About Transformations

Transformations is a tool for human developmenttransformations based in the work of Bill Torbert & Elaine Herdman Barker in partnership with the Center for Creative Leadership. Contact us at for the beta version. A tutorial on vertical leadership development and Transformations is here.


Harvard Business Review


Transformations User’s Guide v1.2

Transformations™ is a flexible, user-friendly tool for self-understanding, coaching, leadership development, and culture development. It can be used formally or informally by individuals and groups and of all ages and backgrounds. Among its benefits are the creation of self-insight and dialogue about the stages and processes of human development, in a way that is engaging as well as reflective, playful as well as serious, and impactful as well as fun.

See the Quick Start Guide following the Introduction to get started now.

The “From Here to There” model of development is a good way to use the deck.

Here is a Forward to this Guide by Bill Torbert.

View an introductory webinar here.


Announcing a new version of Transformations

We are pleased to announce a new version of Transformations™,  available 15 September 2016. See below for ordering information. Transformations is a CCL Labs beta product and available to those who wish to test it and share feedback.

red back

Logic card back

Latest revisions (beta): (more…)

The Seven Life-Logics in Detail

More wisdom below in this post from our partners Elaine and Bill. This is a companion piece to their prior post on action inquiry. Note that the terms “life logics” and “action logics” are basically interchangable. (more…)

The Practice of Action Inquiry

The real point of the Transformations tool is to promote development in a way that supports increasingly wise and effective action. In the post below, Elaine Herdman-Barker and Bill Torbert introduce the powerful idea of action inquiry. (Also see their related post describing the seven action logics in more detail.) (more…)

Transformations Introduction (VIDEO)

Webex session links and slides are below:
Streaming recording link
Download recording link

Below is a tutorial on vertical leadership development, the basis of Transformations. This is a keynote delivered to the 2017 Leadership Forum in Shanghai, Center for Creative Leadership Greater China CCL 创新领导力中心(大中华区)Both the video and the slides are provided. (more…)

Directing “Me” as an Ensemble of Characters

Thanks to Valerie Livesay Ph.D., faculty member at National University, for this dynamic technique for self-development called Ensemble of Characters. This method is a creation of Valerie and her colleagues Fredrick Jones, Ed.D. and Michael Berger, M.A. Contact Valerie at vlivesay(at) for more information.

This is an approach to vertical development that leverages theater as a way to look at the self, performing. (more…)

Vertical Development: CCL Shanghai 2017 Leadership Forum (VIDEO)

This is my keynote on Vertical Leadership Development, at the
2017 Leadership Forum presented by
The Center for Creative Leadership, Greater China

Video, slides, and a bibliography follow.


Transformations in a Ed.D. Program at Stockton University

I am pleased to share this wonderful, detailed report from Professor George Sharp about using the Transformations decks in the doctoral program in Organizational Leadership.

I received very positive feedback from a number of graduate students about the use of the cards. It was an extremely powerful class.”  (more…)

Transformations in Singapore


Kaushik Gopal and Anand Chandreseker

Our Coaching Community of Practice in Singapore was celebrating their one year
anniversary one evening recently and wanted something both fun and serious to engage 20+ of their members and their families. They used the Transformation tool to reflect on their individual life journeys. We discussed the basis of this tool in Bill Torbert’s work on The Seven Transformations of Leadership (this review was engaging but not critical to the experiences that followed).

The cards were all laid out on a table. The instructions were to:   (more…)

Forward to the Transformations User’s Guide

By Bill Torberttransformations-270x300



The Transformations Card Deck makes a major and wonderful contribution to our tools for communicating the liberating potential of adult development theory and the practice of Collaborative Developmental Action Inquiry (CDAI) to leaders, citizens, and to youth worldwide. (more…)

Vertical leadership development for a complex world

Horizontal development is about adding more knowledge, skills, and competencies. It’s about what you think.transformations

Vertical development is about the ability to think and act in more complex ways. It’s about how you think. It’s about maturity, and  growing “up” and increasing one’s “depth.”

Two excellent white papers on this topic by CCL’s Nick Petrie describe why vertical development is essential for effective leadership: Future Trends in Leadership Development, and, Vertical Leadership Development. The Transformations™ tool embodies this model in a practical, user-friendly way. A further tutorial on vertical development is posted here(more…)

Transformations in Zambia

Steadman Harrison says …



quoteGreetings from Zambia! Led a session today on Vertical Development with MSI and will conclude our week looking at Transformations (the new tool with life logic cards and catalyst cards). 10 countries represented here and all thoroughly appreciating the development.

Transformations in Rwanda

Transformations in Rwanda

Transformations in Rwanda via Steadman Harrison


Transformations for promoting agility in an executive team

Our CCL faculty colleague David Hudnut just used Transformations for the first time and sends this report. Check out his article in Strategy+Business on vertical development here. Thanks David!

David Hudnut, Senior Faculty at Center for Creative Leadership

David Hudnut, Senior Faculty at Center for Creative Leadership

quoteI did a team coaching day with an executive team that has completed the Leadership Agility 360. I’ve already spent 2 days with them during which I covered the LA-360 and the basics of vertical development in “agility” terms which is critically important to them due to their highly competitive and swiftly changing market.

As a follow-up, I wanted to do something that helped the team further understand and engage the idea of vertical development. I chose the Transformations cards, which I had heard about but not used before.

This is what I did:

Introductory webinars for Explorers and Essentials

CCL Labs Webinar Tutorial Series Archive 2016-2017

Conversations for Creative Leadership


Appreciating the system

Drawing and facilitation by Bruce Flye

Drawing and facilitation by Bruce Flye

Thanks to Bruce Flye for this report from the field!
quote What we were doing in this NCMS Institute on Leadership and Management in Healthcare:

  1. A Soft Systems Analysis of situations they brought in.
  2. Halfway through all the diagramming, I invited them to look at Transformations and pick out any mental models or behavioral patterns relevant to their system.
  3. We then used the Future Trends cards to agree on three that would most disrupt the system.


Transitioning to the Third Act

Check out the great work of Nick Owen and Edward Kelly in the Third Act Conferences and Retreats!

owenFriday January 20th (1800) – Sunday January 22nd (1530), 2017

The Third Act Retreat: Transitioning to the Third Act
Facilitators: Dr Edward Kelly, Nick Owen & Annette Hennessy
The Abbey, Sutton Courtenay, Oxfordshire

A weekend working with our own stories of transition, our stages of development, and the ancient insights of The Elder Tales in our journey to What’s Next for us? A residential weekend of craic and inquiry in a delightful rural setting.

Single: £495; Shared: £445 per person; Non-residential: £395 (including lunches & dinners)

To reserve your place contact or



Leadership stage development and its effect on transformational change

From Lyndon Rego at CCL:

I thought this paper does a very nice job of linking Torbert and Wilber’s work. Well worth a read.

Jorge Taborga (August 2012). Leadership Stage Development and its Effect on Transformational Change. Integral Leadership Review. 


How did you experience power being used in the U.S. presidential election?

Here is a report from our colleague Dr. Nancy Wallis who is teaching an Organizational Behavior course. Thanks Nancy!


What are ways in which you can use your power to effect what you want to see happen next?

One sign of the impact of the recent U.S. presidential election was the agitation, fear, sadness, and worry felt by many of the undergraduate students in my Organizational Behavior course two days after the results were known. (more…)

Imperfect beauty: Hierarchy and fluidity in leadership development

Imperfect Beauty

Imperfect Beauty

In their new paper on vertical leadership development, Imperfect Beauty, Elaine Herdman-Barker and Nancy C. Wallis explore the complexities of development, in which the predictability and order we crave as practitioners is embedded in “an imperfect and fluid process, in which change is contextualized, dissonant and enigmatic.” This paper explores the polarity of development is which hierarchical order is in tension with fluidity. (more…)

Transformations at the Silver Bay Leadership Forum

Transformations was well-received at the Silver Bay Leadership Forum last month.

Thanks Bill Jensen for this report:

Thanks Bill Jensen!

Thanks Bill Jensen!

Mediated Dialogue in Action Research

Here is an extended excerpt from our chapter: Mediated dialogue in action research, in The SAGE Handbook of Action Research, 3rd Edition, edited by Hilary Bradbury. To see the full chapter and lots of other wonderful chapters, get the Handbook!

The SAGE Handbook of Action Research, 3rd Ed., Hilary Bradbury, Editor

The SAGE Handbook of Action Research, 3rd Ed.,
Hilary Bradbury, Editor

Palus, C. J., & McGuire, J.B. (2015). Mediated dialogue in action research. In H. Bradbury (Ed.) The SAGE handbook of action research, 3rd Edition. Thousand Oaks, California: SAGE Publications. 691-699. Click here for the complete Handbook.

Here is our “how-to” white paper connecting this chapter to change leadership.

Mediated dialogue is an approach to reflective, insightful conversation that is useful for action research and related endeavors, including inquiry as a part of leadership development. With mediated dialogue, various media (typically visual images, such as those in Visual Explorer™) are used as sources of metaphor and as places to project thoughts and emotions related to one or more focal questions. (more…)

The From Here to There (FHT) Model of Human Development

The From Here to There (FHT) Model frames development as a long-term journey:

FHT model

From Here to There Model applied to a life journey

Starting with:

“Where are you from?”
Origins, identities, communities


“Where are you now (here)?”
Present state, presencing, observation, reflection, assessment


“Where are you going (to there)?”
Toward a desired future state, aspirations, visions, strategies, goals, dreams, and possibilities.


The Vertical Circle


98th Annual 2016 Silver Bay Leadership Forum

We just had a great Transformations session last week at the 98th Annual 2016 Silver Bay Leadership Forum and I want to share insights and my design.


The vertical circle

A key insight is about “the vertical circle.” (more…)

Transformations in Japanese

Transformations is now available in Japanese! Thanks to Emma Ren and the Language Strategy Team at CCL. Contact Chuck Palus for details.


Action-Inquiry Workshop Featuring the Transformations Deck

The Action Inquiry and the Global Leadership Profile Workshop is a 3.5-day workshop for GLPbusiness leaders, consultants, coaches, researchers, and sustainability practitioners who wish to further their personal development and learn about the power and practice of Collaborative Developmental Action Inquiry—the only approach statistically confirmed as reliably generating both personal and organizational transformation. All workshop participants take the Global Leadership Profile (GLP) and receive feedback on their centre-of-gravity, emergent, and fallback leadership action-logics. Those who wish can become authorized to use and debrief the GLP with their clients.

Here is the flyer with registration details: GLP_Workshop_Oct2016_Flyer (more…)

Facilitation technique for Transformations

Steadman Harrison shows us a great option for using the Transformations deck with larger groups which requires fewer decks and potentially less time. He suggests laying out the cards before the session, clustered in the seven stages. Then, talk about the catalysts each person has experienced in their own development.

quoteWe laid out the cards in stages with the group ideas for what catalyst most naturally moved individuals or groups from one stage to the next. If you set it up like this rather than having individuals and small groups make sense of it on their own, it saves a LOT of time!


Navigating YOUR Next Stage

I am pleased to announce this workshop for women who are in a season of change, offered by the Center for Creative Leadership. See the video below for more information. This video is a good example of how the Transformations™ tool can be used in a workshop (starting at 1:25).

Who Should Attend This Workshop
Women who are in a season of change.

  • Changing professions
  • Returning to the workforce
  • Transitioning from the professional space into retirement
  • Transitioning from college to a professional career

DATE | Wednesday, June 22, 2016

TIME | 9:00 – 4:30 pm

PLACE | Women’s Resource Center, 628 Summit Ave, Greensboro, NC 27405

COST | $225.00 includes lunch, snack breaks, & program materials


Using the catalyst cards in the Transformations deck

The Catalyst cards in the Transformations deck represent processes, triggers, or catalysts for human development. There are 50 such catalysts included in the current version of the deck, see the list below. Use of these cards is optional. They are designed to help people go deeper in their exploration of their life journeys and the forces that influence vertical development.

Steadman Harrison recently used the cards to help participants see “underneath” the development of their action logics (see photo).

quoteWe did an exercise at Randolph this weekend where the group placed the Catalysts (positioned slightly lower on the carpet) they believed helped them get from one stage to the next…Randolph Catalyst cards (more…)

From Here to There: The Young African Leader Initiative (YALI)

Sam Ray has just returned from Kenya where he, Kathy Vaughan and Sam Kasera facilitated a final round of  Leadership and Self-Awareness workshops for USAID’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI).

From Here to There with YALI Leaders

From Here to There with YALI Leaders

Approximately 400 leaders from East and Central Africa have now been through this Center for Creative Leadership workshop (Addis Ababa office) in Nairobi.

The two-day workshop was built around the CCL F-H-T Framework. Every module mapped to a part of their life journey:
a) Where I have come from (FROM)
b) Where I find myself now (HERE)
c) Where my team and I are going (THERE)
d) How I got here (FROM to HERE)
e) How my team and I will get there (HERE to THERE).

Participants mapped their learning on the walls in real time, resulting in 400 unique ‘selfies’ of these young peoples’ leadership journeys. The YALI program has offered rigorous, large-scale testing of the From-Here-To There framework and never fails to generate perspective and insight for users.

Bruce Flye, Graphic Developmentologist

Transformations™ first came alive through the artwork of Bruce Flye.

Bruce Flye: The Garden of Eden

Bruce Flye: The Garden of Eden

One day I asked Bruce if he could draw some avatars of action logics. “What?” …   “What does that even mean??” The first character-images he drew are the same style you see now. It was an amazing moment of creativity. Bruce birthed these characters along with a world in which they continue to live, develop and evolve. They express the logics of life in self-engaging ways that invite interpretive play. This kind of graphic illustration of developmental states and stages is unique, I believe. (more…)

The DAC Framework: Creating shared direction, alignment, and commitment

quoteHow would you know if leadership is happening in a team, in a workgroup, on a task force, or across the organization? Look for three important outcomes: direction, alignment and commitment (DAC).

Making Leadership Happen, Cindy McCauley



Dialogue by putting something in the middle

Dialogue is a reflective conversation engaging the multiple perspectives of a number of people to explore assumptions and create new meaning. Create dialogue by putting objects in the middle of amediated conversation. Meaning becomes projected onto the object. Images work very well. You can use photos, art, stories, Visual Explorer and other Explorer tools, mementos, videos, graphics, and so on.

When people get good at this, they don’t need a physical object—they can put a topic (a challenge, a problem, an idea) in the middle.

As the Star Model graphic illustrates, multiple layers of the topic are explored from many angles (multiple perspectives).

Try This (more…)

Adult development (vertical) theory

The post below is adapted from McCauley, C. D., Drath, W. H., Palus, C. J., O’Connor, P. M. G., & Baker, B. A. (2006). The use of constructive-developmental theory to advance the understanding of leadership. Leadership Quarterly, 17, 634–653.


Constructive-developmental [also referred to as vertical development] theory is a stage theory of adult development that focuses on the growth and elaboration of a person’s ways of understanding the self and the world. (more…)

Leaps in Perspective

CCL senior faculty member David Hudnutstrategy and business published Leaps in Perspective on the Strategy + Business blog on Sept. 30. His piece explores the theory that people develop in fits and starts with sudden bursts of growth, as opposed to developing in a steady, gradual fashion.

Writes Hudnut: 

quote markFamilies, companies, cities, and civilizations also make developmental leaps. Indeed, changes in the larger systems can trigger evolution in individuals, and vice versa. This is a heartening theory because it shows not just that progress is possible, but how to create conditions in which it is likely. If you’re a business leader, it can help you manage your career path and create opportunities for those who work with you.”

Read the full piece.