This post attempts to set down the fundamental of OP – Organisational Psychotherapy. (For the details, or a lengthy tour through the subject, there’s a whole passel of other posts on this blog, plus my recent book “Hearts over Diamonds”).
The operational effectiveness of any knowledge work organisation is a function of its collective assumptions and beliefs about work. Significant improvements to organisational effectiveness requires a fundamental shift in these assumptions and beliefs. Organisational Psychotherapy makes this shift both feasible and economic.
The Basic Premise
The basic premise of Organisational Psychotherapy is that the effectiveness of any and all knowledge work organisations is a function of the collective mindset of the organisation. For significant improvements in the effectiveness of the organisation, the collective mindset has to undergo a step-change.
E = ƒ(Collective mindset)
In Organisational Psychotherapy, “collective mindset” (a.k.a. collective or shared memeplex) we mean “the set of assumptions and beliefs held in common by more-or-less everyone in the organisation”. Assumptions and beliefs concerning work, and how work should work (i.e. how work should be organised, directed and managed).
This set of assumptions and beliefs held in common are rarely held consciously, more often existing below the level of consciousness of the organisation and its individuals, both.
We often call the manifestation of the collective mindset the “culture” of the organisation – the typical behaviours and actions of individuals and groups driven, subconsciously, by their underlying, commonly-held, assumptions and beliefs.
The Performance Challenge
Many organisation may be happy with – or at least resigned to – their status quo. These organisations do not seek to understand the roots of organisational effectiveness. For the fewer number of organisations that do seek to improve their effectiveness, questions such as “what makes for increased effectiveness” and “what could we do to improve our effectiveness as an organisation” begin to surface.
The challenge, then, for this latter group of organisations, is to find some levers to pull, levers by which to affect the organisation’s effectiveness in the desired direction(s).
Some yet fewer number of organisations may come to understand the connection between their collective mindset and their effectiveness – current and aspirational. For these organisations, the challenge becomes:
“How can we shift our collective assumptions and beliefs in a direction – or directions – that support our aspirations for e.g. improved effectiveness?”
So to the main focus of this 101 unit:
How might those organisations that see the connection between their collective assumptions and beliefs, and their effectiveness, go about shifting those assumption and beliefs?
For individuals faces with this challenge in their daily lives (“How might I as a person go about having a happier or more productive life? How might I shift my assumptions about relationships, people, myself, etc. to see that come about?”), psychotherapy is one option they may consider, and thence embark upon.
So it is with organisations. Asking themselves the question:
“How might I as an organisation go about having a happier or more productive life, see improved effectiveness, performance, greater success?”
leads to the challenging question:
“How might I/we shift my/our collective assumptions and beliefs about relationships, people, myself/ourself, etc. to see that come about?”
At this point, Organisational Psychotherapy is one option the organisation may consider, and embark upon.
The Bottom Line
Until recently, organisations have not had the option of Organisational Psychotherapy. Even now it’s an option little known and still in its infancy. So organisations have been constrained to other options, such as tackling the above question “How might I/we shift my/our collective assumptions and beliefs about relationships, people, myself, etc.” from within their own resources, or with the aid of e.g. external consultants. Not being well-versed in the fields of Organisational Psychotherapy, psychology, sociology, group dynamics, etc., this path can consume much time and attention, many resources, inflate business and reputational risks, and generate high levels of waste and stress. Witness: the huge number of business books on organisational change, Digital Transformation, and so on.
Organisational Psychotherapists offers a degree of competency in these fields (psychology, sociology, group dynamics, therapy enabling reflection and leading to possible shifts in assumptions and beliefs, etc.) not natively present in most organisations. This competency eases the path to the kind of change (or shift) they seek, saving time (time is money), missteps, reducing the risks, and lowering stress levels for all involved.
Whether you have found this explanation of the fundamentals of Organisational Psychotherapy useful or useless, I would be delighted and thankful to hear your comments and questions.