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A Systemic approach to change

A bit of history

Clean Language is devised by David Grove. He was a psychotherapist specialising in trauma therapy.
He did research into what the effect was of the question on the client. In his research he discovered that when words would be used in the questions that weren’t coming from the client, this often resulted in a disruption of the client’s process. It would take the client out of their mental model or metaphor landscape. It would cause the client to move their attention to the question being asked of them instead of keeping it on the process at hand.

His research into these effects eventually lead to the creations of what we now know as Clean Language and Clean Questions. In essence this is a set of questions that have been designed in a way that they disrupt the clients process in the least amount possible whilst still allowing being able to guide the clients’ attention to specific areas of their mental model or metaphor landscape.

When Caitlin Walker became aware of David Grove and his work, it intrigued her so much that she started working together with David. She wanted to know how she could teach others to use this simple and highly effective manner of asking questions. As she learned Clean Language, she also started using it with groups of people, at first with children and later with adults. One of the effects of using Clean Language with groups is that people would get curious about other people’s models and so became more aware of how their own models work. Not only for themselves, but also for others in the group. This resulted in people starting to advocating for others in the group, as they would be aware that continuing would not work for them given their models.

Caitlin wrote a book about her work with Clean Language, the children and also with businesses and it is called “From Contempt to Curiosity”. In her book she describes her journey of working in a clean way with groups and how she eventually created what is now known as Systemic Modelling.

Book: From Contempt to Curiosity by Dr. Caitlin Walker

Pascal about Clean Language

To me, Clean Language, similar to Agile, is more of a mindset or a way of being than anything else. It has become a part of me, not that I’m clean all the time, but it is there right beneath the surface, close at hand, always there when I need it.

Ultimately it’s a tool set of exercises and behaviours that can be used in a way that will elicit information in a very effective manner – both known and unknown information.

Often we call this unknown information “emergent knowledge”. The experience of saying something that I have never said or thought of in such a way before. This is something very familiar to me and one of the best things that I get out of Clean Language.

This “emergent knowledge” is like a piece of a puzzle that lands just in the right place to complete the puzzle. Something that will bring some kind of insight or will combine two or more things for me in such a way that it becomes more clear to me.

With Clean Language we strive to bring in the least amount of our models into our questions and we try to be continually aware of this. This results in us making less assumptions, or at least we try to use our curiosity to double check our inferences. This Clean stance has become more and more important to me, it helps me to listen better, to have a better understanding of others, and to see the value in different ideas and opinions.

Podcast: Scrum Master Toolbox

A while back I was a guest on the Scrum Master Toolbox Podcast. Every weekday Vasco Duarte talks about different aspects of the Scrum Master role. This role is part of an Agile framework named Scrum and its purpose is to help one or more teams and the organisation as a whole to adopt this way of working. In the computer science industry this is a very popular way of working and in the past years I’ve been fortunate to have been working as a Scrum Master for many multiple companies.

Different aspects of Systemic Modelling will be highlighted in these talks as it’s an intricate part of my way of working. These podcasts can be listened to on the Scrum Master Toolbox website and at the major podcast providers.


We, Michael and I, have developed a training to support existing teams with finding their own Agile way of working, by means of Clean Language and Systemic Modelling. By observing how the team is working now and using Clean Interviewing we discern what the team needs. We teach them simple tools and techniques so they can change what is needed in their Agile way of working themselves.

We also have a training where we teach others (Scrum Masters, Agile Coaches etc.) these simple techniques and where we provide tips on how to work with groups in the this way.

For more information please contact us.

Clean Language Practice Group NL

At least once a month we will organise a moment to practice Clean Language in Dutch. Our purpose is the offer people an opportunity to improve their group facilitation skills. By applying the skills that are needed for group facilitation and of course we try to make it interesting as well in a way that the topic will result in something of value. This topic can be something we use in different exercises or it can be a model of some kind, e.g. Clean Feedback, Clean Set Up, the Drama Triangle or the Triune Brain.

By creating a safe space where we can practice together and learn from one another. How things work for you and how that differs from others. By providing each other with Clean Feedback and doing Skills Drills.

For more info please visit us at Clean Campus

Clean in een Doos

Sometimes we need something physical to work with. Clean in a Box is a card deck created in such a way that they help with practicing Clean Language and Clean Questions.

This deck consists of a total of 54 cards: 18 different colour coded Clean Questions (in varying amounts per question, 39 cards in total); and 12 cards with short descriptions of different exercises all developed by Marian Way and Caitlin Walker. These exercises have all been developed during their practice groups, therefore the cards are ideal for your personal practice and can be used during any practice group. Lastly, three cards with instructions and one with the colour coding used on the Clean Question cards.

Originally produced and published by Clean Learning as Clean in a Box – set 1. This Dutch translation has been created by us under license and is published by us. The translation is done by Michael Oskam and Pascal Clarkson.

Cost: € 25,00 including VAT and excluding shipping.

Product display of dutch version of Clean in a Box.

Who am I?

Isn’t that the age-old question and what an interesting road to discovery to “know thyself”.

Pascal Clarkson has a bachelor degree in computer science. After years of working as a software engineer and having 8+ years of practical experience with the Scrum Framework, he has decided to shift his attention towards group facilitation. To support groups in their own discovery of how they can become the best version of themselves and their team. He has experience with many different tools, methods and frameworks e.g. Scrum, Sociocracy 3.0, Systemic Modelling, Liberating Structures and Clean Language, he sees himself as a Systemic Change Facilitator, and you can ask him what that means.

“Each step forward (or backward) is in essence a change.”