Transcript of Mirror of IDM Dialogue with Brian Robertson & Tom Thomison
April 28, 2011
Brian: Welcome to our next and final call and our current topic Holacracy and Human Ego. This call is on what I call it the Mirror of IDM, or Integrative Decision Making, and in this call I thought what we’d do is pull together a lot of the other stuff we’ve talked about in this topic and look at it, almost put a microscope over the Integrative Decision Making process and how it works with human meaning making. There are so many little nuances and structures and rules in that process that I think just naturally kind of work with how we tend to get attached, get stuck, and make meaning, and I thought it would be useful to really dissect that more. This is part of what we do in our five-day Certification Training. Those of you who have been through that will recognize some of this, and hopefully we’ll go a little deeper too, but there is just so much in that process that looks so simple that works with humans and the way we tend to get stuck and attached and all that in a really fine tuned level. So, I thought what we’d do is just really look at that process, look at the steps of that process, the nuances and rules of those steps and bring to that a lens of human attachment, a lens of how we might derail typical meetings and what Holacracy does to stop that, where the attachments show up and get worked out, that kind of thing. That was the broader frame, and I have no idea where it’s going to go so this is kind of more an open dialogue, an exploration for us. I thought we’d just start talking and invite anyone that has thoughts to jump in. So, Tom, is there anything that you want to add to that framing?
Tom: Yes. You know I think IDM as a mirror works really well for me; it feels that way at every step of the process. It’s kind of inviting us, inviting me as I’m participating in it, to be conscious, to be present, and to be aware of what’s arising for me at every step along the way. It does feel very much like a mirror and I would just add for me, it actually starts with the Check In round. It’s an early reminder that I’m stepping into something not about me, and I’m stepping away from me as I enter into this space. So, that for me is the first kind of clue that I’m moving into a different kind of space, a different kind of context, and that it ties full circle back to what we teach right at the very beginning -- that Holacracy is a practice for the organization, and we humans get some wonderful side benefits from that, but it’s stepping into an organizational space right from that Check In round. And then IDM holds up a mirror all the way along.
Brian: Yes. So let’s step into in to it and play on that, and start with the Check In round. I’ve noticed there is often a tendency when practice is new, especially in conventional organizations, to just use the Check In round as a “here”, “ready to go”, “whatever”, but I think that there’s a deeper nuance and I’ve been trying to frame it differently lately in how I facilitate, especially within a more conventional organization, which is a space to notice what state you’re in and what has your attention. Since a lot of what we’re doing in that governance meeting is using the power of our consciousness, our ability to sense tensions and process them, the first question that we start with in a Check In is “noticing you as a vehicle, as a sensor, what state are you in, what has your attention” and often people will show up and say “fine” or “whatever” but there is something going on there. There is some internal state there. There always is and there’s something that has some of their attention. The act of just turning inward and noticing that and then vocalizing it is one of the most powerful tools I found to let it go. There’s something about speaking something, at calling it out and bringing it to consciousness and then going through the symbolic act of verbalizing it that seems to be one of the best ways I found to dissolve the hold on us, that whatever that thing has, that state, that whatever that has our attention. So, I kind of like that frame for it- what state are you in and what has your attention and just verbalize it. Let it go as best you can but we’re not trying to force you to be here fully present. There’s no way you can force that but what we can ask you to do is notice and call out and have that help get more presence, more consciousness. Help that state let go of its hold on you. So, I think that’s one of the opening moves to create this space and to your point it reminds us, it’s taking us and making us an object of our own awareness, it’s our state, our ability to sense and that’s the first shift into this organizational space which is not about us. It’s first noticing us, calling it out and just making that something in our own awareness, our state, our attention, our consciousness.
Tom: It helps to bring us into focus, surfacing the awareness, and I think it helps to put us in a state of right relationship with the organization and with the meeting that we’re about to step into. It just kind of contextualizes and puts us in the right frame, the right state and the right relationship with our role, and our role with the organization.
Brian: Yes, that makes sense to me. So, what about building the agenda? There’s something that I noticed again and again and again as we work with groups and get them to build an agenda. It’s so subtle but even the simple rule during the agenda building that you’re not telling us all about the agenda item. When we build the agenda we’re looking for one or two words or a short phrase at most to placeholder the item on the agenda- the headline if you will. We’re going to get all of these headlines charted, and then we’re going to move back through the agenda. It’s such a simple rule. It’s not hard to follow you would think, and yet it has an interesting effect on again our attachments. What I’ve seen often and have felt sometimes myself, although I’m pretty used to this step of the process now, you get when somebody is sensing a tension. Often the tension owns them. It grips them. It holds them. There is attachment to resolving the tension. There is a fusion with the tension itself, and it can be very difficult to not describe it. There is a desire there to tell everybody about it in the agenda. To jump right in then, and if not start processing it right then, to at least fully describe it. There’s a desire to tell everybody what we need to deal with, and there’s something about enforcing this rule of “Don’t tell me about it; just give me the headline” that again has this really powerful effect on forcing you to notice. The mirror, it holds up the mirror, and helps you notice your own desire to jump in and talk all about it right now. And there’s something about even just noticing that, and having to constantly shift to giving the one- or two-word headline that detaches us from even the tension we sense right then and there.
Tom: What’s interesting there is absolutely that, and then there is the other side of that as well, where some folks might be gripped by fear or feel a little reserved about voicing what they sense, bringing those tensions to the forefront, and it’s interesting. Over time I’ve seen with groups practicing that at first there’ll be some folks who are timid around surfacing a tension or an agenda item, or bringing a proposal. And then it’s interesting that there are a couple of different effects of that. One, the organization’s tensions don’t get processed. If there is a sense of urgency, if there’s something really pressing, there’s an urgent tension you as a sensor need to bring that to the fore, and it’s interesting that it teaches us to use our voice to engage in the process, to be an active sensor for the organization and it is for the organization. So, over time you find that there’s some safety in bringing those agenda items up, and by stepping into that space, realizing that it’s not about you, but you’re surfacing a tension that needs to be addressed and processed into real workable output for the organization. It allows you to kind of separate yourself, your fear and allow you to put that out there into the process, and then see what the process does with it. So there’s really kind of a breaking down the wall of fear or contraction around not wanting to surface something that you can clearly see. That’s part one, and the other I have seen over time is that people will always question the order of the agenda, always, because we’re just used to that. It does invite us to use our voice to make sure that what needs to be addressed does get addressed and to pipe up, to move into that space. If you have or see or feel or sense an urgent tension, it’s important to give voice to that right at the beginning. That’s one of the reasons we do that popcorn style, to allow whatever is most urgent to pop to the top so that we can address those agenda items first in our meeting. And it’s just kind of interesting that the simple little act of setting an agenda on the fly has so many different subtle effects on the individual and on the organization.
Brian: Yes it does. It’s funny how much Holacracy reminds me of either being a child or working with children. There’s probably a whole line we could go down on that. For example, that simple rule of just give the headline and hold the tension and don’t tell us all about it. I remember being a kid and one of the things my mother taught me when I was very young was you know when something pops into your head and you really want to jump in and say it? Just count to five in your own head before you jump in and engage somebody in whatever it is that’s charged that popped into your head. I remember through a lot of my childhood that was a very useful tool, especially as somebody who has been a big mouth. It was a useful technique, and it’s the same thing we’re doing and enforcing in the agenda building. You get something coming up, and you can say one or two words, but you have to count to five. It gives you a chance to put it out there, and de-charge before you go in and address it. So, you don’t get to jump in and talk about it right away, and I think there’s an analogy on the other side too. For somebody on the other side of that who may be scared to put something on the agenda, who is fearful or timid, it says just take one little step. You don’t need to tell us all about it now. Just a word, all we’re looking for is a word; by the time you take that step it will lead you to the next step when we get into processing that agenda item.
There’s so much. I find it fascinating that it’s all still relevant with us as adults, even well developed adults, but there’s so much about this that connects to things that we learn as children, working with children, or having children to walk people though it, and yet so much of that is still relevant. Even as big children, there is a natural tendency to do many of the same things we used to do as small children, but in a much more refined package.
Holacracy is dealing with the same kind of things at another level of scale, and it’s trying to shift us beyond that. Interesting metaphors come up for me and I think that mirror of IDM often shows you how you are being much like a child, but not in a judgmental way. That’s not a bad thing. It’s just like “Oh yeah! Huh? I really want to get my agenda item out. I really want to just jump in, have it my way and talk now” and all of that. It just holds up a mirror to that, and lets you notice that in yourself without judging it, which invites you to just relax a bit.
Tom: The underlying question there that this is pointing to, as we bridge into IDM proper now, is whose needs are being met, and what’s being served? Just calling attention and awareness to noticing your own needs and noticing the needs of something broader, in this case the organization, that’s what is being mirrored over and over again. What needs to be surfaced and whose needs are being met?
Brian: Yes. So, after we build the agenda, we get an order. We dive in. We start the Integrative Decision Making process. Let’s dissect this a bit. We start with a space for presenting the proposal, during which nobody but the proposer is allowed to speak. I think the biggest effect I’ve seen that have is to just stop the instant reaction, which is not uncommon. I mean how many meetings do you see where as soon as somebody says something, somebody else instantly jumps in and responds, and then somebody else. There’s a common pattern there and it’s fascinating just what happens when you force people to take a breath, to not instantly respond. No response is allowed, it is sacred space. Proposer only presents the proposal. Again, the mirroring it does is noticing your desire to speak; it forces you to notice it. When you just do it, often you don’t notice it. It’s a reflex. It’s a gut reflex, and the process forces the noticing. It’s just holding up a mirror and saying “Oh! So you want to jump right in and respond.” Hold it. Notice it. And again, that has a power. That is an attachment, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. It’s our attachments that often drive things forward for an organization, and that attachment can be held and it can be held consciously, so that when we actually go to address it, it’s a little more conscious and not just a gut reflex. Does that make sense to you, Tom?
Tom: With regard to presenting the proposal, what I see first is that it separates two things. One is the tension that is being felt, and it invites one to be a good sensor and to really deeply understand what is it that is being felt, what is it that is being sensed, what is necessary for the organization, what is actually getting in the way of the organization from being in flow and having organizational clarity. So there’s a stepping into, a sensing into what it is that you’re really feeling. What’s being identified? There’s that piece of being very reflective and engaged, using all of you to understand to the best of your capacity what’s needed, right? And then the interesting thing is putting that into articulating, giving voice to and from your experience, from your role relationship, what’s needed and that simple starting with “I propose that”. It’s amazing what that will do to shut down anybody once you introduce the what might you do to resolve that, what might you do to address that, and I find that too, even as practiced as I am with all the experience and etcetera and in just having comfort in most of the business environments and circumstances. I can sense those things. We all can sense those things. And yet when I’m asked, “What might you propose to do about that?” it’s like, “Huh? I don’t know.”
Brian: That’s a beautiful point, and notice how that shifts the energy too. We see a lot of organizations, and I’m sure I’ve experienced it myself and I’m sure you have too and others have too, where the tendency is to complain, the tendency to just frustratedly talk about the way things are, which is of course another form of resisting what is- resisting the present, resisting reality and no amount of resisting reality does much good to change it. What the process does again is refocus us and say, “Forget about it. It is what it is. That doesn’t matter. That’s irrelevant. What’s next?” and it forces the person to take a more empowered stance by asking “So what do you propose doing?” and if you can’t propose anything, then you know what? Just accepting it might be your best option. What would you propose? That shifts the whole frame.
Tom: Generative or reactive, there’s the whole range of how we define tension; all of that is valid. And once we’ve done so it’s the “now, what’s next”; it’s focusing on “Okay, cool, we’ve got context”; we have an awareness of now, what’s next? It’s being very forward looking. How do we see it now? What’s next?
Brian: Yes, and you know it’s funny, I will still find myself at times complaining and bitching about reality, about the way things are, what is but partly through the development that this process has triggered for me, and the awareness that I can bring a proposal at any point. Even when I do that, there’s a consciousness to what I’m doing, and its not done with an attempt to delude self. It’s done with awareness that I’m just processing some emotions, and that’s fine too, but without deluding myself to thinking I’m a victim. And that’s what the process does. It holds up that mirror to say “You’re not a victim. What do you propose?” It’s shifting the whole energy, and you can feel this with groups when we work with them, when there’s some charge in the room. As soon as you shift that energy into that process and say “Okay, what do you propose?” everything changes. Like the whole group’s energy just shifts. It’s really cool to watch.
Tom: You can ask that question with deep safety, that no matter what is proposed is a great starting place for the process to begin to do its work. Though we talk all the time about the bar being very, very low and just getting something to start the process, something to prime the pump, and often times I’ll just say just vomit something up to get it started. It’s interesting. It does a couple of things. It depersonalizes it. It’s one of the first steps into depersonalizing the proposal but it also means that it’s not all about me. I don’t have to have the heroic solution. I don’t have to have the answer. I just have to have a starting point and even just pointing to a direction of how we collectively, as a circle, as a cell of this organization, might address this tension.
Brian: Yes, absolutely. It’s fascinating. I really resonate with Deborah’s comment here as much as the process serves the organization and in doing that it also protects the individual as a sensor. There’s a fundamental safety built in which ironically creates a reinforcing loop that helps you be a better sensor. It’s completely safe to sense whatever and to have the space to bring it forward that makes it easier to be a powerful sensor for the organization. And the more you’re focused on the organization, the more it’s safe. It’s not just about you and yet it makes sense to give you that space, and so it’s a fascinating reinforcement.
Tom: With that safety also comes a sense of play and a sense of joy. It relieves the heaviness, the weightiness of it, and when you realize that it is safe to propose really anything and the process will help digest that and find a workable way forward the whole, the sense, the energy, everything is much lighter. There’s much less burden that you’re carrying. There’s more play, there’s more joy, there’s more fun actually in that when there’s safety.
Brian: Yes. So what about the next step then? We move from Present Proposal to Clarifying Questions and the rule of that step is, which is fascinating again with how it works with our own human tendencies, is we’re not allowed to react during that space. Its purpose is just to seek to understand, to clarify what the proposer is trying to propose, and the tension behind it. It’s not a time to offer our perspectives, and that’s where that rule is in that step of the process. In fact, the facilitator will cut off and redirect anything where we are offering our perspective to the proposer. The goal is to just clarify. Again, it’s along the lines of holding up that mirror and noticing the first thing that does when you have a reaction and you want to share it. It forces you to notice it. And if you don’t notice it, the facilitator will hold up that mirror and say “That sounds like a reaction; there’s a space for that next. Do you have any Clarifying Questions?” So, even if you miss it, the facilitator will hold up that mirror, and then as you get more practice with it -- and I see this with new groups going through it all the time -- the mirroring is just built into the process so somebody will notice it. They’ll get something they want to say and then they’ll hold their breath and because they realized “Oh that’s a reaction,” and look what just happened. How fascinating is that? We build in a reflective immediate awareness in the person who is attempting to react at that point. We’ve trained it, built it in, given a structure that holds the person to face that mirror of “That’s a reaction. I’m trying to have my own perspectives shift that energy.” “Is there anything here I need to understand better? Is there anything here that I need to understand from the proposer? Do I have any questions to really make sure that I see what they’re saying as best I can?” Fascinating thing again, and then that gut moment. It’s so much about working with that gut moment where somebody is having a “reaction”. Reactions swell up and then you hold it. “Whoa! Clarify first”; what a powerful move there.
Tom: That is a simple and powerful step in the process. You would think, “Ah! Clarifying Questions- what could that be about?” and it is certainly all about not reacting, not conveying information but seeking to understand absolutely and just imagine what that does to raise awareness of who’s seeking and why. Why are you seeking that information, why is that information important to move the process forward? That’s interesting. The other piece that I find interesting is the whole cadence of that round the question, pause, response, done. As I’m facilitating, it feels like we’re actually getting into a mantra. It’s like a meditative mantra almost, like you’re chanting. It provokes us to have an experience in that kind of practice, to hold a space to make sure we don’t devolve into a conversation, and that’s the interesting agent. It prevents conversation. It’s not about individuals discussing the proposal. It is a cadence to seek information, a space for the proposer to provide as much information as he or she is able, no more, and it’s fine for them to say “not specified in the proposal”. So, it’s that cadence that structures this part of the process.
Brian: That’s fascinating, Tom. Actually, I haven’t tried to language of the why behind that, and I’m not sure I was even consciously aware of it. I have known it’s a critical piece of the process for a while, and I have taught it as such but I think you just captured some of that more than I actually thought of, which is again that cadence. I just know from the feel of it, it’s so often the tendency is to have a, even if it’s meeting the rules of clarifying question and response, it then gets into this flowy discussion. At this point as facilitator I do everything I can to support that cadence. It is question, response; pause, and I will force people to follow it. Sometimes they don’t know quite what I’m doing. I’ll just jump in and start talking. It’ll be question, response and I’ll say “Okay, great any other clarifying question?” rather than just letting somebody jump in on the heels and ask the next one. And there’s something about holding to that cadence; question, response, pause that shifts the entire energy. It is not a person to person interchange. There’s something different there, and I think you just hit on it, that works with our tendency to want to spill in and lose that holding and move right into a different type of space and energy and something about the cadence stops it.
Tom: We’re diving into a lot of work together and sometimes that work is really hard, sometimes it is joyful, sometimes it is in flow, and it’s interesting that there are a lot of techniques that we use with ourselves to make that more enjoyable, and cadence comes up all over the place in different disciplines, meditative disciplines and even working out. The military will have a cadence when you’re running, when you’re in flow to do work, to forget about self and to pay attention to the experience. So, I think it just shows up here in really subtle, simple ways. We’re paying attention to the experience and the work that needs to be done together, and it’s not about us.
Brian: That’s great. The other point I want to highlight about the Clarifying Questions is really from this topic is that what often happens with new groups is that somebody asks Clarifying Questions that point out to the proposer gaps in the proposers vision for what this proposal is really about. So, you’ll hear a clarifying question that the proposer doesn’t know the answer to, and it’s fascinating that the first reaction for a new proposer before they’re used to the process is a certain “gasp”. You can see and hear the intake of breath, the contraction, the fear, the sense of “Oh my God! I don’t have it all figured out. I don’t know all the answers,” or the stumbling around it, and then as facilitator I remind them that it’s perfectly okay to say, “I don’t know” or “Not specified in the proposal” – to let them know that intentionally they don’t have to have all of the answers. There is something that does to detach the person from their proposal, and to detach the person asking the question, and the rest of the group, from associating this proposal with the proposer, a pattern that I see again and again wanting to happen in a typical company meeting. When somebody offers an idea, there is an assumed attachment of that person with that idea on everyone’s part. The person with the idea tends to be more attached to it. They’re championing their idea. The other people in the room are assuming that it is that person’s idea. There is an attachment. They’re challenged. It all gets personal. And something about just reminding everyone, even if they don’t use the rule, I still remind them that that rule is there. That fact that it is that you don’t have to have all the answers. It detaches everybody from associating that proposal with the proposer, and it lets us look at it more objectively as an object out there. It’s just such an important thing, and it lowers the bar and makes it easier to process tensions when you don’t have to have the perfect answer. You only have to be able to start a sentence with “I propose that” in a way that might address one tension, even if it would create four others, and that is perfectly fine. It gets us started. You don’t have to have all the answers. There could be problems with it. It detaches us. It’s held more lightly, and it also again holds up a mirror to the attachment. I’ve seen people laugh joyfully when somebody is asking a clarifying question that is pointing to a hole, and they know it’s a hole, and the proposer is freaked out, and I say, “You can say ‘not specified’” and the proposer says, “Oh great! Not specified.” And then the person who asked the clarifying question that pointed out the hole starts laughing. It just changes the whole mood to lightness. It’s funny then. We don’t know, and we don’t have to know, and that’s okay. We can be in this moment right now with what we have, and we will find a way forward together, and it’s not about the fusion of us and our ideas. It just holds up that mirror and invites a totally different reframe, toward one that lightens it and gets laughter regularly. That has a fascinating effect on us as meaning making systems.
Tom: In the clarification segment, the teach piece in this section is “Any further questions for Brian as the proposer?”. So, we’re actually calling that out, and it’s open, so we’re not personalizing it. It’s never done as, “Jim do you have a question for Brian?”, never that. It’s the dropping of the phrase “Any further clarifying questions for the proposer?”. And it’s interesting that that little subtle language shift does exactly what you’re pointing to. Depersonalizing, it is for the circle. It’s stepping more into that space that this is a tension for the circle, for the organization.
Brian: Yes, and it points out that the proposer is filling a role even in this meeting, even in this moment of proposer; it is not Jim or Brian, it is them temporarily stepping into this proposer role, and filling that proposer role, and again it just changes the whole tone, the whole nature of it. So, after the Clarifying Questions we get to the Reaction Round, and this is where everybody has the space in a round to say whatever’s coming up for them. I’ve started framing this with the organizations we’re working with now. I let them know its okay. I’ll say, “Almost anything goes in the Reaction Round. It could be anything from an intellectual critique to an emotional outburst or almost anything in between.” It’s a wide open space for whatever is coming up for you and the game there is to notice what’s coming up for you. It’s to tune into the stream of consciousness of what is arising and have a space to call it out. And to me there are two really powerful things that come instantly to mind for what this does. One is to give us space to notice it and to call it out again, more of that mirroring. There’s something about noticing it and speaking it that lets us see more clearly what’s coming up for us- tune into it, notice it. The other thing that it does is it helps us sort out what is about us and what is about the organization. So, there’s something about verbalizing a reaction that makes it easier for you to sense an objection, and differentiate that from just the way you would do it or other tensions you sense or whatever. So, I’m noticing in myself that as I offer reactions I’m sorting things out for me. I don’t know if this is true for everyone. I know that it’s true for me, and I’ve seen it true for some others. There’s an “as I’m talking, I’m getting a better sense, and it’s a safe space and I can say whatever I want, and I’m not pretending that this about the organization. It’s my personal reaction.” And in saying it I start listening. I noticed how this is really key for the organization. Sometimes I have my own new tensions triggered by this that are really not about this proposal. They might trigger a new proposal I want to make, and they might be about a different thing, and something about just speaking it helps me sort though what is relevant to this proposal and the organization. That’s a different proposal that has nothing to do with this one, but is relevant to the organization. That’s my own personal take on it. What are my own projections, not in a negative way, but I have predictions. I think this is going to head this way. And sorting that out from what is present reality that I need to address now, all of that, just calling it out, let’s just do it.
Tom: One of my favorite things about the IDM process is how the Reaction Round is the lightning rod. It grounds all this energy that’s now kind of percolating, bubbling turbulently through the system and allows it to just kind of come to the surface and get grounded immediately. It’s like it just gets voiced. There is a contribution in giving voice. It builds in an ability to allow that to come to the surface, yet not derail the process. So, it’s kind of like right in the middle here there is a lightning rod. Something that grounds the energy, takes it to ground. It acknowledges that it’s there. We’re not pushing against it. We’re not trying to make it anything other than it is. We’re allowing it to surface, to come to the air and immediately be grounded and dampened. It’s like the dampening effect.
Brian: Yes, it makes total sense to me. So, after we finish the reactions we go back to the proposer who has a chance to amend or clarify. At that step, the proposer has just heard a bunch of perspectives and reactions. Sometimes hearing all that points out for them, sometimes it brings forth more for them that they just need to call out clarifying comments, or allow if there is anything that they heard that might indicate that somebody misunderstood a piece, or they just want to share more of their thought process that went into this. They have a space for all of that and they can also make amendments here if they want to and again one of the rules here is that they don’t have to have all of the answers. They don’t have to incorporate everything that they just heard and that again the same as the Clarifying Questions they don’t have to have all the answers here- same. They don’t have to incorporate everything that they just heard which lowers the bar on trying to make it all right. It removes the attachments. And it’s space for them to kind of share what they need to share to let it go. I don’t have much more to say about that step. Tom, anything come into you about Amend & Clarify?
Tom: Yes, just the small minor adjustments that come up. I think this is something that helps speed things along, especially as circles get more accustomed to the process and better with practice. Oftentimes I’ll see little things pop, and that acknowledgement that something was heard and incorporated in a minor way into the proposal just makes things go much faster. It somehow honors what was voiced in the Reaction Round in a way that doesn’t actually get in the way of the circle finding workability, and as you pointed out, it doesn’t surface an objection. So sometimes it’s really nice to just integrate that in simple subtle ways with that clarity, that clarification. There’s an interesting dynamic that play. There’s so much that’s going on in terms of communication and role-syncing, independent of the actual proposal and the actual output. There’s huge value in having all of these roles; propose, respond, react, clarifying, and there’s synchronization happening. It’s amazing to see the alignment that occurs when people’s perspectives in the roles that they’re holding come to the surface, and there’s huge value in that. And the sense that I get in Amend & Clarify is relief. It’s like, “Sigh, I’m heard. Oh, I see something different, and I feel safe and comfortable to let the process continue.”
Brian: Yes, it makes a lot of sense. That resonates with me too, definitely, and that brings a nice bridge into what comes next, which is now that we’ve incorporated anything easy that we can kind of grab and put right in, we get to the Objection Round. This is where I think there are so many interesting nuances and rules in how it works with us as we go through what’s not workable about this proposal. I think there are a couple of parts with the Objection Round as each person goes around and resurfacing “is there anything here that is not workable?” What we’re really looking for in that round is, are there any new tensions that will be created by adopting this proposal which would limit the circle somehow and would need to get addressed. But what we’re trying to sort that out from is what we don’t want, which is other unrelated tensions that already exist coming in and mucking up the process. So, it’s fascinating here, because what typically happens is that people will raise objections that are not really objections by our definition. They are better ideas. So people will try to get creative and try to tweak and all that, and so they’re just adding to better ideas, or people will sense their own tension and that will flood the space, right? And I see this all the time. Somebody raises an objection and says “Yes, it needs X-Y-Z” and it really has nothing to do with whether the proposal as it was is not workable. It has to do with them sensing a related tension, and they would like to add X, Y or Z to address their related tension, even though the proposal as is would perfectly address the proposer’s tension and there’s nothing about it that makes it unworkable.
The art now at this stage is helping hold up the mirror even to that, to that tendency to want to flood the space, and to address our own tensions. It’s again like going back to the children metaphor. This is like taking turns on the playground. It’s that simple; it’s the whole process. It is one person’s turn to address a tension, the proposer- that’s it. We’re only trying to address their tension. We’re not trying to address related tensions. We are not trying to address what somebody thinks is the same tension sensed by someone else. We’re only trying to address the tension as sensed by the proposer. And what sorts out through this round with a good facilitator who can hold up these questions is “Are you just tuned into your own tension and flooding the space and think you’re trying to address it?” and noticing that and separating that, so that we can get this tension addressed to the proposer’s satisfaction because they’re the one who sensed it. They are the sensor that we’re trying to resolve. And I think something about that is fascinating. There’s nothing else I’ve seen that does that in an organizational context. It is so normal to have everyone flood the scene with their tensions. In a typical meeting one person starts a topic and then anyone who has anything related that gets triggered brings all their stuff, and it’s like a mad scramble to try to get all of that addressed. Again, it’s like kids on a playground. It’s everybody jumping in all at the same time to play with the ball or whatever, and its saying, “Whoa! Let’s just take turns.” It’s so simple and so elegant. Let’s address your tension and then your tension, then your tension and to do that we need a way of helping people see the difference between my tension and somebody else’s, and notice without the instinctive reflex to flood the space with my tension but to instead notice “Wait! This is not a reason that it’s not workable; it’s another related tension that was triggered by talking about this and let me hold that. I’ll add an agenda item and I’ll take my turn when I get there.” And it is so hard. Taking turns is freaking hard. I know, we sense a tension and “Aaah!”.
Tom: It’s so easy to say.
Brian: It is.
Tom: It’s simply a matter of taking turns but this is such a rich deep interpenetrating territory. The interpenetration between how we show up as individuals and what we sense, and our need to object or to get our needs, our tensions as you said, added to the mix and to get acknowledged for what we can sense or see. The cleverness of what we have shows up here. That’s one. There’s another one. There’s an intermediary between the sensor who is processing those emotional human sensations and needs, and then the roles at play. There’s also another qualitative distinction of what’s needed and necessary for the organization to be in balance, that no harm is done, and that it can continue to move in flow towards its aim or purpose. So, there’s that next layer up, and then that all juxtaposed with the one tension that we’re focusing on- the one proposal. And sitting with the notion of “Is that workable to try for now?”, “Is that okay to bring us one step closer to the organization having clarity in pursuit of attaining its purpose?” So, there are so many things that are being pieced apart. It’s so simple just to say, “Take turns”, and yet we’ve got at least three, if not many more different layers operating there with the proposal. Any tensions we might feel individually, egoically, as we hold our own sense of reality and meaning making around all of that, and then what does the organization need, especially from the perspectives and the roles that I hold- all of that coming into play in one little simple of round of one item at a time.
Brian: Yes, and through that the Objection Round and the Integration that follows to start addressing and re-working on that, the focusing effect is just so powerful. The effect of focusing just on trying to resolve this one tension really highlights for us how distracted we get. We get distracted by other tensions. Other related tensions get triggered. Or, clever ideas surface and we try to incorporate everything we can possibly think of and imagine. There’s just such a distraction quality and it’s not that different from what happens at an individual level when we’re trying to process our own tensions, whether it’s an email that shows up in our inbox and we try to process it, and yet it’s easy to get distracted. “Oh! That triggers three other things I want to think about” or “But I got to do this and that” and we get easily distracted from just “What is this email?”, “What do I need to do with it?”, “What’s my next action?”
We’ve been spending a lot of time with David Allen recently, the creator of the “Getting Things Done” method and I think there’s a strong parallel here with his work with an individual, which is also about the focus on don’t get distracted. Address this. Just force yourself to focus on this and address this one thing, whether it’s an email in your inbox or a piece of paper on your desk. Get clarity on what you’re doing with it, and then be done with it and move on. It’s the same thing here in an organizational setting. The clarity, the focus is all about dealing with this tension, and then the mirroring that it does as soon as you get distracted into predictive land of “What’s everything we should do related to this?” or somebody else floods the space with their tension. The mirroring the IDM process keeps holding up is to just notice what you just did. You just let your attention drift. You just let your consciousness get hooked onto something else. And it keeps focusing the collective consciousness of the group back to “What is the tension we are trying to address?” and it does that with a very concrete set of rules that makes sure that we all don’t just kind of meander and all that until we address this tension. “Now, let’s do the next.” And that works with our tendencies so powerfully.
Tom: This is one of the trickier items to facilitate, one of the trickier steps to facilitate. As you folks who have been facilitating know, it is really where mirroring comes directly and explicitly into play, because as you’re listening for possible objections that surface, you as facilitator, the process of facilitation holds a mirror and we give voice as facilitators to those questions around “Is this about the workability of the proposal? Is this about something else that is needed? Is this about some future fear?” These sound like from a conventional frame that you’re facilitating that person to a specific outcome or objective, and of course that’s not the dance that we’re in. They’re simply holding up a mirror, while at the same time knowing that that objector is sacred and we’re never outvoting that. So, with the mirror comes teasing into and hoping that the objector can get some clarity about the nature of the objection. So, this is where that mirroring really comes into full fold with the facilitator and the objector; mirroring back, helping to get clarity, helping not to get distracted, and staying laser-like focused on workability relative to this one tension. It can feel like on the receiving end that you’re being directed towards a specific outcome, so the dialoguing needs to be held very lightly. It needs to be just a simple mirror reflecting back what’s heard, and asking some questions to make things more self-evident, more apparent and more clear.
Brian: Yes, and that’s the powerful move for the facilitator you just hit on there, which is just asking questions. It’s not the facilitator’s job to judge or to drive or anything like that. The facilitator actually doesn’t care about the outcome or if we get there or get somewhere or whatever. They’re just holding up a mirror and asking questions. So, they’re asking a question like “Is that really a reason this proposal isn’t workable?” or “Is that another tension that we really should address, but not a reason that this here isn’t workable?” What powerful questions, and you’re not judging you’re just asking. You’re holding up a mirror and inviting them to look into it and judge for themselves and see if they can make a case, not find a case. “Is this objection really a reason that this proposal is going to cause harm, or is it just another tension related or triggered by this that we probably should address?” That would be a separate proposal, and not an objection. So, it’s that mirroring that is such a powerful move and this is where it gets nuanced and difficult on the facilitator, especially with a new group as we’re getting into this habit. Once the habit is ingrained, it starts taking care of itself, and there’s just this natural tuning into these things on our own part.
What a cool thing. I’ll speak from experience, and Tom I know you have this experience, and I’ve seen it in many others now, through practice you develop this fine-tuned sense of what is a new tension- the tension in general, and noticing yourself that when something comes up for you, it’s really not an objection to this proposal. It’s a new tension you may want to address and that becomes a fine-grained sense.
So, through practice we’re also increasing the ability of the people as sensors to sense and to differentiate something that before had no differentiation for them. It used to be just response comes up, and it comes out, and now through this practice, it is helping us see reality differently, and experience reality differently by giving new distinctions. It helps us make the differentiation first and then we naturally make it later. “Is this an objection or a new tension?”, “Is this a clarifying question or a reaction”- all of this starts helping us tune into these distinctions, and that qualitatively changes our experience of being in this process. And I think that starts to answer the question Randy just posed, “How do you see these mirrors from the Integrative Decision Making Process generalizing to help peers talk with each other outside of meetings?” and all of these new distinctions, this new awareness, this new sense- all of that carries through as does this trust that you have a trusted forum to process tensions, and that takes off the pressure of trying to use the social relationships and the interactions you have elsewhere to process these tensions.
So, if anything it just dissolves that so we can be more authentic, more raw, and more direct and focused in our conversations. It takes all the stuff out of the way and puts it into a process that can hold it and give us new distinctions and all that. I think it really has a strong ripple, a really strong ripple, in my experience for sure and I’m seeing that in other organizations now that we’re working with as well.
Tom, anything that you want to add there before we move into seeing if there are any questions out there or comments anyone else wants to offer?
Tom: No, that’s good. Let’s move into that.
Brian: Cool. So open space, we’ve got about five minutes left. I thought I’d give some space. I’d love to hear any reflections, comments, what jumps out to you, what comes up for you, did we trigger any thoughts by what we’re sharing? Do you have something to ask, add, anything? I see a couple of people are typing. Let’s see, still typing.
For me it’s so easy to ignore these nuances and it’s kind of cool that you don’t have to hold them all but there’s just so much in there.
Let’s see- helpful to hear all these things in one place together. Again, its kind of cool you don’t need to know all these nuances to do the process well. The rules kind of hold these, so you don’t have to have a deep, deep attunement to them and yet it can be kind of fun, kind of interesting and can even help your ability with it even more to really hold and notice so much of this nuance, and how it works with human attachments.
Deborah has something similar to Randy’s comment. When people are used to using socially related relationships to do organizational work, what transitions do you see them going through?
I love that. Actually I think we see this a lot. Right now in organizations we lean on the relationships to get the work done and to process tensions. We do it through leaning on these relationships, using the relationships and there’s something about having a form to do that in a healthy space that removes the need for it. You can still use relationships, lean on relationships, but it’s no longer your only avenue, and it liberates the relationship in a way. And what transitions do you see them going through? If anything, at least I’ve noticed and Tom, please jumped in too, it’s almost more okay to be yourself. This is my perspective and I’m sure there are others as well, but what I appreciate about it is it frees me. It liberates me to not worry about them and to just be myself and trust that tensions have a way to get processed so I don’t have to worry about wearing a certain mask or persona. I don’t have to worry about fitting myself into this social structure in order to get stuff done. I can just show up and be me and trust that the work is going to get done separately. Again, I don’t know if this is going to be the same answer for everyone, but for me I went through a transition of being more comfortable, more and more raw, more and more of just here, just who I am, and it makes me freer to use whatever’s coming up for me and offer it, in a relationship with others trusting that I’m not going to accidentally be pushing myself on them inadvertently, because we have a formal structure for that and they have their own formal authority. That was for me, and again, I think it’s different for different people. Tom, do you have anything to add there?
Tom: A couple of transitions as the appropriate way to look at this. It takes time to get fidelity with the practice. We talk about this all the time- just letting the rules fade into the background. That’s only part of the picture, I think. We’re introducing a new language for governing, for decision making, for working together and folks need to feel comfortable that those tools, those techniques, the language that we’re offering will allow them to get the work done and allow them to have healthy relationships. There’s a lot of stepping into and transitioning to that from where they are. And so in early deployments there’s a whole lot of fear, of possible mistrust, a lot of personal needs not getting met in the way and the manner they’re used to getting met and meeting and getting those needs met and also all of that’s at play as you’re transitioning into new ways of working together, new ways of getting the work done, and new ways of deciding what work even needs to get done. So, lots of transitions, and I think two things arise simultaneously with the practice. One is a sense of trust that the organization is getting its needs met, and then a sense of safety that it is okay to play in this space, to develop new language, new techniques and new ways to developing interpersonal relationships. So the organization is moving forward, and it’s safe for that for you as an individual playing in the system. That still does not eliminate the stress that is caused when you are introducing anything new. You’re perturbing the system.
Brian: That makes sense. Cool. Alright, I think we are out of time for today and hopefully explored this one enough for now. A great conclusion to our actually three or four month topic on Holacracy and Human Ego, putting it all together and grounding it back in the concrete practice of Holacracy. We’ll have a new topic starting soon- to be announced shortly. So, keep an eye out at the site or your email notifications. Thanks so much for your engagement in this call, everyone that was here and those who are listening on the download thanks for joining us for this fascinating exploration. I think it’s been our most, certainly our longest term and most in depth topic so far with all these different calls and more to come. Thanks everyone. I really appreciate it and have a great day!