Accessing Hidden Knowledge in Organisations via Constellations

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by Richard Boyd, Body Mind Psychotherapist and Organisational Consultant, Perth, Western Australia

Copyright 2010


Organisations looking for excellence normally focus on the explicit and empirical data gleaned from analytical methods. Increasingly however the focus has shifted to uncovering the hidden or implicit knowledge that permeates organizations according to systemic principles. Corporate Energetics works with the human dynamics and systemic view of organisations.  Read how this holistic and systemic view of organizations is driving a paradigm shift in the way cultural transformation and attainment of excellence are to be achieved.


Organisations looking for excellence normally focus on the explicit and empirical data gleaned from analytical methods. Increasingly however the focus has shifted to uncovering the hidden or implicit knowledge that permeates organisations according to systemic principles. The traditional approach to organisational development views problems as a dynamic requiring a need for some form of action. This action may or may not be able to solve the problem. Given that business processes and structures are changing continuously at a fast pace, there always exists the pressure to make timely and sustainable changes to those same processes and structures. This is not always possible under classical approaches in use today.  The pace of change sees many organizations operating in a reactive stance to dynamic changes in their various operative environments.

Recent developments in systems theory which view the whole of an organization as being greater than the sum of its parts, has focused on the hidden or implicit knowledge that exists in any organizational system. This information is believed to exist in a state that cannot be measured or analysed under traditional methods. Its subtle nature is accessed via spatial and symbolic representations that involve a consciousness principle in a systemic form known as a constellation.

This view partly arises from the theory and practice that humans unconsciously recreate their own family dynamics and unresolved issues as part of a system of interrelationship within their workplace environment.  The other contributing factor is that organizations start to exhibit a momentum or “consciousness” that is more than the sum of its constituent parts, with those parts being its human staff members, and also its processes, systems, culture and history. Each contributing factor impacts the system, and the overall system reflects these impacts, and is ever trying to come into balance amongst these hidden or subtle dynamic contributory forces.

In an organizational constellation one is able to reveal the hidden or implicit knowledge and quickly arrive at a context or current state as the organization or one of its sub-entities, as it is now. The stripped down symbolism of the part of the organization under consideration is achieved by the person who is seeking a solution or clarification in some context. They are called the “owner” of the constellation. They choose neutral human representatives for entities, functions and resources of the organization context being examined or in extreme cases one may use figures, cards or floor markers to set out the constellation. This may mean someone represents such entities as Sales, Customers, Marketing, functions such as Budget, CRM, production of widget, and resources such as capital, I.T., politics, contractors etc. These representatives will have no connection to the issue, and no knowledge of the internal workings of the context of the organization under scrutiny.

The representatives are placed in a spatial relationship to one another that represents the owner’s inner sense of how things are. The system that is setup establishes a symbolic systemic reality. The owner then stands outside the constellation and observes.  The representatives allow their emotional intelligence to take over from their right brain consciousness. They have a non verbal attentive awareness and are given permission from the facilitator to follow through on any impulse they may feel to move or react, thereby altering the current constellation.

The representatives are periodically asked to report their sensations and experience of the situation to the facilitator and this is witnessed by the owner. Their feedback and their spatial positioning will reveal the dynamics of the system. The crucial information is symbolic in terms of the direction the representatives are facing, their distance from each other, their positions, individually and in relations to others. The facilitator will then allow their own attentive awareness to guide them in making positional changes to representatives in response to their feedback that any change made result in feelings that are “better”, “neutral” or “worse”. Gradually, using the verbal and non-verbal feedback of the representatives, the facilitator will discover the optimal positioning of the system, one which brings it into “order” and “balance” based on representatives feeling “right” about the system arrangement.

The constellation may have been setup with a solution focused question in mind. The facilitator will interview the owner to establish the nature of the issue and hence the information about a solution that the constellation is targeted to uncover. The owner who has witnessed the unfolding dynamic, is able at the final stage to step into the system if they have a representative in the system standing in for themselves. This final step allows the owner to “feel” as well as obtain an image of the optimized system. Post constellation debriefs with the facilitator and representatives will often sharpen the hidden knowledge that was sensed in the constellation.

This approach to viewing organizational dynamics is just one of the diagnostic toolkit techniques employed by Corporate Energetics. It is not an end in itself, it just is another way of gathering information for diagnostic purposes. We do not rely on its outcomes in isolation but use it as a form of “devil’s advocate”  or “what if” analysis to see beyond what has been consciously understood and gathered in relation to the issue in the organization. Surprisingly we have found that this process does indeed uncover information or an outcome that is later validated as being correct, and which is either a contributory or significant element of the problem dynamics in the organization. As such it is a useful tool of diagnosis and examination of the organizational dynamics.

At the World Conference in October 2006, Corporate Energetics attendee Richard Boyd spoke to numerous businesses who now engage consultants to conduct  Organisational Constellations in their Organisational Development and Cultural Transformation initiatives. The results have been seen to be beneficial. The Conference saw several “live” constellations conducted with senior executives of major Dutch companies on real issues. A number of different types of constellations were performed over the weeklong event. The outcomes were well received by the clients and the workshop audiences. The consensus is that this technique offers real value to organizations that is solution focused, time efficient, and which is an integrated systemic view of the issue and hence the solution.

For more information about this diagnostic tool for Organisational Development and Cultural Transformation, Contact Us and speak to one of our consultants about how we can assist your organization in its evolution, and how we can facilitate Organisational Constellations for your business.

Tel: +61-8-93702341

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