A recent Interview

This is a recent interview conducted by Joanne Wood for a partner organisation Rise Beyond, UK:

A conversation with Anne Caspari

Anne Caspari

Anne is a specialist in transformative processes and change, for both personal and leadership development. With a MSc/MPhil in Ecology and Environmental Development from Hannover University, Germany, she draws on three decades of experience with complex systems, adaptive pushback and obstacles to self-organisation. This knowledge, combined with more than 18 years of work on adult development (developmental coaching) and transformation gives her a unique edge. She works with teams and groups to tap into what is actually happening, uncovering obstacles and pushback in the business ecology and setting free team intelligence and alignment.

Jo: I would love to get an idea of what your focus is on at the moment.

Anne: We are focusing on both personal transformation and organisational change. And on the interfaces between both.For personal transformation we run courses at our retreat centre. The people who come are already quite aware of their patterns, just not sure how to integrate them. Some of them are also coaches and change professionals. What do they want to work on? It’s different for everybody, it could be in a job, money, relationship, health, something you are doing to keep you in a certain place, and you are sick and tired of it.. We work with them on the capacity to find these patterns, resolve the underlying resistance and the ability to deal with whatever it is, to be with what you normally push away into either the subconscious or outside of yourself. For example this could show up as blaming everyone else for triggering your anger.

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This picture below (please excuse yet another iceberg image, but it is so fitting) should be self-explanatory. This is also what we are doing in our Transformation Intensive Courses, where we go down to that level at day 2 (of a 7 days course). Then the real fun starts, cleaning up, lightening up and prototyping personal stuff. Just imagine what you could accomplish.

The only other thing that might need an explanation is shadow work and the Lucky Luke Move. If your reactive patterns, most importantly the ones you are now aware of, are called “shadow”, mostly from fans of Jung and some of us Integral Theory People. It is mostly things that you get triggered by or you don’t want to be with that stuff. Most of the time it is disowned and pushed to the subconscious and hidden there (hence: deeper iceberg layers), or pushed outside your self-boundaries and projected onto others. They seem the source of your reaction (hence: shadow). If you learn to be aware of, identify, and be faster than your f**cking fast shadow moves, you got it. Here is the a picture of the Master at work:

The Man who draws faster than his Shadow

Group transformation processes, much like individual transformative processes, follow different phase with distinctly recognizable stages. According to these patterns, a skilled coach/facilitator can keep the individual or the group in the process. The main task is to counteract the conscious or unconscious attempts to escape or to sabotage the process because of phenomena that are considered uncomfortable, irritating or even painful (e.g. Scott M. Peck’s “Groan Zone/Authentic Chaos”/ R. Kegan’s “Immunity to Change”).   

Individual processes can take the form of individual coaching, intensive retreats in self-leadership with awareness based technologies. They are geared towards reintegrating disassociated parts of the self-system or the dis-identification with mapping errors in the meaning making system of the individual. Group processes can have different intentions that go from more coherence in teams, integrating pathologies, towards more authentic participation, innovation and other emergent properties. Most of the time they are not automatic and require facilitated and committed process work with the respective team or group. In an ideal case, group facilitation requires only those minimum elegant structures that keep the group in process while resisting the temptation to go with any of the easy solutions that inevitably pop up along the way, while constantly scanning the quality of presence that is arising in the group and mirror that back. This would ideally also require a kind of ‘process literacy’ of the participants; the ability to distinguish between the self and the (power) moves of identity. The phases and stages of these processes along with the phenomena normally showing up are pictured above. For further reading on the dynamics of group processes see Bonnitta Roy’s article in Kosmos Magazine or this chapter published on group processes. The process traps and the tools and method to counteract escape mechanisms are pictured in Slides below. Please note that the representation with the U-Figure is oversimplified, these processes are non-linear and can’t be followed as a recipe (e.g. “step 5: find deeper meaning and purpose”.) Each phase is emergent from the prior one and can’t be planned, forced, constructed, or jumped. The figure U makes only sense as a coherent view in hindsight and thus differs from the majority of Theory U applications.

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and how (not) to work with them.

Companies have become aware of the fact that core values – integrity, trust, fairness – can function as attractors that drive beneficial behaviours in the workplace. What they are not getting is that core values just can´t be prescribed, top down or in any other direction.

While many companies large and small have come to the laudable conclusion to focus their organizational development efforts on values rather than behaviours, most go about this strategy in a wrong way.  When values are defined upfront without letting them emerge through a process and paying attention to which values are currently operative, people tend to game the system and display what HR and HQ want to hear. Dave Snowden puts it this way: “As soon as you write your values down, you´ve lost them”. Read More

“People have a reservoir of talent worth discovering. They just have to be given the opportunity to discover it in themselves” Ricardo Semler

We find that people, leaders, managers and other professionals know their job, its challenges and solutions better than anybody else does. We help them unlock this intelligence, unblock any stuckness and release their ‘reservoir’ of untapped resources and insights.

Most people have an innate understanding about the nature of change, yet often enough they find themselves locked up in structures that ask for a ‘predict and control’ plan to deal with pushback, resistance and relational power dynamics. Ready-made plans disregard how change and transformation work and overlook the nature of human interactions, values and asymmetrical needs. We can help with that. We are intimately familiar with change and transformation as adaptive processes; we comprehend the resistances and immunities around it, and know how to facilitate the processes needed to come out shiny at the other side.

“Opportunities to find deeper powers within ourselves come when life seems most challenging”. Joseph Campbell

With the world becoming more volatile, more uncertain, more complex and ambiguous, personal and organizational life has become more than a just a small challenge.

How to respond to an increasingly complex, volatile and uncertain world is the primary challenge facing today’s CEOs. With all this uncertainty comes ambiguity – something a surprising number of CEOs feel ill equipped to handle.

At EZC.Partners, we help people, leaders, CEOs, managers and other professionals to navigate these challenges efficiently, successfully, and elegantly. Read More

“Seeking the ideal has a long history, it produces many saints but few paradigm changes”. Dave Snowden

We work with developmental models and find them helpful in many ways, especially when working with leadership development. We draw on models from different researchers, such as Susanne Cook-Greuter (ego development), Bill Torbert (action logics), Robert Kegan (orders of consciousness and immunity to change) or Theo Dawson and her team (Lectica/LDMA).

We work with developmental models where they are adequate in order to cope with ever increasing complexity in the VUCA world. We don’t focus on teaching people to think at “higher levels”. “Higher levels of performance emerge when knowledge is adequately elaborated and the environment supports higher levels of thinking and performance. We focus on helping people to think better at their current level and challenging them to elaborate their current knowledge and skills”  (Theo Dawson). Read More

“Follow the intensity of your resistance down to its source and sure enough you will find a treasure.”

With transformation work, encountering and overcoming resistances is an intrinsic part of the game. In coaching and facilitating transformative change, people naturally face stages of resistance, fear and confusion. This will inevitably trigger escape and protection mechanisms of the Self system that come in a multitude of shapes, sizes and flavours.

Many of these take the form of well-rehearsed identities (e.g. spiritual identities, cynical attitudes, attack of coach or method, sudden shift of priorities) that are designed to ‘protect’ the coachee from the suspected pain of re-owning deeper lying disassociated parts (shadows). These defence mechanisms can easily sabotage the transformative process. In many cases, people are not aware of these phenomena, but rather strongly identified with them. Kegan and Lahey (2009) define this as “Immunity to Change”, a “hidden commitment”, with an underlying root cause that competes and conflicts with a stated commitment to change. These hidden commitments cause people to resist change and to fail to realise their best intentions. It takes experience to spot such phenomena and to defuse or utilize any deviating construct arising in the space appropriately, in real time.

Fortunately, these patterns tend to have recognizable sequences. Read More

“To work our way towards a shared language once again, we must first learn how to discover patterns which are deep, and capable of generating life”. Christopher Alexander

A Realist Approach to Complexity 

Ever heard of this awkward sounding word, VUCA? It stands for volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous and tries to describe the conditions of the systems we work and live in. The point is, that navigating these VUCA waters makes life tough for leaders, organizations and CEOs, many of whom don’t believe that either they or their organisations are equipped to deal with it. Indeed, how do you make decisions when the outcome has to be uncertain and cannot be predicted.

We work with three complementary approaches parallel.

  1. We work on closing what we call “the complexity gap” and work with matching leadership skills in complexity thinking, collaborative capacity and leadership decision making  with the growing complexity of the jobs, especially in international multi-stakeholder work environments. This is capacity building at its finest.
  2. We work inside of complex adaptive systems with processes and governance structures that release artificially built up complexity in organizations.
  3. We work with the people in whole organizations to tease out what is actually happening for them and probe for the actual, mostly unrecognized and untapped potential for culture change, growth, and emergence.

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