If I were pushed to summarize the essence of the Contegrity Approach in a single phrase, I would say, “unfolding Life into a fulfillment.” Obviously, the three key terms there are “unfolding“, “Life“, and “fulfillment“. Let’s see if we can unpack the phrase, its elements, and the approach.
Unfolding is best contrasted with “making something happen“. Instead of manufacturing a made-up outcome (wish, want, goal), and forcing the situation to wind up in a certain configuration that matches the starting image, unfolding has the flavor of respecting the nature and fit of the people involved, the culture, the materials, and the timing involved, and bringing them to the next higher-order integration that is timely and available.
This kind of development and accomplishment makes a different basic sense — that is, a thematic one. It has a flow given by what is revealed and what is calling to be developed as a new power as one intentionally explores the territory. It is not obvious at the beginning. It isn’t already known and just played out. It isn’t what people are already talking about. It calls for development of and discernment by those involved. And therein lies its vitality (in an honorable and respectful unfolding of a new relation, a new power, and a new sense of what is available).
Unfolding has the flavor of leadership being brought to the new relations and activities undertaken to bring a greater qualitative outcome to fruition. It includes developing a certain discernment for what is at play, and where all the elements can be called to go.
As for “Life“, this too isn’t obvious. Let us say that the Life we are unfolding isn’t just the historical life we know, isn’t just “our” life (there is some question that it belongs to us like a possession), and isn’t just life as the historical and situational background for our activities with others. Let us say that this kind of Life honors what is known, what is unknown, and whatever gives more life/ vitality/ wholeness. In this context, unfolding Life calls for belonging to all of the above, appreciating and respecting what is revealed in all of the above and what remains to be revealed, and honors whatever gives more life, vitality and wholeness to Life in a timely way.
From belonging to these elements, next is listening to the call of the elements as to what is “next up to be fulfilled/ made whole/ given added depth and power”. This is followed by serving the unfolding of what is “up next” to be fulfilled in its appropriate timing (development and accomplishment can only be done at a pace that can be adapted to).
As for “unfolding of what is up next to be fulfilled” into a fulfillment, that is a matter of manifesting the next higher integration of the elements available until there is a satisfying and stable base of accomplishment. At this point, the people involved, the coordinated activities involved, the communication involved has been brought to a new level of power sufficient to raise the outcome to a higher standard of wholeness.
As a brief example, the Contegrity Approach was brought to a division of a high tech Fortune 100 company that was experiencing leadership and management difficulties. They had a very long history of missing deadlines and of not acknowledging that the timing and coordination would fail until the last minute when it finally had to be admitted. Listening to what was unsaid and unacknowledged that would be capable of developing new power in the people involved (as well as lead to greater and more satisfying accomplishments), we could tell that resuscitating the ability to be honest instead of just loyal regarding what was (or was not) going to be accomplished over a particular period of time would be transformative of the relations between management and staff.
Given that the area of work involved computer chips as part of the products, the cost of being late in delivery was brutal (money lost on every unit sold). In a disruptive moment that could reveal what had been being avoided, we asked the senior management that had planned 3 new chip-based products being released that year if any of them would “bet their car” that this would indeed happen? None would. (Yet they would bet the fortunes of the company on it.) Our recommendation was to pick the best 2 of the 3 products and organize to bring them to fruition on time — simultaneously cashing in on the value of the chips (while it was still there) as well as developing an honesty and responsiveness on the part of the management and staff regarding what was indeed called for to bring the projects in on time.
That intervention likely caused a billion dollar shift from losing $500M to making $500M. The part that was harder to quantify, yet may have been more valuable over time, was the shift in honesty and collaboration in telling the truth earlier about what wasn’t likely to happen on time, and shifting resources to that area to see that it would. Timely collaboration and open responsiveness getting built into the culture of work, and the supportive relations between workers in different functions within the division was likely as big of an accomplishment as the release of two new products on time for the first time in 38 years.
Rarely would a company identify the next accomplishment as “altering the culture to disrupt pretending about what will be accomplished and notifying too late to respond regarding schedule slips, and make them no longer viable ways of relating to work and to each other.” Inventing projects and accomplishments that called for just such an intervention, and developing the strengths to replace the former loyalty with a sharper discernment and greater responsiveness to what is called for in time allowed the first cultural accomplishment to go along with the latter, more recognized accomplishment — the delivery of two new products on time and their ensuing profits.
“Unfolding Life into a fulfillment“, in this case, looked like taking something historical that had outlived its usefulness and vitality (pretending something was going to work that you knew wasn’t going to work is a hard and draining job), and inventing a direction and inspiration for a new power to be brought to bear — that of discerning and responding to what was and wasn’t likely to happen. It altered the politics to one in which it was now honorable to be the one to sound the alarm early and to rally the troups in response.
Much in parallel is called for regularly from each of us individually. There are ways we have been that no longer work for us, nor are they satisfying — whether it is working too much, being too busy, putting off the important matters or hard choices while waiting for a “better time” to address them, putting up with things that don’t work for us, etc. Listening for when it is time to disrupt those ways of being and take on developing a better fit with Life shifts one into a different timing — that of unfolding, that of developing, that of accomplishing that alters the quality of living as well as provides a more sound foundation on which to build a satisfying life.
If you fly the flag of “unfolding Life into a fulfillment” rather than the flag of “make more and bigger things happen”, chances are good that the process will be as satisfying as the outcome. In addition, the build up of accomplishments will be more sustainable given the development of capabilities that are earned along the way.