Theory U

Theory U

Co- Creating a Vision for the School Using the Theory U Process

What is Theory U?

Very briefly, Theory U is both a framework and a "method for leading profound change". It centres around the concept of the quality of the individual within the organisation and the inner place they operate from. In addition it suggests that rather than simply learn from history, organisations can let go of the past and start to lean towards the emerging future.  You'll find more information in a variety of places;

Theory U:   website   video  executive summary  book

                           Updates: Interviews update    Appeal for interviewees

Who are we?

There are currently three members of the core group for the Theory U process here at school: Mark Westoll, Liz Attwell and Davina Skinner. Mark represents the parent body and is a member of Council. Liz Attwell is an upper school English teacher; Liz represents the teaching body and has been a member of college for over 12 years. Davina Skinner is the Resources Manager at school, she represents the support staff and business aspects of the school and is a member of SMT.

Why are we doing this?

Towards the end of last year questions about the school's future arose within college. This inspired Liz Attwell to present a proposal to use the Theory U process as a method of inquiry. It is hoped that Theory U will be a tool to help Michael Hall to self-reflect as an organisation, to co-create a vision of the future of the school. It has the same structure as the child study format currently used within school.

Coinciding with this similar, future- based questions arose within council around various initiatives and it was agreed the Theory U process could also assist with those.

"For myself, since arriving at the school I have felt a slight dissonance between how we think things are and how they actually are.  Perhaps unusually for someone in my position as Resources Manager, I see the health of an organisation as including so much more than just the financial health, in fact I believe it is often the reverse; a healthy organisation will create healthy finances.

Being an established organisation I feel we may have become a little stuck in places; it will be both refreshing and enlightening for us to take part in the Theory U process. This is so much more than an afternoon with coloured pens and post it notes. If we engage with this fully and take time to pause, reflect and see the reality of what faces us now we will uncover a few of our blind spots. In so doing we will be in a much better place to agree a vision for the future as a community and the way we want to be. I am sure the process will be uncomfortable at times, it would be foolish to assume otherwise, yet it feels absolutely, the right thing to do". Davina Skinner

What are we doing next?

  • Interviews take place 28 June - 17 July
  • Ursula Versteegen follow up visit - 18 & 19 July
  • Analysis of information from dialogue interviews - August
  • 2 day 'U' representatives from whole school community - 5 & 6 September
  • Whole community event to share in the picture that is building up of the possible future of Michael Hall - 1 October (please look out for more details closer to the time)


Why the 'U'?

The U reflects the journey we go on as we use the process:

  • Going down the U: “Observe, observe, observe.” Stop downloading and totally immerse yourself in the places of most potential, in the places that matter most to the situation you are dealing with.
  • At the bottom of the U: “Retreat and reflect, allow the inner knowing to emerge.” Go to the places of stillness where knowing comes to the surface. Here you share and reflect on everything that you have learned from a deep place of listening, asking, ”What wants to emerge here?” and ”How does that relate to the journey forward?” So the key question is: how can we become part of the story of the future rather than holding on to the story of the past?
  • Going up the U: “Act in an instant.” Explore the future by doing. Develop a prototype. A prototype explores the future by doing something small, speedy, and spontaneous; it quickly generates feedback from all the key stakeholders and allows you to evolve and iterate your idea.

(extract from

Where is the info available?

Online - we will keep this page updated.

At school - there will be an information board at the Mansion entrance and in the Lower School entrance

Alternatively leave a message in Reception

How do you get in touch?

Please email