Hearts over Diamonds Preface
In case you’re undecided as to whether my recently published book on Organisational Psychotherapy will be worth some of your hard-earned spons, here’s the text of the preface to the current edition (full book available in various ebook formats via Leanpub and in paperback via Lulu.
Will This Book be Worth Your Time?
To my knowledge, this is the first book ever written about Organisational Psychotherapy. Thanks for taking the time to have a look. This is a short book. And intentionally so. It’s not that Organisational Psychotherapy is a shallow domain. But this book just lays down the basics. Understanding of the deeper aspects and nuances best emerges during practice, I find.
This book aims to inform three distinct groups of people:
- Senior managers and executives who might find advantage in hiring and engaging with an Organisational Psychotherapist.
- Folks who might have an interest in becoming Organisational Psychotherapists themselves, either within their organisations or as e.g. freelancers.
- Folks within organisations who might find themselves involved in some way in their organisation’s engagement with one or more organisational psychotherapists.
We’re all busy people, so I guess you may be curious, or even a little concerned, as to whether this book will provide a good return on the time you might spend reading it. I’ve tried to arrange things so that you can quickly answer that question.
I intend this book to be easy to understand, and to that end I’ve used as much plain English as I can muster. I guess some folks find the whole idea of Organisational Psychotherapy somewhat intimi‐ dating, and fear the ideas here will “go over their heads”. Let me reassure you that I’ve tried to make this book common-sensical, friendly and down-to-earth.
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”
In writing this book, I’ve set out to define the emerging discipline – or field – of Organisational Psychotherapy.
In a nutshell, Organisational Psychotherapy is a response to the growing realisation in business circles that it’s the collective mindset of an organisation (often mistakenly referred-to as culture) that determines an organisation’s overall effectiveness, productivity and degree of success. By “collective mindset” I mean the beliefs, assumptions and attitudes that an organisation as a whole holds in common about work and how the world of work should work.
Organisational Psychotherapy leverages over a hundred years of research and experience in the field of personal psychotherapy, a field which has evolved from its roots in the Middle East in the ninth century, and later, in the West, through the works of Wilhelm Wundt (1879) and Sigmund Freud (1896). Research and experience which, in large part, can usefully be repurposed from the individual psyche to the collective psyche (i.e. the organisation).
In my career of over thirty years in the software business, I’ve run the whole gamut of approaches in search of organisational effectiveness, in search of approaches that actually work. It’s been a long and tortuous journey in many respects, but I have come to believe, absolutely, that success resides mostly in the relationships between people working together, in the web of informal customer- supplier relationships within and between businesses. And I’ve come to believe that organisational effectiveness mostly comes from the assumptions all these folks hold in common.
Given that, I ask the question:
“What kind of intervention could help organisations and their people with uncovering their existing, collectively-held, beliefs, assumptions and attitudes? With discussing those, seeing the connection with their business and personal problems and challenges, and doing something about that?”
The answer I’ve arrived at is Organisational Psychotherapy. And so, when I’m working with clients these days, Organisational Psychotherapy is my default mode of practice.
But this book does not attempt to make the case for my beliefs. It’s not going to try to persuade you to see things my way. Organisational Psychotherapy may pique your interest, but I’m pretty sure you’ll stick with what you already believe.
So, if you have an open mind, or generally share my perspective already, this book may serve you in getting deeper into the practicalities and benefits of Organisational Psychotherapy, whether that’s as:
- a decision-maker sponsoring an intervention
- a potential recruit to the ranks of organisational psychotherapists
- an individual participating in an Organisational Psychotherapy intervention in your organisation
Relationships Govern Dialogue
A central tenet of Organisational Psychotherapy is that it’s the quality of the relationships within and across an organisation that moderates the organisation’s capacity for meaningful dialogue. As we shall see in more detail later, fragmented and fractious relation‐ ships impair an organisation’s ability to surface, discuss and recon‐ sider its shared beliefs.
Effective Organisational Psychotherapy needs a certain capacity for skilful dialogue within and across an organisation. Absent this capacity, folks have a slow, laborious and uncomfortable time trying to surface and discuss their commonly-held beliefs and assumptions.
In practice, then, any Organisational Psychotherapy, in its early stages at least, must attend to improving relationships in the workplace, and thus the capacity for meaningful dialogue. This helps the organisation have more open and productive dialogues – should it wish to – about its core beliefs and implicit assumptions, about its ambitions and goals, about the quality of its relationships and dialogues, and about its strategies for success. I wholeheartedly believe that:
People are NOT our greatest asset. In collaborative knowledge work particularly, it’s the relationships BETWEEN people that are our greatest asset.
Whether and how the organisation might wish to develop those relationships and dialogues in pursuit of its goals is a matter for the organisation itself. Without Organisational Psychotherapy, I’ve rarely seen such dialogues emerge and thrive.
Improving relationships in the workplace, and thereby helping the emergence of productive dialogues, are the means to an end, rather than the end itself. The goal of all Organisational Psychotherapy interventions is to support the client organisation in its journey towards being more – more like the organisation it needs to be. Closer to its own, ever-evolving definition of its ideal self.
We’ll explore what that means in later chapters.
Lencioni, P. (2012). The Advantage: Why organizational health trumps everything else in business. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Patterson, K. (2012). Crucial Conversations: Tools for talking when stakes are high. Place of publication not identified: McGraw Hill.
Schein, E. H. (2014). Humble Inquiry: The gentle art of asking instead of telling. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler.