Are you an Agile Coach, Team Lead, Team Coach or Manager? Have you ever had the strange feeling that something smells in a team? Is there something stuck or the same issue keeps recurring? Is there too much talking, too many words, and rational analysis is not getting to the issue? Are team members stuck ‘in their heads’? Is there something hidden, secret or taboo? Or, perhaps, a skilled/experienced person cannot fully occupy their role authority?
An organizational system can be looked at as a continuously changing mass of relationships, hierarchies, loyalties and motivations. It hangs in delicate balance, with each part influencing each other part. When all of the elements have their place, are free to move and play their part, systemic coherence can be achieved. However, when we see inertia, challenging group dynamics, unwelcome behaviors, ‘politics’ or difficult emotions, these are messages that something is out of alignment and the system is attempting to re-establish coherence.
A Systemic Constellation is a visible relational map of the invisible relationship system that is designed to restore the integrity of a system and organizational health.
In relationship systems there exists a kind of invisible field of information, which can only be accessed through the language of symbolic images. The language of the unconscious. Thus, a constellation encourages participants to “get out of their heads” and work from their “felt sense” – an intuitive level of “knowing”. To profit from this method, you have to dethrone your linear and analytical rational mind as the sovereign ruler.
What is a System?
A system is a number of elements that are connected to one another in continuously changing relationships. With any change in one element there is a simultaneous change in all the other elements.
If everything in a company system is in a constantly changing relationship, it means we have to let go of the comfortable habit of thinking in terms of cause and effect. Within networks of living systems, there is not always a cause first and then effects. Effects may show up for which we can find no cause at all.
Laws of Systems
Interpersonal systems, which we know as teams, departments, companies, and markets, follow certain laws, and their success depends on the degree to which they conform to these laws.
- Principle of Place: Everyone has a right to belong
- Principle of Time: Those who came first have priority ranking over those who came later
- Principle of Exchange: A balance of giving and taking
- Principle of Acknowledgement: What actually is must be allowed to be: respect
These hidden forces create hidden dynamics which cause visible symptoms, often through behaviors. These behaviors are an unconscious attempt to realign with the organizing forces.
Symptoms are the system’s way of showing that something wants to be seen. The invisible field is being pulled out of alignment and people say that “the culture is changing around here”.
Systemic Coaching is that which acknowledges, illuminates and releases the system dynamics so each element can function with ease. It is coaching that prioritizes the system. It is a coaching whose client is the system, not their members.
A constellation is a practical intervention that can illuminate the invisible and unspoken dynamics behind a relationship difficulty, a stuck issue or a persisting challenge.
Constellations provide a way of exploring and clarifying almost any kind of relationship system. The unconscious inner image of the system is brought to the surface and allows us to explore so that a new image can be integrated into our life and work.
Constellations connect facilitator and client to an invisible field of information in a system and provides a way to realign the elements, giving each a place. As hidden loyalties and entanglements are revealed and brought into the consciousness, the system can relax and offer fresh resources to all its members.
The purpose of a constellation is to restore system coherence so that everyone and everything is given its place and is free to operate at its best.
Constellation workshops are generally small with about 20 participants. The group sits in a circle and, under the guidance of the facilitator, uses the space in the centre to set up a “living map”. To begin each piece of work, the person who is bringing an issue briefly describes, to the facilitator, the difficulty or challenge they are facing.
Once there is clarity about the essence of the issue or the change required, the facilitator invites the “issue holder” to select workshop participants to “represent” each of the core elements in the system being explored.
The client is invited to include a representative for themselves in the constellation. Standing behind each representative they place their hands on the representatives’ shoulders and guide them, intuitively, to a place that feels true. As a result a pattern is created, an external picture of a largely unconscious inner image.
This is the start of the constellation and, even at this early stage, it often reveals fresh insights about the relationship structures in the system being explored.
As the underlying dynamics gradually become clearer, the facilitator works with the representatives by inviting them to move to different places within the system map, asking them questions and offering short phrases.
Eventually, the constellation gets to a resolution when situation is stable.
How can I put this into practice?
Constellations are a extremely powerful tool that cannot be explained in a blog post. You need certain level of coaching or leadership experience and specific training in the process. Otherwise it could be dangerous.
You can use constellations in one-to-one personal coaching in order to map a situation that is troubling your coachee or you could also use it to map the different internal selves or roles.
You can also use constellations for personal coaching using human representatives to map the items in the coachee’s situation.
At an organizational level you can have a team observe from the outside while you constellate their issue with representatives who don’t know anything about the team.
- Las Constelaciones Organizacionales – Guillermo Echegaray
- Systemic Coaching & Constellations – John Whittington
- Invisible Dynamics – Klaus P. Horn, Regine Brick