Sunday, October 4, 2015

Learning how to make change happen - Kantor Style

David Kantor, Ph.D.
In June of 2012 I was approached by Dr. David Kantor to research his model of human speech patterns, most popularly known as the 4 Player Model but also more formally called Structural Dynamics. Because he was introduced to me by my third reader from my dissertation committee and long time friend I agreed to meet with him. That sounds a little arrogant but the reason I say that is because the minute I officially got my letters I got approached by 3 different older guru-types in our field to do research for free. Not being a trust-funder but an owner of a consulting practice, full time teacher and a mom, my time was limited so I was cautious and very skeptical about David and his model in general.  Having consulted to, intervened in and made an in-depth study of organizational behavior, development and human systems and having been exposed to many, many models I needed to have David back up his claims that he had discovered a model of models for all of human speech. That's a pretty audacious claim right?

He explained to me that in the 1970s he and Dr. William Lehr signed up 19 families in Cambridge Massachusetts to allow themselves to be observed at close range for a few months. He not only placed a tape recorder in every room that was turned on by the first family member up and off by the last person to sleep but also a graduate student equipped with a tape recorder and notepad lived in the house the entire time.  From this, he and his partner and graduate student team analyzed hours and hours of tapes and and came up with the 4 Player Model that evolved into Structural Dynamics. You can read about the results of this research in his book, Inside the Family.

Having earned a degree from a school that required my dissertation work to be peer review ready (meaning very high standards for the research I conducted) I came to appreciate evidence based theories and models. It's hard to tell sometimes whether a theory is just accepted wisdom, like the earth is flat, or if a model is grounded in scientific research. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, as it turns out, is not an evidence based model nor is John Kotter's 8 Step Change Model or Debono's Six Thinking Hats. All of these models are based on the anecdotal evidence and the idiosyncratic experiences of their creators. Today, due to the advent of Big Data, there is a demand for evidenced based conclusions and for good reason. Anecdotal models are limed in their use, can be quite wrong for many circumstances and can also be damaging if you use them to intervene in a situation that they have not been tested in - at worst. The least damaging effect is that they waste time and make no real change.
It mattered to me that David came by his model through scientific research. His ask of me was also encouraging in terms of his own integrity because he asked me to poke holes in his model. He asked me to test it in executive teams to see if it held. He had been using it in practice in his work doing family therapy for 40 years and then with executives teams in large organizations like The World Bank. But he had not formally tested it in corporations, only in families.

Since then we have run our pilot study and the data is pointing to the fact that he got it right. We need more testing of course and are in the process of lining up teams to continue our research, but so far I have not been able to say there is an extra speech act or that the operating systems are wrong. We are having an ongoing argument about the place of humor which I think is a random move so we are discovering even more depth to the model.

I am glad I've spent so much of my free time on this project. I learned how to use the model with teams and executive coaching clients I work with and it's very powerful. I've facilitated so many different interventions over the last twenty years between organizational restructuring, large scale culture change, team development, third party intervention and 360 feedback, etc. I noticed especially at the system and group/team levels of intervention that I can design the most beautiful appropriate intervention in complete collaboration with the client, but if they can't communicate/hear each other it does not matter. It won't work. They are still stuck in their old patterns and no amount of active listening, feedback, or conflict negotiation training creates a long term fix because the root cause is often at the unconscious level of values, personal story, and deeply internalized patterns of communication that Kantor has captured in his model of Structural Dynamics.

After getting two degrees in organizational psychology, having apprenticed with Drs. Jay Galbraith, Steve Phillips, Lynn Newman and other expert Organizational Development consultants to really learn how to help people, teams and whole systems change it was frustrating to me when after many meetings, much use of process consultation and adherence to Edgar Schein's principles among others that often the interventions would not hold.

When I started to use Kantor's model to watch my own communication patterns and see the patterns of others, I realized this was the deeper level that can create the skills, readiness, and availability for client systems to truly transform.  I'm really glad I took David up on his offer to be his Co-Principal Investigator on the project because my consulting abilities and practice model have grown from it.  I am now teaching his model (in Collaboration with Dialogix) in two classes. One called Making Change Happen and the level 2 class called Changing Behavior in High Stakes. I have been through both as well as train the trainer sessions and it's been well worth my time.

Last, I had an interesting and somewhat disturbing conversation with a long time OD consultant. She noted that most of the teaching these days in OD, OB, etc. is around training skills versus actual intervention. She worried the art and psychology of planned change is getting lost. I got into the field of Organizational Psychology because I was lucky enough to be in a position of facilitating groups from an early age and in doing so experience the wonder of seeing a person's consciousness shift so that they could see the world in a completely different way that got them unstuck.  After much hard work to learn how to do this, I have seen this shift at the team and the whole systems level. Seeing deep shifts of consciousness occurring in the individual, among team members, and in whole organizations is a wonder and an honor and that's what intervention is.  In my teaching at William James College and my work with Kantor's model and training others to use it, I am doing my part to make sure the art of intervention is not lost.  If you are interested in learning more, please join me in learning about how to make change happen in human systems - Kantor style.

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