What is a System?
Before addressing the question what Systemic Consultancy is, it is necessary to define what a system is. In Systemic Consultancy we work with systems. These are living systems, in continuous change, movement and evolution.
According to the Oxford Dictionary a system is “A set of things working together as parts of a mechanism or an interconnecting network; a complex whole”. In simpler words and within the context of systemic consultancy and human relations, we could say that a system is a set of people belonging to a particular group, such as: families, groups of friends, schools, companies, communities, government organizations, etc. Each system has established dynamics, that are governed by certain rules or principles, which we call “systemic principles.” Everything that happens to any of the members of the system affects the entire system as a whole; if a person changes, or is affected, the entire system will be affected and will try to restore its balance. If the system is well oriented and has the ability to function harmoniously, this will be reflected in the good results of the system. In contrast, if the system is dysfunctional, this will translate, depending on the type of system that is concerned, in communication problems, inability to achieve common goals, rivalries, conflicts, failures, etc.
What is Systemic Consultancy?
Systemic Consultancy is an innovative technique oriented towards the resolution of problems within the context of a company or institution, characterized by its time-efficiency.
Human systems, in this case the organization or company in question, operate under ‘systemic principles’ that we are not used to see, respect or attend. When we fail to respect these principles, the organizations, although being able to function, will be working in a dysfunctional way, where every task seems to get more laborious.
- customers lose interest in our services,
- the organization cannot achieve their goals,
- Employees put their responsibility aside,
- Employees may leave the company,
- Employees behave as if they have more authority than they really have
- lack or poor quality of communication between the departments of a company,
- the managers fail to perform their work optimally despite of being entirely capable of doing so,
In these situations organisations often use tools that perform a logical-rational analysis to solve the problems, but even by covering these possibilities in search of a resolution, these dysfunctional dynamics may continue. Systemic Consultancy allows us to expand our view to include, reorder and rebalance those aspects that are neglected by the logical-rational analysis, by performing a deeper analysis and thus achieving a general and complete image of the situation. When we respect the ‘systemic principles’, the organization has the ability to function smoothly, harmonious, relaxed, and achieve to meet the objectives that give it purpose.
The innovation of this technique is that it provides the client with a clear definition of the current situation within the organization, so providing an image of resolution and indicating the right path towards this resolution.
What are the systemic principles?
Principle of Belonging
Human beings have the need for strong and stable relationships with others. Belonging, apart of increasing individual survival, also benefits the group by increasing the likelihood that members cooperate and engage in a coordinated action. (Fiske, 2010). During most of his life, the adult acts not purely as an individual but as a member of a social group (K. Lewin, 1948, p.146). Thus the importance of groups in our life becomes evident, or similarly, the importance of belonging to a system.
The ‘Principle of Belonging’ is based on the fact that we all belong to several groups at the same time (family , friends, business, culture, religion, organization, etc.) and this belonging largely determines how we think, feel and behave. In the case of family businesses, we can see that sometimes family values overlap with professional values, in the same way, events that affect the company, also influence the family and vice versa.
In organizations, to belong is a choice of temporary nature and goes beyond the simple fact of having a contract or of acting as an external collaborator. Here the culture of the company also comes into play, how its members connect with the vision, mission and philosophy of the company and to whom the loyalties are directed within the organization.
This principle is affected when for example someone is excluded from the system thus the system may become dysfunctional in its search to restore the balance.
Other illustrative examples:
- a company that does not take into account the founders,
- when employees are being fired and nobody talks about it,
- when negligence is committed against the customers of the organization and the fact is kept silent
- when the process to obtain the product marketed by the company involves inhuman practices and a blind eye is turned towards the matter,
In these cases, the organization can continue to function, but a sensation of heaviness is perceived, tension perhaps, the goals may seem more difficult to achieve and it may also create clashes between members of the organization or company. We could say that the system is not allowed to succeed when there are excluded ones. However the system will provide evidence needed to acknowledge those that once were part of the system and now are being excluded. Either because they left or because they have been fired unfairly. This may affect confidence, among other things. In general, these ‘symptoms’ resulting from exclusion act at a subconscious level and are not experienced as something tangible. It is through Systemic Consultancy that we can make this dynamic apparent and move towards the optimal functioning of the organization.
‘The principle of Order’
The “Principle of Order” indicates the place of each person within the enterprise system. In the case of companies this place can be complex, because there are two factors that determine it; these are:
1) the position in the organization chart or hierarchy.
2) the seniority within the organization.
This principle is affected when the hierarchy and seniority within the organization is not respected. Examples of this would occur: when an employee believes he is better than his boss, because he has spent more years in the company than his boss, or when a boss does not feel enough authority to lead a team, independently of being very experienced in their field.
Systemic Consultancy allows us to discover and restore the adequate order so the company may function with harmony and respect.
Balance between giving and taking
Ivan Boszormenyi-Nagy and Krasner (1987) observed that: “The mutually quantitative, balance-like nature of the fluctuations of give and take in human relationships can best be described in terms analogous to those of financial transactions. The measure of mutual indebtedness is not given by the criteria of an outside, “objective” justice, but has meaning only between persons in relationship. Nonetheless its reality exists, and can be uncovered only through a multilateral consideration of merits from all the vantage points of all participants. Most of the time the fluctuation of positive or negative balances on the leger is not conscious.”
This observation indicates the importance of having a balance between giving and taking within human relationships. When this balance is transgressed relationships are affected negatively in many ways.
He also affirms the existence of an internal accounting mechanism in which each person knows how much they are able to give and how much they are willing to take in order for the relationship to remain balanced. In this case we are not only referring to a monetary exchange but also to the exchange of any activity involving an effort by the person giving. Everyone knows what it costs to perform a certain task and they also have a notion about whether the receiving party is able to compensate this effort or if what they are offering is disproportionate to what is expected in return.
Some of the cases that we may see on the organizational level are: organizations that do not remunerate their employees adequately, or do not do this within the agreed due date or period, thus prejudicing their employees; organizations working on the edge of legality; or members of the organization that give much more than that can be repaid in equivalent terms, thus leaving a growing debt that eventually will break the professional and personal relationship affecting both parties involved in the relationship; a company that economically benefits at the expense of others, in this case the debt to be paid off is very high and the system in its constant search for balance will experience loss on another level, etc.
What are the settings available in Systemic Consultancy?
Workshops or group Sessions:
This format is similar to the one exposed by Franke (2003) with its corresponding adaptation to the organizational field. In the group session, the client identifies an issue, a problem or a question, and describes what he or she is seeking as a resolution. The facilitator, who leads the session, collects information about the important people and events within the organization. Based on the facts, the facilitator develops a hypothesis about the organizational dynamics involved, and tests this hypothesis using participants of the group as representatives.
The clients choose representatives from the group participants to represent important members of the organization, and sometimes a representative for themselves, and set them in a spacial relationship to one another, according to their inner image. The facilitator asks each representative for feedback about their perceptions to confirm if the place in the representation is adequate or not. This information confirms or modifies the original hypothesis. The facilitator broadens his or her picture of the dynamic and resolutions, and begins to experiment with changes in representation placements. Often, additional representatives are added for people who have an impact on the dynamics of the organizational system. When all the representatives have found a “good” place, the client takes the place of his or her representative in the representation. The facilitator may ask the representatives to utter certain sentences, or to complete certain exercises in order to help the client move towards a resolution.
For more information about workshops / group sessions of Systemic Consultancy [btnsx id=”2070″]
In individual sessions only the client and the facilitator are present.
Individual sessions can be just as effective as group sessions.
Since we all have an internal image of our company and the people and areas that make part of it. The session can be visualized in our imagination and all the movements and exercises can be completed in the mind’s eye through visualizations.
Alternatively, using figures or blocks to represent members of the organization, allows the client and the facilitator to look at the representation together from the outside. Representation markers consisting of felt pieces or sheets of paper are also effective. The client or the facilitator can stand in the various marked positions, thereby gaining additional information about the dynamics in the organizational system, through perceptions arising during the interventions.
All of these methods can provide experiences of high intensity and awareness and serve well to test out hypotheses, develop resolutions, and create effective images of resolution.
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In online sessions, the work is similar to an individual session, which means that only the client and the facilitator are present or small groups can be formed.
The advantage of this method is that the client and the facilitator can have a session remotely while being in different countries, cities, or even in different points of the same city.
The work can be done through visualizations, or by using a virtual field where we can set the representation using virtual figures as representatives or abstract figures provided by the same application. To do this, the facilitator invites the client to access the virtual space where the meeting will take place through a browser link.
The link can only be accessed by the client and the facilitator. All information shared is kept confidential. No written data will be stored unless the client requests so. The client also has the opportunity to receive the final snapshot of the session to be able to come back to the image of resolution whenever this feels necessary.
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All processes are confidential by mutual agreement between the client and the facilitator.
It is entirely feasible to work without the client having the need to disclose the names of individuals or entities involved.
In group dynamics, it is also possible to work in a way that only the facilitator and the client have knowledge of the issue or question, without having to disclose sensitive information to group members.
If you have any questions or concerns in this regard , please do refer them to us [btnsx id=”2070″]
What issues can be worked in Systemic Consultancy
Some of the issues that we can work on are:
- Diagnosis and conflict resolution
- Decision making in general
- Evaluation and feasibility of projects.
- Explore and test the effectiveness of certain changes in the organization of a company.
- Explore and define strategies. [/ezcol_1half]
- Diagnosis of the potential and performance of the company.
- As an exploration tool.
- To improve communication between the different departments of a company
- Study on the feasibility of new products
- Merger of companies or creating new alliances
Fiske, S. T. (2010). Social Beings: Core motives in Social Psychology (2nd ed.). Hoboken: Wiley.
Fiske, S. T. (2002). Five core social motives, plus or minus five. En S. J. Spencer, S. Fein, M. P. Zanna y J. Olson (Eds.), Motivated social perception: The Ontario Symposium (Vol. 9, pp. 233-246). Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Lewin, K. (1948). Resolving Social conflicts. New York: Harper & Row.
Boszormenyi-Nagy, I. (1987). Foundations Of Contextual Therapy: Collected Papers Of Ivan Boszormenyi-Nagy. Published by Brunner/Mazel, INC.
Dr. Franke, U. (2003). In my mind’s eye. Published by Carl-Auer-Systeme Verlag.
© Cecilia Altieri – Systemic & Family Solutions-2016. All rights reserved.