Tasso Organizational Constellations

Organizational constellations are a new and powerful method to analyze persistent organizational issues, both internal and external, for businesses, institutions and government agencies.

Our training program offers a systematic introduction into facilitating constellations. If you have witnessed family constellations, you may have an idea. This training is primarily meant for consultants and coaches who deal with problems in the framework of organizational or management development or as boardroom consultants. Also management trainers and staff people advising management can benefit from this training.

Organizational constellations are usually done in a group of 15-25 people, including a number of participants who want to explore a persistent issue in their own organizations. They don’t tell from what organization they are, so confidentiality is guaranteed and the other participants will have no ideas or opinions or associations to project in the constellation work. This is a vivid fictional example, though close to a true constellation:

The national sales organization of a multinational pharmaceutical company is witnessing more or less stagnant sales in the last years. In four years time, two external directors have been hired and have left again. Now a senior department head, who is already 14 years with the company and knows the market very well, has become the new director for the time being. If he succeeds, his appointment will become permanent. He is going back to the old and tried way of marketing the wares. A number of salespeople are afraid that he is missing some new trends. But the former directors, who talked a lot about new trends in the market, were not successful. Recently, these salespeople in favor of change have produced a detailed proposal how to change the marketing efforts in the coming four years. This has led to a heated discussion between ‘modernists’ and ‘traditionalists’ in the national organization. Some of the more promising commercial people talk about leaving. The discussion is becoming more emotional. Some want to go directly to the regional Asia office in Delhi; others want to go straight to Geneva. What is to be done?

Number one and number two of the national sales organization are present. They are the clients. They explain the situation, without mentioning the name of the firm and the nature of their products. Answering questions of the facilitator they tell that part of their products is basically sold to consumers, but another part, with better margins, to a professional market. When was the last year of stable growth? Seven or eight years ago.

The facilitator has the client select from the people present somebody who will represent the director of the national sales organization. That person is placed somewhere in the room. (There is an open space; participants are sitting near the walls of the room.) Then two people are placed in the same space who represent the ‘modernist’ and the ‘traditional’ factions in the company. Later, another person will represent the market. All the representatives are located completely intuitively in the room. They are asked for their impression at their spots. How do they feel? What do they think? How feels their body? What is their feeling about the other representatives? About their own position and that of others? About the direction of view, distances, and the like? The first three representatives feel irritation and don’t know which way to look. The modernist representative doesn’t know if she wants to look at the representative of the director or ignore him and look the other way. The traditionalist representative wants to come closer to the director, but comes too close and the director complains that he hinders his view. Things calm down when the products get a representative. Everybody feels better. But the product representative can hardly keep standing of his feet, is nervous, wants to turn around, and doesn’t know what to do. “I feel divided.” It appears that she cannot represent the consumer products and the professional products at the same time. Where is her heart? She guesses more with the consumer products. So a representative for the professional products is placed alongside her. They immediately want to have somewhat more distance to each other, but they should be able to touch each other when they stretch their arms. Both feel good now, but the consumer products representative feels calm and relaxed and the professional products representative is looking intently to the director and the modernist representative. The ‘director’ feels uneasy under this stare and prefers to look at the ‘consumer products’. The ‘professional products’ seeks support from the ‘modernists.’ The ‘modernists’ now feels very protective about the ‘professional products.’ The facilitator suggests that the ‘modernists’ say to the ‘professional products’: I believe in you. ‘Professional products’ radiates. And how does ‘consumer products’ feels about this? Completely relaxed. “I feel sure about myself. I like to see ’professional products’ happy. After all, we are one family.”

The ‘director’ says he knows he should feel relaxed by what is happening, but something is holding him back. He has no idea what it is. The facilitator brings in a new representative who is called for the moment, ‘holding back.’ That representative wanders around aimlessly, and it is like a shadow falls over the whole constellation. Then he places himself between the ‘director’ and the ‘conservatives.’ That doesn’t feel quite right. Then between the ‘director’ and the ‘modernists.’ Not quite right either. At the end he is just behind the back of the ‘director.’ He says he has been behind the back of his two predecessors too. “Are you the reason they left without success?” “Yes.” The ‘director’ has a cold back. The facilitator let him look into the eyes of ‘holding back.’ It feels like something from the past. A person or an event? He doesn’t know. Could be both. Four years back? Longer ago. Six years back? Longer? Eight years back? Sounds about right. Nine years back. That feels right. ‘Holding back’ confirms that this feels right.

The facilitator asks the client what happened nine years back. Suddenly his eyes open wide. There was a big problem with a new product introduction in the professional market. A really big problem. The regional office and the head office laid all the blame on the then director, who had to leave, though the cause of the problem was with the product development group at the head office and the overzealous regional office had hurried the product introduction. The facilitator asks ‘holding back’ if he represents that director that had been unjustly fired. That is right. He becomes very emotional. (Remember: this person has no idea who he is representing and what the organization is all about.) The facilitator has the client take over the position of his own representative. Now he is very emotional and feels an enormous expectation of all representatives. The facilitator asks if he was around nine years ago. He was. He knows what happened. The facilitator has him look into the ideas of ‘former director’ and say: “You were fired wrongly. I am sorry nobody stood up for you.” The ‘former director’ cannot say anything from emotion. The facilitator then suggests the director is presenting ‘former director’ to the other representatives, saying that he was a good director and was unjustly fired. Then he says to ‘former director’: “I am in your place now; please, give me your blessing.”

Then ‘former director’ does that, is completely happy and feels he doesn’t need to be in the constellation anymore. How does everyone feel? Now there is a quite natural connection between ‘traditionalists’ and ‘consumer products’ and between ‘modernists’ and ‘professional products.’ The director now feels that between the two groups is no more frustration, just a healthy difference of opinion. He feels he can work that out with them. His number two says that he now has a complete different feeling about the situation. Both hardly can wait to return to their office and start working.

That last detail is common in successful constellations: people not only have a new picture of the situation, they feel vitalized.

How come such a spatial representation of an organizational issue brings out the dynamics of that situation? Some people talks about morphogenetic fields, others about the holographic nature of systems. Whatever may be the explanation, it works. That is, if done well under their right circumstances.

Constellation work in its present form has been developed by Bert Hellinger. Its forerunners have been psychodrama work by Jakob Moreno and family sculptures by Virginia Satir, but Hellinger has given the work a new twist, making it much more effective.

The training program we offer:

Module 1: Exploring and resolving recurrent and persistent problems within organizations

Module 2: Exploring and resolving crises and conflicts within and between organizations

Module 3: Exploring strategic decisions

Please contact us for more information.