How Can Constellations Take DEI to the Next Level?


In this blog, I will bring together two of my favourite topics: Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) and Constellations. Some of you might not be familiar with constellation work. I will use this blog to make it clearer. In my first DEI focussed blog I have already mentioned the potential I saw in using constellations in DEI work.

I had my first constellation experience when I moved to Berlin and joined a Theory U collective (change management method with a holistic approach). After reading research about the benefits of constellations for diversity management I decided to write this blog, in which I will discuss the:

  • Results of constellation work
  • Organisational constellation process
  • Application of an organisational constellation to a DEI issue

Constellations’ results

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In transformative processes, one often has the frustrating feeling of knowing what one wants to leave behind but not knowing exactly where to go instead. Constellations make it possible to experience a glimpse of what an organisation in an improved future state could look like. 

Constellation work originated in the field of family therapy and counselling. Over the last two decades, it has sparked multiple methods of application and has been adapted to various topics and issues.

During a constellation, participants experience a system through someone else’s eyes which can transform their view of the system. Participants often gain a significantly deepened understanding of the different perspectives. As a result, they are able to observe other positions with empathy.

A particular benefit of constellation work is its time efficiency. Three hours are usually enough to gain in-depth insights into an issue and to develop possible strategies for a solution.

An organisational constellation is a powerful tool to:

  • Resolve problems by identifying the underlying issues
  • Gain a deeper understanding of the stakeholders you are involved with
  • Unleash creativity, get new ideas and see things from a fresh perspective
  • Emerge coherent collective visions and goals
  • Implement fruitful and lasting organisational structures, cultures and goals

Organisational constellation process

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The process of a regular organisational constellation entails:

1. Describing the issue 

One person (the ‘case giver’) describes the issue at stake. Together with the facilitator, the case giver identifies the most important elements that compose the relevant system for this issue. These elements can be individuals and organisations, non-human life (e.g. animals, plants), objects (e.g. buildings, products) or abstract entities (e.g. feelings, goals).

2. Representing the elements

Next, the case giver asks each of the other workshop participants to represent one element. Representing an element means embodying it. The participants’ positioning in the room (which they may decide on themselves or be directed by others) reflects their embodiment of the respective elements. In this way, structures, relationships and dynamics become visualised.

3. Moving the elements

The facilitator will ask the representatives, one by one, to move into the constellation field. Next, the facilitator will ask them what they observed and felt (emotionally, physically or mentally) on their way into the field and in their new position. The facilitator may ask the representatives to change their position in the room. Step by step, the constellation shifts towards a harmonious state. The participants who are not serving as representatives follow the shift attentively.

4. Ending the constellation

When the facilitator decides to end the constellation, the participants who were representatives are taken out of their representation to make sure aspects are not transferred into their life. This can be done by stepping outside of the field and gently tapping the body.

5. Harvesting the insights 

Finally, a harvesting process can be facilitated where all participants can share their impressions of the constellation, their insights and its implications for the real-life system. The final dialogue is between the facilitator and the case giver. The case giver is asked if the initial goals have been achieved, possibly followed by a discussion on how to translate the findings into work-life opportunities.

Organisational constellations’ application to a DEI issue

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This is a DEI constellation case from the research Systemic Constellations in Diversity Management. It’s about A DEI manager struggling to enforce a women’s quota.

1. Describing the issue 

In the company, the stakeholders’ agendas are heterogeneous. Consequently, traditional DEI methods have failed to raise the percentage of female managers. That’s why the DEI manager wants to gain more insight into the internal barriers and obstacles within the organisation and how to overcome them.

2. Representing the elements

The chosen elements are: the DEI manager, chief executive officer (CEO), potential female leaders, responsible line managers, male management colleagues and the two abstract elements target 30% women in top management and the objective of the organisation.

3. Moving the elements

The answers provide valuable insights into the evolution of the problem and the situation from the DEI manager’s perspective:

  • DEI manager has no contact with the responsible manager. She is working very hard and feels frustrated. She is isolated and is looking at something outside of the constellation field.
  • CEO does not feel responsible for the target and feels very powerful. He has a certain distance from everyone and looks out of the window.
  • Potential female leaders feel no contact with the target. They do not want to be ‘Quota Women’, do not support the diversity manager and stand turned away from their male colleagues.
  • Responsible line managers describe themselves as hard-working. They have no contact with the target, DEI manager and potential female leaders but good contact with their male colleagues and the CEO.
  • Male management colleagues fear the diversity target. They have good contact with colleagues and the CEO and stand at a distance and turned away from potential female leaders.
  • Target of 30% women in top management feels that the CEO, the responsible line managers and the potential female leaders disapprove of the target. It believes that the DEI manager has no power and is near the CEO with whom the contact isn’t good.
  • Objective of the organisation feels like the most important element of the constellation and sees the target as not really relevant. It does not care if a manager is male or female and has strong contact with the CEO and the male managers.

To get more insights the facilitator asked the representatives to change their position in the room based on the impulses they felt. These movements led to a new constellation image. The two most impactful changes:

  • DEI manager moved from a central position to a position at the edge of the field where she could see all other elements. This brings relief for all representatives and especially for herself.
  • CEO turned from looking outside to looking at the elements within his organisation. This was a difficult step for him to take because he felt that it was his duty to look out for the company’s competitors and to look ahead.

4. Ending the constellation

The second image showed a huge improvement and that’s where the constellation ended.

5. Harvesting the insights 

The representatives reported that the change in their positions had a very positive impact on how they felt about their representation. This gave them many new perspectives and insights on the issue.

The DEI manager described the process as very helpful. She felt relieved and gained valuable insights into her relationships with the individual groups and their interests and believed there was an opportunity to change the relationships. She hoped to soon enter into a better dialogue with the CEO. She realised that an internal step aside could help the situation and wanted to try this new position.


DEI issues are experienced individually but are inherently systemic in nature. Conventional management approaches are of value in DEI management but can fall short when it comes to insights into deeper underlying dynamics and their solutions.

Organisational constellations are significant because institutional and individual DEI issues such as the pay gap, the glass ceiling and discrimination are often hard to grasp. They are a tool for improving complex, problematic situations and complement existing methodologies by providing a holistic approach.

Do you want to know more about the topics discussed? Feel free to send me a PM.

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