabled me to bring together top notch professionals representing the most potent of the change technologies uncovered during the inquiry and to further learn their strengths and limitations.
In early 1990 I founded ICOD, The International Center for Organization Design. During '90 and '91 we conducted four international conferences designed to bridge between the various "technologies of transformation"—to demonstrate the potential for creative collaboration among those who guide the transformation of large systems.
In 1991, ICOD initiated a nine month "Gamma Learning Expedition," a pioneering, international seven-company commitment to creative collaboration. This initiative brought together change strategy teams from these seven companies as well as a core collection of bridge-building practitioners representing importantly different technologies of transformation.
Sabbatical #2 - A Deep Dive
The ICOD adventure was a success on many levels but turned out not to be financially sustainable. I moved from that enormously demanding period into a 3-year sabbatical where I focused primarily on inner work—a healing and 'wholing' process. I dove deeply into both therapeutic and spiritual realms. This was an enormously rewarding and growthful commitment, with huge implications for all aspects of my life. Near the end of that sabbatical I put out a clear and passionate prayer that my angels show up. They began to arrive immediately and have been continuing to make the scene ever since.
One of these angels became my life and work partner. Marilyn has been an incredible teacher and guide to me in both my inner and outer processes. At one point she invited me to address three questions: Who am I? What is my passion? What is it I want to do? The next day, before dawn, I wrote my responses in the form of a poem.
It's been almost 10 years since I've read those words. I'm struck by how they speak to me today as powerfully as they spoke through me then—and how my work since then has increasingly been giving form to those words.
Groundhog Week and Finding New Paths
My consulting work after that sabbatical took a different turn—more focus on the development of people and less on organizational design and systemic change work.
I had the privilege of developing and leading an innovative leadership learning expedition for managers and executives of a global high tech firm. This served as personal version of the movie "Groundhog Day," only this was "Groundhog Week." Over the course of this program we were able to evolve a week-long commitment-based learning adventure that supported out-of-box exploration and movement at personal, relational and organizational levels of system.
In 1999, Marilyn and I co-founded PathFinders, offering guidance to individuals and organizations in evolving "from where they are . . . to who they are." We have completed our fifth season of co-leading Pathfinder Circles, advanced leadership development for leaders and change agents committed to personal, organizational and global transformation. This circle work has provided a missing link in my personal transformational journey as well as for a number of our participants. I now see "circle work" as becoming a primary vehicle in supporting the relational and inner work required of those who would be transformational leaders for the organizations they serve.
Generative Capacity-Building as a Core Organizing Strategy was inspired in large measure by my experience with these Pathfinder Circles and my involvement in Granite Construction's "Employee Development Initiative." Granite's EDI has served as an important corporate-level prototype for the strategy of growing an organization's developmental capacity and weaving that capacity into the fabric of an organization's operations.
Sabbatical #3 - Let Our Infinite Games Begin
This brings us to the present and into the long gestation/birthing process of TheInfiniteGames.org. To quote from the poem I mentioned earlier:
comprised of living organisms.
They are not machines -- never were.
And they become cold blustery fearful places
when numbers and things reign supreme
Re-awakening an organization's spirit
calls for caring and acceptance.
Re-kindling its soul
calls for protection from the winds of fear
- My inner goal is to achieve self-realization, i.e., to live each moment with awareness of my divine nature and the divine nature of all of our reality. I believe that's what the wise ones mean by "waking up." I want to wake up before I die."
- My outer goals include helping to catalyze —
- The metamorphosis of organizations so that they become foundational infrastructures for evolving to new levels of socio-economic-enviromental harmony and effectiveness.
- Our collective movement from finite to infinite games.
- An irreversible shift to a worldview where economies of wholeness transcend the poverty of partial purpose.
Clients I've worked with since leaving Exxon include Clorox, Imperial Oil Ltd., Corning, James River, Esso Singapore, Gulf Resources Canada, Shell Resources Canada, PetroCanada, TransAlta Utilities Canada, MW Kellogg, Honeywell, Exxon Exploration And Production, Chemelex, Pepperdine MSOD Program, Hewlett Packard, Chevron Research and Development, Meta Group Executive Council, Xerox, 3Com, The Covey Leadership Center, Electric Power Research Institute, Silicon Graphics, Granite Construction and Cabrillo College
I've been a contributing author for three books: Corporate Transformation, New Entrepreneurs, and Community Building in Organizations: Renewing Spirit and Learning in Business.