The Beautiful Flame: Alchemy, Conflict and Appreciative Inquiry


The Beautiful Flame:

Alchemy, Conflict and Appreciative Inquiry.

A Personal Inquiry by

Jason A Nickels

BSc(Hons), MSc (Cardiff)



Appreciative Inquiry has struggled with the concept of conflict. This case study and associated first-person inquiry celebrates the necessary role that conflict has played in organisational transformation activities within a set of IT projects. It is suggested that AI would benefit from a more comfortable position as seeing conflict as a paradoxical factor rather than a binary or polar opposite of consensus. The ways by which this has been experienced, understood and critically reflected on are shared by way of lessons learned.


This paper seeks to address an identified weakness, or at least a criticism, that Appreciative Inquiry (AI) does not adequately address conflict. To this end, the paper will seek to do three things. Firstly, it shares the lessons learned from an embedded case-study that conflict can and does give rise to transformation. Secondly, the ancient Art of Alchemy is used as the key metaphor/story to make sense of the forces and factors at play. Lastly, to make the link between the individual experiences and the external project(s), the Alchemist leadership model/action logic has been both useful and authentic to this purpose. In this way, this paper seeks to integrate the ‘inner/developmental work’ of the leader with the ‘outer work’ of the projects themselves.

A need to incorporate conflict with AI?

In the past AI has come under criticism for its lack of analysis, recognition and methodological relevance for power-relations and conflict (see Koster-Kooger, 2016). In response to this critique, this paper celebrates the necessary, but not sufficient conditions, of interpersonal conflict. It celebrates the role of conflict within the hidden and mysterious ‘Art of Alchemy’. This latter worldview is best described as the sense-making ‘lens’ or metaphor from which the empirical data has been understood.

More specifically, Koster-Kooger (2016) goes-on to say this about the weaknesses of AI with conflict:

“Although some of the Appreciative Inquiry’s literature hints at these dynamics, it only scratches at the surface and portrays little critical reflexivity regarding the position of AI practitioners in power-resistance relations” (p.59).

She also adds this important point:

“AI literature has shown little reflexivity regarding the consultant’s role in the social construction of change. Indeed the classic distinction between the change agent and recipients is retained”.

Stacey (2016) also adds an important point when he says:

“For AI to be really generative, it has to rely on doubt, disagreement, and thus conflict. An interesting question is how AI deals with the dynamic tension between consensus and conflict in such a way that organisations evolve to higher levels of coordinating actions, and negotiating meanings” (p.52).

The Alchemical Metaphor

This paper uses the Alchemical tradition as a metaphor for transformation. As will be demonstrated, Alchemists saw that there needed to be a genuine integrative link between their own ‘inner work’ or self-development, to the ‘outer’ work of the actual transformation that they were seeking; that is to saw changing/transforming crude or base metals into alchemical gold; through a series of iterative experiments.

To these ends the Alchemists describe in their writings the central role and importance of the fire within their furnace. Stated briefly, without initiating, nurturing, developing and understanding the fire, there can be no alchemical transformation. For the Alchemist it was seen as essential; a pre-requisite set of activities from which the elements could be carefully transformed from base metal through (eventually) to the desired and precious gold.

The paper is structured in the following manner:-

  • The Alchemist leadership framework/action logic will be explained succinctly
  • The Inner/Personal and Outer/Project works and points of integration will be evaluated
  • Highlights from key points of critical reflexivity
  • The lessons learned will be shared

Picture One: The Alchemical Furnace taken from Geber in ‘De alchimia 168’


The Alchemist

The leadership model that has been adopted for this first-person or personal inquiry has been the Alchemist. The Alchemist as a style of leader, Torbert (2008) suggests has the following action logic:

…a “meta-perspective, with loyalty to the whole system and the ability to hold and transcend polarities”.

In other words, the Alchemical leader is not drawn into sub-groups that are most often expressed as ‘in and out’ groups and does not look to be loyal to a small cabal, or coalition of power. No! Rather they seek to be loyal to the whole system. (NB: On reflection, this is seen as an important point of critical reflexivity that will be returned to a little later.)

The Inner Work

As part of the series of action inquiry cycles, there are moments when the outer work located in the complex world of IT transformational projects calls for, or demands, a corresponding amount of inner work. There are four key turning-points of inner work and the following insights are useful from Hillman (2014):

“Because fire cannot be touched directly, it must be grasped indirectly, by hints, paradoxes, analogies, allegories, cryptic cyphers and arcane symbols. Gnostics, Rosicrucian’s, Kabbalists. The black art of the hidden knowledge.

Anything usually perceptible to the common eye is not the alchemical gold; all things, the mind itself, must be initiated, sophisticated.

Only an elite…reclusive and disciplined, having suffered long in the mystery, done their mortifications and their praying, can work the fire” (p.51).

He also has these important additional points to make to:

“In the fire of the work, or on fire with their work, alchemists are subject to fire’s defiance of gravity, and they imagine their work pointing upwards in accord with the flames and the heat they are attempting to control. From lower to higher, from inert to active, heavy to light, small aimless and smouldering to intense and leaping, imperfection to perfection, disease to health, particular to universal; mortal to immortal…saved from hell fire by divine fire…the phoenix rising from the ashes” (p.50-51).

There is much authenticity in the proceeding descriptions, and accordingly these have used some of the resonant themes as frames for the inner work completed:

  1. “Because fire cannot be touched directly, it must be grasped indirectly, by hints, paradoxes”

Appreciative Inquiry states that what we go and look for in organisational life we will find. In other words, if we are motivated to research pathology, dysfunction, crisis, or dissatisfaction then we create suitable instruments or tools; we go in search of what we are interested and no surprise we find it! This it seems to me lies behind the ‘positive turn’ in Psychology in general. We are now as interested, if not more so, in what gives life, joy, success and fulfilment at work as opposed to the opposite. However, herein lies the paradox! This it seems is the general concern we have in exploring conflict it can become a negative self-fulfilling prophecy.

To this area, Stacey (2016) makes the point that conflict and consensus are not simply polar opposites but rather a paradoxical tension.

He says: “For AI to be really generative, it has to rely on doubt, disagreement, and thus conflict. An interesting question is how AI deals with the dynamic tension between consensus and conflict in such a way that organisations evolve to higher levels of coordinating actions, and negotiating meanings” (p.52).

The Alchemists’ flame has this very paradoxical quality; it lends itself to being incorporated into AI’s lexicon for these very reasons. We have a choice as AI practitioners that rather than seeing conflict as the negative of the binary with consensus, we can rather view and talk about it in its paradoxical quality. It seems to the author that this neatly ‘circumvents’ the confirmation bias described earlier. In other words, we won’t end-up in a negative self-fulfilling prophecy, but rather have a life-affirming mystery! We can say that the flame of conflict is indeed necessary. It is fundamental requirement. However, we must be careful: Whilst the flame is essential at the same time we don’t want to get burned either!

  1. “Having suffered long in the mystery”

It is hard to appreciate ‘suffering’. None the less, it is authentic to state that large-scale transformational change has called for additional resilience. There has been moments of pain and indeed some suffering.However, this has further developed resilience, emotional stamina and indeed additional patience.

One of my key learning’s from a systemic constellation (see page 15) was that I “cannot bear the system load on my own”. This called for additional humility, as well as the courage to accept the limits of my own systemic influence.

It is authentic to share that despite my best attempts to ‘integrate the radicals’ within the existing organisational forces- expressed best as the organisation need for traditional project discipline within the transformational ‘space’, I failed. (NB: The radicals were a small but influential agile sub-group that resisted any attempt to integrate ‘agility’ with ‘project discipline’).

  1. “Done their mortifications and their praying, can work the fire”

During July 2016 I completed two retreats as well as a conceptual constellation. Each of these in turn gave generative space to explore, discuss and work-on my emergent inner work.

  • Stories That We Are.

This 2-day retreat run by Geoff Mead (see Mead, 2014) helped explored the sense of identify shaping that personal narratives have. For me, this was about softening an old story and exploring some of the paradoxical categories that shape my ancestry. I also had time/space to meet David Drake (2016) who asked me this important question:

“What story is worth your life?” 

This forms part of my on-going inquiry.

  •  St Buenos.

Under the Christian tradition of St. Ignatius this weekend silent retreat enabled me to ponder, reflect and meditate. I also completed some art work; and wrote a short poem. This formed part of my inner work. I came away refreshed and re-focussed.

  • Systemic Constellation with Ed Rowland

This conceptual constellation allowed me to ‘map out’ the whole system from my own point of view. I identified key sub-groups and participants. My learning from this was that despite my best attempts to facilitate the integration of the ‘radical agilists’ I have failed. In real terms this meant that some individuals that I got along with quite well would later leave or indeed had left already. However, I also learned that the ‘system needs to find its balance’. As can be demonstrated the systemic agility is improving albeit slowly, but significantly, and this is encouraging.

  1. “From lower to higher, from inert to active, heavy to light, small aimless and smouldering to intense and leaping”

For the Alchemist the ways by which the base metal was transformed into the desired gold was completed by a series of small, iterative experiments. Each type of experiment relied heavily on getting the ‘right type’ of flame. They understood that it was essential that they had the right temperature, the right quality of flame:  otherwise that stage would fail.

In this regard around quality, it is fascinating to note that when alchemy speaks of degrees of heat it does not refer to numbers. Rather it speaks of the ‘heat of the heat of the sand’, the ‘heat of horse dung’, and the’ heat of metal touching fire’. These heats differ- both in degree, but more importantly for this inquiry- in terms of quality. Stated simply, this inquiry makes the central claim that a chaotic flame is a dangerous flame.

In fact, we can go further and pay attention to the ways by which the Alchemists saw chaos as the crude materials from which to start-up their heating process. This is a fascinating metaphor for large-scale transformation in that we need the paradoxical flame of conflict: consensus. Without the ‘right’ quality of friction we cannot create the energy necessary for change.

However, in much the same way as with the Alchemist, if we get it wrong then that stage of the transformation will fail, and we will need to repeat the experiment. We need enough conflict but not too much! Too much and ‘people get burned’. Just enough and we can see that ‘Jane is on fire right now’ signifying that she is in that personal space of high performance! Herein lies the paradox. Therein lies the danger as well as the opportunity!

The Inner Outer Work Synchronised

Taking into account the link between the ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ work the Alchemist seeks to “be the change”. As Marie-Louise Von Franz (1982) says the Alchemist recognises that the work can only be only be completed the help of God, or a Master, that acts as a Mentor.

She says:

“This science of theirs is given only to the few, and none understands it unless God or a Master has opened her understanding.

She then adds:

“Since all the essentials are expressed in metaphors they can only be communicated to the intelligent, who possess the gift of comprehension” (see p. 302)

My journal seems to support this claim has on Thursday 14th April 2016, I note:

“Working through what it means to behave as an Alchemist. I think I understand a little more about being loyal to the whole system…” (Emphasis mine)

The Outer Work

The graphic picture (below) seeks to demonstrate my own sense of personal energy/fire across the total time period.


As can be seen I start with a typical ‘honeymoon’ new starter period. This falls away gently as I/we are seeking to address more complex questions such as:

  • How do we scale our agility across the Enterprise?
  • How do we collaborate across and between the (at that time) six or seven agile project teams?
  • How do we successfully address the complex (myriad) interdependencies?
  • How do we make sense of the overall Vision in concrete terms?

There is little doubt that some 13-months ago we were attempting to co-ordinate a highly complex set of inter-related projects. This was a demanding conceptual and operational (delivery) task. An internal audit some 7-months later highlighted that the risks were indeed high in terms of delivery of the same.

However, this is not to say that individuals and teams were not deeply committed. Quite the contrary would be my own experience. I noted after several weeks that the enthusiasm and even excitement was tangible.

There are 3 turning-points in the organisational history and my own sense-making narrative:-

  1. Perturbing the Field/ Breaking the Spell 

A new systems leader joins and sees things ‘afresh’. Jung (1980) calls this perturbing the field. This can be likened to that turning-point in a story or traditional Fairy Tale when a new character emerges and ‘breaks the spell’ that the current characters are living under. My direct experience of this was a challenge to the ‘radicals’. The consequences of this were that we:-

  • Changed strategic direction by developing a new strategy linked to the business needs;
  • Changed priorities across the projects to provide space for further work necessary for mapping dependences and resourcing
  • Challenged our cultural assumptions in the ways by which we thought about being ‘agile’ in the broadest sense. 
  1. A re-balancing of IT projects and IT operations

On this second note: the ‘system finding its balance’ has meant that for us that whilst all the ‘radicals’ have left, a few of them were also high status within the local Agile community and others (following them perhaps to some extent?) have also left.

It is fair to say that the system has more recently ‘found its balance’ in at least three ways:

  • The sense of organisational ‘fit’ both with the strategic vision and commitment to a more ‘tempered’ Agile approach
  • The degree of conflict has ‘settled down into itself’. By that I mean that rather than ‘over heating’ at the inter-personal and inter-team levels it has normalised to what I would describe as a ‘respectful difference of opinions’
  • The number of projects has reduced (as with personnel) from 7 projects down to 3; and with approximately 20 vacancies (somewhat 10%). The average turnover previously being around 3.5% 
  1. Agility is enhanced through new tools and approaches 

By the end of August 2016 there are a number of key points of progress:

  • Delivery of a complex project to budget and time. The new systems leader noted that this was down to ‘everyone in IT pulling together and their (systemic) commitment’
  • New integration (called Middleware) installed making all IT work across the business (Enterprise) much easier going forwards
  • New tool for web development that relies less on technical coding per se, and more on configuration (the latter enhancing our speed/agility by a factor of eight)
  • Successful installation of the new IT HR system project. This is the second project under the revised IT strategy demonstrating its success to date which is encouraging
  • Key politically important project on track for delivery both in terms of time and budget

Personal Lessons Learned

Taschen (2009) notes this about fire:

“All living things are in some way fertilised, tempered, ripened, or destroyed by forms of fire….Friction ignites the hidden fire between wood and stone, as in ourselves it transposes possibility into conception.

A single flame-point illuminate’s darkness, focuses or mesmerises the eye, ascends the vapours of inspiration and offering. The fire of passions sweeps through the body, consuming and germinating, just as conflagration can blacken the forest and engender new growth” (p.82)

What resonates is the sense of friction. Friction of course is also an excellent way of describing interpersonal conflict. The metaphor has further value too in that we can accept, that like the Alchemist’s flame, the quality of the flame is key for success.

We need friction! We need a difference of opinion. We need some conflict. That is what has been learned from this inquiry. However, too much and people get burned; worn out, tired and we have the potential for pathology at the individual, team and organisational level.

However, we can and we would bode well to appreciate that genuine transformation is based on a generative model of conflict. It is underpinned by embodied values such as: openness, respect, courage and commitment. In that generative space some healthy difference of ideas and opinions can create a much needed and indeed beautiful flame!

When viewed in this more appreciative way; conflict can be likened to a “generative uncertainty.” (see Drake, 2014). This seems to neatly signify the paradoxical quality to it.

For AI Practitioners, the Alchemical leadership model holds much promise to these ends. There is a life-affirming integration point between the ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ work.

There are also careful reminders of the reflective need for being loyal to the whole system; as well as a commitment for praxis to be ‘the change that one is seeking’. As has been expressed, this takes both an equal measure of courage and humility.

None-the-less, when seen as ‘inner transformation’ as a work-in progress; this creates space for growth, learning and indeed service to things that really do matter. To these ends, it seems to the author that it is an authentic claim that appreciating conflict from an Alchemical tradition and leadership approach adds personal knowledge, systemic insight, and pragmatic value.

The humble (and burning?) question that AI needs to ask itself as a body of knowledge and community is: Is the flame of conflict one that ought to be included within its lexicon? I’d suggest the answer might well be a resounding ‘YES’!





Berke, J.H. (2015) The Hidden Freud: His Hassidic Roots. Karnac Books Limited, London.

Cooperrider, D.L. & Whitney, D. (2006). Appreciative Inquiry: A positive revolution in Change. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, San Fran, California.

Drake, D. (2015) Narrative coaching: bringing our new stories to life. CNC Press, CA, USA.

Hillman, J (2010). Alchemical Psychology. Volume 5 of the Uniform Edition of the Writings of James Hillman. Spring Publications, Inc. London.

Jung, C.G. (1980). Psychology and Alchemy. Routledge, London.

Koster-Kooger, I. (2016). The Elephant in the Room: A critical inquiry into Appreciative Inquiry’s struggle with appreciating power-resistance. AI Practitioner, February 16.

Mead, G. (2014) Telling the Story: The Heart and Soul of Successful Leadership. John Wiley and Sons, West Sussex, England.

Stacey, R. (2016). The Paradox of Consensus and Conflict in Organisational Life. AI Practitioner February 16.

Taschen (2010). The Book of Symbols: Reflections on Archetypal Images, Archive for Research in Archetypical Symbolism.

The Jungian Center (2015) Dreams and Dreamwork: A Short Course.

The Scaled Agile Framework. (SAFe). Found at

The Tanakh: Hebrew-English (2003). Jewish Publication Society, London.

Torbert, B. (2004) Action Inquiry: The Secret of Timely and Transforming Leadership. Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc. San Francisco, CA.

Von Franz, M-L. (1985). Alchemy: An Introduction to the Symbolism and the Psychology (Studies in Jungian psychology)

Wernham, B. (2012). Agile Project Management for Government. Maitland & Strong, West Hampstead, London.

Whittingham, J. Systemic Coaching and Constellations (2016): The Principles, Practice and Applications for Individuals, Teams and Groups. Kogan Page. London.


Appendix Items 

Item A: Understanding the Agile Alchemical journey

The first schematic is a time-line that highlights the key milestone events within IT digital transformation. The key events are summarised in the following Table 1 below:

Date Milestone &

Alchemical Signification

Description and Relevance


10/07/15 First Person Inquiry: Values



This inquiry process was simply around questions of organisational ‘fit’. I was enthused, excited and engaged by the questions that the agile teams were seeking to address around scale, spread and high performance teams.

As such I accepted the formal job offer and joined the organisation.

03/09/15 Agile on the Beach



My peer-group of five Scrum Masters attended this Conference over 3-days. This gave us the space and time to get to know each other well. We explored the methodical ways by which we could seek to improve our praxis. We also had a few beers on the beach too!
17/09/15 Cycle 1: Integration Possibilities?







My questions around this stage were:

How do we appreciate the excellent governance offered by methods such as PRINCE2 and MSP?

How do we successfully engage with a PMO that requires a set of governance information?

How do we offer a plan for projects within which project boards and internal stakeholders can make sense and discharge their respective responsibilities?Stated simply: How can I integrate ‘project stuff’ with ‘agile ways’?

This could be likened to any set of polar opposites. Both ‘sides’ held strong views and I was seeking to integrate them.

At the team level we had some measure of success using statistical forecasting; and then overlaid this onto a very visual storyboard (see attached).

10/11/15 Cycle 2: Scale



Separatio &


At one inter-team meeting we mapped all of the inter-dependent work in and between the teams. It is fair to say that it was the most complicated and complex map I have seen in 15-years of working in this space.

What also became apparent was the need for web-page developments (front-end) to be able to call Enterprise services. This is called vertical slicing. This was a challenge for us at this point.

08/11/15 SAFe training



To aid my own learning and understanding I asked colleagues from other organisations which was the best-in-class for working at this complex scale and it was SAFe.
06/03/16 The Radicals: A Love for the Chaotic Flame?




“Just throw the code across the fence”.

At this point I became increasingly aware that some of the agile community were getting frustrated. This resulted in a binary thinking of ‘us and them’ and consequently some key agile influencers were advocating and ‘coaching’ that the answer was to proverbially ‘throw hand grenades’ at other parts of the IT family or whole system.

There were there key moments that stand out in my mind:

·         Holding a caring, authentic but courageous ‘mirror’ up to a key systems influencer that his adversarial stance was giving agile a bad reputation

·         He resigned later that same day and I still wonder to what extent I contributed to that decision

·         Another key influencer also claiming that his stance was to “inject chaos” into the system for new forms to emerge. He resigned 6-weeks later·         Then we had a number of people leaving over a number of 13-months this was 10 permanent and 10 contractors

·         This was from a total headcount of 131.

My learning journal has this note:

“Finished my blog today (Monday 7th March) and have the sense that I’m being drawn to the constellated field approach to organisational change. The field activated by unconscious constellations of archetypes resonated with my current thoughts and ideas”.

On 15th March I made the following note:

“All systems are influenced by organising forces which attempt to maintain the coherence of the whole. This is where the principles of Time, Place and Exchange come from…but if you ignore or violate its rules you’ll feel its powerful impact”.

Jung’s insight is that in fairy tales someone is often drawn into the story or system and by ‘breaking the spell’ he called this ‘perturbing the field’. A new leader often does this as she/he sees things in a fresh way.

17/04/16 Cycle 4: Resilience




My learning journal notes

‘Am reading my notes on alchemy after a conversation with a senior leader about his view that we need some chaos.

Then I re-read this:

“The nigredo is the initial stage. This chaos; the prima material/ mass confusia. Thus we add HEAT and the Alchemist heats-up the opposites producing a fine, white powder.”

It seems that chaos or a mass confusia is the initial or even pre-stage for the intervention of the Alchemist.

What is fascinating is that I started co-coaching another of my peer-group as he was needing to ‘dig in deep’ given some of the complexities of above, and some personal issues that required additional resilience. It was only a few weeks later that I also had a genuine need for additional resilience myself.  Around the end of April I am in that ‘sacred space’ called ‘stuckness’.

27/04/16 Constellation: Divided Loyalties



Distillatio &

Fermentatio &



My journal makes this note:

“We are possessed by Stories see Geoff Mead. And Felicitas Goodman says there are times when we unconscious of the effect, we program ourselves by repeating, word for word, the stories our family members have handed down about each other and we entangle ourselves in them like flies in a web (see page 7).

This resonated and I wondered: to what extent am I entangled? Is this why I feel so stuck?

This led to my taking the action to seek out help from Ed Rowlands. The need to belong is a strong psychological need for me. Whilst I can celebrate the paradoxes of consensus and conflict (Stacey, 2016); at this point it is experienced as a divided loyalty between:

·         Agile practitioners that seek to make incremental changes through collaboration rather than chaos

·         Wanting to incorporate the best of governance from PRINCE whilst the ‘radicals’ reject any such notion

I therefore seek out help from Ed Rowlands and complete a conceptual constellation where I can map, test and experiment with my experiences of divided loyalty in a ‘safe space’.

There are some first-class personal insights and these are:

·         The whole system is much bigger than me and my intentions

·         A need to go back and more fully explore Theory U

·         A need to get grounded in my praxis

·         I was deeply upset expressing this in the moment

My journal has this note:

Geoff Mead notes that we must learn how to differentiate between narratives that are self-serving and self-interested and those that come from a place of greater mutuality and genuine engagement…

I am wondering how to integrate this with ‘acknowledging what is’ when we look at systemic coaching?

07/05/16 Internal Audit Report



A senior system leader asks the internal auditors to review some of the key projects.

What is fascinating is that with one key project he describes the next phase as the potential in these terms: “The phoenix shall rise from the ashes”

Stated simply, there are a number of challenges that are needed to be addressed as a matter of urgency. Key themes are:

·         Governance

·         Road Mapping

·         Inter-Dependencies

By way of authentic writing it is fair to say that I held these same concerns months previously under my rubric of ‘integration’. However, I felt no smugness in ‘being right’ rather sadness at my lack of influence with my peers and others within the system.

24/05/16 The ‘Stories We Are’ Retreat


Liquefactio &


Geoff Mead hosts a 2-day retreat for those organisational development practitioners that use narrative leadership and methods in their praxis. This was important for three reasons:-

·         Part of my stuckness was linked to early formative/familial constellation

·         There was a space for more generative personal stories and ensuring that ‘old stories’ had a softer edge to them

·         I wanted to explore aspects of my identity that were, and are, paradoxical such as my Jewish ancestry and Christian( I’m quite a liberal) ideology / faith.

·         I wanted to celebrate both but with increasing anti-Semitism this was troubling and gave rise to questions like: Was this similar to my Great Grandmothers decision to ‘marry-out’

Joseph H Berke (2016) expresses Jewish marrying-out or conversion to Christianity as the ‘royal road to social acceptance’. This seems very sad and something I am deeply opposed to in principle and practice.

My notes from Monday 20 June 2016

“Had an honest discussion with a senior leader today and consequently I am staying (here)”.

16/07/16 St Beuno’s Retreat





This was a silent retreat from St Ignatius tradition. I incorporated liberation psychology as the ‘grounding’ for my work with the homeless voluntary work years ago.

Here I had some ‘inner work’ to work in that explored the genuine challenges of forgiveness in a personal area. This no longer holds a ‘grip’ on me as I have worked it through over the last 12-months.

I also found a peace that has re-energised me: both in work and at home too.

19/07/16 Cycle 5: Strategy




The Senior Leadership Team have completed the principles and key ideas for the ways by which the IT department will be developed.

It is an exciting period- we have it seems to me a genuinely grounded assessment of our capabilities, challenges and opportunities. Whilst I did search for a few jobs during the ‘resilience’ phase some of this (now seems) I was ‘running away’. I delighted to say that I have decided to stay and implement the strategy for the next 3-years.

09/08/16 Cycle 6: Pace and Power



We have made significant progress with our agility over the last several months. Whilst this has been a challenge there are demonstrable outcomes with recent projects delivered on time and to a high quality.

Very soon (a matter of 6-8 weeks) we will also be in a position to have even more agility. A good example of this is the ways by which a new web-based configuration tool and an IT integration layer will enable us to have ‘hot releases’.

I love the fact the release is ‘hot’. Neatly alchemical! This is the ‘alchemical gold’ of Agility.


 Appendix Item B: The Key Alchemical Operations in the Narrative

Alchemical Process Signification or Meaning

(every term listed here has more than one meaning in the

alchemical literature)

circulatio the process of circling that brings the outside in and the inside out; the cycling ascent and descent; a rotation meant to strengthen constancy, humility, moderation and concentration; the archetypal spiral
circumambulatio the process of going round and round in an enclosed space with the goal of producing the “Original Man;” a ritual; the archetypal spiral; the process necessary to transform the life mass; the process entailing holding the tension of opposites
contemplatio the process of reflection and introspection that applies active imagination focused on an object
contritio “perfect” repentance, completely rejecting sin as the opposite of the good, without fear of punishment
digestio the process of assimilating and processing a new insight
divisio one of multiple process representing the original state of conflict between the 4 hostile elements; separation of the elements


the physical process of reducing the complex to the simple; synonym: informatio
fixatio the process that consolidates feelings; or holding the tension of multiple opposites
illuminatio the process of achieving enlightenment in a spiritual (not intellectual) sense; a “lighting up” of consciousness
incineratio the process of burning up, a la the phoenix; one of several processes causing dismemberment of the body and separation of the elements;
incubatio the process of heating (akin to the Sanskrit tapas, or self-brooding) or self-heating; a state of introversion in which the unconscious content is brooded over and digested
liberatio the process of release from psychic bonds; the process of emancipating the ego from psychic dominants;
liquefactio the process that transforms a solid into a liquid; a dissolving
meditatio the process of having an inner dialogue with someone unseen, e.g. God; part of the work of coming to terms with the unconscious
mortificatio literally, the process of dying; linked to the calcinatio and putrefactio; a physical slaying; a disintegration, symbolized by a skull; associated with the nigredo phase of the work;
peregrinatio the process that undertakes the “mystic journey” leading to the 4 corners and to the center of the Earth; a wandering undertaken by the alchemist
resurrectio the process of change, transmutation or transformation of one’s being; occurs in the albedo phase of the work; linked to the phoenix, peacock and lapis
symbolizatio the process of drawing parallels and analogies as part of amplification; interpreting by the use of symbols;


transformatio the process accomplished by the (magical) lapis or by Mercurius; a core process in alchemy
transitio the process of change or being in the midst of change; key words: the between, boundaries, borders, frontiers, liminality; the Buddhists’ concept of the Bardo
unificatio the process of synthesizing or unifying


(© the Jungian Center 2015).


Appendix Item C: Conceptual Constellation with Ed Rowlands.

On 24/04/16 my journal makes the following notes:-

  • I am one person in a complex system of people and I cannot bear the system load on my own
  • Divided loyalties is an ‘Old Story’ that can be traced right back to that vulnerable child when my parents divorced. (Parsons 2000) sees Oedipus as a life-long developmental challenge with ‘new kinds of oedipal configurations that belong to later life’.
  • I want to find my peace with the IPO system
  • I need to respect the system and let it find its balance
  • Constellations are powerful, soul-work, mysterious, profound, and insightful (see also Whittingham, 2016).

Picture 3: The Conceptual Constellation (My Own Representation)