Home Tools Internal Politics The Art of Organizational Coaching: In Search of Patterns and Variations

The Art of Organizational Coaching: In Search of Patterns and Variations

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Why do I mention the sonata form? This bit of music theory seems to be a bit distant from the fractal forms to be found in nature and a very long way from the processes of coaching within organizations.  I begin with this form because we can so vividly (almost poetically) see the fractal being literally “played out” in a musical sonata. We will emotionally experience the divergence (turning outward) away from the comfortable and expected, and then experience the equally-as-emotional convergence (turning inward) back to the origins and to the expected. I would propose that vital and enduring organizations also contain this balance and sequencing of convergence and divergence. We see two or more fundamental themes (purposes, directions, patterns of behavior, subcultures) playing out against each other in a variety of ways. We see these organizational themes coming together on occasion and then departing from one another. Mostly we see variations on these fundamental themes in the organization. These variations provide both confusion (with associated anxiety) and excitement (with associated energy).

Coaching Through Patterns and Variations

What about coaching in organizations? I propose that the key dynamic within enduring organizations consists of simple themes being elaborated within organizations and of vital organizational functions (and culture) being embedded in redundant structure as well as multiple variations on these structures. I further propose that organizational coaches can be of great benefit to their clients in helping them identify, appreciate and leverage their decisions and actions around these dynamic features of their organization. Furthermore, as Ralph Stacey has noted, it is in this intersect between the redundant structures and variations on these structures that an organization and its leaders find innovation and inspiration.

Identification of Patterns and Variations

The coach assists her client first by helping him look for patterns, repetitions that reside inside the organization (and inside the client himself). These patterns and repetitions are found at all levels. They may be found at the “micro” level in the daily speech of the client and of other members of his organization. They are found in frequently used words and phrases and in the metaphors being used to describe specific events or desired outcomes in the organization—for example, the use of specific sports or technological metaphors. While some sports metaphors, such as “team work” and “winning” are commonly used and are not unique to an organization, other sports metaphors are unique and specific to your client and your client’s organization. Similarly, some technological metaphors, such as “interfacing” and “module” are common, but others are unique to a specific organization or to the client himself.  Look for the unique words and phrases that keep getting used.

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