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© Source: Anke Sommer
What is your actual win when deciding for a process facilitation? What positive impact does it have not only on the performance of your managers and employees but also on your whole company?

… for their managers, but the language used by many process work providers can be confusing

What actually happens when top company managers discover the possibility of having their managers’ and teams’ processes facilitated by an expert? In this case, most of them envisage business-like process moderation, but have no idea of the ideas and the potential that process work really contains. They don’t realise the incredible means of improvement for procedures that effective process facilitation can entail.

A brief introduction

It’s not a new method; in fact, it’s as old as the approach of facilitating people’s personal processes. I like to say that it’s part of a collective store of knowledge. Perhaps it’s also because words have slipped into the topic that are simply incomprehensible to the layperson if not actually dubious. Yes, they are misleading.

What happens when a process is facilitated in a company?

Process facilitation at INSTITUT SOMMERINSTITUT SOMMER is not only the name of our company, but also the expression of the approach we take towards the requests we receive. Read more here.... Read more means facilitating processes in a way that is designed for companies as well as for individuals interested in development. The goal of this type of process facilitation is to expand the current scope for activity, to overcome existing boundaries, to remove influential negative information from the company, and to ensure long-term success.

What does a process entail?

The work we do requires a basic understanding of what the process is. First of all, it makes no difference whether the process involves one person or a group, and the process context, i.e. where it takes place, is equally unimportant. This is because the system in which the person involved in the facilitation works also establishes itself automatically around them. ‘System’ in this context refers to the structure in which procedures occur in the person’s daily work. The patterns that emerge in this context are part of the system. Therefore, all actions are relevant, both interpersonal actions and those specifically related to work. All actions generate information that feeds into the system. Some of these pieces of information dissolve while others remain visible, that is, perceptible. If this information is indigestible in some way, it leaves a mark on colleagues. Such marks may be the anger caused by actions as well as the hurt, injustice and rage that occurs due to other people’s wrong behaviour.

An example of how information is collected and dealt with in the process

If an employee works in a company where it is usual that the staff all permanently work beyond their capacity, the information that is generated through this situation will also build up outside the company, for example in the form of stress signals that this employee carries around with him/her. Process work addresses the effect of this stressed system as it relates to the individual. The goal is achieved when the existing problems have been solved, i.e. the individuals no longer allow themselves to be stressed. In this way the work is doubly useful: first for the individuals themselves and secondly for the company in which they work.

The benefits of process work can be explained from the basic understanding of processes, because information that has been ignored in relation to each process is picked up and thus brought into conscious awareness. Picking up this information alters your personal view of the situation. Existing boundaries vanish, because the reason for the boundary is removed when it is brought into your conscious awareness. This is because increasing awareness of the consequences of your actions – particularly in relation to yourself – makes it increasingly difficult to continue acting in the same way. And when you discover that suppressing a burnout system also means making it continuously stronger, that is the point at which you begin the (thought) process of reflecting on the consequences of your own actions.

Previously you were not aware of these consequences and thus you continued to practice the negative actions. This is why, when facilitating these processes in companies, I like to speak of the extension of boundaries that happens involuntarily during this work. I’m referring to the personal action boundaries that persist when you hesitate. We know how quickly a feeling of powerlessness can spread. You recognise this when you have the feeling that you really have no choice other than to continue acting as you have being doing up to now. Process facilitation proves the contrary: you have the chance to establish changes, even in the case of hardened institutions where the problem is part of daily life.

Basic understanding of processes

The assumption that underlies the basic understanding of processes is that every individual, every group, and every institution up to the level of society can be depicted as an image. The image can be sketched, but that isn’t necessary; the depiction takes place in the brain of a skilled facilitator. At this point, INSTITUT SOMMER combines the process idea with a systemic perspective. The depiction shows the existing system with all the factors that influence it. For the process facilitator (LEADERSHIP processes), the awareness of such internal processes is absolutely essential, as is the translation of these processes into what we call images. This may also take place in the form of a system diagnosis. These images are played out in front of the facilitator’s eyes. This ability is the result of a great deal of experience and the ability to sense information that has been ignored.

Imaging a process in roles and limits

Professionals in the specialist process work scene often use unfamiliar words such as role, ghost role, dreambody, limits, double limits, essence level and consensus reality level. Max Schupbach, Arnold and Amy Mindell, and others have strongly influenced the use of these terms. All these words demand an awareness of connections. This awareness assumes that every individual can be influenced by their experiences. The more these experiences are worked through, the less decisively they influence the person going forward, because as process work understands things, once this information has been worked through and understood it moves into the essence level.

For the layperson, this means that this information comprises knowledge that is accessible to all. If the information has not been worked through, it influences personal actions at the subconscious level. The less the information has been processed, the further away it is, which also makes it increasingly hard to identify. Unpleasant and unsatisfactory experiences often lie behind unprocessed information, for example the experiences generated by bullying in a company, or by a boss’s outbreaks of bad temper, or by the departure of a colleague who was subsequently much more successful. In the latter case, the unspoken distress about the departure of a partner who is now much more successful is the unprocessed information. If this information isn’t worked through, it blocks some activities in the company going forward.

The subconscious and what it means

The process facilitator uses the term ‘subconscious’ in this context. Subconscious here means something that is no longer tangible, but still exists. The information continues to exist in the subconscious but continuously influences the individual in question. Unfortunately the influence is not conscious, which makes it very powerful. The subject cannot control his/her own behaviour at this point because it is subconscious. It is a kind of automatic behaviour; it just needs a trigger to set it off. This can put a great strain on co-operation within the teams. INSTITUT SOMMER terms this a loss of leadership. The more dense the information, the more visible the consequence that arises from it, and this consequence isn’t positive. It may take the form of increasing stress in the company, or higher levels of illness, irritability etc.

All of the above also affects the company at the existential level, of course. At this point, work-specific actions interfere with interpersonal actions, and as a result the information becomes mixed.
INSTITUT SOMMER separates out the resulting mixed information. Team-building measures, for example aimed at improving the dynamics between team members, as well as facilitation for managers (LEADERSHIP processes) are very useful approaches in this context.

What is a role and how does understanding roles contribute to process facilitation in companies?

The process worker or process facilitator assumes that the information mentioned above is concentrated in what we call ‘roles’. These roles are filled with information that has not been processed. The denser these roles, the more they influence departmental events, the manager’s actions and thus the company’s results. Since it is only unprocessed information that is concentrated in this way, we can assume that the information contained in these roles is not pleasant. Therefore, roles can be very restrictive if you are unaware of them. They are linked to boundaries that impede co-operation in businesses, practices and companies of all sizes.

The term ‘ghost role’ is used by experts in the field when the abovementioned roles are particularly difficult to grasp, when they always seem to escape the attempt to perceive them – rather like the idea of ghosts in stories, sagas, and myths: you can perceive and perhaps even see them, but they are not tangible despite being perceptible. These ghosts can do a lot of harm if they are not good spirits. A similar thing can occur in the real world, in the daily life of a company. Unprocessed information can be extremely damaging for the company and its staff. Process facilitators refer to this as a ‘dreambody’ that reflects all these elements. Admittedly this word is confusing if you are not familiar with process facilitation, yet it is apt.

The dreambody in process work

The dreambody images all the pieces of unprocessed information, regardless of when they came into existence. For the facilitator of company processes, the dreambody simply serves to image a process, and the facilitator derives his/her conclusions from this image. Very few people then term this dreambody work, because the process idea is already contained within it. Lay people can perhaps conceive what a dreambody is by imagining what it might be like to walk over a mass grave, for example one dating from the Second World War, or the feeling of oppression you experience even today when visiting a concentration camp. So much negative information is gathered here that you assume you can still perceive it, without actually seeing anything.

Process work identifies this mass of information as part of the dreambody. The above examples are perhaps the best way to explain this accumulation of invisible but perceptible information. After all, the word ‘dreambody’ also contains the word ‘dream’. If we apply this meaning of a ‘dream’ to company life, it is the easiest way of being able to build the bridge of comprehension to the point where comprehension begins. All the information that accumulates daily in a company – just the information that accumulates in the course of working together daily – also needs to be processed somewhere. In your private life, this happens at night in your dreams; that is where unprocessed information is worked through. Process work assumes that even institutions have a processing procedure. You, the reader, can decide how far you want to pursue this idea in your imagination.

The benefit for companies lies in the resolution of obstructive information

Once the influencing roles are consciously perceived, they dissolve when the existing information is processed and thus taken up. An effective process facilitator must be able to do this; otherwise they merely remain caught in the theory and the idea behind the process. Only the resolution of this information helps the company to escape its ongoing problem areas. A good process facilitator must be able to achieve this; otherwise he/she is no help to the company.

The process facilitator’s task

Process facilitators utilise the outsider’s privilege and ‘read’ the existing information, so to speak. Their task is to generate awareness in clients where they still lack it. Facilitators should also avoid psychologising; instead they should restore leadership to participants in those areas where they have lost it due to internal (stress) processes. That, at least, is how INSTITUT SOMMER understands process goals. When you become consciously aware of something, you regain influence over it. This is how to stop automatic processes that have been generated by subconscious knowledge. The work brings huge relief, and it often amazes the company to see the kinds of changes that are set in motion.

Process workers would express this in their own professional language by saying that now a consensus has occurred, meaning that an agreement has been reached. Perhaps this also explains the term mentioned at the beginning, the ‘consensus reality level’. That is the level that, metaphorically speaking, establishes the point of time in the present when the consensus is reached. In this way, the process is also a means of achieving a fulfilled life in the here and now. In terms of a company, it signifies the attainment of a basis for a trouble-free, employee-focused and healthy company.

We wish you a great deal of awareness of the effects of unprocessed information!

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