The Process Enneagram as a Conversation and Planning Process

By Steve Zuieback · Posted Monday, February 25, 2013

The Enneagram has been around for many, many centuries. The Process Enneagram, developed by Richard Knowles, is a variation of the original enneagram and is a powerful framework for understanding the powerful sequence of steps  organizations can take to be successful.

Don't let all the arrows throw you off or confuse you. It is actually very logical.

You generally start with building shared understanding around the identified issue. The team then describes what they want to accomplish in the future. From there the team looks at both the current patterns or habits that might block the team from being successful, as well as the ways in which people will need to consistently act to achieve the desired outcomes. Once these steps are taken, it is a piece of cake to identify the most powerful approaches/strategies/solutions and the detailed implementation steps. The Process Enneagram can be used as a:

  • Systems framework
  • Diagnosis framework
  • Facilitation process selection tool
  • Conversation process 

A very common question when using the Process Enneagram as a conversation process has to do with group sizes larger than 14-16 people. The video provides a graphic description of some of the best strategies for working with larger groups.  

Fishbowl Process

One approach is to utilize a Fishbowl structure in which 8-12 people from the whole group sit in a circle surrounded by the whole team. The inside "fishbowl" has the conversation and an "empty chair" is available for members of the outside group to add to the "fishbowl" discussion. In this way everyone is involved in the conversation.

Small Groups to Fishbowl

A second variation is to have a number of small conversation groups, each with a facilitator, go through the entire enneagram conversation. This is followed by 1-2 members from each small conversation group joining in a "fishbowl" as described above. This fishbowl integrates the work across the small groups and takes the conversation to a much deeper level. This is also called a "second pass enneagram conversation." You can learn more about this "second pass conversation" in the Leadership Practice for Challenging Times. 

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