”I feel the future of my work is in safe hands in People Talking”
What is it?
Structural Dynamics is an evidence-based approach founded by David Kantor over thirty years ago and taught at Harvard Business School. Put simply, it is a model for how communication works or doesn’t work in connecting human systems.
This enhances the opportunity to harness the collective wisdom of the team which is a critical competence of effective teams who are often dealing with complex challenges in a climate of uncertainty.
It enables us to learn different ways to contribute to conversations, which can build Psychological Safety, break ‘stuck’, unhelpful patterns of behaviour, and lead to much-improved results.
How We Work?
Much of the recent research suggests that the apex of leadership development is communicative competence and to fully equip participants to achieve this we suggest a program of intervention and development with a high focus on practical application individually, in the teams and into the wider stakeholder community as it progresses.
As Structural Dynamics works to both accelerate increased self-awareness (internal) and capability to ‘Read the Room’ (external) it is seen as particularly appropriate where diverse ‘realities’ may arrive in a team setting. It helps build Psychological Safety so that conversations which need take place can do so constructively in the room, rather than being held back.
Our programmes in Structural Dynamics are supported by the Kantor Institute behavioural instruments, which provide insight into individual and group behaviours. We are the sole authorised training provider for Structural Dynamics in Australia and New Zealand.
We have not come across any other tool or model that allows teams to identify and work with their own process over a relatively short period of time. Clients we work with tell us they often feel overwhelmed by the number of assessment tools that are available, but that Structural Dynamics is the only approach they know of that helps teams and organisations to work more systemically.
The Baseline Behavioural Profile is morally neutral, in that no one profile is preferable over another. A Baseline Behavioural Profile enables people to understand how they communicate in normal settings, and to identify opportunities to become more competent in the way they communicate with others.
A Team Profile helps teams to identify patterns of dialogue, and to explore new and more effective ways to relate to each other. It allows team members to understand the impact of the organisational system on team dynamics, and encourages the adoption of a more systems-focused and holistic approach to the way they work.
A typical programme with a senior team will be conducted in 3 phases over several months:
Phase 1 – Laying the Foundations
Phase 2 – Deepening awareness in High Stakes and Embedding,
Phase 3 – Review and Refine based on emergent themes from the system.
As the group becomes familiar in working with a structural approach, we introduce live business topics to the conversation, to work on solving real problems at the same time as working on the ‘how’ of communication competence.
FOUR PLAYER EXPLANATION
At the core of Structural Dynamics is the four-player system, which offers a way to look at the verbal ‘actions’ taking place in a meeting, so we can see what moves we can make which would contribute most purposefully to the conversation. By understanding, in an unemotional way, the hidden dynamics we can be more creative and strategic in our choices to get people thinking and working together more effectively.
The model categorises communication between people into four vocal ‘acts’. For effective face-to-face interaction, all four acts need to be present. These are as follows:
Initiates action or suggests a direction. Introduces new idea or concept
Jo: “I think its’s time we changed our office layout.”
Gets behind and supports others’ ideas. Takes necessary action to carry ideas forward. Completes the action.
Ed: “I agree; I’d be happy to lead that project.”
Challenges. Pushes back on ideas to provide options and help shore up weaknesses. Corrects the action.
Nat: “Actually, I feel that things are working fine as they are for now.”
Bridges. Observes offers a neutral perspective and reconciles seemingly disparate ideas. Connects viewpoints,
Tim: “I’m hearing Joe and Ed are in favour of a change, Nat wants to hold-off… what does everyone else think?”
All of these acts are required for a ‘whole’ outcome. Seeing the conversation in this way allows us to ‘read the room’ and choose which act will help us move the conversation forward productively.
For example, a strong leader may express a viewpoint (Move) which others Follow, despite holding concerns. This can lead to a Move→Follow-Follow-Follow pattern, where decisions may be made without exploring other options (‘Polite Compliance’ in the Fields of Conversation model below)
In this instance an Oppose may be needed, to challenge this view.
A skilful communicator might do this with a ‘blended’ act. For example, a Follow, with an Oppose.
“I understand why you’re suggesting this and a number of the points you’ve made make a lot of sense to me (Follow). However, I’m concerned that taking that course of action will alienate our customers, so I’d like us to explore some other options” (Oppose).
Then…”Taking a step back, with our objective of margin improvement in mind, does anyone have any additional thoughts or ideas?” (Bystand)
Here the speaker is seeking to shift the conversational dynamic into a space of curiosity to open up a more constructive Dialogue, where new ideas might emerge…
Other layers in the Structural Dynamics model can help us understand further aspects of our interactions in conversations which are shaped by preferences we have each developed over time, based on our own life experiences. These include our “Vocal Acts” (as described above), and what Kantor calls our “Communication Domain” and “Operating System”.
We each have a different profile, and each is equally valuable. However, the more we can become agile in adjusting our conversational behaviour to meet the needs of the group or the business, the more effective the outcomes become.
Mastering the use of vocal acts in the Four Player Model is a valuable first step towards having more productive conversations and achieving better results.
We are the sole authorised training provider for Structural Dynamics in Australia and New Zealand.