In the earlier post I presented the “Five Organizational Patterns for Strategic Management“. It included a model that can be used for reflexivity, which I called simply “The Pentagram“. I consciously didn’t want to give it any specific name as the main focus of the model is to provide material for reflexivity, not to create any fixed models of the social reality we are living in.
I also promised to give some concrete examples of how to use this model i practice. Here is one example how we used this to make sense of the current environment of an Organizational Development team:
As there were only three days to Christmas, we decided to call the exercise “Christmas Star“. Here’s what we did in practice.
- We prepared a list of items that are most probably relevant to the participants. The items included tasks (e.g. defining quality criteria, facilitating meetings, supporting program management, coaching), roles (e.g. Quality Manager, Coach, OD Manager), key relations (e.g. program manager “X”, test engineer “Y”) and social objects in general (e.g. negotiations of criteria fulfillment, weekly meetings, working processes). This list was used as an example to give the participants an idea what kind of items we are looking for.
- We divided the participants in small groups. Each group had their own little Christmas Stars and they brainstormed more items that were relevant to them, writing those in 3M stickers.
- We went through the five organizational patterns that are represented by the five spikes of Christmas Star: Explicit, Equivocal, Cooperative, Evolving, Uncontrollable. We explained what they meant – what kind of social complexity, what kind of responsive patterns are typical for them. And then we put few items to the different spikes as an example.
- Small groups went through their own items and placed them to the relevant spikes. Some of the items were split and divided to multiple spikes, some of them were on several spikes at the same time.
- We grouped all the key items on a bigger, common Christmas Star trying to create a consensus on where they belonged to. The star was made on the floor and flip charts represented the respective spikes.
- We made a strategic plan of how to continue with the items based on the organizational patterns they represented:
- All the items were roughly prioritized in their respective spikes.
- Explicit and Equivocal patterns were made as an action points. They were assigned to relevant individuals / small groups.
- Cooperative patterns were studied. Items were grouped together as logical wholes. Rough analysis of the required group/team was made. Items were then assigned as working items to those groups/teams.
- Evolving items were studied and grouped together. Rough analysis of required network and a plan for the working process was made. Emphasis was put on the need to re-visit the structure of the network and the working process in iterative manner. This is the spike that requires the most of the work. If possible, there should be at least 1-2 hours of time reserved to work these plans out.
- Uncontrollable items were studied too. With critical items, a follow-up process was established to make reactive decisions based on the particular situation at hand and to see where the items were moving towards.
The focus of the exercises was two-fold:
First of all, they provided opportunities to reflect upon what kind of environment the team was currently working on. People discussed in small groups and in a bigger group about the different elements of their work. Essentially they were socially constructing a view of their work together. These discussions also provided lots of material for their private inner dialogue.
The second element of the exercises was to create patterns of cooperation. These cooperative patterns would provide means to work with the different aspects of the work environment. The spikes of the Christmas Star provided a way to look at what kind of patterns were going on – the “items” represented actual patterns. By becoming more aware of what kind of patterns they are dealing with, people could adapt to them more consciously. The planning provided an opportunity to create shared meaning to the items and to visualize/verbalize the process of adapting to these patterns.
After the meeting it was agreed to go through these exercises again after some period of time. The reason for this is that social situations are always evolving. New items are emerging and old items decaying. It is also probable that some of the items will move from one spike to another. For example, some items might move from evolving to cooperative as they stabilize and some items may move from cooperative to uncontrollable after some conflicts etc. It is important to note that this process is just providing opportunities to reflexivity in that temporal situation.