Satir Change Model
March 24, 2007 § 6 Comments
Inspiration is not born in a vacuum; excellent ideas are seeded by other excellent ideas and fertilized by still more excellent ideas. In essence, excellent ideas are born from transforming ideas in chaos. And effectively surfing chaos happens only after one “let’s go” of control, because we are capable of inventing only those “things” which are the product of our internal manifestation of our conscious assemblage of reality. We can release the conscious assemblage, or rather “let it go”, by intending outcome in the flow.
The Virginia Satir Change Model focuses not just on systems of people but also on individual people, making it a robust model, and safe in terms of honoring people.
This page was created from experiences and learnings in Satir Systems programmes and on the job, and by a group of people playing in a wiki sandbox a long time ago. Copyright for the model remains with the Satir Institute of the Southeast.
Late Status Quo
Late status quo describes a fairly stable system (individual or group) where occurrences are predictable, familiar and comfortable. This may mean things are working reasonably well, or it may mean that there are familiar solutions (better or worse) for common problems. For members, it does represent some level of success. While the system at this stage is balanced, different parts of the system pay different prices to maintain this balance. This can be compared to the role played by some children who keep a family stable by acting out or repressing their feelings in particular ways. And, like with children, the impact of this maintenance on any particular part of the system may be indicated by the unhealthy symptoms revealed in it’s functioning.
In an organizational context, late status quo generally refers to a system where things have stayed the same for a long time. Members of the system know ‘what to do’ and ‘how to do it’ and understand where they fit. They may or may not be satisfied with their place and activities, but they are comfortable. Depending on the specific circumstances, attitudes may range from general acceptance, to boredom (yah, I know how to do all that …) to frustration and complaining (blaming and placating) as people find ways to get things done in a dysfunctional system). Some people may be looking for changes. Either from within or without, a foreign element that was not a part of the status quo appears, and threatens to shake up the status quo.
In an organizational context, a foreign element can be generated internally, inspired by the desire to improve. This desire can come from management or from participants on the operational level; the change can be mandated or voluntary. How such desires are substantiated by which stakeholder will greatly affect the reaction to the foreign element. In both cases they are reactions. In the case of an unwanted, unexpected or mandated change the people within the organisation (system) may try a number of strategies to neutralize the impact of the alien element. The system may reject and expel the foreign element; people may ignore it, use delaying tactics, or may try to encapsulate the foreign element within the “normal” ways of handling things, or they may try to find a scapegoat to attack and blame.
When mandated sequences of events are experienced a couple of times on the operational level, trust levels of operational people in management being able to lead, goes down quickly. People will anticipate more on protecting themselves from likely future management blaming than by management desired changes. Whatever happens, people do learn to anticipate effectively!
And a healthy balanced system accepts and investigates the foreign element mirrors received with care in mind, and integrates what is (re)useful.
If the foreign element (or its backers) is sufficiently powerful and persistent to create a critical mass of discomfort, the organization enters into chaos. From the Merriam Webster Dictionary: chaos is a state of things in which chance is supreme; it is a state of utter confusion; a confused mass or mixture. In this state, the system is disarranged; predictions no longer valid, expectations are not fulfilled; things seem to be totally out of control.
People/systems may react to chaos in a number of different ways: by engaging in random behavior; by seeking stability at any cost, by trying to revert to earlier patterns of behavior, or by searching for magical, sweeping silver bullet solutions — anything, anything, to re-establish some form of normalcy will do (unless someone is skilled in surfing chaos).
- If chaos is perceived as some “death” of Old Status Quo … For more detailed “stuckness” we can use the following four preliminary stages of death that individuals can get stuck in (Elizabeth Kubler Ross): denial, bargaining, anger, or depression .
- When trying to manufacture the transforming idea as opposed to being aware and fully present during chaos. Obtaining and firing the latest silver bullet is a distracting temptation, one that needs to be avoided. Taoists say, “My barn having burned to the ground, I can now perceive the moon”.
- If you try to avoid or control it you will prolong it. Best thing to do seems to be to relax, enjoy the ride, try a bite here of some thing new here, and of some there. Be like Alice in Wonderland, relax, have fun, enjoy and hold the space for the transforming idea. As facilitator, use an alpha state, but not without guard.
A transforming idea is an out-of-the-box idea that brings a system out of chaos (sometimes only for a short while). A transforming idea is like an “Aha Erlebnis”, inspiration, a sudden awareness of an understanding of new possibilities. Now that we have keys, what remains is finding the doors for realizing transformation.
Integration and practice
Entering the integration and practice stage, the system begins to try out the new possibilities. This can be likened to birth or to a honeymoon. It seems aaall problems have been resolved and things will be wonderful, and we’re all very excited. At the same time, systems entering this stage are like children that are trying things for the first time — somewhat uncertain, needing time to learn and grow into the new state. And, with time, by the system practicing new ways of doing things, some effects begin to appear in substance. This state relates to theta state.
In an organization, this is the time when people are learning to use a new tool or work according to a new process or tasks within a new structure, and usually a period of reduced productivity — performance and outcomes may actually be worse than prior to the change.
There seem to be many factors that can lead to rejection of the change and return to chaos:
- Reactions of managers who expect results of the new ‘whatever’ immediately
- A culture where admitting mistakes is not acceptable – people believe they have to appear competent all the time.
- Time and schedule pressures inhibit the learning process
- … Name it and it can take you back
New Status Quo
During integration benefits of the new models become apparent and are experienced as useful. Gradually a new status quo is formed. What began as an idea becomes a normal state of affairs.
Yeeehaaa! A full cycle completed. And, for a while, things will continue to get better … until our will becomes silent. The perfect time for another round.
- John Tropea: The Leader’s Guide to Radical Management – More or less innovation? Duh? (stevedenning.typepad.com)
- The Steps to Buying: remembering the human element (customerthink.com)
- People who cannot escape a system are likely to defend the status quo (eurekalert.org)
- Are You Committed To Upsetting The Status Quo? (customerthink.com)