This is a book about organisations. About organisations seen from a systemic perspective.
Systemic work's full name is systemic phenomenological work. It is a branch on the tree of system-approaches applied to organisations. By phenomenological we mean that we see and accept reality exactly as it is revealed to us.
The systemic way of looking is an approach, a philosophy and a different way of looking at the world. It provides a complementary and sometimes surprising image of reality.
Another branch of this systemic tree is a method we can easily use to examine reality. Known as a constellation, it was developed in Germany, with Bert Hellinger making the most important contribution. Family constellations are now rather well known in the Netherlands and many other countries around the world; organisational constellations are also becoming an increasingly well-known and trusted tool, especially among organisational consultants. Trusted, even though, as yet, we do not know how a constellation actually works. When you use a group of people to represent the elements of a system (people who know nothing about that system) suddenly this constellation seems to reflect the core issues of the relationships in that system, that organisation: the undercurrents suddenly become visible. Many books have been written about constellation methods, so we'll keep it short here. You can read more about organisational constellations in chapter II-6.
It is important to know that the constellations method has provided us with an enormous treasury of insights into how social systems function, what underlies their dysfunction and how this dysfunctional state can be transformed into one of health, flow and flourishing.
Clearly, organisational systems are different from family systems. This is why organisations deserve their own place: they are not just a particular kind of family system. Organisations keep society together, whether we like it or not, and all those organisations form a part of our societies, of our countries and of the world in which we live. Each of us is a unique part of our own family, but we all form part of our society and our world. Organisations sit somewhere in between, sometimes operating smoothly, sometimes stuck. Judgements and opinions form a part of us all. Organisations are subject to far more opinions and judgements than families. The phenomenological way of looking is one of having no judgement and wanting to change nothing. Of accepting the world just as it is. Strangely enough, facing and accepting reality, just as it is, often begins a process of change. Constellations have proven to be a good way to face what is.
This book is also about patterns. We are not always aware of the presence of patterns, or that we simply live in them and with them, as if we cannot do or know otherwise. Certain patterns, particularly unhealthy ones, can be persistent and stay in organisations for decades. Resisting patterns (usually in innocence of them) is a good way of ensuring they persist. What helps, is to face the truth and to take it as it is. Otto Scharmer, creator of the popular approach called Theory U, and a systemic thinker from the approach of 'learning' organisations, discovered that change starts with "a shift in the inner place from which we operate". By recognising patterns, facing them and taking them as they are (sigh… from my own experience I know this is easier said than done) such a shift in this inner place can take place. And then, sometimes, something totally new arises.