So what does 'Holisitic' change really mean?

In a change setting there seem to be two forms of "holistic", what might be called an apparently holistic and demonstrably holistic. An 'apparently holistic' models are those that seem to be complete and it is difficult to image that something has been left out. Examples of these are things like Richard Barretts 7  Levels of Conciousness and its underlying model of Physical, Emotion, Mental and Spiritual aspects of humanity. Many other business models tend to be of this form, other examples include EFQM, 7Ss etc etc

'Demonstrably holistic' models are slightly different, they not only seem complete but they are. One of the most compelling and useful holistic models is that of Ken Wilber, commonly called the 4 quadrants model:

What is useful about the model isnt so much the 4 boxes that it generates but how it encourages you to consider the 4 alignments that exist between the 4 boxes. If you start to think about Organisational Change or Individual Change then these alignments are crucial to making progress and sustaining the change.

One 'complication' to this elegantly simple framwork is the holon. A holon is a 'whole-part', and pretty much anything you can concieve of is a holon. For example we are all individuals and we are part of families, part of organisations, part of teams, part of communities etc. Once holons are added to this model it becomes harder to put a boundary around 'individual' but for the most part Ken Wilbers model and the nature of the 4 alignments is incredibly useful if you want to think about holistic change

If you want to read a little more then Ken Wilber "A Brief History of Everything" is worth a read

So What ? Well, if you accept that all models are simplifications and that they "are the map not the territory" then there really isnt much difference in 'apparently holistic' and 'demonstrably holistic' approaches. What can be reassuring about a 'demonstrably holstic' model is that it is inherently complete, but that still doesnt make them more useful compared to apprarently holistic models. So in a way the term "holistic" becomes meaningless and the term is probably destined to become another piece of pointless management jargon. But the models can still make great maps and ask great questions.