REFLEXIONS ABOUT SYSTEM CONSTELLATIONS IN MANAGEMENT CONTEXTS
von Georg Senoner
„It’s a poor sort of memory that only works backwards“
Reflexions about System constellations in management contexts
This remark (made by the Queen to Alice in Lewis Caroll’s novel “Through the looking Glass”) struck me while I was facilitating a Management Constellation seminar in Bogota last summer. Isn’t constellation work all about reframing the memory “that only works backwards” to make it work for the present and future?
When we set up a constellation we ask the client to retrieve certain images from his memory and entrust them to a group of actors who perform a short play based on this subtle information. Like a director, the consultant instructs the actors to create new images on the scene that in turn activate other pieces of memory. The aim is to link these images to form a new meaningful story that works better as a script for the client’s present situation.
You might well find this description too profane, and it certainly neglects many important aspects of constellation work, but I would still like to invite you to follow my prosaic reflections.
The psychologist Daniel Kahneman describes the working of the human mind as the interaction of two systems. System 1 operates automatically and quickly, with little or no effort and no sense of voluntary control. System 2 allocates attention to the effortful mental activities that demand it, including complex computations. The operations of System 2 are often associated with the subjective experience of choice, agency and concentrations. The concept of the two systems is quite similar to that of tacit and explicit knowledge but goes a step further in describing the operation of the human mind.
System 1 influences our behaviour in two ways: a) supplying the information, impressions and feelings on which System 2 bases conscious choices, b) bypassing System 2 altogether and originating our spontaneous reactions. Several types of biases, which affect our decisions, flaw the working of System 1.
We can use system constellations as a formidable tool for representing the structures of System 1 so that System 2 can detect the bias and deliberately take (to some degree) control of our decisions and behaviours. By positioning the representatives on the scene we unveil (some of) the images that System 1 has memorised and associated with the issue we want to investigate. By moving the elements on the scene, we can develop alternative images and (hopefully) store the new version in our memory.
System constellations can thus enhance our awareness of the way System 1 determines our behaviour and they can help us reframe and re-link the images stored in our memory.
However, the business consultant who wants to use the instrument of a system constellation faces a number of challenging questions.
An organisation is a very complex system. Unlike a family system, whose boundaries are clearly defined, a business organisation involves an enormous number of stakeholders like owners, employees, customers, banks and many more. Whereas in a family system we focus on the relationship between individual persons, in an organization what counts are the interactions between functions and roles, while the individual person can be easily replaced. Therefore it is not so much love, belonging and balance between give and take that determines the dynamics, but such agents as vision, strategy, values, structures, objectives etc.
Vielen Dank für den Beitrag von Georg Senoner, Systemic Management Consulting