Promise Theory Basics: HOW TO THINK IN PROMISES

The Fast Track to Understanding Organizational Leadership and Business Management

Credential Earned: OLN-PT1 (Promise Theory Level 1)

Course Overview

No one can make a promise for YOU, only YOU can do that. This simple fact has very-wide-scope implications for scaling organizational change. Promise Theory provide a framework for thinking about decision-making, leadership, teamwork, collaboration, and organizational change at scale.

Promise Theory says that an approach for scaling human systems ought to also work well for scaling computer systems, and vice-versa. Now what is interesting about this is the fact that a network of autonomous agents, who independently make and keep promises, is a proven way to scale. Scaling in this way does not decay throughput as additional nodes and agents are added. Promise Theory describes a strategy for achieving linear scalability through scale-free networks. Promise Theory describes the mechanics of cooperation at scale. It confirms the underlying premises of Invitation-Based Change™, Inviting Leadership™ and the Eight Open Patterns of Business Agility™.

Promise Theory provides a framework for thinking correctly about designing and scaling enterprise agility. It confirms the inviting approach and Invitation-Based Change as it also provides a clear and accessible algebra of cooperation.

Coordinating activity in an uncertain world requires flexible communications between autonomous players. As humans, we wrestle daily with the running of teams, departments and entire global enterprises. Ambiguity abounds. How do we scale cooperation? How do we scale the messy business of continuous improvement? Promise theory provides a coherent answer to some of these questions. It offers a new way to think about scaling organizational change. Promise Theory (PT) is informed by network computing at scale. PT explains how Invitation-Based Change™ and Inviting Leadership™ actually work, and why an approach t change based on workforce engagement leads to genuine and lasting organizational change.

Course Formats

This course is taught in a Master Class format, typically by the formulator himself, Mark Burgess, during Open Leadership Symposium events.

This course is also offered online in a self-paced-learning format.

The course is an eight-hour course in the two formats.

Course schedules are located here and you can search the phrase [Promise Theory] to find the course in both formats.

Who Should Attend

  • Executive decision-makers responsible for organizational change and results
  • Directors and Managers who are responsible for executing on the delivery of organizational change, including digital and agile transformations
  • Executive and agile transformation coaches responsible for guiding executive decision-makers and transformation leads


This course is a full day; 8 hours when experienced as a self-paced learning module online.


  • The central tenets of Promise Theory
  • What Promise Theory is…and is not
  • Impositions, Promises and Obligations
  • The scope of obligations
  • Promises and accountability
  • Assessing and measuring levels of cooperation: An algebra of cooperation
  • Practical applications: Networks. Workflows. Scaling cooperation with promises.
  • Trust, process efficiency, and promise keeping
  • Embodying the Promise Theory patterns in Open practices:
  • Scaling organizational change and continuous improvement with Promise Theory

What You Will Learn

At the end of the course, you will know the agent-based theory that underlies all Open patterns and practices.  You’ll understand how to safely and pragmatically scale transformational change in your organization, by leveraging the power of practices based on Promise Theory and related patterns.

Takeaway Materials

As part of this course, each attendee receives a set of PDFs that form a library of resources on Promise Theory

Click here to View Schedules and Register