My name is Eleanor McClorey, and I am an organisational learning consultant. My background is in services for children and families as a senior manager and as a consultant to leadership teams. Structural Dynamics is an integral and indispensable part of my consultancy practice model.
I came to Structural Dynamics via the field of Active Implementation. Active Implementation practitioners facilitate complex change efforts through a series of stages and learning cycles by building teams, strengthening leadership, practice competency, and organisational systems readiness and responsiveness.
Organisational and systems change is a challenging, multi-facetted process. Fields like health, education, and children’s services span several organisational systems. Leadership of change efforts is spread across a range of levels and disciplines, with differing levels of formal and informal authority and responsibility.
Several years ago, I worked with Dr. Sarah Hill and embarked on Dialogix’s structural dynamics training programme, becoming an accredited Expert Structural Dynamics Interventionist.
Several things stand out for me in integrating Structural Dynamics and Dialogue into my active implementation and consultancy practice.
First off, I identify with Margaret Wheatley’s perspective on ‘the leader’ as someone who sees something that needs to change and is willing to step forward to influence that change.
However, in this ‘stepping forward’, we may experience challenges in collaborating effectively and aligning our resources to achieve desired goals.
For many leaders, the change dynamic becomes a dance between denial – keeping clear blue water between ourselves and the extent, depth, and implications of the challenges – and drowning – being prepared to engage but becoming overwhelmed by the realities of our context and the scale of the challenges.
Whilst there are no easy answers or magic ‘cures’, Structural Dynamics provides a readily accessible, user-friendly set of tools and resources for change leaders.
These tools enable leaders to create a space in which they become increasingly proficient at mapping communication structures as they unfold and transforming stuck patterns that ritualistically undermine hope and feed cynicism.
A structural dynamics systems perspective means engagng with the exercise of personal authority in the change project, enabling us to purposefully work on our part of a shared communication dynamic; with organisational authority through senior management’s participation in and mandate for the change initiative; and with systemic cycles and patterns that need to be attended to, understood, and disrupted in various ways.
The practice is not complicated but may be difficult; a stuck mover practising bystand or follow; a group exploring why its oppose is covert; a bystand being consciously activated and insights and perspectives shared with colleagues for the first time.
The model provides resources for a proactive, preventative approach with teams, organisations, and systems – analysing propensities, identifying, and working on structural traps; ensuring that our narrative purpose and our practice models, including our leadership models, are explicit, are communicated, are engaged, understood, and owned.
I love the embracing of constraint in structural dynamics; that models are evolving, generative processes and that tools and resources are guides on a uniquely personal and collective journey, not prescriptions to treat a condition or a series of lessons to be learned.
Structural dynamics works from surface to depth; from the words spoken ‘in the room’, to the operating system organising the group processes, and to the childhood stories that provide lifelong inspiration for and barriers to our change efforts. The importance of childhood story work for effective leadership is powerfully articulated in Sarah Hill’s ‘Where Did You Learn to Behave Like That?’ I have just completed the transformative training for leadership coaches, ‘Coaching the Childhood Story’, which accompanies the book and my journey with Dialogix continues to support my leadership and change work.
Structural dynamics facilitation for me is about the tools, the materials, working with the ‘fite fuaite’ Gaelic words meaning the warp and weft of the weave, the interwoven, and oft times knotty and entangled.
Keys to enduring change are forged in the dynamics of our interactions, in our journey to become more aware and reflective, and in putting ourselves and our journeys in service of shared purposes and goals.
When I think about my journey, and the pathways it might lead me on, I know that I will always be drawn to leadership as a traditional craft, and leaders as practitioners of a craft.
Like the weaver, the thatcher, the craftspeople of old, we stay in the day, focus on our craft, and continue learning from and with each other.