Seeing what appears. If you prefer plans, predictability and structure

Seeing what appears

‘An emergent strategy is a pattern of action that develops over time in the absence of a specific mission and goals, or despite a mission and goals.’ (Mintzberg)

If you prefer plans, predictability, and structure, the emergence of emergency can give rise to a headache. Emergence is what happens when our carefully-laid strategies and plans collide with reality.

‘The map is not the territory’ (Korzybski) and ‘no plan survives first contact with the enemy’ (van Moltke).

Sudden or unanticipated change can leave people reeling, especially if we are vested deeply in specific processes, timeframes or outcomes.

I’ve especially found this in cross-cultural contexts, particularly where there are hidden differences in beliefs, values, and priorities.

Here I am in the Philippines.

I think of myself as flexible and adaptable yet the difficulties in getting clear information or moving forward with the simplest of tasks leave me feeling exhausted. I’m paying attention to goals, tasks and timeframes.

I realise, s…l…o…w…l…y that others around me are more interested in relationships, politics and here-and-now qualities of life.

It’s a learning journey, sometimes intriguing and sometimes frustrating, yet I start to discover how to navigate things here.

Back in the UK, I see my own culture in a fresh light. So exact, so impatient, so future-orientated.

So, here are some ideas on handling emergence in coaching.

1. What are the client’s intentions? This taps into vision, goals, beliefs, values and motivations.

2. How ready, willing and able is the client to learn? This sometimes means seeking or noticing what he or she is not noticing, or leaning into situations where natural instincts are to fight or flee.

3. How flexible and adaptable is the client to tack against the wind to achieve their goals, rather than stay fixed to a rigid path that may well bend or break them?

4. What deep insights could spirituality and Divine influence offer here? (James).

Nick Wright is a qualified and experienced psychological coach and organisation development (OD) consultant.