The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

Metaphors and associations

In doing my work I’m often confronted with the gap between abstract understanding of how to proceed and getting the work done.

The work we have to do there is to search for ways to help imagination grasp the abstract concept while showing how it is effectively actioned. Once an image starts to establish a bridge as to how to conceptualize the work, possibilities unfold allowing to translate that image into the actual work to be done.

It doesn’t matter if the image is closely linked to the work to be done. What matters is, that the chosen image helps to see the parts of the whole. The abstract concept being the whole and the actions being the parts contributing to the whole. What is necessary, is that the chosen image can be described and explored by all.

The image is an invitation for those participating to expand it with their associations. Building on their work experience they gradually fill in the gaps between the work they have to do and how to conceive it.

In a recent bit of work with a client, we wanted to combine two goals. The first was to describe how the team can gain clarity on goal setting. And with the second we wanted to create a sense of coordinating themselves with others in the organization. Eventually, we came up with the metaphor of a golf course as a way to locate some of the roles involved as well as how they would interact.

Think for example of the person designing the golf course. His choice of layout determines the typical activities the teams will have. Then think about the player who searches for ways to reach his goal, he’s guided by his experience and the fairway the designer laid out.

This metaphor also allowed us to distinguish between ongoing learning to implement change and starting a project that contributes to the change.

If there is one skill a golf player needs to learn then it is to play the ball. It’s the single activity he has to repeat over and over again. One he seeks to execute in such a way that he effectively and efficiently reaches the green. One that is a new challenge every time he has to play it. In a different way, playing a hole means to start on the teeing ground to then seeking to reach the hole. Which links to the idea of executing his project as best as possible. That is without losing too many balls in the rough before starting the next project.

With that metaphor, we had an indication of the playfield the organization has created for itself as well as what the players have to achieve as they overcome the obstacles on the course. Given this, we can start to think about how the players can be supported in reaching the goals they’ve set for themselves.





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