Analytic-Network Coaching©: Coaching for Distributed ‘Eco’ Leadership and Organizational Change

Simon Western


Simon Western

Simon Western


Organizations are changing fast, driven by emerging new technologies and globalization that makes our world smaller and more interdependent. Transnational corporations, population increase, new communication technologies, the demise of natural resources and climate change, new social networks and social movements, have all led to social and organizational changes that demand a new form of leadership.

The task and opportunity for those working in the leadership development field is to respond to these challenges.  “Leadership: a Critical Text” (Western 2008) sets out my doctoral research establishing how organizations and leadership have changed over the past century.  From this work and through observing leadership in practice, a new leadership paradigm called Eco-leadership is emerging that seeks to address current organizational challenges in our fast changing world.

Over the past three years I have led academic seminars, coached and consulted to senior leaders in banks, hospitals, hi-tech’ companies and in the voluntary sector, and it has becoming increasingly evident that the Eco-leadership paradigm is establishing itself and is in demand in all of these sectors.  The questions I am constantly confronted with are; We know this is the future direction but how do we get there? How do we become Eco-leaders?  How do we create an Eco-Leadership culture in our organization?

Believing that executive coaching has a big part to play in delivering this new leadership, I have been developing and successfully practicing a new coaching process called Analytic-Network Coaching© that helps leaders think and act to deliver ethical success in our networked society.

This article briefly offers an overview of leadership approaches during the past century culminating in a description of Eco-Leadership.

It will then briefly outline the Analytic-Network Coaching© process designed specifically to deliver the next generation of leaders for our networked society.

A Brief Overview of Leadership in the Past Century[i]

Figure 1: The Discourses of Leadership

Note:  To discover your preferred leadership approach, go to, click on the  “Leadership” link, and take the Wild Questionnaire that will analyze your leadership preferences.

Leadership is too often conceptualized as an individual’s inner-self being enacted on a work or social stage.  Leadership however is much more than a set of individual competencies or behaviours.   This ‘discourse analysis’ of leadership shows that social, political and economical factors change the way we think about leadership as a concept, which then impacts on how leadership is taught and practiced. For example, “Controller” leadership reflects aspects of industrialization, and the leader as “Therapist” reflects social changes that highlight individualism and therapeutic culture.

The four discourses of leadership express how, at different times and contexts, leadership becomes ‘normalised’ in particular ways, so that we make assumptions that leadership is ‘this’ or ‘that’ without questioning it.   These leadership approaches were founded over a particular periods in history, yet did not disappear when a new leadership discourse dominated.  They all remain with us, they are not right or wrong approaches, but each has strengths, limitations and can become problematic if the discourse becomes over zealously used.

Controller Leadership ‘Control leads to Efficiency’

The first leadership discourse that emerged at the beginning of the twentieth century, epitomized by Frederick Taylor’s scientific management, is the leader as Controller. The metaphor in use to describe the organization is the machine, and Controller leadership meant that workers were treated like ‘cogs in a machine’.   Leadership focused on controlling resources (including human resources) and making the machine as efficient as possible.  This discourse is born from scientific rationalism and the industrial revolution.

The leader as Controller operates as a technocrat leader, focusing only on efficiency and production.    This leadership approach provided huge gains enabling mass production, cheap access to goods, and raised standards of living. It also was critiqued from the outset for being inhuman in its mechanistic approach to workers.

The leader as Controller remains with us today. It flourishes in manufacturing industries, and can be seen in the rise of the audit culture, where targets and goals are set and measured. Ryanair and other low-cost airlines are very successful using Controller leadership to make the flights as efficient as possible. In coaching, the focus on goals, and measurable outcomes using coaching tools and technique driven approaches (Cognitive-Behavioural coaching for example) reflect this Controller leadership paradigm.

Therapist Leadership ‘A happy worker is a more productive worker’

The second discourse is the leader as Therapist, signifying the dominant therapeutic culture in western society.  This leadership discourse emerged from the post war period, reflecting the drive for a more democratic society and  the wider social trends of atomization, personal growth, and the individualistic expectations of being fulfilled, successful and happy (Rieff, 1966; Lasch, 1979; Furedi, 2003).

The Therapist leader emerged from the Human Potential movement and encompasses the work of theorists such as, Maslow, Frankl and Rogers. Their focus on personal growth and self-actualization was readily translated to the workplace, and used by leaders to motivate individuals and teams, through job re-design and job enhancement to make work more satisfying and to produce team cohesion.

Employers and theorists believed that happier workers would be more motivated and productive than unhappy, coerced workers. This approach in essence was seen as more progressive and democratic.  It aimed to overcome the alienation created by the machine-like efficiency under the leader as Controller discourse. Work became a site for personal growth and achievement, a place to create meaning and identity. Under the leader as Therapist, people ‘went to work to work on themselves’ (Rose, 1990).  Personnel departments were established, management consultants and a huge training and development industry flourished. The leader as Therapist still flourishes.  Coaches working in this domain are characterized by humanistic orientations such as person-centred, existential and psychodynamic approaches.

Messiah Leadership ‘Visionary leaders and strong cultures’

Messiah leadership discourse provides charismatic leadership and vision in the face of a turbulent and uncertain environment. The Messiah appeals to individuals and society, promising salvation from the chaotic world in which a lack of control is experienced and where traditional community is diminished. As the workplace rises in importance as a site of community, replacing institutions such as the church and family, so the corporate leader replaces the priesthood as a social character of influence (Steve Jobs for example).

Companies needed employees to bring their whole self to work, and therefore the Messiah leaders created strong organizational cultures, where workers would be totally committed and loyal (compliant) yet bring their creativity and energy to the company.

The Messiah character (epitomized in the transformational leadership literature) leads by offering visions to which followers can aspire. Their focus is on shaping the culture; control of employees relies on ‘culture control’ where peers control each other (e.g. using open plan offices and peer surveillance).  Brand engagement is not just for customers, employee engagement is vital in company cultures run in this way. The rise in the earnings of leaders graphically represents the increase of expectations on leaders since the Messiah discourse arrived. In the 1980s, in the USA, CEOs earned 40 times the average wage, in 2000 (as the Messiah character) they earn over 475 times (Business Week, ‘Executive compensation scoreboard’, 17 April 2000).

Visionary leadership is of course important, as are strong cultures, but there is a tipping point whereby strong cultures become a benign form of totalitarian control.  Casey (1995) refers to corporations with  ‘designer employees’ whereby employees are so over-identified and colonized by the workplace culture that they no-longer have the capacity to self-reflect or critique it, and they become what Casey calls ‘capitulated selves’.  These companies aim to create perfect harmony by gaining employees loyalty and alignment; however by eliminating difference (naysayers are quickly socially disciplined by their peers and they conform or don’t last long), these corporate cultures produce  ‘you are either with us or against us’ cultures.  The results are ‘groupthink’ and a lack of questioning that eventually can lead to financial collapse, for example, the Enron scandal whereby nobody was willing to question management malpractice or business models that were clearly less than transparent and highly suspect.

Coaching approaches that aim to help leaders become transformational and visionary, without reflecting on wider systemic and structural questions, support this Messiah leadership approach. They promote individual heroic leader models rather than the distributed and ethical leadership models that are required today, creating dependency and compliance cultures.

Eco-leadership  Connectivity, Inter-dependence and Distributed Leadership

Eco-Leadership is not just about the environment, it’s about leading organizations successfully, recognizing that the world has changed and that the demands of a networked society also demand new leadership. It is to think about leaders and leadership.  Leaders look in two directions; internally at the organization and externally at the social and environmental factors that impact on organizations. Eco-Leaders conceptualize organizations as eco-systems within wider eco-systems, organizations are fluid, always changing and are interdependent, a change in one part of the organization effects change in another part, and the connectivity between stakeholders and downstream, outsourced work, competitors and customers also are part of the organizational eco-system and have to be accounted for.  This is very different from conceptualizing an organization as a machine metaphor, as a closed system that makes profits and can be divided into departments and silos.

Eco-leadership takes a more holistic and networked perspective of organizations in line with the networked society in which we live.  Eco-leadership is about connectivity, interdependence and sustainability underpinned by an ethical, socially responsible stance. Eco-Leadership is to see the organization as an inter-connected living network, filled with humans, nature, buildings and technologies that require constant change and adaption.

Eco-leaders take a networked approach within their organizations, distributing leadership, creating feedback systems, connecting people and technology.  They also take a networked approach beyond their organizations, following trends and patterns to strategically adapt the organization, developing new business models, new products and adapting the organization to ensure it is ethically and socially well placed to be successful in the future.

The task of Eco-leaders is to think spatially, to see patterns and connections, and to provide a network of leaders distributed throughout the organization, changing the paradigm from hierarchical control to dispersed leadership which can react more quickly and notice the changes occurring at grassroots levels in the business. Leadership at the edges of the organization is as important as leadership at the top.

Ethics and Eco-Leadership

Eco-leadership means re-negotiating what success means for an organization or company. Delivering growth and short-term shareholder value is no longer acceptable as the sole measurement of success if we are to act ethically and responsibly.

Paul Polman of Unilever demonstrates Eco-Leadership

People always think that to do the right thing costs you more. That is not true at all.  It can actually ignite innovation and lower your costs. The alternative of not having sustainable sourcing, of having to deal with the effects of climate change, is a much higher cost on business…It is time to change, that is why I am here. I want to live in a better world…

The business case for growing Unilever sustainably is compelling. Consumers are asking for it, retailers demand it, it fuels product innovation, it grows the company’s markets around the world and, in many cases, it saves money.

 –Paul Polman CEO Unilever 2011 (see Davos 2011 in ‘Views and Comments’
from a series of debates hosted by Unilever on 15 November 2010)

Eco-leadership means aligning organizational success with social justice and environmental concern. There is a clear ethical case for Eco-Leadership but also a business case:

  • Protecting the brand against social activism and negative consumer voices
  • Efficiency savings by reducing energy bills and waste
  • Talent attracted and retained.  Ethical practice and socially responsible companies are more attractive to bright minds
  • Employee engagement and brand loyalty: Employees and customers respond to companies that align good business with doing good
  • Anticipating regulation:  As natural resources decline and climate change increases, international and national regulation will increase. Eco-leaders lead rather than follow these moves, anticipating change
  • Emergent capability:  Engaging all employees in tackling the big issues creates unexpected opportunities.  Emergence means to see the patterns and opportunities that emerge from the unexpected.

In fact, it is not possible to continue on the path of unlimited growth and consumption as we are reaching environmental limits: to survive we must change. Many companies look at their values, but not at the meaning of value itself.   Most success is measured in terms of the value of increased production and in terms of financial value, and share price.  However, in the new paradigm we need to rethink how we measure value; how do we account for ‘externalities, the costs to our natural environment, and the human costs of climate change.  What of the human and social costs of mass unemployment in order to re-engineer companies to make them more competitive, or the costs to the environment of cheap dumping of waste?  How do we value the social and environmental benefits and costs of our work?

Eco-Leadership success will be to harness technological advancement, knowledge, and our global trading platforms, to ‘provide’ for a better quality of life, and a sustainable future.

This new Eco-leadership discourse has three key qualities:

  1. Connectivity (holism): It is founded on connectivity; how we relate and interrelate with the ecologies in which we work and live.
  2. Eco-ethics: It is concerned with acting ethically in the human realm and with respect and responsibility for the natural environment.
  3. Leadership spirit: It acknowledges the human spirit, the non-rational aspects of mind, creativity, imagination and human relationships.

Figure 2: Eco-Leadership

The Eco-Leadership approach doesn’t overshadow the other approaches but encompasses them.   It offers a way of incorporating them in the right places and contexts.  We need control of finances and resources, for example.  We also need visions and strong organizational cultures without being overwhelmed charismatic leaders who create dependency and conformist cultures, and we need therapist leadership to ensure motivated individuals and good team relationships.  The Eco-Leadership approach takes a strategic overview, looking at how the leadership approaches interact to produce successful and ethical organizations.

Table 1: Maps the Four Discourses (Taken from Western 2008)

The coaching Response to New Organizational and New Leadership Paradigms.

Few coaches embrace this Eco-Leadership approach. Some coaches working with systemic and integral ideas are finding ways to address the individual, the social and the environmental and how these are inter-connected, yet most coaching works within two basic frames:

1) With leadership ideas that fit within the first three discourses: Therefore the coach tries to support the coachee to improve productivity (Controller), to motivate the coachee (Therapist), or support the leader to be transformational, focusing on their individual competencies and behaviours (Messiah).

2) Coaches take an individualist goal focused view of the world, finding it difficult to transcend approaches that are psychologically informed (e.g. NLP, CBT).  These approaches are reductionist rather than generative; in spite of good intentions, coaching reproduces individualism and behaviourism, rather than holism and adaptive and connected responses to organizational change.

I have been developing the Analytic-Network Coaching Process©, utilizing the research from Coaching and Mentoring: a Critical Text (Western 2012) that proposes a new meta-theory of coaching.  The aim is to help coaches develop eco-leadership, working at depth with the individual focusing on their authentic selves, then to coach them to understand and intervene in organizations as if they were networks and eco-systems, rather than human hierarchies.

Analytic-Network Coaching©  (A-N Coaching)

Coaching for Eco-Leadership and Organizational Change

Analytic-Network Coaching© offers a coaching process that fits with the 21st century, the network society; offering depth, connectivity and breadth; bringing values and ethics together with the capacity to map networks and intervene strategically at nodal points to influence change.

This coaching approach has emerged from a lifetime of ‘privileged conversations’ with people from very diverse backgrounds and in very different organizational settings. As a nurse, psychotherapist, family therapist, clinical manager, academic, leadership consultant, and executive coach, I have worked in different roles with the aim of helping people locate and discover and then change themselves.   In recent years my coaching and consultancy work has included changing organizations as well as people.  I coach CEOs and senior leaders in corporations and large public sector bodies, on their personal leadership styles, their values and work with them on organizational strategy.  Previously I worked with the marginalized, the mentally ill, the sick and dying.  Working in asylums, hospitals, schools, universities, banks, global retail and engineering firms, small hi-tech companies, fertility clinics and hospices, has given me unusual access and insights into organizational dynamics as well as people dynamics. It is this depth and breadth of experience, as well as theoretical insights,  that informs the Analytic-Network Coaching© process.

What is common to all of these experiences is the realization that personal change and transformation are connected to social factors.  Change doesn’t take place in a vacuum, it involves:

• Deep personal work.
• Having insights into the dynamics of the ‘web of life’, how structural, political, economic, technological, environmental and social networks shape our
• Looking beneath the surface at personal unconscious dynamics, relational dynamics and social dynamics i.e. how discourses, power, knowledge and
culture shape our lives

Individual change comes from deep within ourselves; it is also relational and dependent on social influences. Let me give a brief example from my work as a family therapist:

When working with one family, it became clear that an individual who was labeled the ‘problem’ was actually a symptom of a wider family dysfunction.  The problem served a purpose for the rest of the family e.g. a child who refused school was treated individually with CBT for anxiety and labeled ‘school phobic’ but didn’t make progress and the family were referred for family therapy.  Removing the ‘problem’ label off the child, I soon realized that the child’s anxiety was related to the mother who was being bullied by her husband, and that the child was staying at home to protect the mother. The child’s school refusal was not pathological but was reframed as being caring, and helpful to the family.

The task then was three-fold;

(1)  Individual:  to work with the child to build his self-confidence and free him from taking care of his parents.
(2)  Relational: to work with the family to resolve this parental/family dynamic.
(3)  Network: to engage with and work with the school and other social agencies to align their approach and support the positive changes being made.

In coaching the same principles apply:

An individual coachee has their own inner-theatre and life-scripts with which we work deeply, yet they are always contingent on the social world in which they engage.

A-N Coaching reflects on the coachee’s values, then how the coachee enacts their inner-world in relation to others. We then focus on their network, in order to see how this constrains the individual, and also what creative and resources are available to support the changes they wish to make.

Executive coaching differentiates itself from therapy by working with the individual and the organization, yet such coaching is often limited by the use of psychological methods and techniques that focus on behaviour change without connecting the individual to the organizational and the social. Many coaches simply do not have the training or the methods to undertake systemic work.  The network analysis approach adopted by A-N coaching finds ways in which the coachee can first understand and then strategically influence their network.  This entails making connections and interventions, communicating and finding key nodal points of change, so that small interventions can lead to much greater changes.

Personal change and organizational change have to be linked, and this brings two other areas into play that are not present in therapeutic relationships.

(1)  Leadership:  ‘leading others to become leaders’ Coaching for eco-leadership is to support coachees to think more connectively, to distribute leadership, and to bring power, systems and ethics into the coaching room.
(2)  Strategy: to encourage coachees to see patterns and work creatively, encouraging emergent strategic thinking throughout the organisation.  Coachees are encouraged to reflect on the coaching process they have worked through and make strategic decisions about themselves and in their workplace, based on the coaching analysis.

Why Analytic-Network?


The word analytic signifies two approaches within this coaching process

1) A Systematic Coaching Process

Firstly “analytic” signifies a systematic approach that takes the coach and coachee through five frames to analyze the coachee’s experience, their relation to others, their leadership and to their networks, so they can make strategic changes and interventions that then produces more dynamic and sustainable change.

2) A Psycho-Social Coaching Approach

Secondly, “analytic” signifies an applied psychoanalytic approach to coaching.  Psychoanalysis is the longest established form of psychotherapy, and the aspects brought into A-N Coaching are very different from the dominant coaching brands based on behavioral or goal approaches to change.

Drawing on the psychoanalytic approach, we pay attention to the unconscious, the patterns that inhibit us and the dormant creativity that lies within us.  More than this, psychoanalysis provides a method to work between the coach and the coachee, where the coachee can learn to interpret their own processes and patterns in relation to the coach.  The unconscious is not just a dynamic deep within our minds, it is also a dynamic between pairs, groups, organizations and societies.    A-N Coaching is a psycho-social approach to coaching, not focused simply on the internal life of the individual.  A-N Coaches are trained to become more associatively intelligent, through exercises such as the ‘Free Association Matrix’ where coach trainees, free associate with each other, and learn how to listen to the unspoken, the emotional, the unconscious; and most importantly to associate with others.  To be associatively intelligent is to associate to others’ thoughts and experience.  It is not an individualistic process but a collective and social experience.  We are associating to each other, the natural and social world all of the time, however we don’t usually have the capability to pay attention and make sense of this vital data. In a journal article for ‘Coaching at Work’ (Western, 2006) I identify that the psychoanalytic method can apply to coaching in the following ways:

The Coach as Container: offering structural and emotional containment to the coachee (this enables ‘emotions to become thinking’ and for the coachee to ‘think-in-the-face-of-anxiety’ rather than just be reactive.
Not Knowing
: the coach fosters an attitude of open curiosity – the ability to tolerate the unknown, and in doing so creates a space for something new to be thought.
Free Association
: encouraging new ideas and thoughts to emerge from the unconscious.
arises from the coaching pair (Bion 1961) working together and giving birth to new ideas – this can be frustrated by the interference of too much technique, where the coach takes expert lead.

This approach gets beyond the coach fixing the coachee with expert tools, and offers the coachee a way of interpreting themselves, others and the social.  A brief example is some individual and team coaching I am doing in a transnational bank with their global OD team. In the bank the unconscious dynamics affect the organizational culture and ‘how they do things’. It relates to a risk averse, controlling culture emanating from the stuff of their work — ‘money’.   Initially safe systems are put in place regarding how money is counted, and treble checked, and other checks are instituted to counter the risks associated with individual mistakes or unethical behaviour that can lose a bank huge sums of money and also its brand identity as a place of safety. This unconscious culture however spreads throughout the bank creating dependency and huge bureaucracy. Paradoxically rather than reduce risk this creates a greater risk because, in this culture, employees lose their individualism, their capacity to think, to critique and ask questions.  Risk becomes outsourced to the bureaucratic system, which limits personal ethics (it wasn’t my responsibility, it was the system) and diminishes reflective critique. Rogue traders then find it easy to exploit gaps, and huge systemic failures such as the collapse of Enron and the financial collapse are more likely to occur as nobody is asking the difficult questions.

Through the coaching process coachees learn how to develop ‘associative intelligence’ to make sense of their own and others emotions, patterns and unconscious dynamics, which they can then apply in all aspects of their lives. It is sustainable and generative coaching.


The word “network” is used to signify the Network Society (Castells 200) in which we live and work.  The internet provides us with our mirror; vast interconnected networks of activity; consisting of humans and technology connected in virtual and real time.   Drawing on  Actor-Network Theory (Latour 2005, Law  1993) we utilize the metaphor of the network, to think beyond silos and beyond organizations and departments with clearly demarked roles, functions and boundaries. New Social Movement theory (Melucci 1989) offers new ways to understand how change takes place in organizations through social networks, beyond the ideas of management theory of change. The concept of the Network Society undoes much of leadership and management theory of the past century. Linear hierarchies, fixed structures and roles are not ‘fit for purpose’ in this new environment.

Systems theory provides some insights into this domain but open and closed systems theory are limited by the lack of a contemporary networked understanding of how power and knowledge operate within the social field, for example;  Coopey (1995) critiques Peter Senge and other systems approaches that ‘idealise community and over-play the importance of dialogue without adequately addressing power’.

The recent financial crisis and the Arab Spring are examples of how networks are increasingly inter-dependent and ‘un-manageable’.  The task is not to manage but to understand and influence.  Finding nodal points in the networks that enable us to influence change is the challenge and to help their clients, coaches need to be familiar with the latest change theories in social and organizational thinking.

Traditional coaching easily turns a blind eye to power, structures, technology and complex networks in order to offer simple individualist solutions and reductionist goal approaches. For individual leaders to realize their full potential to impact on teams and organizational change, the networks they are connected to must be analyzed and engaged with in more strategic ways.

The Analytic-Network Coaching© Process

This coaching approach draws on the research and coaching meta-theory developed in “Coaching and Mentoring; a Critical Text” (Western 2012).

The process has been designed not as a linear, functional approach, but as five frames that are inter-dependent and connected.   The frames offer a framework for the coach to move between deep individual work, relationships and team work, and influencing change in an organization. The process is transformational for the individual and offers HR and managers, a coaching process that provides results for the organization, beyond improved individual performance

Figure 3: Five Frames Diagram

The A-N Coaching process enables the coach to work systematically and adaptively, bringing each coach’s individual experience, personality and skill set to the coaching work.  It is not a prescriptive coaching formula or a set of tools or techniques, but a process:

The Coaching Process takes the coachee through five frames:

(1) Depth Analysis: Coaching the inner-self.   Coachees are encouraged to identify their values and to discover and work from their ‘true, authentic self’ in order to review conscious and unconscious patterns in a way that releases dynamic creativity.  In this ‘soul-work’ the coachee also works on their values, their desire and their purpose.  Depth analysis allows the coachee to work from a solid base, from the place Jean-Paul Sartre calls ‘Good Faith’.

(2) Relational Analysis: Coaching the relational-self, to improve relationships through understanding the dynamics that exist between the coachee and others. Its focus is on small teams/groups, families and friends, and these days on distant and virtual relationships.  We analyze actual relational dynamics and the underpinning emotions and unconscious dynamics that entrap the coachee in certain ways of relating and experiencing relationships.  The coach utilizes their own relationship with the coachee (transference and counter-transference) as live data to inform the analysis.

(3) Leadership Analysis: Coaching the leadership-self.   To develop the coachee’s leadership role, help the coachees develop their ‘inner-leader’ and exercise leadership and followership, how they take up and react to, authority and power and influencing others.  The leadership analysis is done in alignment to their personality and context, rather than follow a universal leadership competency model.  This analysis utilizes the Wild Questionnaire (indicator of leadership see to see what the coachee’s preferences are in terms of the leadership discourses, i.e. Controller, Therapist, Messiah or Eco-Leadership.  The analysis then goes beyond individual leadership to address how leadership can be distributed, how to enable leadership to flourish within an organization, and what leadership contexts require what kind of leaders.

(4)  Network Analysis: Coaching the networked-self.   Network analysis begins by an exercise called ‘Locating the self’ as so many coachees we work with feel ‘dislocated’. Using a network mapping exercise the coachee situates themselves on the map and builds their network around themselves.  The coach analyses this with the coachee, seeing where power and resources lie, where strong and weak connections are, and the coach offers interpretations to the coachee, associating to the holistic picture (map) they face.  The analysis also accounts for what the coachee left off of the map, as well as what’s on it.  Externalizing the network map carried in the coachee’s mind has the immediate impact of enlightening and offering a spatial model for the coachee to begin a process of identifying connections they need to make, and nodal points they need influence.  Coachees inevitably feel empowered through network analysis, because it reveals possible changes which previously felt very stuck.

(5)  Strategic Analysis: The final frame reviews the previous four frames and enables the coachee to ‘evaluate, consolidate and innovate’.  Strategic Analysis focuses on what emergent strategies are required for:

  • Emergent Strategy for the coachee
  • Emergent Strategy in their network and workplace

This means analyzing and evaluating what’s working, and then identifying strategies to consolidate what’s working i.e. doing more of the same, developing potential and capacity where it is clearly working already, building on success.  The coachee identifies where to make personal strategic changes and to take strategic decisions in the workplace. We go to creativity and innovation; training coaches to ‘look awry’ and see things from a different place. This can lead to new business models, career leaps, and to realize which frames need more coaching to develop yet unknown futures.

The Analytic-Network Coaching© process provides the conceptual framework which coaches and coachees internalize, so that the process becomes a part of how they think and work.   There are two ways to approach A-N Coaching:

  • Consecutive Frames
  • Adaptive Frames

When coaches are more experienced with the A-N coaching process,  they can move from frame to another more fluidly across ongoing coaching sessions taking the Adaptive Frames approach.

Consecutive Frames

Coaches may work through these frames consecutively, and this is often a good process to start coaching sessions. The minimal number of sessions we advise is 6 sessions; working through the five frames, with an extra session to return to important themes/frames. 12 sessions allows the work to become deeper and have more impact, going through each frame in two sessions, with two at the end to return to important areas.

Coaching through the five frames consecutively allows coachees to pursue a holistic process that coherently moves from the inner-self, to the relational self, before moving into their work role and specifically focusing on leadership.  What the coachee discovers in the Depth and Relational Analysis then informs how the coachee takes up their leadership/followership roles. Without this depth and relational work, trying to address goals and behaviours immediately can so often mean that the coaching completely misses the hidden issues and may end up working productively and efficiently, but completely on the wrong area.  As Ryokan the Zen Poet wrote:

If you point your cart North when you want to go South, how will you ever arrive[ii]?

 The shift in focus to the coachee’s network bridges the gap that most coaching approaches don’t address easily; how to work with an individual in a living, complex, network. Taking the coachee into the Strategic realm then gives them oversight of where they need to be heading, and what patterns are showing in their own lives, their relationships and in the organizational network, which then helps them identify what emergent strategies they need to take.

Adaptive Frames

Once a coach internalizes the five frame process, they are then more free to work across the boundaries and adapt the coaching to the coachee’s context and needs.  Whatever frame the coachee is working in, the coach holds in mind the holistic view and is aware of the other frames.  They may challenge themselves by realizing, for example, that they are in a collusive coaching relationship that stays comfortably working on Depth Analysis without actually making any changes in the coachee’s relationships or the network.    Or they may find that Depth Analysis has been avoided, as a coachee is resistant from doing the deep work they contracted for, and need to address if they are to make the changes they desire.

In either approach, what is important is that the Analytic-Network Coaching Process is holistic in the sense that the frames inform each other, and the sum of the five frames is greater than the individual parts.

Below is a short case study:

A Brief Case Study using Analytic-Network Coaching©

Lynne Sedgmore CBE, Chief Executive of a National Education leadership body, CEL  (the Centre for Excellence in Leadership) coached by Dr Simon Western using Analytic-Network Coaching©

Taking up a new national leadership role having previously been a college principal proved a huge transition for Lynne and she asked me to coach her over a two year period.

Coaching Lynne was a formative example of Analytic-Network Coaching©, where I worked in all five frames over a long period, moving from Depth Analysis to Relational Analysis, to reflect on Lynne’s inner world and how it played out in the theatre of work. Her Leadership Analysis offered a breakthrough as she had to completely re-imagine her leadership approach, then shaped her personal style to accommodate this new national role. Taking a Network Analysis of the national stakeholders she was working with and looking at the structures and the power, allowed her to  creatively restructure the organization, and increase her influencing capacity.

Lynne moved from feeling stuck and impotent to influencing huge change in the structure and to delivering very successful output. Finally my coaching role was always to ensure Lynne  undertook a Strategic Analysis by supporting her to make strategic interventions, for herself and the organizational network.  Offering strategic coaching through bringing in ideas from wider social contexts, ensures that we were utilizing the latest theory and organizational know-how.

Below are some edited comments from Lynne, taken from a journal article we co-authored to describe this coaching intervention[iii].

The transition I was going through in this new national leadership role was more difficult than any I had experienced before. I was feeling confused, disempowered and incompetent. …

Three powerful paradoxical themes emerged which we explored in depth:

 i) being both skinless (as in vulnerable) and ruthless (as in focused and determined, not nasty)
ii) having control yet influencing through empowerment,
iii) experiencing and holding both unity and fragmentation, not one or the other.

Over several coaching sessions I was able to perceive and hold these paradoxes, and others, much more skillfully and with ease. The transition became less painful as I understood both the inner and external complexities and demands required of me in my new leadership role.

Moving through these deep, early childhood defences enabled me to be more fully available, vulnerable and authentic to my staff, particularly the ones who most pressed my buttons. Staff commented that I was becoming calmer, I felt centred and present in my leadership role to a whole new level and dimension.  Simon was always there to support me but also to challenge, question and encourage my reflections.

The coaching space was both sacred and professional, I always felt held and challenged and encouraged. The whole experience was deeply liberating. Three months into the coaching sessions a huge shift began to take place in the organisation.

This brief example shows the movement from coaching using Depth Analysis to focus on her deep inner-work, and then coaching using Relational Analysis, to reflect on her relations with her leadership team and with other stakeholders.

By coaching in the Leadership Analysis frame we uncovered where her challenges lay and how to shift from being a dynamo as the centre of the organization, to an influencer and Eco-leader, connecting others in the network.   The Depth Analysis coaching informed many of the issues we worked on in the Relational and Leadership Analysis.

Coaching in the Network Analysis frame identified a network that seemed very stuck, but where Lynne managed to identify nodal points, make changes in the structure that impacted the network and she influenced huge changes.

Finally Strategic Analysis led to a twelve month process of ‘Democratising Strategy’ (Western 2008b), whereby over a period of a year, we engaged the whole organization in a bottom up Eco-Leadership process of developing strategy that proved empowering and led to administration staff taking complete responsibility for organizing a regular annual strategy event, which then became a focal point for the year and was full of creativity, and with excellent results for the organization.

Over the two years the organizational results matched Lynne’s personal development as she notes:

In summary CEL overachieved targets by 247% in 2005, and despite an increase in targets of 300% these were overachieved by 30% in 2006. Customer satisfaction rose from 87% to 91% over the same period and over £2.5 million “surplus” was generated over both years. Staff morale and commitment was extremely high with reward schemes and extensive staff coaching and personal development opportunities.

Training to Become an Analytic-Network Coach©

The team at Analytic-Network Coaching Ltd are currently developing a training programme that will license coaches to practice using the Analytic-Network Coaching© Process.  Our philosophy is to invite experienced coaches or counselors/therapists who wish to become coaches.  We believe Analytic-Network Coaching© is accessible to all experienced coaches who are able to let go of more traditional tools and technique laden coaching approaches.

Our training moves coaches through the A-N process, guiding them, offering coaching interventions and an overview of the A-N Coaching method.   However we are not prescriptive in how a coach works in each frame as we believe coaches must bring their authentic selves, personal styles and experience to the work.

Our approach is to demystify psychoanalytic and network/systems approaches to coaches by offering a pragmatic training. The A-N Coaching process directs the coach’s attention to the five frames; and the end result is that coaches internalize these frames, making the A-N Coaching process an integral part of their work.

Analytic-Network Coaching©  Emancipatory Ethics

The approach is underpinned by a set of ethical values:  we believe our coaching approach will help individuals and organizations achieve success, because of these ethics, not in spite of them.

1) Individual Values and Development: To help each individual discover their ‘charism’, their unique gift to the world.
Humanizing Organizations: Striving for more humane organizations, accounting for human experience as well as for financial gain.
3) Environmental Sustainability: To act responsibly towards our natural environment locally and globally.
4) Speaking Truth to Power:  To counter the psycho-social patterns (that are often hidden) that reproduce power elites and perpetuates social disadvantage
to any individual or group.
5) Emancipation:  ethics and freedom are symbiotic.   Our coaching process aims to help individuals discover their creativity and autonomy, and to identify
social patterns that promote conformity and totalizing social structures, that entrap us.
6) Good Faith and the Good Society: To commit ourselves to working from a place of ‘Good Faith’ to help create the ‘Good Society’.

For some coaches these ethics may be underpinned by a personal faith, for others by a deeply held humanism; it matters not what underpins it but how we enact them.

For further information contact Dr Simon Western or visit

We are currently inviting potential coaches to contact us, and also for potential coach trainers and partners who may wish to get involved in our project.


Business Week, ‘Executive compensation scoreboard’, 17 April 2000).

Casey, C. (1995). Work Self and Society after Industrialization. London: Routledge.

Castells, M. (2000). The Rise of the Network Society, The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture Vol. I. Cambridge, MA; Oxford, UK: Blackwell.

Coopey, J. (1995). ‘The learning organization: power, politics and ideology’, ManagementLearning, 26(2): 193–213.

Furedi, F. (2003). Therapy Culture. London: Routledge

Lasch, C. (1979). The Culture of Narcissism: American Life in the Age of Diminishing Expectations. New York: Warner Books.

Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the social. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Law, J. (1993). Organizing Modernity: Social ordering and social theory. Oxford: Blackwell

Melucci, A. (1989). Nomads of the Present: Social Movements and Individual Needs in Contemporary Society. London: Hutchinson.

Rieff, P.  (1966). The Triumph of the Therapeutic: Uses of Faith after Freud. London: Chatto and Windus.

Western S. (2008). Leadership: a Critical Text.  Sage publications

(Western S. (2008b). Democratising Strategy: Towards Distributed Leadership,  in Organizations Connected A handbook of systemic consultation. Eds Cambell D. and Huffington C. pgs 173-197 chap 8. London, Karnac Books,

Western S. ( 2012).  Coaching and Mentoring: a Critical Text.  Los Angeles: Sage Publications.

Western S. and Sedgmore L (2008)/ A Privileged Conversation: Journal of Management Spirituality and Religion vol 5 issue  3, pp 321-46.


[i] Taken from Western S. Leadership: a Critical Text (Sage 2008)

[ii] From Ryokan’s “Dew Drops on a Lotus Leaf”

[iii] Western S. and Sedgmore L (2008) A Privileged Conversation: Journal of Management Spirituality and Religion vol 5 issue  3, pp 321-46.

About the Author

Simon Western, PhD, is the founder and Director of Analytic-Network Coaching Ltd.  He coaches and consults to c-suite leaders in global business and in the public and not-for-profit sectors. Recent clients have been London Business School and IMD Business School, Switzerland, Global OD teams in the international banking sector, and the Hospice and Education sector.

 Previously he was Director of Coaching at Lancaster University Management School, UK, and a Family Therapist. Simon is an active academic, and will next year publish Coaching and Mentoring: A Critical Text by Sage Publications.  Simon is a Quaker, and is inspired by the early Quaker’s imperative to ‘live adventurously and let your life speak’.

He holds the following positions:

Honorary Teaching Fellow Lancaster University Management School
Honorary Associate Fellow Department of Psychosocial Studies, Birkbeck University
Senior Fellow Birmingham University
Associate Tutor Woodbrooke Quaker Study Centre
Member ISPSO and OPUS