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.

While both individual and group/team processes require time, place, effort, training, personal commitment, nurture, practice and guidance, they have a place in adult – , leadership – and team development as well as innovation training, but not for scaling and shifting larger collectives or organisations. Pictures 4 and 5 show  how working with large scale differs in its approach. Complexity thinking and cognitive science deliver the design principles for sensemaking approaches (see Prof. D. Snowden’s work/Cognitive Edge). Here, we work with triggering people into paying attention (cognitive activation) while they volunteer to deliver real, self-signified, and real time data about what is actually happening as opposed to what should be happening. The shift of the whole collective (change) is an effect of the sum total of all micro-shifts of everyday behaviours and attitudes in a more generative direction, toward an ‘adjacent possible’.

Team training, group processes and leadership development as well as internal capacity building might still be desirable in specific instances to complement this process. However, the beauty of this approach to change is at least twofold:

a) with this approach no one has to go a developmental growth process and are allowed to be who they are and have the values they have, while at the same time shifts and change are possible, and they can chose how.
Thus, sensemaking is complementing adult development while counteracting the developmental bias seen in many (integral) change initiatives, where larger scale change is seen almost exclusively through the lens of growth to higher levels of consciousness as the only way to solve complex problems. This attitude has a built-in arrogance that, sure enough, creates pushback and resistance to change.

b) it scales, with immediate impact, in real time. This is exactly what we need.

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

“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.

Read More