Murry Bowen, M.D. developed Family Systems theory over 50 years ago. Bowen, a trained Psychoanalyst had a game changing insight, that the individual could only be understood within the context of their relationships (for Bowen, primarily the family). This insight has had a profound impact not only in the therapeutic community but also in the areas of consulting, conflict management and leadership development. Bowen theory asserts that all systems – family, small business, large corporation, school systems, churches and sports teams operate under the same laws.
While there are a variety of systems theory today, unique to Bowen thinking is the understanding of the system’s emotional process, particularly the role of anxiety and how well it is managed. If anxiety is not managed well it will sabotage the systems functioning. Anxiety is present in all systems and is manifest automatically and spontaneously. Systems that manage anxiety effectively function at a higher level than those that do not manage it well.
The goal of systems thinking consultation is to:
Consultants to small business often confuse content from process. Systems theory focuses on the latter. Rather than help solve a particular problem, as a systems thinking consultant I help businesses to learn how to function at a higher level, thus increasing their ability to 1) limit problems from arising in the first place and 2) increase competence in identifying problems more quickly and resolving them more effectively and 3) develop clarity of vision for moving forward.
The first thing I do when consulting with a business is to identify the issues that are creating anxiety. Following this I evaluate the systems level of functioning. What is it in the system that allows problems to arise? What strengths are in place? Is there clarity of vision, goals and definition of each person’s function? How is anxiety managed? Finally, I help leadership chart a course forward responding to the issues that are inhibiting peak functioning while simultaneously developing confidence and competence in self-management.
By definition all school systems have a shared challenge. They are trying to impart knowledge by appealing to the higher cognitive functions of the brain in a population that is, by virtue of where they are developmentally, highly anxious and therefore often functioning in their lower brain. Given this starting point any conflict, problem or traumatic event within a school system will raise everyone’s level of anxiety making it more challenging for teachers and administrators to effectively do their job.
When I work with school systems I help leaders (teachers, administrators) to identify issues creating anxiety, evaluate the systems level of functioning and create a plan to respond to issues while also raising the systems level of functioning. By doing so the system will be better equipped to manage problems as they arise.
The same laws govern all systems and congregations are systems. I consult with congregations in two ways.
In addition to consulting and consoling I am available for speaking engagements, workshops and retreats.