The Business Case For Organisational Psychotherapy

The Business Case For Organisational Psychotherapy

I’m 99% certain that 99% of the people I meet have 99% of no idea what an organisational psychotherapist does, and moreover, the value that such a skill-set can bring to knowledge-work organisations.

In an attempt to clarify my value proposition in my own head, so as I might just be able to explain it a little better to those few folks who are kind enough – or interested enough – to ask, I’m writing this post.

The Ten Second Version

Organisational Psychotherapy:

“Accompanying organisations in their quest for more effective strategies for getting their needs met.”

Three Focii

Organisational Psychotherapy focuses on:

  1. Accompanying the organisation on its journey towards a more congruent collective mindset.
  2. Holding the space for the organisation to work on Improving its health.
  3. Assisting the organisation in improving its collective cognitive function.

Shifting Collective Mindset

The collective, organisational mindset is absolutely key to the effectiveness of knowledge-work organisations of every kind, everywhere. Who better, then, to accompany the organisation on its journey of shifting its collective mindset, than folks who understand organisational psychotherapy?

Note: In my work with Rightshifting and the Marshall Model I explain why mindset is the key to effectiveness – and the challenges involved in making the necessary shifts.

It follows, then that to shift an organisation to the right, to make a business significantly more effective, involves the organisation in effecting major change in its collective mindset. Who has the skills, experience and training to hold the space for the organisation’s surfacing of and reflecting upon its collective assumptions and beliefs? Organisational psychotherapists.

Organisational Health

In addition to shifting collective mindset, and in some ways related, organisational psychotherapy delivers improved organisational health.

Patrick Lencioni writes in his book “The Advantage”:

“The single greatest advantage any company can achieve is organizational health. Yet it is ignored by most leaders even though it is simple, free, and available to anyone who wants it.”

What is a healthy organisation?

From an organisational psychotherapy point of view, it’s one where:

  • people find deep joy and fulfilment in working together
  • everyone actively and enthusiastically cooperates with one other
  • people are well-aligned to the shared purpose of the organisation
  • we see high levels of trust, self-organisation and mindfulness
  • thinking and feeling are natural behaviours
  • most folks strive to be the best they can be
  • everyone’s needs are being attended to

And why is it “the single greatest [competitive] advantage…”?

Because even the smartest organisation in the world, the one that has mastered strategy and finance and marketing and technology, will eventually fail if it is unhealthy. Because by reducing or eliminating the diseases of politics and confusion and piecemeal-ism, an organisation will inevitably become smarter and tap into every bit of intelligence and talent that it has. And because of the direct correlation between organisational health and cognitive function – and thus the performance of everyone engaged in knowledge-work.

And, why then is it not on most organisations’ radars?

Because it’s hard work. It’s neither a quick fix nor a silver bullet. It’s not sophisticated nor shiny-shiny nor sexy. It doesn’t excite those executives who like to find their next great idea in the Wall Street Journal or the Financial Times. And it doesn’t play well with the mechanistic, Theory-X oriented mindsets so prevalent in businesses today. Nor with their Balance Scorecards and RACI matrices and coercive process-orientations.

Above all,

“…the biggest reason that organizational health remains untapped is that it requires courage. Leaders must be willing to confront themselves, their peers, and the dysfunctions within their organization with an uncommon level of honesty and persistence. They must be prepared to walk straight into uncomfortable situations and address issues that prevent them from realizing their potential.”

A Story About the Benefits of a Healthy Organisation

If you’re interested in a story about the tangible – and bottom-line – benefits of organisational health, you might like to read Lencioni’s “Four Obsessions of an Extraordinary Executive“.

Improved Collective Cognitive Function

Knowledge work such as software development involve people working – thinking, feeling and learning – together. Most people are relatively unskilled and thus relatively ineffective at this. Organisational psychotherapy enhances collective mindfulness – from which emerges both improved awareness and improved group-oriented skills, and thus improved collective cognitive function. And people who are more skilled at working together do better work.

I’d love to hear why organisational psychotherapy and its benefits re: rightshifting mindset, organisational health and improved collective cognitive function isn’t on your organisation’s radar.

– Bob

Further Reading

Seven Reasons Why Every Business Needs A Therapist ~ FlowchainSensei
The Power of Meeting Your Employees’ Needs ~ Tony Schwartz and Christine Porath (HBR article)
Collective Cognition in Humans ~ Clément, Krause, et al.
5 Reasons Why Business Can’t Afford to Ignore Psychology For Another 100 Years ~ Louise Altman

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