Organizational consultation utilizing the Prosocial approach initially begins with a facilitator leading a group through two iterations of the Matrix, a diagrammatic form of Acceptance and Commitment Training (ACT). After conducting the Matrix focused on the involved individuals (Figure 1) and then another one focused on the larger group, the Prosocial facilitator next introduces the Core Design Principles (CDPs) of Successful Organiz
ations for which Elinor Ostrom won the 2009 Nobel Prize in Economics (Figure 2). In the service of developing specific plans for addressing the issues of concern that are prompting the request for consultation, attention also is directed to improving how individuals are functioning within their organization and to enhancing how the organization is functioning within its broader environment. Such plans might include conducting a Matrix focused on a particular CDP that is proving to be challenging for the group as well as developing specific goals and objectives to address areas of needed organizational growth.
Figure 1. The Individual Matrix. The vertical axis invites us to engage in “noticing” differences between “Outer” Behavior (the outer world of observable behavior) and “Inner” Behavior (our inner experiences). The horizontal axis invites us to engage in “noticing” differences between moving “Towards” engaging in valued actions and seeking to move “Away” from our distress. Each quadrant, summarized in one word, contains one of four “Matrix questions.” A diagonal vector of psychological flexibility that can be imagined as extending from the lower left quadrant to the upper right quadrant reflects the way in which distress often accompanies “moving towards.” [Please see The Essential Guide to the ACT Matrix, Polk, Schoendorff, Webster, & Olaz (2016) for a more elaborate description].
Figure 2. The Prosocial approach including a Group Matrix (with questions revised to reflect this level of organization) and Ostrom’s Core Design Principles. Note should be taken that the CDP’s are principles of guidance, not rules of governance, necessitating that organizations determine for themselves how to successfully address these issues within their unique structure and operations. In addition, CDP 5 recently has been reformulated as “Graduated responding to helpful and unhelp behavior” to emphasize the importance of positively attending to helpful behaviors in addition to implementing graduated consequences for unhelpful behaviors [Please see Prosocial, Atkins, Wilson, and Hayes (2019) for their rationale in making this change; Please see Discussion section, below, for an example of how the CDP Matrix can be used to transform behavior from unhelpful to helpful].
As a Child Psychiatrist with administrative and consultative experience in Organizational Behavior Management (OBM), this approach to Prosocial has enabled me to view the Matrix much like a camera with an attached telephoto lens, zooming in to focus on individuals and zooming out to focus on their larger group context(s). Proceeding in this fashion also has provided me with a practical way to apply the Multilevel Selection Theory of Evolution Science, that is, to promote variation, selection and retention of behavior towards increasing flexibility for individuals as well as for groups [Please see This View of Life, Wilson (2019) for an elaboration of this point].
When I began incorporating Prosocial into my work as an organizational consultant, however, I encountered a recurrent challenge in the form of being asked to explain just how the Matrix and the CDP’s could be fit together rather than being seen as two different models coexisting side by side. This article is intended to share the answer I have tentatively formulated to the question of how consultees can be helped to see the Matrix and the CDP’s function coherently as one unified process.
TOWARDS THE “CDP MATRIX”
The Executive Director of an agency providing a range of mental health services to a population of children and youth sought consultation for assistance in improving how her administrative team was functioning. After being introduced to the Prosocial approach involving the Matrix being applied first individually and then collectively with the group, followed by an introduction to Ostrom’s CDP’s, however, she expressed confusion. She said that, while she understood both the Matrix and the CDP’s separately, it seemed to her that they were being asked to entertain two different models at the same time, leading her to question how this could possibly be helpful to her administrative team.
The Executive Director then was shown the “CDP Matrix” under development based on similar feedback from other organizational clients. In this version of the Matrix, the CDP’s are functionally incorporated into the four quadrants of the Matrix (Figure 3). It was explained to her that modifying the lower right quadrant question from an individual focus on “Who or what matters to you?” to the CDP 1 question of “What is your shared purpose?” set the stage for assessing how an organization is functioning by using the CDP’s to engage in a process of “Matrix’ing,” that is, using the CDP’s to conduct a quadrant-by-quadrant analysis, and then to use the resulting analysis as a basis for developing a strategic plan to address the identified organizational challenges.
Figure 3. “CDP Matrix,” in which Ostrom’s Core Design Principles have been incorporated into the Matrix. When an organization is functioning well, there is a clear understanding of shared purpose as reflected in CDP 1 (Lower Right Quadrant), and attention is being directed effectively towards CDP’s 2, 3, 7, and 8 (Upper Right Quadrant). However, as so often is the case in organizations, when issues of concern arise (Lower Left Quadrant), individuals and groups tend to engage in fight/flight behaviors of the Human Stress Response (Upper Left Quadrant). Thus, it is important for successful organizational functioning to have in place a system of monitoring (CDP 4), as well as means for getting back on track when necessary (CDP 5) and for addressing conflict when it (inevitably) arises (CDP 6). Again, please note that this Figure contains the earlier version of CDP 5, not the revised version as described in Figure 2.
In this particular instance, the Executive Director found the “CDP Matrix” sufficiently helpful that she decided to conduct further team building on her own, with Prosocial consultation provided to her in the background. However, the case to be reported, below, will describe an application in which the Prosocial approach was used to train a newly formed team of internal consultants that had been developed by a multinational corporation seeking to improve coordination of its national and global accounts.
CASE REPORT: PROSOCIAL CONSULTATION TO A MULTINATIONAL CORPORATION
The Consultative Challenge
Consultation was sought by a Fortune 500 multinational corporation (“MNC”) that had identified a series of problems involving actual and potential costly errors in how the mismanagement of certain national accounts was jeopardizing client relationships at the global level. For example, dissatisfaction with the timeliness of service delivery to a client with a relatively small account in a given country was passed up that client’s chain of command, leading the CEO to begin questioning the possibility of terminating their substantial global account for services with the MNC. The financial repercussions, while minor for the MNC’s “in-country” client relationship managers, were quite significant from the broader perspective of the MNC’s C-Suite, especially after it was discovered that this kind of insufficient coordination of accounts was having adverse impact in each region of the corporation’s global operations.
The MNC’s Senior Partner for Global Growth and Operations, responding to a C-Suite directive to rectify this problem, began developing a new global oversight team of internal consultants to work specifically with MNC’s client relationship managers involved with the firm’s largest eighty global clients in various countries around the world. Although he had created a protocol he wanted the internal team to use for identifying and addressing specific in-county, client-based issues, he was concerned that the consultants might come across to client relationship managers as too critical and heavy-handed, and thus not succeed in effectively engaging their full cooperation in improving client services. Based on his longitudinal relationship with a colleague of mine having expertise in consulting to multinational corporations, the Senior Partner contacted us to explore how Prosocial might be relevant to the MNC’s issues of concern.
Towards Coordinating Global and National Accounts
After introducing the Senior Partner to Prosocial, arrangements were made to conduct training with his leadership team for Global Growth and Operations. In addition to the typical sequence involving the individual Matrix, the group Matrix, and the CDP’s, an initial assessment also was conducted using the “CDP Matrix” to map out the issues of concern.
As consideration was given to how the organization was functioning with respect to the challenge of coordinating their national and global accounts, it became clear that questions needed to be addressed in all four quadrants of the “CDP Matrix,” such as:
Lower Right Quadrant: Whose client was it, the in-county client relationship manager’s or the global team’s (“My” client? “Our” client?) (CDP 1)?;
Upper Right Quadrant: Who was to be responsible “on the ground” and who was to benefit from the revenue generated (CDP 2)?; Who was to make the necessary decisions (CDP 3)?; How was individual autonomy (especially for the in-country client relationship managers) to be respected (CDP 7)?; and How could more effective collaborations be fostered within the organization’s management team(s) and their client relationship managers, as well as with their clients (CDP 8)?;
Lower Left Quadrant: What kinds of emotional reactions and narratives were/would be in play within and between the various levels of the organization, especially the global oversight team and the in-country personnel with whom they would be consulting?;
Upper Left Quadrant: What if any “course correction” procedures were warranted (CDP 5)?; and What procedures were necessary to have in place when conflict (inevitably) arose (CDP 6)?;
Finally, Monitoring: How was monitoring of the involved internal behaviors and relationships and external accounts and relationships to occur (CDP 4)?