Susanne Ehmer: Good supervisor is a curious researcher or an ethnologist

You have worked with organisations and teams for over 30 years. What is the main key for understanding them as a social system? What is a social system?

A social system is build of communication, not of persons. You have a communicative connection of topics and tasks. This results in rules and patterns.

So, in supervision and consulting we focus on these communication, relations, the rules and patterns. We ask, what these patterns, these behaviors are enabling. And we focus on roles and functions, and what are the expectations on the roles.

If a organisation is a social system, then on what are You focusing? What is Your role in that process?

All organizations have the challenge to deal with paradoxies/contradictions. Organization exist because of paradoxies, they are the solution to handle paradoxies. Paradoxies in the sense of contradictions, where each side is conditioned from the other side and can't be done at the same time from the same person. Organization is the possibility to delegate in different departments to do those contradictory things at the same time.

What You could tell from Your long experience of consulting, training and coaching - are the challenges in organisations and teams more or less the same? Or the problems are more complex and organisations are living in a uncertain and volatil environment more than ever? Please, share one good example.

In our days of more complexity, higher speed, simultaneity and unpredictability, organizations (and leaders) have to focus on relations and patterns,  to learn being aware of the situation and create ideas for the next steps. If you can't know what will happen, you only can observe what happens step by step, and if that is going in the direction you want.

An example: the production of glass bottles has to many faults. The leader and the team exchange their observations, thoughts and ideas about this situation and results. They developed some new ideas for activities. One idea is, to change their communication about different steps in the production and the cooperation between different professions. They decide to have short meetings for coordination two times per day. They also defined a few topics what they need to increase and how they will observe the impact of their changes. This enables to learn more about relations between activities, and about which patterns are helpful or not.

What are three most important things to consider, if You're starting a new process with a group, team or organisation?

In my experience the most important things to do, are, observing and observing how and what you observe, and what you don't.

Supervision's outcomes can be really surprising and You never know, what is going to happen and what are the outcomes. This leads to the beginning of the process - how to agree with a client on a supervision outcomes in that situation? What are Your rules of thumb?

Starting a new process with a team is starting a new process of observing and asking. Being curious and amazed, open minded. You can't know what will be the outcome. As a supervisor you're working like a researcher, like an ethnologist.

Your clients need to agree with that, more, they need to go with it - if they want to develop something different. Otherwise they don't need your supervision. Let's discuss it. :-)