Metatheory of Change

Thinking and Accompanying Change Differently

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A complex world requires sophisticated advice, particularly when it is dealing with change. Recipes, best practice and simple solutions will quickly create apparent security, but they often fail to focus on the specific context and the dynamics of a situation.

The change theory and practice introduced here seeks one thing above all: to enable the confident engagement with uncertainty (rather than seeking security). It focuses on an understanding of the existing self-organisation and applies a processing view of the world.

Guiding processes which are relevant within coaching, team development or management consultancy are used as orientation for the consultant. All these can be individually discovered and explored in the interactive meta theory tool.

What does Metatheory mean?

Meta comes from the Greek and means ‘after, over’. A meta theory of change occupies itself with the theories of how change can be thought about, facilitated and prevented. It analyses other theories, puts them in a context and, with it, gives consultants and customers orientation for their work. Of course, nobody can absorb, integrate and process all the knowledge which ought to flow into such a meta theory. Therefore, the development of a meta theory always remains piecemeal and must end with a bow of respect before all the thoughts and thinkers upon whose work it builds and with an apology for all those whose theory one has not processed.

Why do we have to think about change?

When practically engaging with change, it is easy to overlook fundamental questions. For example: What is the opposite of change? Stagnation? Stability? Bad change? Wrong change? Peace? Quiet? Tranquillity? Passivity? Resistance? Evolution? What happens if nothing is done? Will nothing change then? Why not? What happens if the wrong thing is done? Will something change then? How can it be that ‘bad’ effects arise from ‘good’ motives? Why can ‘bad’ deeds cause ‘good’ things to happen? In any case who, or rather, what inner drivers, seek change and who opposes it? Why is there stagnation when in any case everything is in flux? And anyway, how is it that one believes one can change something in the psyche, in teams or in organisations? And how can one measure change? As long as these questions are not resolved, it is hard as consultant to justify one’s own actions.

What tools do consultants require?

In a nutshell, consultancy sells change: The customers are dissatisfied or unsuccessful and wish to arrive somewhere where they can be more satisfied or more successful (or believe that they can be). Consultancy is supposed to help them with this. Many theories about change management, leadership, group dynamics and psychotherapy have ideas about how this can be accomplished. “If you do this, you will accomplish that!” But, as consultant, management trainer, team developer, coach or psychotherapist, one ought to principally understand something about the dynamics of change processes and their ambivalence. This thought, initially so apparently simple, stands in contrast to the fact that in many consultancy processes not much reflection about change occurs. All too often it is, instead, a type of self-understood background: change exists because it is good to do so and one shows or formulates how it is done. Here, the meta theory wishes to offer an additional, fundamental perspective.

What theoretical approaches do we utilise?

The foundation of meta theory is a multitude of principally process-orientated theories. In particular, these are linked to names of scientists and practicioners such as Niklas Luhmann, Peter Fuchs, Georg Picht, Martin Heidegger, Martin Buber, Karl Weick, A.N. Whitehead, Fritz Perls, Eric Berne, Leslie Greenberg, Otto Kernberg, Klaus Grawe, Fritz Simon, Rudi Wimmer, Wolfgang Looss, Frank Staemmler and Werner Bock. Our theoretical foundation therefore spans all the way from philosophy to different psychological perspectives and also includes social systems and organisational theories. The evaluations of many years of psychotherapeutic work and executive coaching, many change projects and team developments in organisations, as well as the educational work with Hephaistos, Coaching Centre, Munich, form the background.

What is the purpose of our new approach?

In today’s world we are confronted with many layers of change. In order to accompany and direct this change, we need a new way of thinking, because with simple, linear, causal and rational approaches one cannot deliver self-direction, effective teamwork or functional leadership of organisations and larger social systems. Therefore, we consider it necessary to change our thinking patterns.

At the moment, though, the consultancy market is, to a large extent, still fragmented, as are the convictions about what is effective. This was the impetus to resolutely adopt the already existing theoretical knowledge within a meta-theory or else to justifiably reject it. Only with the help of such a framework could we, as consultants, contribute to analysing and accompanying demanding change projects so that the appropriate, most effective starting point is chosen for sustainable change.

The open accessibility to a meta-theory of change is to help introduce this perspective into the discussion about future-proof consultancy, and maybe even to stimulate a paradigm shift in dealing with change.