A framework for planning a harvest
Art of Harvesting, Chaordic design, Collaboration, Complexity, Design, Evaluation, Facilitation, Featured
I love working with frameworks, of all kinds. Templates, canvases, questions, story spines…all the different kinds of ways of bringing a little form to confusion. As a person who specializes in complex facilitation, using a good framework is the wise application of constraints to a participatory process. It’s hard to get it right – sometimes I offer frameworks that are too tight and don’t allow for any creativity, and sometimes they are too open and don’t help us to focus. But when you are able to offer a group just the right degree of constraint balanced by just the right degree of openness, the magic of self-organization and emergence takes over and groups learn and discover new things together.
Today I was on a coaching call with some clients and they were talking about a long term process that had a lot of technical steps but needed good relationships to be sustainable. It was possible for them just to do the required tasks and kick relationships to the curb, but they also knew that doing so would make the work harder, riskier, and over the long term, less sustainable.
To help out I offered them an old framework that I have been using more frequently with clients. This is based on the integral framework of Ken Wilber. I like it not because I love Integral Theory – I don’t – but because it offers an open frame with just enough container that it allows for focus and still inspires insight into “things we haven’t thought about.” It helps us to see. I wrote about using this one late last year, but here’s a cleaner version of the tool.
Basically the way you use this is in the design process of a gathering. The framework assumes that every conversation, interaction or process will produce outputs and results in all four of these quadrants. If you are not intentional about naming these things, you run the risk of over-focusing on one particular quadrant (usually from the tangible side of the framework). It is entirely possible to do good quality work as a group and destroy group cohesion, trust, and individual commitment. So I have found that supporting a planning team to name outputs in all the quadrants helps them to focus on choosing tools and processes that will be conscious of the effect of their work on the intangibles.
Time after time, using this tool creates interesting conversations about what we want to happen, what is possible and what we need to do differently to get results that are far more holistic and sustainable over time. As you use this tool you will discover questions that work to elicit ideas in each quadrant, and you will build up your eye for spotting where folks are missing a big part of their planning.
Give it a whirl in your process design conversation and see how it changes your practice and your group’s design. Leave a comment to tell me a little about your experience.
I was designing a last-minute session earlier this week, when this article reminded me of the 4-quadrants. I had used them in the past, mostly in an individual coaching setting, and I was intrigued by the idea of using them as a harvest tool.
The session was about clarifying a certain degree of shared understanding for a new concept within an existing fairly loose team that I’m a part of, with the last part of the session focused on identifying potential ways forward to materialize the concept.
I was planning on using the 4 quadrants to harvest that last part, i.e. how the concept could materialize with our clients and within ourselves as a team.
Before we got to that last part, the focus of the session itself shifted a bit and conversations went somewhere else than expected (as one could expect). I therefore didn’t introduce the tool and didn’t make it a collective harvest (there were also some technological issues to the collective harvesting that I had not prioritized solving before the session), yet I still used it to harvest live through screen sharing. I found it easy, at least for myself, to categorize what my colleagues were saying in the 4 quadrants. I haven’t debriefed with my colleagues about how useful the tool was for them to make sense of different ways forward with the new concept. Anyways, as the focus of the session shifted from ‘shared understanding’ to ‘getting to know each other a little more’, it was not as crucial to come out of it with clear desired outputs.
However, when preparing the workshop, the 4 quadrants really helped me in coming up with a diversity of questions to bring up to my colleagues, and I had a certain confidence that my questions were covering most areas of what we wanted to do (or, atleast, what we ‘thought’ we wanted to do at the time I was preparing the design!).
Thanks so much for this story!
Chris – We’ve been using this a lot over the last few years. But the first time I saw it offered by was Monica in Halifax. I didn’t know it had anything to do with the Integral Framework of Kent Wilber. Is there a citation?
Monica and I were both familiar with Wilber’s work when we originally drafted up the Art of Harvesting booklet in 2008. You can see a story from Monica on the tangible and intangible harvests in there as well as something on collective and individual.
Just prior to that meeting, Monica and I were together in Colorado where we were talking about frameworks for harvesting and I brought Wilber’s work alongside other frameworks into a kind of mother map of work.
So like much of our knowledge generation in this community, it has been collective and syncretic, using frameworks and maps from other thinkers explicitly or implicitly and integrating them in our work. And the provenance is murky!
Wilber’s work as a way to understand facilitation and project design first came to me through Michael Herman back in 1999/2000, and I have written about that lineage and our work together over the years here, and here.
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