Systemic Constellation Work in Organisations

Systemic Constellation Work applies to a wide variety of fields: especially psychotherapy and self-development (e.g. ‘family constellations’) and consulting for businesses and other organisations (e.g. ‘organisational constellations,’ ‘management constellations,’ ‘project constellations.’). However, the method also applies to many other contexts (e.g. ‘nature constellations,’ ‘research constellations,’ ‘medical symptoms constellations’ etc.). Several scientific studies have empirically validated the usefulness of organisational constellations.

Common ground

All forms of constellation work build on a technique that we could call „systemic representation.“ In an organisational constellation workshop, the procedure will often look like this:

  1. One person (the ‘case giver’) describes the issue he or she wants to address. 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. Second, the case giver asks other workshop participants to represent one of these elements each. 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 respective elements. In this way, structures, relationships and dynamics become visualized.
  3. Accompanied by the facilitator, the representatives tune into a mindful perception of the situation, their intuitions and their bodily sensations and then express their observations and feelings. They can change position in the room when they feel the wish to do so. Step by step, the constellation shifts towards a more harmonious state. The participants who are not serving as representatives mindfully observe the process.
  4. When the facilitator decides to end the constellation, the participants who were representatives step out of their roles.
  5. Finally, a harvesting process can be facilitated where all participants can share their impressions of the constellation process, their insights and its implications for the real-life system.

Organisational constellations are a powerful tool to:

  • Gain a deeper understanding of the stakeholders you are involved with.
  • Resolve problems by identifying the underlying issues.
  • Unleash creativity, get new ideas, see things from a fresh perspective.
  • Implement fruitful and lasting organisational structures, cultures and goals.
  • Sharpen your intuition and perception skills.

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, including the identification of concrete next steps.

The transformative edge

Experiencing the power of intuition can transform one‘s worldview.

An amazing and until now not fully understood phenomenon implemented in systemic constellations is „representative perception“ or „somatic information“: even though the participants usually do not know the system or the element which they represent in real-life, they have quite specific intuitive perceptions and impulses which the case givers often identify as matching the real system closely. Experiencing the effectiveness of problem-solving that relies strongly on intuitive ways of knowing can be transformative. One gains trust in one’s intuition and the intuition of others and there is an increased interest in the ability to tune into deeper levels of consciousness.

Experiencing a system through someone else’s eyes can transform one’s view of the system.

To a representative, their perspective is not just abstract information but experienced reality. We often observe a significantly deepened understanding of different perspectives as well as increased empathy and appreciation for them including for those previously considered problematic.

Nothing motivates transformation like getting a taste of a possible great future.

In transformative processes, one often has the frustrating feeling that we know what we want to leave behind but we do not know exactly where we want to go instead. Being able to experience a glimpse of what a system in a potential improved future state could look and feel like, can be very motivating and provide valuable orientation. Since systemic constellations can be experienced by several people at the same time, they can even contribute to the emergence of coherent collective visions and goals.

Floor: From discomfort to exploration

My first experience with constellation work made me feel very uncomfortable. It seemed as if I was asked to be part of a play. Unexpectedly my intuition and senses were very strong while participating in it. Normally, I let my head try to find answers to difficult questions. In stark opposition to this tendency, during the constellation, I received much deeper insights through the embodiment of an element. T his experience triggered my curiosity. A few years later I did a training in Business Constellations and Social Presencing Theater. Nowadays I use constellation practices personally and professionally.

I still find it hard to explain to people, in words, what constellation work is. The best way to understand this method is by experiencing it. If you want to get to the essence of a problem and have, like me, little patience and you are open for something new then a constellation could be the answer. For me, what makes this method unique is that in a short time-frame it gives clarity on the essence of a problem. Oftentimes, it shows us what we cannot or do not want to see or acknowledge. A constellation makes the essence visible and tangible.

Nikolaus: From energy-depletion to energy force

I first got to know this method in family constellations and was blown away by how effective it was. The most amazing effect for me has been the ability to come to a much better understanding of why people act in a certain way in certain situations. This naturally makes empathy and forgiveness much easier.

I decided trained in this method and have been offering organisational constellations for a few years. I keep being amazed at how easily big shifts in perception can occur through this method. I remember a constellation that was looking at the role of so-called real-world labs in the transformation toward sustainability. One person who had a leading role in the real-world lab movement told me about his frustration around mainstream scientists who don’t take this work seriously because they see it as too involved with transformation activism instead of scientifically neutral. After taking part in the constellation as a representative for science, he said that he suddenly understood and truly appreciated the importance of this conservative and sceptical stance of mainstream science. Most significantly, he now experienced the described tension no longer as an energy-depleting conflict between opposites but rather as an energy-creating force-field between complementary poles.

By Floor Martens, LLM &  Nikolaus von Stillfried, PhD

Chapter from the Book: A Transformative Edge. Knowledge, Inspiration and Experiences for Educators of Adults. Published by Transformation Hosts International International Publications.