Working Authentically: How Conceptual Constellations Are Helping ‘Team IT’

A few months ago I attended a first-class training course with Ed Rowland and Sarah Rozenthuler on ‘Conceptual Constellations’. You can check it out for yourself on their website here: The Whole Partnership

Fast forward to this week.. as we tested the methodology with a specific team within an IT Directorate with over 130 staff. With this team we prototyped the viability of the methodology, as we explored two important and powerful questions:

  1. What is the purpose of this team within the IT directorate?
  2. What is the purpose of Team IT within the wider organisation?

To these ends, we used a combination of techniques and approaches that I had learnt from the training including: floor mapping; dialogical techniques; team constellations; as well as team self-organising so as to capture their sense of desired direction/ movement for their desried future.

We also mapped potential blockers or impediments to the desired movements. Next we then identified the team resources that they could call-on to help them to ‘unblock’ thes blockers.

This is a (simplified) example of what I am attempting to describe as a conceptual constellation.

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Whilst the exact outcomes are confidential to the team, there were three insights that resonated with the team members that lend themselves to sharing by way of dissemination:

‘Authenticity is a powerful way of unlocking collective intelligence’

‘I have a genuine sense of where we want to go (as a team) that has moved through me both emotionally and in so many other ways’

‘Seeing us standing here together sharing what is important and why has been important…we don’t do enough of this’

I’ll address these three important insights in turn.

‘Authenticity is a powerful way of unlocking collective intelligence’

Authenticity is a sense of being one’s genuine self. Carl Rogers had a lovely description that I think captures it well. He talks about the human that is fully functioning. This involved movement “away from facades, from oughts, from meeting expectations, from pleasing others, and towards self-direction, openness to experience, acceptance of others and trusting oneself” (Joseph, 2016; see p. 34).

Abraham Maslow puts this sense of authenticity in a similar way and says that such people tend to be “realistic in their perceptions, accepting of themselves and other people, guided by inner goals and values, able to form deep relationships, not needing to seek other people’s approval, and well-adjusted to their culture but not immersed in it unthinkingly” (op cite).

We witnessed this within the workshop as team members shared their own sense of the purpose of their team. Next they shared their experiences/ stories that their team members could sense as authentic (in an embodied way). This early activity helped to      co-create the right team environment for the workshop session; or what in the literature is referred to as a ‘safe container’.

‘I have a genuine sense of where we want to go (as a team) that has moved through me both emotionally and in so many other ways’

Towards the end of the workshop session the team used what they had learned and experienced as they self-organised and constellated around their desired future. They mapped where they collectively desired to move; and then identified any blockers to that movement. During a previous activity (that morning) the team had identified their resources that is to say their collective strengths, skills, competencies and experiences that they could draw or call-on.

It is fair to say that there is something powerful about conceptual constellations with these ends, or aims, in mind. There is an ‘unlocking’ of collective sense-making; energy (physical as well as within the team field too); and team collaboration that is moving in so many different senses of that word.

It is fair to say that the team have been moved. They have a sense of collective moving that was unknown before we started. We did not pre-plan or design this in a priori. In other words, this collective energy and movement emerged through the constellation. It was awesome to witness.

‘Seeing us standing here together sharing what is important and why has been important…we don’t do enough of this’

Teams do have a variety of meetings or ‘coming together’. Each meeting has a different objective and style and this is appropriate. However, what really struck this team was the powerful, engaging, collaborative, energizing and experimental power of constellations when we are exploring powerful or profound questions.

When I say powerful questions I have in mind deep, profound or difficult questions like the ‘why’ type of questions. Of course, ‘What is the purpose?’ is an excellent example of this type of question.

Such questions often mean that we have to move the unit of analysis ‘away’ from the individual or even the team. As Ed remidned me recently “It is like we need to google map or zoom out to see something bigger: the whole as well as the parts”. So powerful questions are most often ‘Big Picture’ questions or systemic in nature. This means that the answers are complex. Within this IT team it is authentic to report that they found that conceptual constellations were an excellent approach.

Have a life affirming festive period.

Take care, Jason

 

 

 

 

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