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Coping with Change

1 May 2011
Noga Chipman-Steinwartz
Hands holding a rope

We, knowledge managers, often encounter resistance, which arises as a natural part of the change process. Despite the tendency to seek the cause of resistance in a rational and distinct reason, sometimes the resistance to change stems from a blocking situation that happened in the past or is happening in the present and is rooted in the system, people, connections, or history of the organization. In such a situation, we are "stuck" and do not understand the source of the stuckness. We try to direct ourselves towards goals and objectives but feel that something is pulling us back and not allowing us to formulate a clear plan of action and coping. One of the challenges facing us as knowledge managers is identifying the source of the getting stuck. However, the source is often hidden from view and not spoken about; its impact is noticeable and felt.

The organizational consulting market offers several tools for identifying the causes of the problem, and one of the tools gaining momentum recently is the Systemic Constellation method. The method, which initially served as a tool for family diagnosis and treatment, has recently been expanded and is now included in the organizational consulting market, yielding interesting results.

"Systemic Constellation" is a method developed by Bert Hellinger aimed at surfacing hidden dynamics within the system. At its core, a live simulation is created where the seminar participants stand in a space, symbolizing the dynamics between the parties involved as they perceive them. The method claims that when people are placed freely in space, "spatial identification" is created, meaning that people stand in a space in a way that is projected from their experiences and emotions (close/far, facing/back, next to one/next to the other, etc.). This method allows for a clear and immediate experience of all the factors and their impact, bringing deep insights. Working with a constellation in an organization surfaces the mutual influences of various factors on the problem and clearly and physically demonstrates the sources of stuckness, identifies unspoken obstacles, and mobilizes hidden knowledge toward finding a solution. In a systemic constellation workshop led by Ronit Kortz, an organizational psychologist, at an IPMA conference, a setup was described that was intended to surface the source of resistance to the implementation process of a product in a company. As part of the activity, representatives were placed, symbolizing significant roles in the process (VP, salespeople, developers, and customers) and representatives symbolizing non-human factors such as the product itself, its business potential, and project goals. From how the representatives stood in the room and the angle they chose to face or turn their backs on, much could be learned about the relationship system between the various factors. For example, it appeared that the VP's face was turned towards the business potential instead of the salespeople whose faces were turned towards the customer. From this stage, it was clear that the various factors involved in the process focused their efforts in different directions and were not synchronized. In the discussion and processing following the constellation, it became clear that historically, there had been previous attempts, of which the young VP was unaware, to develop failed innovative products. The company's people perceived this as a situation in which he did not give room for everything that had been before him. At first glance, it seemed that the issues were leadership, discipline, or relationship system matters. Still, the constellation surfaced a different source for the stuckness of the process.

Knowledge managers also face challenges such as implementing new systems, achieving cooperation from management and the knowledge management team and employees, driving processes, fostering an organizational culture supporting sharing and learning, and more. Often, organizational knowledge managers turn to us for advice when they feel these processes are not progressing optimally and sense passive or active resistance beneath the surface. Moreover, they often assume that the reason for the delay is known to them, and they only seek our advice in the context of dealing with it. The systemic constellation tool can expose and diagnose unexpected or unknown resistances and dynamics in such situations. It is important to note that even in cases where the reason for the delay or resistance is indeed the one anticipated by the knowledge manager, setting up and giving the team members a platform where they can express their feelings and raise emotions, motivations, and dynamics that concern them for discussion helps connect them to the process and create their motivation to reach a solution.

In conclusion, the systemic constellation is not just another tool, but a gateway to meaningful discussions and a broad understanding. It's an innovative and interesting method that we've started using in suitable situations and organizations. The setups have not only exposed hidden dynamics but also opened the door to sharing feelings and motivations, fostering a deeper connection with our partners. The responses and actions that followed the experience were positive, pointing to the immense potential of this method.

Sources: IPMA Conference 2011, 'Systemic Constellation,' Ronit Kortz, Organizational Psychologist

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