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What are Large Scale Interventions?        home

"A complex world requires strategic collaboration"

Large Scale Interventions (LSI) are an approach for organising sustainable changes with active involvement of stakeholders throughout the whole system (= organisation or community and its environment). LSI is a process in which participants work in small and large groups. The latter are so called Large Group Interventions (LGIs). The number of people involved can vary from five to a thousand. An LSI-trajectory is an excellent approach for changes concerning the whole work system or a whole community. LSI is also referred to as Large Scale Change, Whole-Scale ChangeTM or Whole Systems Change. Fundamental assumptions are:

  • Past, present and future are inseparably connected in the organisation/community

  • Reality is defined by meanings as well as facts

  • Active participation enhances commitment to change, learning and working together

  • Action learning facilitates real time change (thinking and doing are not separated)

  • Meaningful experience is created by engaging the whole person (mind, body, soul and spirit) 

Along the way, one or more collaborative conferences (LGIs) are held, according to the principles of LSI. What is the difference between an LSI-process and common change approaches? See the table below. Under Methods, you will find an overview of LGI-methods, their characteristics and applications. You will find more about basic assumptions, theoretical roots, world view and history under Principles

Key distinctions between Large Scale Interventions and traditional change approaches are:

Aspects of organisational change efforts

Large Scale Interventions

Traditional change approaches


The vision is shaped through involvement of the whole system, building capacity for change.

The vision is shaped by an elite group of experts and senior management.

How buy-in and ownership is gained

As a natural by-product of involving people in the process of change.

Through a campaign implemented by a small group of people promoting their strategies, plans and recommendations to the rest of the organisation.

Information available

A large group's broad, whole image of reality form the basis for information and strategic decisions. There is extensive stakeholder involvement.

A small group's limited views of reality form the basis of information and strategic decisions. Stakeholder involvement is limited. External stakeholders groups like suppliers, customers and the local community are often ignored. Certain issues are not discussed.

Commitment and ownership

People feel and are responsible for the organisation's  effort as a whole. The need for change is self-determined and the process is self-managed.

People feel and are responsible for only their part.


Change strategy is developed and communicated in real-time.

Change strategy is communicated through messages.


Systems thinking produces a cyclic process of designing steps and reviewing goals. Awareness of current reality is comprehensive.

Linear thinking produces a programme with a pre-determined sequence of steps leading the organisation towards a fixed goal. Rarely are there any opportunities for the goal to be reviewed and if necessary re-defined.

Way of thinking

Systems thinking leads to insights in the complex web of cause and effect. An issue is viewed in a broad context, including trends.

Often an issue is not viewed in a broad enough context and delayed reactions are not taken into account.

People's perspectives Change is viewed as an integral component of people's work. Change is viewed as a disruption to people doing their "real work".
Pace Change occurs at a fast pace and in real time throughout an organisation. Change occurs at a slow pace and in pockets of an organisation.
Kind of changes made Substantial changes are made across an entire organisation. Either substantial changes are made in part of an organisation or limited changes are made across an entire organisation.
How change occurs Simultaneous planning and implementation, initiated in the whole organisation at the same time. Planning and implementation are sequential. It requires the world to stand still while the planners do their work.

New book on LSI

Building an evidence based practical guide to Large Scale Interventions: Towards sustainable organisational change with the whole system

Building an evidence based practical guide to Large Scale Interventions. Towards sustainable organisational change with the whole system

by Tonnie van der Zouwen.

A practical guide for effective use of LSI, based on 6 years of academic social research

Order paperback

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