A manager or leader has five main ways of getting something done: telling, selling, testing, consulting, and co-creating.

The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook, written by Peter Senge, Art Kleiner, Charlotte Roberts, Rick Ross and Bryan J. Smith, first appeared in print in 1994. The chapter contributed by Bryan Smith was titled Building Shared Vision, and it featured the Tell–Sell–Test–Consult–Co-create concept shown in the central section of the graphic below.

Although no credit is given, the concept is clearly inspired by Robert Tannenbaum and Warren H. Schmidt’s classic 1958 Harvard Business Review article, How to choose a leadership pattern.

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What the leaders do: Give an instruction.

“This is the plan. Get going.”


What the leaders do: Seek buy-in.

“This is the plan, and this is how you will benefit …”

Telling and Selling will be used to activate whatever decisions were made as a result of earlier Testing and Consulting work.


What the leaders do: Invite response.

“This is the plan. Tell us what you think about it and we will consider incorporating your ideas.”


What the leaders do: Request assistance.

“Please help us create the plan.”


What the leaders do: Collaborate.

“We’ve got a blank sheet of paper. Let’s create the plan together.”

This is likely to be the most effective method to adopt when initiating a programme of enterprise-wide change work.

“In the old hierarchical model you could just tell people what the vision was. That won’t work now. We have to create a platform that is meaningful for each person. Leaders can’t do it alone. They must do it in collaboration with their leadership team, and if they’re doing it really well, with the entire organization. The vision has to be collaboratively created and open in its architecture so people can connect with it.”

Doug Conant, former President and CEO, Campbell Soup, in an interview with Jess Lyn Stoner | view source.

Further reading

The fallacy of employee engagement (this website)

The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook: Strategies for Building a Learning Organization, by Peter Senge, Art Kleiner, Charlotte Roberts, Rick Ross and Bryan Smith

How to choose a leadership pattern, by Robert Tannenbaum and Warren H. Schmidt, in Harvard Business Review, March–April 1958 issue

Rich Co-creation (this website)

Rich Co-creation principles (this website)

Worldviews (this website; part of Creating greatness in the realm beyond systems thinking)

Evolution of worldviews, by Jack Martin Leith