Two practitioners’ reflections on action An attempt to create a common Gestalt in a re-organization processLars Marmgren, MSc Anette Strömberg, PhDMarmgren Konsulter AB/Gestaltakademin Scandinavia Mälardalen University(works as organizational consultant) (works as lecturer and are just about going in to science)
Gestalt theory in short; Figure - Ground and the process of creating meaning• As human beings we are predisposed to create meaning!• The gestalt principle of figure formation is a process in which the individual creates meaning in the here and now, based on: – Perceived data through all available senses – The contextual framework of the situation at hand – All personal life experience, education and knowledge• The gestalt is the meaningful whole, a figure against the ground, that in the moment, tells us who where and what we are in the world,• This process is not controlled by our will but is an automatic, internal, self-organizing process that helps us to navigate in the world at the same time as it helps us to create energy to act in the world.
What is this: ?BCDEF A The letter A? A triangle? A tipi?
We intended to do a small research studyA re-organization process was initiated at MDH. Thestudy dealt with:• In total 12 interviews with middle managers,• The ”consultants task” was to: explore change resistance, find dilemmas, find what is precious in existing organization.• At first the research interest was how to use consultant practice in research.
+ + They knows about the They can work with employ daily business and and organizational the culture. development Expert on leadershipExpert as leaders as leaders - - They might not work with They do not know the the staff as asked for. daily business and culture. AWARENESS – the key to change!
Reflections on: our (humans) ability to simulate/fantasize• Generally, the informants seemed to or expressed having difficulties in understanding (fantasize about/imagine/intending) what the organization to come actually would mean to them.Alternative explanations1. An organization scheme does not provide enough information to provide as ground,2. According to adult development theories* a high degree of ego development is needed for that kind of imagination.3. Thinking about the new organization and its consequences upon ones work situation, is according to phenomenology, an empty intention. It differs between peoples ability to engage in empty intentions. * Se for example Handbook of adult development, J. Demick and C. Andreoletti Eds, The Springer series in adult development and ageing
Reflections on: Sharing data• For the interviewer short notes (the third level) might be enough since the meaning of that data is influenced by the ground consisting of everything that is in transcript (second level) and the full experience of the interview (first level).• Particularly, this is the case when the interviewer also has a long experience of her own working within the organization.• For somebody else, solely sharing the data at the third level may give little meaning.• The figure in this case (the short notes) holds little meaning without the ground (the full experience from the interviews + the interviewers own experience from working in the organization).
We became aware: Our interest in the study took another turnPrompted by:• During analysis of the interviews it became clear to us that when working with Gestalt you work with other premises than in most of the management research,• In Gestalt, as a facilitator you work with the clients meaning making and awareness, so that they will find their own actionable solutions,• We were asked to develop what we mean with: “not to objectify data”,• The theory – practice gap in management research.
We experience a problem in some management research• According to Johnson and Van de Ven* there is a gap between the scientific theories and the practice,• We experience a gap between research and management practice,• Our students experiences a gap between theory and practice, and further, they experience difficulties in making theories actionable. * A.H. Van de Ven, P.E. Johnson, Knowledge for theory and practice, Academy of Management Review, 2006, 31 (4), pp 802-821
Objectification – or the dilemma of being toogeneralization oriented vs too case oriented.• The scope in science is to generalize such a level that the same action is valid in an other setting, objective – non emotional: Not informative in specific situations (i.e. not actionable)?• The scope in Gestalt methods is to understand others point of view but not make them ones own, the others subjective – empathy: Too situation dependent (i.e. not actionable)?
Different purposes in research and consultingThe scientist• Trying to establish if a proposition is false or true.The Gestalt consultant• Supporting the client system to meaningful and purposeful action.
The expert paradigmAccording to adult development theories, “The Conscientious stage is the target stage for Western culture.”*:• “Persons at this stage are interested in reasons, causes, goals, consequences and the effective use of time.”• “..(they) generally believe in the perfectibility of humankind and in the scientific method to “uncover” truth.”*S. Cook-Greuter, Nine levels of increasing embrace, p 17 and ff, http://www.cook-greuter.com/9%20levels%20of%20increasing%20embrace%20update%201%2007.pdf
We suggest an alternative understanding of organizations The new understanding is based on two simple assumptions about organizations: • Actions by people and groups of people are governed by subjective rationality. • Organizations are held together and kept in dynamical balance by feedback (in its biological meaning).
Subjective rationality• We assume that it is the perceived reality of an individual that guides the actions of that individual,• In the same way, a perceived reality shared by a group of people will guide the actions of that group,• Any action taken, whether by an individual, a group or an entire organization is not guided by objective truths(in the scientifically meaning) but by subjective perceptions of what is true,
Organizational researchPhilosophy Complex systems theoryOur filter BiologySocial sciences (Cybernetics)
Phenomenology Order parameters, Attractors, Feed back,Gestalt methods, Subjective rationality. Viewed through our filter!
Organizations embodied as organisms will affect your actions!Management Focus on relations, building trust.Org. Designers Focus on roll de- scriptions and internal processes which enables self organization.Org. Consultant Facilitate feedback (in it biological meaning and individuals growth, process leaders.Scientist Find and formulate rules for self organization.
* A culture clash • In the expert paradigm (viewing organizations as machines) the expectation on management as well as scientists and consultants is to bring the “right solutions” (fix the faults). • The process oriented manager, scientist or consultant (all viewing organizations as organisms) risks to be dismissed as being dopy.*The parallel world which has two moons in which time seems to be turbulent, describedin three books by Haruki Murakami, 1Q84, in translation to Swedish by V. Emond,Nordstedts, Stockholm, 2011
Where are we heading?How does managers/organizational consultants/employees … set the scene* for creating learningorganizations? * L. Marmgren and M. Ragnarsson, Organizing projects, Thomson Fakta, Stockholm, 2001
AcknowledgementsThank you! For Your attention The conference organizers for giving us this opportunity Mälardalen University for sharing their/our experiences and supporting this work