Whole Person - Whole System

This term – whole person/whole system is intended to reflect all the interdependent relationships that define who we are and the environments/contexts that we find ourselves in. This influences any work in change that we look at:
  • The whole person – with all the interdependent physical and social relationships that define her/him
  • The whole system – reflected in the interdependent relationships in:
    • the groups, teams and organisations that the person is involved with
    • the communities and societies in which they participate
    • the natural systems (living systems) and our planet that are integral to our ability to live

We mischaracterize the act of finding pattern in seemingly separate facts as “connecting the dots.” That metaphor implies that facts are separate entities, dots that stay still on a page. But each event is a wriggling thread of interactivity in spacetime, with its own past, present, and future. We spin them, or watch them spin themselves, into patterns that cannot be predicted.

S. Nachmanovitch, The Art of Is, p 134-5

1. Personal Experience

Feeling and Emotions
  • Fear / Vulnerability / Anxiety / Freedom
  • Psychological safety
  • Sense of control/certainty (meaningfully involved…. , we often need a sense of control when faced with uncertainty)
  • Letting go of beliefs and expectations / open to new ways
  • Emotional Agility (Susan David’s four key ideas: Showing Up, Stepping Out, Walking Your Why and Moving On)
  • Transition is the inner psychological process that people go through as they internalize and come to terms with the new situation that the change brings about. William Bridges, Bridges Transition Model (>read more)

2. Groups, Teams & Organisations

  • Humble in the face of challenge, admitting ‘don’t know’ and bringing curiousity
  • Psychological safety (Amy Edmondson, Psychological Safety and Learning Behaviour in Work Teams, article)
  • Joint learning – working through a difficult situation, accepting failure, curiosity
  • Respecting differences and uniqueness
  • Accepting and working with their interdependence – not competitors
  • Trust
  • Supportive culture – common language, leadership and accountability

3. Communities

  • Belonging
  • Participation
    • Neil Gibb – The Participation Revolution: How to Ride the Waves of Change in a Terrifyingly Turbulent World (book)
    • Peter Block – Community: The Structure of Belonging (book)
  • A Whole Greater than its Parts – Exploring the Role of Emergence in Complex Social Change (Darling, Guber, Smith article)

4. Natural Systems

  • Natural systems reflected in the metaphor of organisations as Living Systems (see Donella Meadows articles and separate section)
  • The three laws of globally responsible leadership created by the Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative (GRLI) capture this well:
    • The Law of the Environment – the natural system is not a stakeholder in our businesses; it is the ultimate foundation of the rules.
    • The Law of Interconnectedness – everything, everywhere is linked in a single system therefore every action must be considered in the context of its effect on the whole system.
    • The Law of Engagement – Globally responsible leaders must become engaged in solving the dilemmas that confront us as a consequence of the first two laws.