Archive for the ‘ A Web of Readiness ’ Category

More on the relationship systems cornerstones

Saturday, November 12th, 2016

Here’s another take on the basis for the systems approach to coaching groups of people, from CRR Global.

We hold the relationship system as the client. This helps us to see each person as one part of the whole. Just as we would not judge the left hand or the right leg of an individual, we would not judge one part of the overall system.

We work with the whole relationship system, and we champion “deep democracy”.  Deep Democracy is a critical skill since it reveals the voices of the system.  Unless all the voices of the system are heard the reality of the system is not accurately represented.  The coach supports marginalized voices or feelings to be heard. Within each system are other nested systems; individuals, pairs, sub-groups, etc. These nested systems are voices of the whole system and the coach must be able to shift between them and the overall system. Each sub-system and each individual are critical though sometimes one may need special attention. There is no problem with this provided it is within the context of the overall system.

We hold the relationship as naturally intelligent & creative. Here, the coach holds the system as having its own wisdom and answers rather than seeing it as broken. As long as endings are viewed as failures we will not be able to engage with them to find a way to be more skillful with their natural life cycle. The coach supports the system to find its own answers.  Conflict, breakdown, and endings are viewed as part of the natural cycle of systems.  The coach does not hold back from addressing difficult issues and views conflict as a signal that change is trying to happen.

 We reveal the system to itself. Systems are self-regulating. Awareness is the ground condition for system change, the necessary, if not always sufficient foundation. This primary focus of the coach is to mirror the system to itself. Revealing helps the system to be conscious and intentional. By practicing transparency about what he/she sees, the coach holds up a mirror to the system so it can learn and grow.  Every tool and skill the coach uses is for the purpose of helping the system understand itself and support its natural tendency to self-regulate.  Thus teams are self-organizing, and can naturally self-correct.

Margaret Wheatley explains this all beautifully. “If a system is in trouble, it can be restored to health by connecting it to more of itself. To make a system stronger, we need to create stronger relationships. . . . If a system is suffering, this indicates that it lacks sufficient access to itself. It might be lacking information, it might have lost clarity about who it is, it might have troubled relationships, it might be ignoring those who have valuable insights.”


(Adapted and excerpted from CRR Global’s summary “The Model,” p 6, 7; and Margaret Wheatley’s Leadership and the New Science, p 45)

Systems Coaching

Monday, September 19th, 2016

Several of us at Arbuckle Consulting are training in relationship systems coaching with CRR Global. (The program is called Organization and Relationship Systems Coaching, or ORSC.) This is going to be a really enriching experience and have a wonderful impact on how we manage our projects and help our clients get their strategies accomplished.

We are learning to work with the human system dynamics that emerge between and within people. In this approach we hold the teams we work with to be naturally creative, resourceful and whole. So, our role is to help reveal the system to itself so its members can come to their own solutions. Discord is reframed as symptoms of something ‘trying to happen’. Excellent and unique approaches for hearing all the voices in a system really lead to shifts and better solutions. Here are the four cornerstones of the approach in a bit more detail.

  • We hold the relationship system as the client. In Relationship systems work, the client is the relationship and not the individuals. We listen for the voice of the system, or the voice of the relationship: What is needed? Or, what is “trying to happen” for this partnership or team? We help to unfold that agenda.
  • We hold the relationship as naturally intelligent & creative. All relationships have an arc to their lifespan, and whether a team is together for weeks or decades, it has everything it needs to evolve and devolve.
  • We work with the whole relationship system, and we champion “deep democracy”. We keep an eye on the whole system regardless of which member demands attention, including all team members rather than just aspects or single events. Like a conductor who may cue in the violins one moment or work with the oboes next, we are always listening for the music of the entire orchestra. (One of the challenges here is to determine the system’s parameters. When considering the work that needs to be done, a critical decision is around who needs to be included in the team or nested systems within the organization.)
  • We reveal the system to itself. Our job is not to repair or ‘fix’ the system but rather to reveal its nature to its members and help the system learn about itself. Armed with new awareness and new tools the systems’ members can become “response-able” to better perform the tasks of the system. This mirroring process reveals the system to itself and empowers the self-regulating function of the system.

(Adapted and excerpted from CRR Global’s Organization & Relationship Systems at Work, p.10)

The Real Success Factors

Friday, October 2nd, 2015

The Standish Chaos report about why projects succeed and fail contains a real nugget. You might be surprised by this breakdown of opinions about why a project succeeds.

Half of the respondents chose one of these three reasons: User involvement, Executive management support, or Clear statement of requirements.

A quarter of the respondents chose from this set of good project management practices: Realistic expectations, Smaller project milestones, Ownership, or Clear vision & objectives.

Only a small portion – a tenth – of the respondents felt that ‘Proper Planning; was the reason projects succeed. About another tenth felt that ‘hard working, focused staff’ and ‘competent staff’  are the keys to success.

Isn’t that interesting?! What does this say about the ‘hero’ culture wherein we hope that one amazing project manager can rescue a project, or bring it to a successful conclusion. And our project management abilities to plan things out is not the key either. Instead, success derives from the whole network of people involved, and how clear the goals are to everyone.

Beginnings and Flexibility

Friday, August 21st, 2015

The beginning of a project can put railroad tracks to success in place. It’s the time to be vigorous and get the direction right.

Seth Godin, in Linchpin, talks about frank beginnings this way. “Get scared early, not late. Be brave early, not late. Thrash now, not later. It’s too expensive to thrash later.” (p. 106) Thrashing is a necessary brainstorming and tweaking we all want to encourage, but, as he puts it, “Professional creators thrash early. The closer the project gets to completion, the fewer people see it and the fewer changes are permitted.”

If we can think about technical and cultural readiness as an interconnected web, we can get every part of that web ready for our project’s results to land into, and this, I think is what all change management efforts are trying to do. Instead of pinning change management tasks onto one specialist on the team, often timed for later in a project, how could that orientation be in place from the beginning; and how could users be involved from the beginning?

Maybe our clients’ key people, in key roles, that will help sustain the project’s results into the future, is part of it. Or maybe we have to be more aware of ‘nearby’ projects with related scope, so we can “thrash out” more precisely our project’s realm and expected results.

Certainly we have to strive for very robust completion definitions – the ‘how will we know we are done’ question needs a crystalized, soundbite-like answer that everyone can keep top of mind. The earlier in a project that we facilitate all the interested parties through to a clear completion definition, the better.

Here’s a project charter template we’ve developed as a starting point – everyone ends up customizing it in their own way, but I like the writing in blue in here, the ideas for content and comments about what each section is really for. I use another version of the content here as a checklist for any project I get involved in (no matter how far along the project is when I join). The table of contents makes for a good kick-off meeting agenda, as well.

Project Charter  – a Template in MSWord