The design and management of the ISE outlined herein reflect a unified amalgam or an integral combination of elements and primary tasks of the Intergroup Event (IG), Institutional Event (IE), and the Institutional System Event (ISE) as conceived, practiced, and transformed respectively by two group relations (GR) conference institutions: (1) the Family Institute at Northwestern University and the Center for Applied Psychological and Family Studies, and (2) the International Forum for Social Innovation (IFSI), Paris, France. The IE as well as the ISE are here-and-now experiential events that typically involve more than 50 participants.
Both of these GR institutions have an equally long and distinguished pedigree. The 2011 annual conference will represent the 35th annual conference for the former institution and the 34th annual conference for IFSI. The parallel development of the two separate organizations during almost identical periods of history, in different countries and cultures, supplies a maturity of thought and experience that inevitably provides possibilities for significant hybridization, opportunities for innovation, and powerful enrichment and transformation of experiential learning for conference members and staff.
The ISE incorporates and transforms most of the focus and learning opportunities commonly associated with the intergroup event and the IE, but it extends significantly the experiential possibilities and educational outcomes of the other two events.
The tasks and structures of all three events, while logically related, are conceptually distinct. Intergroup behaviors can be used as material for analysis and learning, but intergroup aspects of behaviors remain qualitatively different from purely institutional-level behavioral or psychodynamic manifestations. Focusing on intergroup behaviors provides a partial because isolate view of the entire system; that is, intergroup behaviors and dynamics are relevant to the entire system, but because they are easily viewed individually or as discrete from from their meaning in the overall system’s behaviors, the data that they provide can be incomplete or refracted.
In other GR learning events, the overarching intrasystem boundaries (between management, consultants, and members) are not often publicly brought to conscious examination in order to understand the conference system, as a whole. In the IE, the intrasystem boundaries (that is, intergroup boundaries pertaining to different subsystems of the conference institution-as-a-whole) are explored in order to examine, understand, and interpret the developing relations between and among member-designed subsystems and the staff subsystems. In the IE, a verbal portrayal of the entire system is derived from an assembly or consideration of its separate and discrete parts.
For clarity’s sake, the three components
of any GR conference system are defined as:
The four components of the institutional
system event (ISE) are referred to collectively as participants,
which includes all conference staff (both Management and Consultants)
and all conference Members, who normally either have paid or are paid money
to be physically present. The separate components of the ISE are:
During the ISE, Members' emphasis on and portrayal of selected, discrete dynamics or components of the conference system's psychodynamic and physical functioning may be expressed in visible and/or sometimes ambiguous yet observable behaviors. For example, Members may form single-sex subsystems, self-protective, dependent, or fight/flight subsystems, care-taking subsystems, subsystems patterned on Management's behaviors, or subsystems expressing disparate though unconsciously interconnected aspects of their conference experiences, usually with no or middling evidence of awareness of the substantial linkage to Management’s behaviors and the psychodynamics of the conference system-as-a-whole.
The Members’ physical, psychic, political, and spiritual relations with ISE Management (and vice-versa) may already have begun and been nurtured prior to the beginning of the ISE; these relations generally gather strength and discernible form during the conference events that precede it. They may then be “acted out” or re-enacted in a relatively static (i.e., untransformed) fashion in the context of the ISE. Direct examination of Members’ complex relations with Management may be expected to reveal basic or primitive levels of meaning in the system’s behaviors. Such examination is more native to the ISE than to the IE.
During the IE, the institution identifies participants as either “staff” or “conference members.” It does not clearly distinguish between managers of the institution and consultants working in or for the institution. This lack of distinction leaves latent the members’ connections and responses to management’s work and may shield management and consultants from their contributions to or responsibilities for members’ responses. The IE reduces the applicability of learning opportunities to extra-conference work settings, in which members might be more likely to benefit from learning to collaborate with managers than with external or internal consultants.
In contrast, the attention to the public but not necessarily conscious details expressed by Members and Management during the ISE is transformed by the latter’s efforts to present working hypotheses about the event’s sphere of concern, which is the conference system-as-a-whole, in its manifestations of physical, psychic, political, and spiritual relations. The working hypotheses, by facilitating the successful conversion of what is unconscious to what is conscious, stimulate institutional transformation, much as insight can promote individual transformation. The continual transformation of the institution being created and studied, through construction of and attention to Management’s working hypotheses, energizes and supports the unique learning tasks of the ISE.
In the ISE, the focus of study promoted by the joint efforts of Management and Consultants is turned from individual or Member-formed group experiences during the conference to the development of a portrait of the system-as-a-whole, and especially of its subtle effects on the functioning of participants in the system. This portrait is clarified by conscious verbal comparison of the congruence or more frequent incongruence between the participants’ “system-in-the-mind” and the open-to-view and therefore discernible or knowable Management system.
Member learning is maximal when examination of the characteristics of the management system existing in the Members’ mind and those of the public Management system active in the ISE reveals evident but surprising or ego-dystonic difference. These comparisons unsettle preconceptions and untested suppositions, permitting renewed learning from experience, in the here-and-now.
Beyond a verbal portrait of the ISE system and its relation or lack of relation to the operant “systems in the mind” lie possibilities for learning about transformation of the conference system-as-a-whole. The opportunities for transformation (if desired) via awareness gained through experience of the conference participants’ reigning “systems in the mind” distinguish the ISE from other here-and-now conference events, including the IE. In the ISE, the physical and conceptual separation of managerial and consulting functions intensifies the experiential study of authority, leadership, and diversity as they influence and reflect the conference system-as-a-whole.
In the intergroup or institutional events, compiling a composite portrait of the system’s different parts is done in order to discern or characterize the overarching total system. In contrast, in the ISE, a deliberate grappling with the entire system, including its Management, is employed to generate a picture of the system’s different parts. In Melanie Klein’s language, one might miss the fact that the body (the conference-as-a-whole) is absent a toe, if examination is directed in turn to the clothed arms, head, neck, stomach, back, legs, or internal organs. A total view of the whole body completely visible beneath the clothes will more easily demonstrate the missing or dysfunctional part.
The shift in interpretive focus and expression consequent to this oblique or rotated and, for Members, unaccustomed system-as-a-whole field of inquiry and learning can be disorienting, deskilling, and revelatory. But such inquiry and learning are possible and fruitful in a block of even 7½ hours during a 2½-day GR conference schedule. In a typical weekend GR conference (of 2½ days), the ISE begins after approximately 33% of conference events have been completed and occupies 26% of the total hours available for conference events. These percentages do not vary significantly from those of week-long GR conferences (of 7 days), in which the ISE begins after approximately 35% of conference events have been completed and likewise occupies 26% of the total hours available for conference events.
During the hours of involvement in
the ISE, participants may
The learning possible in the ISE is applicable to the outside institutions in which conference participants work or engage. Conceptualizing the system as a whole or as a totality is a valuable skill, rarely learned so well as during the ISE of a Tavistock GR conference. While small study system and large study system experiences are certainly educational and powerful, the learning realized in them is not so readily adapted or applied to settings outside the GR conference. Thus, the historical centrality of the institutional event in such conferences seems correct, timely, and well-advised.
The primary task of the ISE should be stated in a way that addresses the two complementary aspects of the experience (institutional and individual):
to explore the nature of the physical, psychic, political, and spiritual relations between Members and Management (that a part of the staff constitutes), in order to find opportunities for transforming through experience the way one practices authority, leadership, and management within the conference, taken as an institutional system.This system-focused task is pertinent for all participants in the event.
An impediment in realizing the ISE according to the fashion here described is the often insistent intrusion of Staff’s narcissism, which is inevitably bruised by the separate Management/Consultant configuration. Consultants may perceive all the “action” to be in Management’s sector, and occasionally vice-versa.
The Director’s decision about which consultant or consultants participate as members of Management during the ISE presents the possibility for further narcissistic discomfort (and of course, learning) for the Consultants. Members of Management may feel superior to the Consultants, as a way to avoid the pain of ignorance and uncertainty when faced with the requirement to collaborate in the development of working hypotheses on the total system level. The separation of the two staff elements can be upsetting, disorienting, angering--even though in reality their efforts are complementary and they work to the same primary task, from within different roles.
The impact of these types of splitting processes between Management and Consultants, if they are allowed to go unaddressed, is profound and detrimental. A split may occur because of hierarchical systems in the mind held either by Management or by Consultants or by both. “Management is better/more prestigious/more effective/better paying/etc., than simply being a consultant” may be a fantasy or a system-in-the-mind. Any projections by Consultants onto Management and vice versa are to be explored. In order to function independently and collaboratively, Consultants require clarity of task and of boundaries; the provision and reinforcement of this clarity is, in large measure, the duty of Management in light of the significant differences needed to carry out the ISE, in contrast to the simpler and more familiar IE or intergroup event.
Previous experience of staff members from within the U. S. may often have been of participation as a single staff, without clearly defined or addressed separate responsibilities, which furthermore have not been demarcated by physical differentiation during the IE and have not been available as discrete foci for Member response (e.g., projections) and learning. These staff members’ previous conference experiences may have constructed a shared “system-in-the-mind” of how the event is organized and how it “works.” Transformation, though learning by experience, of such systems-in-the-mind is a task inherent in the ISE.
Prior to the opening plenary of the ISE, the Director may appoint one or more consultants to work as members of Management during the event. It is made clear that during all sessions of the event, they function as members of Management, not as representatives of the Consultants. The consultants so appointed usually represent or direct functions important for member learning in other parts of the conference (e.g., convening the large study system, the small study systems, and the review or role application systems). Their appointment to serve on the Management team is not announced publicly, though Members’ representatives visiting Management’s space may there observe these consultants’ presence and activity as parts of Management during the ISE.
The composition of Management is complicated if, for example, the Director has both a manager and consultant role, perhaps convening the large study system consultants and acting as a consultant to the large study system, or if the Associate Director has a similar dual role as convenor of the small study systems and/or consultant in them.
An ISE innovation used during the last 10 years is the short-term or temporary participation of a Member on the Management team, during each session of the ISE event, except during the opening and closing plenaries. In opening remarks for the ISE, the Director details the mechanics by which a Member may for a single session join Management. Joining the Management team is done anew by a different Member at the beginning of each ISE session. Member participation is on a first-come, first-served basis; no advance “reservations” are accepted. Members are informed during the ISE opening plenary that in order to join Management, it is sufficient to state, “I am here to work on the ISE Management team for the duration of this session.” The allowed tenure of each Member on the Management team is for only a single ISE session; the tenure cannot be extended or repeated.
Although no Member is present as a participant in Management during the ISE opening and closing plenaries a Member may request to work as part of Management during all other ISE sessions. A chair is located in Management’s ranks for this purpose. In the opening of the ISE, the Director emphasizes that individual Members who ask to participate in Management are not, during their presence, representing their own ISE subsystem (that is, the Members). Giving the Member who works with Management a copy of the map or diagram that shows the Member subsystems’ spaces and distribution (Appendix 1) is a concrete act that serves to represent the Member’s admission and acceptance into the Management subsystem. A very large Management team might affect the usefulness of the addition of a Member to its ranks.
Which staff members constitute Management during the ISE? They are usually: all members of the Directorate of the conference (that is, the Director, the Associate Director, the Assistant Director for Administration), as well as the convenors of the small study systems and the large study system. If the Review or Role Analysis subsystems are begun prior to the ISE and are therefore intercurrent events, a representative of that conference subsystem is also included in ISE Management. The usual approximate size of Management during the ISE is between 6 – 8 members, although its size is also dependent upon the conference design and the total number of staff members working in the conference. A maximum of about 30% of total staff members represents an upper limit rarely reached. It is essential to avoid a Management so large or “heavy” that each of its members cannot speak and contribute to the work at hand.
The designation of consultants to the Management team for the duration of the ISE is not made public by the Director in the event’s opening plenary. Rather, he or she simply states that, ”The members of Management of the ISE are A, B, C, D, etc.” Or ”The Management of the ISE consists of A, B, C, D, etc.”
Members of Management, including any ad hoc members functioning as consultants during other conference events, have the double task of the physical management of the ISE and the management of its learning tasks. Management's activity thus involves the provision of boundaries and resources (physical, staffing, learning).
Prior to the opening plenary of the ISE, the Director authorizes the Consultants on behalf of Management. It is made clear that all Consultants are plenipotentiaries, a subsystem of staff as a whole, fully authorized by the Director to work with the Members to the same primary task defined and embraced by Management.
The Director designates or appoints one consultant to be Convenor of the Consultants during the ISE. She or he is responsible for the Consultant team’s functioning and for its collaboration with Management and Members. The name of the Convenor of the Consultant team is at no time verbally conveyed to Members, and thus is not included in the Director’s public introduction to the ISE during its opening plenary. In some conferences, in similar fashion, the identities of the convenors of the small study systems and the large study system are not communicated verbally to conference members during the conference opening plenary.
In turn, after reflection on the matter with conference staff, the Convenor appoints two consultants to be present in the opening plenary of the ISE. It has been said that the most critical appointment that the conference Director will make is that of Convenor of the Consultants and that the most critical assignation that the Convenor of the Consultants will make is that of the two consultants who will work in the opening plenary of the ISE.
Consultants are plenipotentiaries, at all times. As throughout the conference's existence, they have responsibilities for consulting to Members and Member-composed subsystems, though the focus for the consulting task varies from event to event. During the ISE, the consultants’ client is the entire conference system, which they may best come to know by exploring the patterns of relations between Members and Management, as well as by helping to determine what Members and their self-formed subsystems “carry” or express on behalf of the whole institutional system. The Consultants’ primary task is to facilitate the system’s coming to know or become conscious of itself, of its systems in the mind, and of the complex character of the relations between Members and Management.
Consultants consult to Members in ways that provide or increase opportunities for the latter to learn about the institution-as-a-whole, particularly through a focus on their real and “in the mind” relations to Management and the avenues imagined and available for transformation of these relations. They do not consult directly to Management, but to the shared primary task of the event. When they are not negotiating or providing consultation to Member susbsystems, Consultants dedicate themselves to the shared ISE task of developing working hypotheses centered on the relations between Members and Management. Working hypotheses so developed may be shared with ISE Management and may be related to Management’s own working hypotheses.
Two consultants, previously decided by the Convenor of the Consultants, are present at the plenary opening of the ISE. After the ISE opening plenary ends, these consultants report back on their work to the consultant team, which in turn provides opportune feedback to Management.
In distinction to the intergroup event, Consultants are not present de facto during the initial or subsequent ISE sessions in the spaces set aside for Member-formed subsystems. Consultation is made available when it is suitably requested or deemed necessary and the request is acceptable or the necessity pressing. The request need not be “perfect,” but the contract with the consultant’s client must be clear and specific. How this works in practice depends on the Consultant subsystem’s internal task management decisions. Consultants do not operate with accompanying observers during the ISE. Likewise, for more than one Consultant to be working with a single Member subsystem (in the latter’s space) is counter-task behavior. All staff members remain plenipotentiaries throughout the ISE. Their authorization comes initially from the Director, then from staff member colleagues, and lastly from the individuals’ competence in taking up assigned roles.
Consultants are responsible for consulting to the Members’ performance of their task: to explore and, if desired, open to transformation their relations with Management. This consulting task start with the ISE opening plenary and conclude with the end of the ISE closing plenary. Consultants do not function as nor form part of Management during the closing plenary, which is a here-and-how event rather than a reflective event. Management manages the ISE closing plenary meeting through hypotheses, the analysis of data, and discussion. As always, Members are free to do as they wish. Consultants and Management observe identical time boundaries, which are those that Management publishes for the ISE plenaries, sessions, and breaks. For the closing ISE plenary, all members of Management and all Consultants are present, in their respective spaces and roles.
Consultants’ task during the ISE is: to provide opportunities for Member learning about physical, psychic, political, and spiritual relations between themselves and Management and about how those relations may influence their exercise of authority, leadership, and management within the total conference institutional system. This task is the same as the ISE’s task, which the Director provides in the opening plenary. The Convenor of the Consultants receives a copy of the Director’s opening remarks, which include Management’s statement of the primary task, before the ISE opening plenary begins.
Consultants consult to the relations between Management and Members (i. e., to the institution-as-a-whole) during the opening and closing ISE plenaries. These plenaries are, in this sense, here-and-now events. Consultants do not provide consultation to Management during ISE sessions, but rather address the relations between Management and Members in their interactions both with Members and with Management. Consultants consult to the whole-system functioning and dynamics, specifically those in Members and Member-composed subsystems, as they suggest or reveal Member-Management relations. This shift in focus from small subsystems to system-as-a-whole, from individual to representative, may require direction and effort and may not be rapidly learned or implemented, especially if staff members’ previous conference experiences have been with a distinct ISE model (such as that of the IE).
Consultants assist Member subsystems in working with their own and Management’s hypotheses about the physical, psychic, spiritual, and political relations between Members and Management. The Director indicates to the Convenor of the Consultants the reports and the types of information from the Consultants’ sector that he or she will need during the ISE (examples include new hypotheses, developments related to Management’s earlier hypotheses, subsystems consulted to, subsystem composition, meaningful subsystem or inter-subsystem dynamics or behaviors). The information useful to Management may be generally known to the Consultants but not so to the Management team, which needs up-to-date and consistently updated information from here-and-now events. Otherwise, the ISE easily ceases to be “here-and-now.”
The Consultants, of course, generally decide the frequency and nature of their contact with Management. Overall, it is helpful for Management to have information from the Consultants at least once during each ISE session. Its content includes relevant aspects of the Consultants’ work with or separately from the Member subsystems (e.g., in constructing or supplying data for working hypotheses to explain the system’s behaviors). To assure appropriate access to relevant information, the Convenor of the Consultants may instruct the consultants to return to their work space 5 – 8 minutes before the end of each ISE session. Doing so avoids “capture” by Member subsystems and permits the opportune sharing of information.
Consultants’ behavior vis-à-vis Management (e.g., repeated withholding of information) may be of such importance as to be addressed in the content of working hypotheses, which aim to understand the total system. Since, like Consultant underutilization by the membership, such withholding is a system behavior, it may be preferable to address it through the working hypothesis, rather than through sending a Management member to the Consultants’ space with a request for information, although either or both remain viable options, at the Director’s discretion.
Consultants’ task during the ISE is to provide opportunities for the whole system to learn about relations between Members and Management and about how those relations may interact with or influence the way conference participants practice authority, leadership, and management within the conference taken as an institutional system. As a managed temporary social educational system, examination of the physical, political, spiritual, and psychic/psychological/psychodynamic relations between Members and Management is central to its task and purpose.
The Director is the sole member of Management present during the ISE opening plenary. Management, usually through the team of administrators, arranges all the chairs for the opening plenary of the ISE, except for the two chairs for Consultants. The latter position their own chairs in the event. The Director’s opening discourse makes clear the deployment of staff members during the ISE, as well as the physical resources available. Moreover, she or he defines clearly the three types of representation employed in the ISE and recognized by Management: silent observer, delegate, and plenipotentiary.
These degrees of authorization for representation are presented as parts of the ISE structure that Management has adopted in order to function usefully in its interactions with Members. It is stated or otherwise made clear that they constitute Management’s contract for working with Members during the ISE. That is, the same rubrics are not obligatory for Members, but they are the structure that staff (comprised of both Management and Consultants) will employ in its interactions with Members during the ISE. Members may do as they wish and may create their own structures for relating within their subsystems. Consultants are available and constitute valuable resources in facilitating the processes of subsystem development, design, identification, and boundary management. While these factors are more frequently and deliberately addressed in detail during the IE, they may also be a secondary focus for Consultants’ work in the ISE.
Two consultants are present during the opening plenary; the Consultant team, under the direction of its Convenor, considers who will consult to this important initial work of representing the Consultants and their task. For ALL consultants to be present at the ISE opening plenary is not an efficient option. Thus, neither all consultants nor all managers are present at the ISE opening plenary.
The Convenor of the Consultants ultimately decides which two consultants will address the relations between the Members and Management during the ISE opening plenary. He or she transmits this information to the Director, prior to the beginning of the ISE plenary and prior to the formation of Members’ subsystems. The consultants designated for this initial consulting work decide themselves from what physical or geographical position within the plenary space they may best do their work; their decision is subject to comment inside the Consultant team. They then inform the Convenor of the Consultants of their strategy and reasoning. They are responsible for the physical placement of their own chairs in this space; Management does not manage the Consultants’ tasks or movements, and therefore the administrative team, on Management´s behalf, does not arrange the Consultants’ chairs. This logic explains the absence of Consultants in the work spaces reserved for Members during the first ISE session post-opening plenary.
After the opening plenary is concluded, both consultants present relevant information to their consultant colleagues and afterwards the Consultants transmit this information to Management, in order to promote effective collaboration. The Convenor of the Consultants rarely or never leaves the Consultants’ work space during the ISE. Conversely, neither are Members admitted to the Consultant’s space, at any time or in any capacity (that is, as silent observer, delegate, or plenipotentiary).
The Director decides the design of
the space for the ISE opening plenary. Because the information and
concepts conveyed by the Director during the plenary are complex and to
ensure maximal understanding and engagement in them, the design for the
chairs in the plenary space is task-centered. Several spatial dispositions
are made possible through the utilization of a “U” configuration, in which
D = Director, M = conference member during the ISE, and C = Consultants
two, in one of these three or other possible placements):
The Director either arranges the chairs in collaboration with the administrative team or indicates the spatial disposition desired to administrative team members, who implement it.
The Director takes questions from Members during the ISE plenary opening. But he or she does not consult to the Members. During the Director’s participation in the ISE plenary opening, all other members of Management are engaged in arranging Management’s work space in the assigned room. Arrangement of this space is neither a solely physical task nor the responsibility solely of the administrative team members. Except during scheduled “breaks” when the boundary to Management’s work space is closed, this boundary remains open at all times after the beginning of the ISE opening plenary, including during its initial arrangement in the Director’s absence.
Prior to the opening plenary of the ISE, the Director may instruct the Associate Director to direct the physical arrangement of chairs and table(s) in Management’s work space. Under her or his direction, all together, the plenipotentiary members of Management arrange the physical space, according to the Director’s instructions, in a configuration that will best promote Management’s tasks. The consulting team, in its own space, does likewise, under the Convenor’s direction and with the door to the space remaining open at all times, except for during the “breaks.”
The physical arrangement of the space is straightforward and fairly rapid. The more significant task at hand is the development of an understanding about how Management and Consultants intend to function during the event. Definition of working procedures and task-related efforts is critical and requires some time to achieve, particularly if the ISE design used is a transformation of previously employed designs that may be at variance with descriptions presented here.
The conference administrative team, as an integral part of Management, continues to provide physical resources (chairs, paperboards, markers) to reasonable requests from Members and Consultants. These requests may be made at the door of Management’s space, without the need for entry into the space or for formal negotiation. The basis for granting or denying a request for physical resources from Members is the Assistant Director for Administration’s or the acting boundary manager’s decision that the request is or is not reasonable.
Administrative team members, charged with ongoing provision and delivery of physical resources necessary for Management's, Consultants', and Members' task performance, already have available a store of relevant data developed in interactions, including nonverbal ones, on the member-staff boundary prior to the beginning of the ISE. All members of Management (and of the Consultants, certainly) have such data, which are of critical importance. Of equal importance are the ongoing “here-and-now” data available during the ISE.
Ideally, administrative team members have shared significant data in their interactions with the remainder of staff during the events preceding the ISE, but the ready availability or revisiting of these data about the physical, psychic, political, and spiritual relations between Management and Members is essential during the ISE. While the incidents or interactions providing the data may not be new, immediate, or generally unknown, the institution's history and earlier manifestations take on renewed, explicit system-wide relevance during the ISE.
During the ISE, administrative team members are obliged to learn to manage themselves in both administrative and consequential system-management roles, so that full Management’s access to the system-as-a-whole data that they possess is not blocked by the constraints indwelling in the physical management activities required of administrative team members (e.g., managing the Member/Management boundary or provision of supplies for Member and staff recesses). These physical management activities may be demanding and stressful but do not automatically incapacitate the administrative team members for the interpretive aspects of Management’s activities during the ISE.
Administrative team members are expected to share with the other members of ISE Management responsibility for the development of system-wide working hypotheses. During the ISE, the focus of exploration is not on the administrative team and their intra-team relationships or workings, but on Management-as-a-whole and Members, as well as the physical, political, psychic, and spiritual dimensions to the relations existing between these subsystems.
Management's task is the public formulation and transmission of working hypotheses relevant to understanding and making conscious the functioning of the conference system-as-a-whole. This task is both interpretive and communicative, inasmuch as the hypotheses provide promised opportunities for learning about whole system political, psychic, and spiritual functioning. Data useful in the formulation of system-level working hypotheses are provided by everything that happens in the conference, from its beginning, usually long before the conference actually convenes, and up to and including its present realities.
In distinction to the analysis of member-formed groups’ creation and development carried out in the IE event, in the ISE the processes occurring are viewed and worked with by Management and Consultants through the perspective of what possible meanings and behavioral or enacted comments or messages the subsystems’ decisions may reveal about their relations with Management.
Management’s task is a variant of the overall conference task, namely, to examine publicly and to communicate the processes active in the institution as a whole and to formulate working hypotheses to make conscious and open to transformation the physical, spiritual, political, and psychic aspects of the relations between Members and Management. At times, it may be instructive not to state the primary task in such detail, leaving it as simply “to dedicate oneself to the published primary task.”
Management highlights evidence pointing to the participants’ “systems in the mind” and to these systems in the mind as driving forces behind Members’ behaviors in relations with the ISE’s Management. On a spiritual level, for example, if Members in fantasy regard Management as omnipotent Gods, they may be less likely to have face-to-face interactions and transactions with Management or they may be more likely to make “symbolic” offerings or sacrifices to Management or they may engage in perpetual exegesis of Management’s scriptures (hypotheses). In such behaviors, they may also express an unwillingness to risk change to their current, emotionally familiar or habitual system-in-the-mind.
Even though in an abbreviated time period for the ISE (e.g., a weekend, 2 ½-day conference) only a single working hypothesis may be reasonably clear or sufficiently revealed, its aim is to serve to make conscious and understandable institutional-level phenomena. This consciousness-raising may take place through a single hypothesis with one or more revisions or emendations or through more than one hypothesis.
Intergroup behaviors also may reflect institutional-level dynamics. But they are not equivalent to the latter, which are rendered more fully comprehensible and conscious when viewed within the context of the total system’s behaviors and dynamics, as these are expressed in the Members’ relations to Management. While intergroup factors may be observed, commented upon, even included in institutional level hypotheses, they are not meant to deflect Members’ attention from the dynamics of the system-as-a-whole.
Through its multi-faceted task (of public formulation, transmission, and analysis), Management takes up or demonstrates authority and leadership of the ISE. Much of this authority and leadership derives from task competence. Task competence is largely established through the labor-intensive processes involved in examining, understanding, interpreting, and communicating available hypotheses about the conference system or institution as a whole. The ongoing (and never completed) outcomes of these efforts and interventions are shared with the remainder of the institution in the form of working hypotheses.
Each hypothesis that Management regards as suitable for use by the Members and Consultants is without delay written down in verbal form and promulgated (i.e., read out loud), so that Consultants and Members may, as they wish, incorporate them in the here-and-now as paths leading to a deepened system-as-a-whole focus and understanding and as learning tools valid in system-as-a-whole transformation. Some conference directors tend, when giving instructions for the promulgation of hypotheses, to ask for them to be delivered first to the Consultants, so that they are quickly informed and aware of the hypothesis, should Members promptly ask for consultation regarding its content.
Usually and depending on the size of the conference membership, several representatives of Management spread out to deliver each hypothesis, in a speedy fashion. Members of Management may exhibit resistance by delaying the transmission of the hypotheses to Consultants and Member subsystems. Any member of Management, except the Director, may deliver the working hypotheses formulated. During the ISE sessions, the Director does not leave Management’s space; to do so would represent an abdication of the Director’s role and responsibilities. Management’s work of formulation is intense and involving. It requires thinking but also writing down the hypothesis as it is being formulated so that its delivery is accurate and not delayed.
The hypothesis (or hypotheses) developed collaboratively and collectively among Management, with input from Consultants and Members whenever it is available or made available, are written down, so as to make uniform their transmission to the multiple subsystems of the institution. They are not, however, written in stone and the Management team members delivering them to the subsystems are authorized to explain briefly the thinking or evidence behind points in the hypothesis when the receiving subsystem considers and states that they are unclear. Still, this verbal transmission of working hypotheses is not consultative work, which remains the domain of the Consultants, to whom the Members are consistently referred at the end of each hypothesis delivered.
Delivery of working hypotheses is a concrete manifestation of Management’s commitment to public, shared management; it represents sharing and task facilitation, not charity. Management delivers its hypotheses to Consultants and to all Member subsystems. The Director usually indicates to which subsystems each member of Management is to deliver the hypothesis, so that none will be omitted or doubly addressed. Hypotheses are not transmitted to Member subsystems met in spaces not authorized for use during the ISE.
Boundary crossing in order to deliver Management’s hypotheses can be done in various ways. When delivering a hypothesis, the member of Management may or may not knock on the Member subsystem door, if it is closed. If it is not closed, the member of Management may enter and state her or his purpose: to deliver working hypotheses to all ISE subsystems, without omission that would cause isolation. If, after the member of Management has knocked, there is no response from the Member subsystem, the closed door may be opened, the task stated, and the hypothesis read aloud once, after which the Management team member delivering it asks if the gathered wish or need to hear it yet a second time. If so, the hypothesis is read again, in its entirety and preferably verbatim, and the member of Management retires from the Members’ work space. As mentioned, hypotheses are not delivered to unauthorized or vacant work spaces.
Managers delivering hypotheses can answer Members’ or Consultants’ questions about them and may repeat them once or if long or complicated, two times, at the Director’s discretion. Reading the hypothesis is preferred, in order to standardize the information distributed to the total system. Because this act of delivery of hypotheses speaks to or of the political relationship extending in both directions between Members and Management, it is meaningful and significantly so. The associated behaviors involved should retain a transparent and professional character.
When managers deliver a working hypothesis to Member subsystems, they are able and encouraged to obtain and note visible data [number and gender of people in room, door opened or closed, obvious gender disparities, utilization of the space (e.g., the blackboard), mood, etc.] for later report to the full Management team and for service in the subsequent construction ore refinement of working hypotheses. All public, verbal, visible behaviors or statements are considered to not be confidential and are therefore shareable.
Each hypothesis contains a requisite "because clause," referring to the gains or evasions consciously or unconsciously accomplished by the activities or behaviors that are outlined in the hypothesis. Frequently, the behaviors mentioned function to block transformation and the associated pain and discomfort of learning via experience. To make patent its rationale and to ease its acceptance, each working hypothesis presents relevant supporting conference-life data, largely from the here-and-now behaviors of the system and more tangentially from previous here-and-now conference events such as the large or small study systems.
The predominant system-in-the-mind can be regarded, in some instances, as the “because clause.” For example, “Members may be avoiding contact and communication with Management. Why? BECAUSE the system held in the mind is of managers as unapproachable, cruel, distant, and uncaring functionaries.”
The “because clause” may take on a different focus by addressing directly the consequences of psychodynamic slants on the institution’s behaviors, especially the resistances, defenses, and impulses behind or beneath the relations with Management, which is ideally made explicit in the working hypotheses.
Every working hypothesis contains the data that led to its formulation. The supporting data are specific, although Members or staff are not referred to individually by name. Data used should be plentiful, substantive, and from various (approximately three) sectors of the institution.
At the conclusion of every working hypothesis or transformation (e.g., owing to new or more data) of a working hypothesis, Management includes a direct authorization for Members to work with the Consultants to develop the current hypothesis or other hypotheses about their relations with Management in the conference system as a whole. “Management encourages Members to utilize the services of Consultants to further explore this hypothesis and to publicly present elaborations or data-supported alternatives or additions.” Or, more simply, “Management remains open for discussion of the hypothesis and urges Members to utilize the services of the Consultants to further explore this hypothesis or others.”
This suggestion to appeal to the Consultants is an integral and essential part of the delivered hypothesis and should be included in every presentation or reading of the hypothesis, even in repetitions of the hypothesis made in response to Members’ petition for clarity.
Each member of Management can always remember that it is permissible to seek clarification in public from another member of Management, including the conference Director or Associate Director, if uncertain about any procedure or policy during the ISE. The event and its management are effective de facto instances of shared management in public.
Examples of working hypotheses, two long (from the USA) and one short (from France), follow.
“The Institutional System is faced, in the here-and-now, with a collective show of mime or imitation, manifest in the reproduction of unexamined, feared rites and fantasied ‘toxic’ emotions, which seem to be distorted versions of management's behaviors.Example 2:
(From a GR conference whose theme was “racial diversity and authority”)Example 3:
“Conference management has noted during the ISE the creation of an institution where the notion of management in public has provoked profound shock. Two examples:12. Adherence to the stated ISE task boundaries during the “breaks”
The use of management in public has wide-reaching implications and effects during the ISE. All Management work that involves crossing boundaries (e.g., between or among teams or subsystems) is done in public within the announced time boundaries of the ISE sessions, so that conversely, no Management work is done in private during the ISE. During the “breaks,” clarifying a working hypothesis in one’s own mind, through thinking or writing, is acceptable. Generally, work between Consultants and Management or among consultants or managers is not.
“Breaks” in the schedule are basically considered private times and Management work on here-and-now events is completely suspended during them. Staff’s work on other reflective events that may be intercurrent (e.g., application groups that meet during the ISE schedule) remains acceptable. No staff meetings or reports (unless public) are carried out during the ISE; they are postponed until its conclusion.
Within-team work during the “breaks” is a gray area: some consider it acceptable (e.g., for the Director and Associate Director to clarify their thinking about working hypotheses by talking together during the “breaks”), while others do not (e.g., preferring that no here-and-now collaboration, of which the ISE is one, be carried out on “breaks”). Whatever the origin or intentions of inter-team or intra-team work done during the “breaks,” the results are properly shared, in public, with the remainder of the respective team when the subsequent ISE session begins.
Reports from the administrative team, related to happenings on the Member/Management boundaries, are always admitted and given in public during the ISE sessions. Staff interactions during the breaks (including mealtimes) remain social, and do not broach ISE-related content. The “breaks” during the ISE may be shorter than during other conference events, precisely because no Management work (such as review of small or large study system sessions) is performed during them.
Because staff meetings or reports (unless public) are not carried out during the ISE, an interspersed design (e.g., with a small study system meeting at some point during the ISE) is probably contraindicated. The brevity of the ISE during a weekend conference may argue against an interspersed design. If such a design is utilized, however, work on any interspersed here-and-now event is only carried out in public during the ISE sessions, with careful attention to its potential for distraction, diversion, or destruction of the ISE’s proper tasks and focus.
As a matter of course and of protocol consistent with the Director’s remarks during the ISE opening plenary, staff members (Managers and Consultants) do not discuss ISE content, matters, events, behaviors, or dynamics during the scheduled “breaks” occurring throughout the event. Members, of course, are not bound by this convention, but in the ISE opening plenary, they are informed that staff members will abide by it. This maintenance of task and temporal boundaries is vital to the integrity of the ISE and to the Members’ and staff’s availability for learning from and through shared, public experience.
Management in public permits transformation of Members’ defensive systems in the mind. In contrast, Management that meets surreptitiously in private, while proffering “management in public,” encourages Members’ maintenance of defensive, irrational systems in the mind.
For staff members experienced in the IE, the transformations of this event (such as the limitation on intra- or cross-team staff work during the ISE) may stir resistances precisely to learning from novel or transformed structures or innovations. Management’s addressing these resistances, as ever in all conference work, is essential and determinant if Member learning is to proceed without blockage by staff half-heartedness or procedural or boundary confusion.
Not surprisingly, Management’s and/or Consultants’ deskilling of themselves in the face of the challenging opportunity for novel learning presented by the ISE’s innovative rendering of the IE may act as a major resistance to staff’s and Members’ learning. In spite of adequate familiarity with system-as-a-whole conceptualization and intervention, staff members sometimes feel unprepared to engage solitarily in competent applied system-level interpretation or intervention because as Consultants or as Managers, they are more than elsewhere or otherwise constrained to include their own psychodynamics, roles, and behaviors in rendering the system’s character.
Deskilling can indicate dependent or counter-dependent resistance (“What do I do now?” “I don’t understand.” or “The old way is better.”) to something new, unexpected, surprising, or shocking. When dealt with directly, the resistance behind staff’s deskilling is also a source of energy that can enable and power learning during the ISE.
A member of the administrative team is often charged with managing the boundary to Management’s work space. The person charged may or may not be the director of the administrative team, according to the conference Director’s decision. If the administrative team is composed of more than one member, the role of boundary manager may rotate among the team members. All members of the administrative team may be asked to take responsibility for boundary management during the ISE. In some ISE designs, two administrators are deployed on the boundary: one interacts verbally with the Members who come to the boundary, while the other notes on a flip chart or blackboard the visiting representatives’ names (including those of Consultants, with whom verbal interaction at the boundary is not necessary or required), the subsystems that they serve, their levels of authorization, and other pertinent data.
During the process of delivering working hypotheses to all ISE subsystems, in which most of the members of Management participate in order to prevent delay in transmitting the hypotheses to all subsystems, a member of Management who does not belong to the administrative team may be appointed by the Director or Associate Director to temporarily share in managing the physical boundaries to Management’s work space.
Members’ arrivals at, entry to, and interactions within Management’s work space are not minor or secondary encounters for the boundary managers. They should not be treated perfunctorily, but rather as essential sociotechnical transactions and a primary responsibility of Management. That this is so should be evident to the Members, who should not have to wait unnecessarily to be seen or acknowledged by the member(s) of Management attending the boundary. Thus, the distance between the boundary manager’s position or chair and the door must be rational (i.e., task-determined) and favorable to opportune performance of the task. The boundary manager must consider the decision of whether to sit or stand in the anticipation or performance of this task. Civility and courtesy are welcoming; common greetings (“Hello” or “Good afternoon”) are in order, and, in a minor way, distinguish the ISE from other conference here-and-now events.
Games are out of place. For example, asking a Member’s name or other information that the boundary manager already knows. But, composition of subsystems may have changed or the Member at the boundary may have joined another subsystem or some Members may have dropped out of (or joined) a given subsystem or may have different levels of authorization from those previously held. In these cases, the boundary manager’s “known” information is out-of-date, and thus no longer here-and-now. The boundary manager should obtain the information that the representative is able to give; being unable to give all the requested information is not meant to be a barrier to her or his entry. Even if unanswerable, the questions asked may by themselves provoke thought or avenues for exploration and learning within the subsystem represented.
Management (through its boundary managers) requests data from all Members who come to its territory. Boundary managers keep in mind that transactions with Members are not simply bureaucratic, cut-and-dried, rote means to an end (namely, entry into Management’s space). Rather, they are significant sociotechnical transactions and sources of relevant and new learning for Members and Managers. Crossing physical boundaries is, in the conference context, deliberate, and it is essential to create favorable conditions for learning around this regularly anxiety-laden and sometimes misunderstood or undervalued activity.
The boundary manager requests and
notes in legible form the following data from all Members who come to Management’s
territory and who are observers, delegates, or plenipotentiaries:
In the case of Consultants, only items 1 and 2 are documented, and these without verbal verification.
Items 4, 5, and 6 (as well as any hypotheses formulated during the current ISE session) are traditionally printed out in log form during the following break, with copies given to all Management members and Consultants at the beginning of the subsequent ISE session. Some conference directors find it valuable to have this updated map (Appendix 1) of the Members’ subsystems, showing their locations, names, and composition. The decision is the Director’s. All written information provided to Management is logically also provided to the single Member choosing to function as part of Management for the current ISE session.
Observers (who remain silent) are without exception freely admitted to Management’s space, after data 1 – 5 are obtained from them at the boundary. Delegates and plenipotentiaries must state their purpose in more detail to the boundary manager and may be afterwards ushered directly to the two seats available for verbal transactions with Management, if those seats are vacant. Their being seated does not guarantee immediate verbal attention from Management, but is a signal to managers that there are pending exchanges with Members. The Director, as in all cases of multiple tasks calling at a single time, must extemporaneously discern the advisability of proceeding in one direction (the Members) or another (current Management engagements).
If there are more than two delegates or plenipotentiaries from a single subsystem, the boundary manager simply indicates that a maximum of two spaces are available and that the Members may decide in the hallway outside Management’s work space which two will take the seats. No rotation of seating among Members from the same subsystem is permitted, within any single period of interaction with Management.
If all the seats set aside for observers and waiting delegates and/or plenipotentiaries are occupied, Members are asked to return at a later time, when the seats may be available. But, Member delegates or plenipotentiaries, arriving when the two seats set aside for those interacting verbally with Management are already occupied, are presented with two options: they may stay outside Management’s space until the seats are vacated or they may enter and wait in the seats commonly reserved for observers. If they choose the latter option, Management’s boundary manager verbally makes it clear and explicit that they may enter Management’s space exclusively as silent observers, remaining in that silent observer role until such time as they are seated in the two chairs facing Management, at which point they resume their authorized delegate or plenipotentiary roles.
Members observing or waiting to interact face-to-face with Management are admitted only as silent observers, regardless of the level of authorization granted by the Member subsystem that they represent. The boundary manager(s) and other members of Management, whether part of the administrative team or not, are responsible for maintaining silence among the seated observers. They take charge, whenever necessary, of keeping order among those waiting and/or expel Members who insist on speaking in spite of their acknowledged role as silent observers. Every necessary request for silence should be verbal, audible to all present, public, immediate or timely, unambiguous, and effective.
Delegates and plenipotentiaries may make an appointment for transacting affairs with Management at a later time or in a different session, but the boundary manager advises them that if, at the appointed time, managers are in the midst of a verbal transaction with another Member subsystem representative, they will attend to the previously scheduled appointment only when the current transaction is finished, even if that means crossing over a time boundary set for the beginning of the scheduled appointment. If Members inquire about scheduling a rendezvous, Management’s boundary manager can make clear at that point that it is possible and under what conditions. The conference Director may choose not to offer Members this option until and unless they request it.
Consultants may enter Management’s space with minimal or no formalities at the boundary. They utilize one or both of the two seats facing Management's work table, if these are unoccupied. If the two seats for those conducting verbal transactions with Management are occupied, then another manager, previously decided and charged, is responsible for taking the Consultant(s) aside (an additional 2-3 chairs may be appropriate, located somewhat behind Management’s seats at the work table) and for there carrying out the transaction for speedy subsequent report to the total Management body. If, however, the Director or another member of Management wishes or “needs” to interact with the Consultants’ representative, the latter may be asked to wait until the two occupied seats become available for such interaction.
If Management is busy in a transaction with Members, the Director asks one of her or his manager colleagues, though generally not those directly engaged in the exchanges on the work space boundary, to meet with the Consultants’ representative, inside Management’s space. Usually, two or three chairs are separately deployed, in face-to-face position, for this purpose (possible arrangement). Thus, in the case of Consultants’ entry into Management’s work space, no formal verbal transaction occurs at the boundary.
Consultants and managers are understood to be colleagues working cooperatively together. Thus, the boundary-crossing processes in place must facilitate the former’s access to Management. The verbal transaction typically carried out at the boundary to Management’s work space is not done to annoy the Members nor to mark the differentiation between Members and staff. Rather, it is one of the major ways through which Management learns about the system that it pretends to oversee. Requesting information about the Consultants who cross Management’s boundaries is redundant and inefficient because the managers already know exactly the Consultants’ representatives’ identities, deployment, and purposes.
During the ISE, the challenge for Consultants continues to be, as in other conference events, how to work so that Members can focus on and address the event’s task. In order to succeed, the Consultants must be clear about the nature of both the institutional task and their own consulting objectives. Answering the questions of “What is being worked on here?” or “What is being worked out in these relations with Management?” or “What is going on?” (“C’est quoi à l’oeuvre?”) can provide an initial entry into the heart of the matter. Of significant usefulness is the Consultants’ ability to consult to the Members’ feelings or emotional responses to life in the institutional system under construction.
Likewise to the point is being aware not only of the different parts of the system, but also of the feelings that the different subsystems evoke, cause, or experience. Answering questions such as “How were you received by the Member subsystem?” or “What did you feel while consulting to the subsystem?” or “How could the termination of the consultation to the Members in this subsystem be characterized in psychic, political, and spiritual metaphors?” can be useful in clarifying the nature of relations between Members and Management.
The Consultants’ task, therefore, is to provide information, perspectives, and strategies useful to Members in their performance and understanding of the study of the physical, psychic, political, and spiritual relations between themselves and Management.
In the Director’s opening remarks for the ISE, Members are informed that they may receive consultation in their space “upon request” (though not “solely” upon request) and that consultation is a desirable resource to utilize in addressing the event’s complex experiential learning task. Consultants may decide to provide appropriate consulting services even without a direct or explicit verbal request for consultation from a Member subsystem, but this is not standard procedure and is reserved for extraordinary circumstances or crises. **
During interactions with the membership, Members do not legitimately manage Consultants (or Managers) without their collusion in the manipulation. Some members of Management do not knock to ask permission to enter Members’ spaces; others do. Submitting to Member subsystems’ management, however, is not necessarily expedient. If the manager delivering a hypothesis is greeted with bureaucracy or irrational questions about provenance, he or she may simply ask about the reasons for the questions, inasmuch as all relevant information about Management’s and Consultants’ tasks, functions, and level of authorization have already been made fully public. A member of Management may prefer to state her or his task (“I am here to deliver a message from Management, which I will now read.”) upon entering the space, whether after knocking on a closed door and then immediately opening it or after entering a space whose door is already open. Consultants usually do not face these kinds of dilemma because their services are in most instances requested by Member subsystems.
In special cases, a consultant might conceivably enter a subsystem and simply ask, “Can we define a contract so that as a consultant I may be of some service to you in your working or method of working with Management’s recent hypothesis?” Or, “What typologies or descriptions or ‘systems in the mind’ have you discussed in your examination of the relations between yourselves and Management, and of your roles and behaviors within those relations?” Or, “What are your subsystem’s fantasies about your own and Management’s roles in this institution?” Or, “Which ‘systems in the mind’ influence your ways of exploring your relations with Management?” These same types of questions could as profitably be asked in the context of a Member-subsystem negotiation for consultation at the boundary to the Consultants’ work space, although the proper and superior venue for in-depth consultation is within the Member subsystems or the inter-subsystem space.
As is obvious from these examples of practical approaches to engagement with Members, consultations during the ISE may be more proactive, proffered, interrogative, and direct than is the case during other here-and-now events, focused only on parts of the system as a whole (e.g., small or large study systems). Even so, Management does not provide specific instructions to Consultants about the how, when, or why of entering Member subsystem spaces for task-related purposes. To do so during the event would weaken Management’s earlier full authorization of the Consultants’ plenipotentiary role.
Consultants make decisions about whether and for how long to be present in Members’ subsystems, usually within guidelines set by the Convenor of the Consultants. They also respond to Members’ requests for consultation in order to clarify, amend, extend, or transform Management’s and Members’ hypotheses about their physical, psychic, spiritual, and political relations.
The Consultants, through their work (both consultation and thought), support a focus on the managed system and facilitate its study. The principal avenue leading to this focus and study consists in system-level working hypotheses that Management has developed through multiple sources and experiences. Management is a primary source for the initial formulation of such hypotheses, but Consultants and Members are equally authorized to present or elaborate hypotheses about the total system's behaviors, unconscious motivations, conflicts, collusions, and/or operational tactics, whether perceived as healthy or pathological, constructive or obstructive. Such hypotheses “reveal” the institution-as-a-whole and permit its transformation.
The Consultants’ task is to briefly accompany Members in exploring, understanding, and “fleshing out” the hypotheses publicly presented or available. In so doing, Members may learn about system-level behaviors in the here-and-now and may contribute from within the current system, as responsible members of the institution, to its transformation, as needed or desired. Without ongoing care and analysis, staff may tend to unthinkingly or unintentionally mirror the system-as-a-whole dynamics that are the subject matter for study during the ISE. Staff’s active involvement in intentional institutional development or design has been termed “transformation” and more recently “Transformaction” by the thinkers at IFSI. In most respects, transformation, along with revelation, supplies essential purpose or application for what would otherwise be the sterile or purely intellectual study of the institution as a whole.
Consultants are responsible for collaborative and complementary work with Management in order to support the aim of providing opportunities for Member learning. The ways in which the collaboration is realized are multiform, and its patterns are largely unknown before the event begins. In order to eliminate significant barriers to comprehension of the Consultants’ task and its distinction from the managers’ tasks, it must be made explicit that Consultants, rather than Management, are responsible for consulting resources and activities with the Members during the ISE event. The division of labor and purpose between Management and Consultants is emphasized if Members are clearly, publicly, and sometimes repeatedly made aware (e.g., through codicils to each working hypothesis transmitted) of the Consultants’ assigned tasks and purposes.
Time allocation for the ISE is the
result of conference management’s decisions prior to the actual event.
One possible configuration of a block of time for the event (during
a weekend GR conference schedule) might be the following, which allows
5 full ISE sessions:
The lack of a “break” between the ISE opening plenary and the first session of the event is due to the fact that the opening plenary is part and parcel of the creation of the ISE and is therefore not a disconnected event. The first closing time boundary marked (10:30 hours) is approximate. The time boundary that the Director observes to define her or his physical presence in the plenary room may be variable. At some point, he or she departs the plenary room, for continued work in Management’s space. Members do as they wish with regard to the amount of time they spend in the ISE opening plenary space, and the two Consultants present may work with them in their decision-making efforts, even without the Members’ direct request for consultation.
Members of Management and Consultants do as they judge task-effective, within the stated time boundaries for the sessions. The shortening of the “breaks” from the usual 30 minutes to 15 minutes intensifies the ISE experience.
Some Directors believe that a break overnight between the initial 35 – 50% of the ISE sessions and the remainder of them is beneficial to Members’ absorption or understanding of the system-as-a-whole perspective. Sometimes there is evidence to suggest that such an interruption is beneficial; other times there is not.
At the beginning of the ISE, a single-sheet map showing the spaces (room numbers, floor, and disposition) allocated for it, with sufficient space to write in the names of Members convened in the territories and the possibly evolving names of resident subsystems, is distributed by the administrative team to Management for their system-as-a-whole work during the ISE (Appendix 1).
The map is continually revised, as updated information becomes available. The most recent version is photocopied, if possible, during the next following break and distributed by the administrative team to all members of Management at the beginning of the following ISE session. At the same time, a copy of the updated map is shared with the Consultants. Once a working hypothesis has been developed, it, too, is distributed in printed form to the Management and Consultant teams, at the beginning of the subsequent ISE session. The hypotheses may also or instead be written on a publicly visible blackboard or flipchart in Management’s work space.
The physical separation serves to underline the two functions of conference Staff, management and consultation.
One possible general disposition for Management’s space is indicated below; to some degree, the disposition utilized depends on spatial arrangements of the room assigned for Management’s work.
Key: Manager = Ma, Member = M, Consultant = C
The location for the door and thus for the boundary manager(s) may vary, and it is taken into account in task planning.
Inside their work space, Consultants do not accept Members as observers of their work or as delegates or plenipotentiaries, so no chairs are present for their use. On the other hand, members of Management (including Members temporarily participating in Management) are allowed to enter the Consultants' work space whenever they are dispatched by Management.
Members, however, are never invited or admitted to the Consultants’ work space; instead, they negotiate for the services of a Consultant outside the threshold of the Consultants’ territory. Normally, the Consultants leave open the door to their work space, in order to signify that they are permanently ready to welcome Members' requests. As is also Management’s practice, the Consultants open their door punctually at each session’s beginning time boundary and close it punctually at the end of each session of the ISE.
Each subsystem (Management, Consultants, and Members) is generally responsible for the arrangement of their seating, except during the ISE opening plenary for which Management may arrange Members’ chairs. Management and Consultants arrange their own seating during the “break” prior to the beginning of each ISE plenary.
In the ISE opening plenary space, Members’ chairs (exactly 1 for each Member) may be arranged, as desired by the Director. Management’s chair (only the conference Director is present) is arranged by Management; two Consultants’ chairs are set up by Consultants. The two consultants are not seated in the same geography as Management, reflecting the distinct tasks and perspectives of the two staff subsystems.
In summary, in the opening plenary space,
One space to be used for Member-originated inter-subsystem meetings during the ISE, which Members may hold with or without a consultant’s services. Normally, this space is the same room used for opening and closing plenaries of the event. The subsystems involved may solicit consultation and/or Management’s assistance with use of this resource before the meeting takes place. However, Members do not have to request use of the space from Management. They may ask for 1 or more Consultants to inter-subsystem meetings if they wish; it is encouraged by Management.
In the ISE closing plenary space, Members’ chairs are not arranged, but are available in random groupings. Members may arrange their chairs as they enter the plenary space. Management’s chairs are arranged by Management; Consultants’ chairs are set up by Consultants. Consultants are not seated together with nor in the same geography as Management, reflecting the distinct tasks and functions of the two staff subsystems during the ISE, which does not end until this plenary’s closing time boundary.
In summary, in the ISE closing plenary space,
The closing plenary of the ISE, unlike other conference plenaries, is a here-and-now event. It is not a review or there-and-then event. All Consultants are present, collectively deciding their own location during this closing plenary. The Director makes the Consultants aware of the here-and-now nature of the event in advance of its beginning.
Revelation and transformation, but not reparation or primitive salvation or damnation, are the essence of Management’s and Consultants’ work during the ISE. Transformation may be considered the “output” of the system, while the “throughput” is engagement with primary process, “black box” functioning, both individual and institutional. The “input” is revelation and especially revelation through interpretation.
** For example, in 1986, Dr. Eric Miller, without being asked, once entered the ISE member subsystem self-named “Foreigners” at the annual Leicester conference (Shields, 1986). To the subsystem members’ surprise, he came unasked, presumably because no other ISE member subsystem had permitted the Foreigners to interact with them in their own space, and during four ISE sessions none ever came to the boundary of the Foreigners’ space. These facts, however, had not been verbally communicated to Management by the members of the Foreigners’ group. The consequences of the unsolicited consultation were quite (appropriately, in the Foreigners’ view) violent and effectively stimulated system transformation. The following day, the U. S. invaded Libya, in ways that paralleled and could be understood to be motivated by dynamics similar to those that had led the Foreigners' to "invade" the conference systems that had been impermeably closed to their participation and their legitimate desire to engage in the collective’s activities.
Shields, W. (1986). A Massachusetts Yankee in Leicester, England: Experiences at Tavistock international group relations conference, an application:Tripoli, April 1986. Northeastern Society for Group Psychotherapy Newsletter, 8(3), 1-4.Appendix 1
Design of map of ISE Member subsystems' spaces, names, and composition
• sometimes in its Consultant role, during the here-and-now sessions (small study systems, large study system), andNow, in the ISE, you have the possibility of connecting to Staff in both their Consultant and Management roles.
• to furnish opportunities for Members to form subsystems of their own choice, according, we hope, to criteria that you define and decide. You could also choose to divide yourselves up randomly. It is your choice.For these purposes, I want to inform the Members that it is possible to make a differentiation among 3 levels of representative authority:
· Observer: The Observer enters to observe, silently, but he or she is charged with gathering information for his or her subsystem and with reporting that information back to the subsystem. This person is a silent observer of other subsystems, without the authorization from her or his own subsystem to have verbal interaction with the observed subsystem.I want to make it clear that these are not rules, but rather options that are available for Members' use, or not.
In any case, they are options that we as Management use and will use.
The Consultants have indicated to Management that they will recognize the same 3 levels of representative authority.
To explore the nature of the relations between Members and Management of the ISE.In this, we are dealing with the fundamental "operational" task, knowing that the fundamental "existential" task consists in
studying the mental representations or systems-in-the-mind that give rise to this institution in the course of its evolution.9.
What kinds of relations can one find to study?
Three main dimensions: political, psychic, and spiritual.
What is the difference between what exists “in the mind” and what exists in reality?And this question of differentiation applies to each of the dimensions mentioned.
For the ISE, the Staff takes up either of two roles: that of Management or that of Consultant. Both roles are carried out by different elements of the Staff, and each role has distinct tasks.
1. With the exception of the two ISE plenaries, for each session of the ISE and for the duration of each session, a single seat within Management will be reserved for one Member.17.
• Territories available during the ISE:
18.For Members' work in the subsystems that you design, ____ (= total number) working spaces are available. These are: _____, _____, _____, _____, etc.• Time: As outlined in the printed program (____ [= number] of sessions, including this one)
Are there any questions?
Management's recommendation is that you use the services of the Consultants here present to assist you now in the formation of the subsystems of your choice.
To explore the nature of the physical, psychic, political, and spiritual relations between the Members and Management of the ISE.In this, we are dealing with the fundamental "operational" task, knowing that the fundamental existential task consists in studying the mental representations or systems-in-the-mind that give rise to this institution in the course of its evolution.
To explore the nature of the psychic, political, and spiritual relations between the Members and Management of the ISE, all the while knowing that they will come to an end at the closing of this session.10.
What would you like to explore?
*With gratitude and affection to David Gutmann (París), Shelley Ostroff (Tel Aviv), Louise Edberg (Stockholm), Christophe Verrier (Paris), and Jacqueline Ternier-David (Paris) for their generous contributions!
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