Monday, June 28, 2010

Systems Ju-jitsu Part 6: Tactic 3. Kick up the reactivity

This week’s Systems Ju-jitsu tactic is called Kick up the Reactivity.  I witness many leaders expending a lot of energy trying to avoid conflict, working hard at “lowering the anxiety,” or trying to keep peace among all parties. My challenge to leaders when I see this is, “Good luck with that,” or, “Keep trying, I’m sure you’ll do it” (see Tactic 1).  I also think those actions are often misguided in that they are informed by two wrong assumptions: (1) that conflict is bad and should be avoided at all cost, and (2) that the leader’s job is to lower the anxiety and keep the peace in the system. Edwin Friedman once suggested that clergy should try to bring out the reactivity in the system as soon as possible into their tenure, just to get it out in the open. Granted, Friedman was characteristically subversive and outrageous, and sometimes it was hard to know if he did so to merely make a point or was being prescriptive.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Systems Ju-jitsu Part 5: Tactic 2. Join the resistance

This week’s Systems Ju-jitsu tactic is called Join the Resistance. This tactic is in the true spirit of Ju-jitsu, rather than taking on opponents directly, redirect and join them! The tactic is as simple as agreeing with critics and siding with the enemy. Simply, this tactic removes the adversarial stance and avoids a battle of wills. As they say, “It takes two to tango,” so, just refuse to dance. In times of anxiety the reactivity will sometimes take the form of pursuit in the form of criticism. In other words, someone will “make it personal.”

Monday, June 14, 2010

Systems Ju-jitsu Part 4: Tactic 1. The Paradox

In this part of the series we focus on The Paradox. This move is a type of reversal where the leader or therapist prescribes the symptom or moves the patient or subject toward the behavior or feeling opposite of the desired goal. For example, a wife who wants to stop nagging is encourage to increase the amount of nagging. Parents who want to stop their teenager from swearing are encouraged to get the teenager to swear more. One common example is to recommend “Try harder,” to an overfuctioner who is feeling exhaustion at trying to change the system.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Systems Ju-jitsu Part 3: Characteristics of the Tactics

We continue our series on “Systems Ju-jitsu.” Before exploring the specific tactics leaders can use it will be helpful to identify their characteristics. These characteristics will help highlight why the tactics are legitimate for systems leaders. These tactics have the following characteristics:

  • They are legitimate actions
  • They focus on bringing about change in the system, not changing others
  • They focus on realizing progress in the system (getting the system unstuck)
  • They are informed by systemic emotional process
  • They are responses that help regulate the leader’s own emotional state, thereby avoiding reactive responses like willfulness or overfunctioning.

With the next blog entry we examine specific tactics of Systems Ju-jitsu.