TCI − Dynamic Balance in the Work System 

The model: theme-centered interaction (TCI), Ruth Cohn (1950) emphasizes the significance of dynamic balance within a work process and describes how the integration of each (1) individual and (2) team dynamics concerning (3) the shared theme amid (4) external factors is crucial for the collaborative work process.

This tool delves into the four expertises of  theme-centered processing, outlining specific roles to develop and maintain dynamic balance in the work system.

The Relationship Building in the Work Process tool addresses the aspect of dynamic balance but focuses on the connections between the factors I, WE, and THEME. This highlights the leader’s responsibility to consciously shape individual relationships in the work process.

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TCI − a model for successful collaboration in teams

Cohn illustrates in her model a triangle with the vertices Person (I), Team (WE), and Theme (IT), connecting these three factors involved in a work process.

This reveals the relationships between the vertices: Each individual needs access to the theme and a specific relationship with the team. In turn, the team requires alignment towards a common goal.

In the three-dimensional space where the triangle hovers like a scale in the midst of the globe, dynamic equilibrium becomes visible, and potential imbalance is discernible. Actions resulting for a leader, a moderator, or a coach from this position contribute to collective workability and promote balance between the individual (I), the team (WE), and the themes and goals (IT).

Thus, theme-centered interactionis a suitable model for leaders, moderators, coaches, and trainers. Considering all factors in the model of dynamic balance is essential for a successful collaborative work process and is based on a constructivist-humanistic view of people. For an in-depth exploration of the model, Ruth Cohn extensively describes the essential elements of the TCI concept on the Ruth Cohn Institute website.

The 4 expertises of group dynamic process control

Depending on which vertex of the triangle the focus is placed on in an interaction process, other factors may be neglected, leading to an imbalance and affecting the work process. What can a leader, coach, moderator, or trainer do to restore dynamic balance?

They can…

  • Recognize balance and imbalance through observation and active questioning, and
  • Act on the balance in the work process with the 4 expertises of group dynamic process control.

Expert: Process

In the position of „Process Expert,“ the person who moderates, leads, coaches, or trains is in the central position between the factors theme, person, and group. The moderating person is thus in a balanced relationship with all three factors in the middle of the „globe,“ representing external influences. It is the position where the leader can maintain the maximum distance in the system and assumes a suitable observer position, allowing them to maintain balance between all involved factors and processes in the group’s thematic field. From this position, work processes can be controlled without interfering in content or influencing individuals. In this position, the leader lets the participants work and gives space for their expertise and experience.

Expert: Content

In the position of „Content Expert,“ the person who leads, moderates, coaches, or trains is close to the theme and distant from the participants. Here, the leader takes on the role of the thematic expert, providing their professional expertise and know-how. In this role, they give participants input on a specific theme and take responsibility for the results emerging in that area at that time. Through this role, participants take a receptive stance and are less involved in thematic elaboration.

Expert: Group

In the position of „Group Expert,“ the person who leads, moderates, coaches, or trains is close to the group of participants and distant from the individual and the theme. The leader can assume this position when disruptions occur in the group of participants hindering further work or when other themes become more critical. Here, the leader is in the role of constructive leadership, supporting the group in its development. Especially at the beginning or end of an event, this role gains significant importance in the group dynamic context, as the group requires increased orientation to collectively start or conclude the work process.

Expert: Person

In the position of „Person Expert“ the person who leads, moderates, coaches, or trains is close to the individual and distant from the group of participants and the theme.

The leader can take on this position when one of the participants in the work process is stuck and requires individual support to rejoin the process.

In this role, the leader acts as an empathetic supporter, exclusively focusing on one person in the group’s thematic field.

The group of participants is in the position of continuing the work and does not require content support from the leader.

As a leader in the role of a manager, moderator, coach, or trainer, you can use this model as your own compass effectively:

  • Where am I currently in the collaborative work process?
  • Which of the four factors is currently lacking – where do I need to go?
  • Where in this system have I not been for a long time – what is slipping out of my view?

These and other questions help determine your own position in the work process, reflect on previous processes, and develop next steps.

The model is equally suitable for agile or traditional project management, change management, or conflict management. It vividly illustrates the interdependence of individual factors and clearly highlights imbalance as a cause for slow or stalled work or project processes.

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