Whole System Approach
A systemic approach to consultancy work offers the opportunity to draw back from the presenting issue and look at it in a wider context, in the context of the whole system. We are all members of different human systems - family, work, cultural and so on. An individual may experience conflict between their family system and their work system; a team must function both as a system in itself and as part of the wider system of the organisation. We are all connected and affected within systems by the actions of others - sometimes in ways we are not aware of. The dynamics of the system affect its component parts (and vice versa). It has been said that in an Organisational Paradigm, 80% of an individual’s behaviour is to do with them and 20% is to do with their situation or context, whereas in a Systemic Paradigm, 20% of an individual’s behaviour is to do with them and 80% is to do with their situation or context. This way of working takes the whole system into account, rather than focusing only on the individuals, team or department where the problem symptoms reveal themselves. When we do this, complex dynamics between the elements of the issue can be more easily recognised and hidden aspects may become visible. Systemic consultancy is concerned with realigning the flow of creative energy through the system to the greatest benefit of the organisation as a whole.
What Could a Systemic Approach Do for Your Organisation?
Systemic organisational work is intended to support the strengthening of the whole organisation. By identifying and resolving what is standing in the way of you moving forward, it clears resistance to change, freeing up the potential for innovation, healthier working and sustainable growth. It enables new understandings and insights to emerge in support of better relationships, greater productivity, more effective strategy and healthier transactions with stakeholders and customers. Using a systemic lens can allow a flow of creativity back into leadership, can restore balance to teams and can enrich understanding and a sense of purpose at work. It can help you to deliver even better services in these lean times, connecting all the parts of your organisation to each other and galvanising the energy in your organisation so that everyone pulls in the same direction.
How does it work?
The systemic toolkit provides ways to read, and learn to work with, the (often hidden) dynamics within an organisation. A systemic approach has at its core four simple ordering principles of Time, Belonging, Place and Exchange, against which to measure organisational health. The past, present and future of the organisation is considered, so that a diagnosis might take historical organisational patterns or incidents into account, or project a situation forward, to assess the future impact on the system. A systemic consultant will also be interested in who belongs, and who has been excluded, as people who have been left out - for example if someone in the system was fired or made redundant - may unbalance the system. There is a need for everyone to be in their right place in the system, to permit a healthy flow of leadership. It may emerge that someone has taken on more responsibility than their place in the system can sustain, or someone else may not be pulling their weight. A systemic consultant will be looking for everyone to find their right place where they can do their best work. It is important to check whether there is a balance of exchange: if people do not give and receive in equal measure, there may be blockages in the flow of energy.
Systemic Organisational Constellations
Once an assessment is made, the initial proposition of where the system is blocked may be tested, using what is known as a Constellation. This involves mapping things out physically, so we can see the issue through different eyes, from a whole system perspective. In a Constellation, people stand in to represent the elements of the issue and a living map is created. This picture typically offers a fresh perspective of ‘what is’ and gives an indication of ‘what next’. The Constellation will usually indicate how better to align the elements in order to work through blocks and unleash creative energy into the system.
A Constellation includes everyone who needs to be involved - although they don’t have to be physically there for the process. In fact it works best when the person bringing the issue sits back and watches the living map unfold, using representatives for the various elements of the issue and observing the dynamics between them. Constellations recognise the value of intuition, our ‘gut feelings’, and provide a way to communicate these. Physical movement by the representatives within the living map gives useful insights into the issue. For example, if one representative moves, or is moved by the Constellator looking for the best fit within the system, other representatives may react, revealing some of the hidden dynamics at play. In this way, Constellations make room for ideas and solutions that intuitively present themselves, rather than relying on analysis alone.
Constellations are an experiential tool. They are very difficult to describe, and this briefest of introductions does not do justice to their potential to bring about deep, lasting change. The best way to learn more about Constellations is to experience one. Please contact me to find out about upcoming opportunities to attend an Organisational Constellation.