Using the Cognitive Conceptualization Diagram in Organizational Transformations. Part 2

Using the Cognitive Conceptualization Diagram in Organizational Transformations. Part 2

The second part of our article on how to manage organizational transformations through the use of the Cognitive Conceptualization Diagram (CCD).
The second part of our article on how to manage organizational transformations through the use of the Cognitive Conceptualization Diagram (CCD).


As you can see CCD has two parts. Bottom one is about specific situations, automatic thoughts and reactions — we might consider this an outer layer, and the top is about deeper layers — previous experiences, core beliefs and intermediate beliefs. We could use this diagram to hypothesize about one person’s cognitive model, so that we could plan experiments to test our hypothesis.

First, you observe the situation-reaction patterns and fill in the bottom part. It is a good idea to look for different situations, e.g. interactions with team members in formal meetings, interactions with other colleagues during informal conversations, etc. It is important to make sure that those behavioral patterns are common for that person. By doing this you fill in boxes 1, 2 and 3. You hypothesize on automatic thoughts that can cause such a reaction to a given situation, filling box 4.

After gathering at least three situations, you can create a hypothesis about the meaning of automatic thoughts (box 5). Based on that you may hypothesize what core beliefs (6) could lead to assumptions (7) and coping/compensatory strategies (8) that create such automatic thoughts. During a therapy process, a therapist would probably also look at childhood experiences that could create such assumptions, but as organizational change agents we probably will not dig so deep.

It is important to mention that in order to fill this diagram a coach has to spend some time with that person observing his behavior and looking for some patterns.

Having a (partially) filled CCD, a therapist might try to validate the hypotheses it is based upon. He can do it by asking questions, and by observing some behavioral and thought patterns. Here comes the tricky part. In therapy, if he will try to discuss ideas on core beliefs and intermediate beliefs too fast, when a client is not ready, he might resist and this could potentially destroy therapeutic relationships.

As people do not expect any therapy from an Agile coach, trying to discuss core beliefs will probably destroy coaching relationships. However, an Agile coach doesn’t need to go that deep. He can focus on automatic thoughts and in many cases changing (or even making a person aware of) automatic thoughts is enough to start some changes. We could work deeper (if we have both expertize and the client is willing to do so) — such interventions are outside of this post.

In case of Developer С this diagram might look like this.


Black text represents overt things and blue — hypotheses.
Now a coach can make predictions and run some behavioral experiments based on this model to assess if these hypotheses are true or false (and update this model based on the results).

I will dig deeper into behavioral experiments in one of my next posts. Here I would like to discuss what should we start with. First, we need to master an unconditional positive approach and unconditional acceptance. Whatever a person thinks — it’s OK. We can disagree with that, but we accept it as it people without judgement. Why is this important? As I already stated in my previous post, if a person will see a signs of disapproval, that mere fact might (and almost surely will) switch him to a defensive mode. This will worsen our relationship, probably cause an aggression and make a person blind to whatever we want to offer.

Second, after we accepted the person as he or she is, we can bring awareness to whatever they are. Such non-judgmental mirroring will raise a person’s awareness of his thoughts, and it’s a necessary step towards changing them.

As soon as a person becomes aware of his or her thoughts, we can move to the next step — help him to rationally analyze those thoughts, their probable outcomes (both positive and negative), and helping design some behavioral experiments that could test the assumptions about the outcomes. This could be done using socrative questioning, or other techniques. I will dig deeper into that in one of my next posts.

At the end of this post, I would like to focus once again on the importance of self-awareness and self-acceptance as a coach. Straighten yourself out before trying to change others. And before any king of intervention remember the Hippocrates imperative: primum non nocere.

Firstly, do no harm.

Interested in working on your Agile skills? Check out our trainings on the subject.

Sergey Makarkin
Chief Program Manager
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