Have you come across the paradoxical theory of change by Arnold Beisser, a Gestalt therapist?
Change doesn’t happen when we try to be different from we are – change can only come when we realize who we are, how we behave, and how we build relationships with others. Being aware of what is happening and how it is happening that we are experiencing difficulties and limitations in development is the key to change.
You will probably agree that organizations face challenges related to business digital transformation, which means a significant change. Managers stand up for the difficult task of finding technology experts who will help outline a change strategy. They will advise you on navigating and taking management to a higher organizational level while maintaining reasonable control over the continuity of current business processes. So how do you transform your business? Is business digital transformation simple?
The process splits into several stages, each of which is equally important:
- Organization’s analysis: workshops with management and employees.
- IT environment analysis.
Process mapping and presentation of changes (IT tools and integration model).
- Pilot implementation – testing, improvement.
- Training for employees.
- Service support.
Like with most complex processes, the first phase can be crucial to the success of the others. Therefore, let us focus in this article on the stage of the organization’s analysis.
At first glance, it seems like an easy task. But nothing could be more wrong! It requires reliable methods, excellent communication skills, knowledge of the human psyche, and group functioning patterns. These are the needs that have recently been met by the Gestalt Institute in Krakow, translating into Polish and publishing a book by Frans Meulmeester entitled „Gestalt in organizations”.
Why is it worth reaching for professionals who use proven methodology in the first stage of transformation? Below we will try to briefly describe how Gestalt approaches an organization and how it helps diagnose its health and, therefore, the teams’ performance.
According to the Gestalt theory, a healthy organization is one in which „the field is organized under that organization’s original process and when it can adapt creatively. ” It is easy to conclude that an organization’s dysfunctions arise when the necessary process is blocked by form or patterns. Therefore, the organization is no longer able to adapt, has become „stiffened. ” A man and his ability to adapt to a given team is the most crucial element that creates and influences the organization.
Gestalt assumes that you cannot analyze the characteristics of a given employee in isolation from the environment in which and under the influence of which such features become active. The same person may function entirely differently in different companies. Gestalt studies group dynamics and concludes teams and individuals. They are right for the context (the field) under study.
Imagine, then, that even your worst-performing employee may turn out to be a source of valuable information and point out an area requiring intervention, which in your analysis so far may not be considered at all. Thanks to such a diagnosis, it is possible to make conscious changes in the organization, which do not have to be related to employee redundancies. By the way, employee rotation is a bane of recent times and one of the most expensive processes. It is also worth adding that the knowledge about dismissed employees and those who quit can provide valuable clues for the coach to identify what a given group accepts or displaces.
Gestalt group dynamics and business digital transformation
Gestalt, drawing on working with therapeutic groups, has built a similar model for an organization that can help manage change like business digital transformation. The contact cycle divides into eight phases, one following the other – rest, sensation, awareness, mobilization, action, contact, satisfaction, and rest. Dysfunctions occur when the team gets stuck in one of the stages and block the possibility of closing a given cycle and moving to the next step. As the author of the book emphasizes, getting stuck is not a mistake in itself. It only shows how the organization copes with a given situation under these conditions as each organization can creatively adapt. Let us provide you with some interesting quotes from the book that describe the symptoms of getting stuck in particular phases.
When we apply this phenomenon to an organization, this type of stagnation is characterized by constant work and innovation. That is not because of the lack of results but because the results are not fulfilling. People are not satisfied with what they have achieved. „But we can achieve more! ” Often in such situations, we hear words like: „We could have tried harder – so we are not finished yet.”
„The team or individual employees want to do something. They wish to start. The ongoing process has become quite clear, and people like to do something about it. People have many ideas that they want to implement. Stopping in this phase means that the team or organization is not moving to action. A lot of energy cumulates, but it does not lead to action.”
„The rest phase characterizes an undifferentiated openness, a void in which new impulses may appear. If the process stops in this phase, it means that no new impulses come. There is no anxiety or need, and the individual, team, or organization remains in such a void. This kind of void is not fruitful, but rather as an impasse, as an uncomfortable situation in which no one knows what is going on, and no one can get out of it.”
The diagnosis shows whether support for change is needed. Then it will be useful to capitalize on the knowledge and skills of the coach. He or she will conduct a series of meetings with the team and change its dynamics consciously and purposefully. However, it is essential to remember that interventions do not correct or fix something. The main factor that influences change is increasing the group’s awareness and acceptance of what is happening.
Gestalt places great emphasis on accepting and agreeing to each pattern that occurs in group dynamics in its theory. The theory assumes that an organization can creatively adapt. It also has its way of dealing with implementing the original goal in the context of changes that are continually taking place in the external environment.
This method requires a high level of self-awareness from the trainer or coach. At the same time, he or she must be attentive to what happens in the team, what interactions and reactions occur between individuals. The type of intervention depends on the diagnosis, the phase of the contact cycle, the contract, and the specificity of the work of a given team. The rest phase will require different interventions than the activity phase and so on.
- For example, if your team gets halt in the contact phase, intervening may boil down to saying „enough,” asking them to stop working for a while, and noting achievements. In a culture focused on constant activity, on continuous „doing”, there is no reflection on what we have already completed without agreeing to a creative void.
- Another intervention, especially if perfectionists cannot cope with success, is to point out results from their actions instead of „it happened” by chance. Unclear goals may be the cause of getting stuck in this phase. It is difficult for the team to move to the satisfaction phase. Employees do not know if they have achieved the goal because it was undefined. In such a situation, the solution will be to look at the objectives and make them more precise.
- If your team gets stuck in the mobilization phase and feels a lack of energy, your first intervention may be to see what’s blocking it. Sometimes tasks are put off for a long time. It will then be essential to find out what anxiety plays a key role. Is it fear of failure? One way out may be creating circumstances that will allow employees to trust the process. Supporting people so that they can let go of their anxiety.
- Another type of blockade may be the fear of presenting new skills or traits. In such a situation, the intervention means creating safety conditions and stimulating the team to experiment and take the first step. A common cause of getting stuck is the supervisor’s attitude, who does not respond to the team’s requests and needs and displays a restrictive attitude. Sometimes the feature reflects the whole organization, but it affects a part of the structure in many cases. To quote: „For example, it is almost impossible to be genuinely 7 customer-focused in an organization that is highly hierarchical or centralized. Operating in a customer-oriented manner requires flexibility and the ability to take the initiative. “
- In the resting phase, the coach may create a space for a slow influx of new ideas and comfort conditions. It is enough to wait for a unique voice in many cases, a new impulse to emerge from the silence slowly. However, if the void would be too uncomfortable, the coach might offer a walk around the company and sharing his observations.
- Another way is to invite people to do something completely different from usual. The manager himself can change his behaviour and do something unconventional, e. g. , conduct a meeting while wearing a red clown nose. Such a move completely changes the atmosphere, opens people. The team sees the boss in a relaxed role. He or she is open, naive, sensitive, approachable, says „yes”, gets rid of all the „should.” Employees begin to wake up, the level of fun increases, and the lightness of looking at the situation arises.
In summary, technological advancement is rushing forward, and business digital transformation is inevitable. Companies will have to face it in the context of processes and prepare employees for the upcoming change. Fortunately, modern methods of working with teams are available, and at the same time, the awareness in the field of change management increases.
Our reflection comes down to satisfaction that business digital transformation begins to concentrate on people. It also considers their needs and aims to create employee-friendly organizations focused on conscious communication and openness.