consulting to small business usine SEAM method

Principle of Surrender & Art of Listening

How to Create Growth Spiral out of Death Spiral

© David M. Boje, Ph.D.

August 3, 2017


This course is about reversing the 'death spiral' of family and small business. The death spiral is not knowing where you are, and not adjusting your course. "What you really need to know is that about 20% of small businesses fail in their first year, and 50% of small businesses fail in their fifth year" (source). Forbes gives 5 reasons for business failure. In accounting, "the term death spiral refers to the repeated elimination of products resulting from spreading costs on the basis of volume instead of their root causes.

Figure 1 - The death spiral from accounting view

The small business 'death spiral' is also known as the downward demand spiral" (source). I have been studying the ways to reverse the death serial of family business with Ivan and Mariana. I recommend their new book (stay tuned). They got me started on intergenerational family business success spirals to offset the business death spiral.

Death Spiral with dimensions © Boje 2017

Figure 2 -Death Spiral in dimensions of Landscape (space), Timescape, and Materialscape © Boje, 2017

The Death Spiral needs to be understood in its Landscape (spatializing of geography & market), Timescape (futures arriving & stuck in past), and its Materialscape (all that stuff).

Economic Death Spiral: More American Businesses Dying Than Starting (source). See Lindsley, D. H., Brass, D. J., & Thomas, J. B. (1995). Efficacy-performing spirals: A multilevel perspective. Academy of management review, 20(3), 645-678. Click here for pdf (See Figure 2).

Boje, D. M., Baca-Greif, H., Intindola, M., & Elias, S. (2017). The episodic spiral model: a new approach to organizational processes. Journal of Organizational Change Management, (just-accepted), 00-00.

There are also upward spirals, and you can create them at anytime.

Spirals within Spirals

Figure 3- Spirals within spirals at change points (source); see Levin, P. (1988). Cycles of power. Health Communications, Deerfield Beach, USA. (more)

OK, so as a student consultant your mission is to diagnose whatever downward spiral (dysfunctions, hidden costs, stem roots) is happening (hopefully, not a full on death spiral), then figure out how to develop upward spiral momentum. This is done by diagnosis using 4-leaf clover, then developing Diagnosis-Project Planning-Implementation-Evaluation whorls, three of them, to build upward spiraling momentum

The 4-Leaf Clover Diagnosis with deep root stems

Figure 4 - $-Leaf Clover DIAGNOSTIC MODEL (also part of DPIE) shown with the 6 INVISIBLE ROOT STEMS your consulting with the client is to disclose and reveal by doing Dysfunctions and Hidden Cost analysis

PRINCIPLE 2: The worst consultants work on the symptoms of the problem. The best consultants dig deep into the financial 'root stems' beneath the hidden costs.


PRINCIPLE 3: Upward Spiral momentum is generated and accelerated by doing 3 Diagnosis-Project-Implementation-Evaluation (DPIEs), one after the other, building upon one another. Here is an example of combining 3 DPIE loops (also known as whorls). This does not get you out of death spiral. Keep reading for that answer.

3 DPIE Spirals to build upward momentum and turn around Death Downward Spiral

Figure 5 - the 3 DPIEs you will implement with client to build upward spiral momentum. Its called the B-Spiral in our course model (Drawing by Boje, in several publications, e.g. Boje, 2016; Henderson & Boje, 2016, ©)


Here is a revelation that it took many years to learn.

PRINCIPLE 4: There is not just an upward or a downward spiral, there are both at the same time, and many more besides the two.

Figure 6 - The Errant Thinking you Can move from Downward to Upward Spiral (source).

Its not about moving from one spiral into another, its about the double spiral moving in spacetime and finding a superior sociomaterial location in the market and industry. The Double Spiral (B) is the DPIE (Diagnosis, Project planning, Implementation, and Evaluation) is done 3 times during the semester to build the downward spiral flushing out of hidden costs you convert into savings to generate upward spiral momentum whorls of revenue potential creation in the small business. This 3 DPIEs is called the A-Spiral This next figure shows the second principle, called 'double spiral'.

The First Principle: The Double Spiral of hidden costs and revenue generation for small business development

Figure 7: Double Spiral of upward and downward movement which allows movement of the business in the spatial landscape (geographic, market share, etc.), the timescape (future, present, past), and the materialscape (equipment, tools, technologies, etc.).

Figure 8: the Moment of Double Serial to better strategic positions, from A to B (green dotted line shows movement in performance, timescape, and landscape (Boje, 2012, ©)

Its all about consulting a small business to move their double spiral (vortex) into a better strategic position.

PRINCIPLE 4: The Double Spiral of flushing out Hidden Cost Downward Spiral converting savings to the Upward Spiral of revenue generation 3 DPIEs (A-Spiral) requires teaching your client tools (B-Spiral) and working with them to change their Strategy (C-Spiral).

The three dimensions form the space (landscape) timescape, and materialscape. Part of this principle is the inseparability of space, time, and materiality that is called spacetimemattering. We implement 6 tool with (not for) the client along the B-Spiral. You will have three MIRROR EFFECT meetings showing the client the hidden costs and untapped revenues that can come with the implementation of the first or next DPIE (3 in all). Here are first three spirals A, B, and C.

Figure 9: COURSE MODEL - The first THREE Spirals of Socioeconomic Development Revolving around 4 Leaf-Clover Diagnosis


PRINCIPLE 5: First 3 Spirals, A (3 DPIEs), B (6 Tools), and C (Strategic Decisions) form the basic TRIPLE SPIRAL, which revolves around the 4-Leaf Clover model at the center.

Most of you will have a semester that look like the following. You enter the client's Death Spiral of accumulated dysfunctions, hidden costs, and conflicts are escalating (maybe manifest outbreaks). Then you do you 1st DPIE and get a little movement, then your 2nd gets a bigger upward spiraling, and you top it off iwth the 3d DPIE. Think of o 3 phases Phase 2: enter Death Spiral (if its there), Phase 2, co-construct with the client (never for them), 3 DPIES in a succession, building one one another (not 3 objectives, you pre-design at getgo, that won't do the turnaround). Then in 3rd Phase you leave the client prepared to carry out their own DPIE, because the know the tools (Spiral B) and they have made Strategy moves (Spiral C).


Boje's Death Spiral transfromation to Growth Spiral interventions

Figure 10 - Using Triple DPIE Accelerated Growth Spiral interventions to get out of Client Organization's Death Spiral (© copyright D. M. Boje, Aug 5, 2017)

Most of you will have a semester that look like this downward death spiral of dysfunctions in need of creating a 'Queen Conch'. The Queen Conch (above) is a sea snail with spirally constructed shell. You need to learn some shell morphology, and how the Queen Conch prooels forward in a leaping motion to seek food, and can bury itself in a burrowing motion, to protect against predators. My point is that the Triple DPIE you co-create with your client, gives the organization movement in its environment. You enter the client's 'Death Spiral' of accumulated dysfunctions, hidden costs, and conflicts are escalating (maybe manifest outbreaks). Co-construct an organic matrix whorl-by-whorl, one DPIE at a time, until a Spirally Coiled rate of growth takes on momentum. The rate of growth per whorl (each DPIE) is around a coiling axis, in shape of a generting spiral curve that has 'ontologic growth changes' as the small business reaches socioeconomic health. Then you do you 1st DPIE (whorl) and get a little movement, then your 2nd (whorl) gets a bigger upward spiraling, and you top it off with the 3d DPIE (whorl). Think of 3 momentum growth phases. Phase 1: you encouter and document all the dysfunctions (enter Death Spiral (if its there)). InPhase 2, co-construct with the client (never for them), 3 DPIES in a succession, building one one another (not 3 objectives, you pre-design at getgo, that won't do the turnaround). Then in 3rd Phase you leave the client prepared to carry out their own DPIE, because the know the tools (Spiral B) and they have made Strategy moves (Spiral C).

The single (up or down) spiral models don't cut it. There has to be force and counterforce, an opposition. Besides, what I call double spirals do not sit still, their upward and downward spiraling force exist in a context where there is movement across spacetimemattering.

There are two ways to think about double spirals. One is the Upward Spiral seperate from Downward Spiral


Upward Spiral separate from Downward Spiral

Figure 11: Option 1 - the Upward Spiral (Blue) is separated from Downward Spiral (Red) (source, Gary Davis).

You will be running into some functional conflict and perhaps some dysfunctional conflict in the small businesses you consult.

For there to be a dialectical vortex, there must be force and counterforce. An upward spiral has counteracting forces. A downward spiral, such as a conflict spiral, has counteracting forces. I was a doctoral student in Louis R. Pondy's 'conflict and power' doctoral seminar. He taught us his classic 'episodic conflict model.' It is a process model and a relationality model, and I view it as ontological. When there is a lack of conflict management, then laten conflict from prior episodes emerges in manifest conflict relations at the next possible interaction event.

I would like to retheorize Pondy's (1967) classic episodic conflict model as a double spiral oof dialectial oppositions. Many had erred in assuming Pondy's model is linear temporally.

See: Pondy, L. R. (1967). Organizational conflict: Concepts and models. Administrative science quarterly, 296-320.

In his doctoral seminar, his complaint was readers of his Administrative Science Quarterly article only read the first half, and missed his systems orientaiton. However, his systems model (conflict among lateral parties at sameorganizational level) is about material constraints (raw materials, workers, machines, & other resources at disposal of lateral units) and the pressures toward suboptimization (units have different preference orderings) for interdepent mattering conditions (common use of serve, sequence of work or information flow prescried by task or hierarch, and rules of unanimity or consensus in effect for joint activity. Here is a linear list of stges.

Stage 1: Latent [lateral] Conflict (over scarce resources, drives for autonomy, divergence of subunit goals). As budgets tighten lateral units experience latent conflict. Latent conflict can be from environmental effects, for example, budget crices at state level that affect public universities, or the 2008 mortgage crisis that toppled entire governments, but was not something people were aware of instantly.

Stage 2: Perceived Conflict - can be present in relationship event when latent conflicts have not reached sensemaking awarness. Lateral units may debate and hassle over some interdependendence issues.

Stage 3 Felt Conflict - can be disagreement over interdependence, budgets, poilcy, but may or may not make parties tense or anxious. But it can alss escalate to a personal level, and units as well going taking hard stands, and quarreling and feuding.

Stage 4 Manifest Conflict - This erupts when efforts to manage conflicts have been unsuccessful. The latent conflict from prior episodes, has escalated to perceived and felt levels, and now there is a variety of conflictful behaviors: open agreesion, verbal violence, (often despite proscribed conviviality norms), sabotage of opponent's plans, formation of defensive coalitions, protests, riots, and a rigid adherence to rules as form of resistance. The availability of conflict resolution mechanisms and strategic considerations are both critical to keeping conflict from hitting the manifest stage.

CONFLICT AFTERMATH (often missing in those working with Pondy's conflict model. Its a 'relational process' model. Each conflict episode is one of a sweries of encounters among all particpipants, that has conflict partially settled, or suppressed. Many suppressed conflicts can lead to escalation and explosion, as people lose their cool, and become malevolent in the next crisis, unable or unwilling to exercise convivial norms of behavior.

In a Double Spiral retheorizing of Pondy's (1967) model, the episodic aspects become clearer and more dynamic, as well as dialectic. At each whorl there are oppositional forces (Green) keeping the conflict escalation spiral (Red) in some check.


Retheorizing Pondy episodic conflict model as double spiral © D Boje 5 Aug 2017

Figure 12:OPTION TYPE TWO DOUBLE SPIRAL - Pondy's Episodic Conflict Model can be retheorized as a double spiral of entwined conflict management spiral and conflict escalation spiral

The conflict aftermath is from the residue of the upward spiraling conflict episodes, that are not managed or resolved to the satisfaciton of all participatnts to the conflict and a cooperative realtionship develops. Conflict merely suppressed will raise its head again at the next episode, the next meeting, the next crisis. Pondy is an open system theorist and makes the point that the organizaiton systems are respoinding to their envonment, to environments which themselves can be in crisis.


Figure 13-OPTION TWO DOUBLE SPIRAL - the Strategy Path of a double spiral with upward (gold) and downward (purple) death whorling movement from A to B along green dotted pathways of intervention on three dimesions of space (Landscape), Time (Timescape), and Materiality (Materialscape).

In the realm of the 'real' space-time-materiality are inseperable, absolutely entangled (see Barad, 2007, notion of spacetimemattering).

Bottom line, if you are not into building double spiral momentum, then this course is not for you. If you want to learn a way to actually help a small business to move to a better strategic position, then please do stay.




Figure 14: Revolving Upward Spiral GYRE then Downward Spiral, whorl (loop) by whorl, that quicken or slow.

"The gyre starts at its origin and moves progressively wider in a spiral, while time adds another dimension, creating the form of the vortex or funnel" (source).


Figure 15: OPTION THREE - 'Double Conic Spiral', two vortices spiraling into each other, one with downward (red) momentum, other with upward spiraling (blue) momentum

In nature, there are many examples of double spiraling, in both/and relationships rather than either/or (either upward or downward). The meaning and matter of the double spiraling process are held together through communicative practices. For example in this YoutTube two Australian black snakes are spiraling themselves together in a "deadly snake dance" that is part of their dominance and mating ritual communicative practices.

    Figure 16: Two Red-bellied Austrailian black snamkes spiraling together in a sort of tango dance

    (See also "Snake Dance At Forest" and

    "18 MAY 2017 Real Naag Nagin Dance"

    Figure 17: 350 Swainson's Hawks flocking in Spiraling flight formation over the mesquite dunes

    I witnessed a pair of Spainson's Hawks doing a parallel spiraling flight, the two spirals looping together as the pair moved upwards and downwards in co-constituting their flight together, while moving across the East Mesa of Las Cruces, where I live. They moved their double spiral vortex across the mesa, and finally, to the pond which only fills after a few good rains, where I was jogging. The double spiral Swainson's Hawk formation remained at the poind for a few minutes, most likely, in search of prey.

    I observed a spiraling upward and downward mating and feasting event of about 150 dragon flies at this pond a week earlier (July, 2017). The double spiraling, upward and downward, flight paths, were over a muddy bank on the pond where food source (mosquitoe larvae) was plentiful. The females were attracted to the spiral, where the males attempted to entice them to mate. The inward and outward flight took the females to locations throughout the pond that is about 100 feet across. Their tails would pat the water, then fly upwards and, sometimes, back into the double spiraling vortex, then back out again. There are other examples of spiraling flight formations in nature.

    Figure 18: Spiraling flight of 1,000 to 500,000 Carlsbad Cavern Bats emerge from cave opening


    The double spiraling of the forces of opposition movements are ontologically inseparable practices of sociomateriality. Organization theorists, Wanda Orlikowski (2007: 1437) notes, "There is no social that is not also material and no material that is not also social." The meaning and matter of the double spiraling process in and between organizations are held together through communicative practices in spacetimemattering (see spacetimemattering definition).


    Figure 19 - Double Gyre Spirals in dialectical relation.

    For example, when cone of Strife interacts with Cone of Love. The principle is heard in every airline flight: "Before putting the oxygen mask on your baby or child, be sure to care for your self." Or, you want have the energy of Love to deal with the Strife.

    We can look at the Historical relation of alternating, interweaving Gyre Spirals

    Figure 20- Your as the Small Business Consultants are the Blue Diamond Gyre, facilitating some co-created interventions you and client agree to implement to change the Spiral Pattern

Remember: You are to be 'Spiral' consultants with a Heart-of-Care, NOT interns, NOT slaves in the Strife. Rather, you teach SEAM tools to client, and do awesome DPIE Spiral with your Client, not for your client.


Spirals have many levels of the real beyond the empirical (sensemaking) and actual event-ness of history

Figure 21 - Primary and Antithetical GYRE Spiral Dialectic


consulting to small business

Principle of Surrender & Art of Listening