Or to state its full name, “Organisational Psychotherapy”.

Upon hearing about Rightshifting, a lot of people ask me “so if our organisation wanted to improve its effectiveness, how should we go about it?”

Sometimes silence or a knowing “Hmmm” is the best answer. People often work best when driven by their own curiosity, and the need to discover their own answers, I find.

“If you meet Buddha on the road, kill him.”

~ Linji

But sometimes a more direct answer serves better, particularly when requested.

These days, my advice is to consider Organisational Therapy as one possible approach. Of course, as a self-appointed Organisational Therapist, I have a vested interest in saying this. Know this: I’ve chosen this route because in my many years both studying and working with software organisations, I have come to believe that Organisational Therapy offers a highly effective path to effective Rightshifting, and because the nature of therapy itself finds much favour with my general approach to life, work and people.

Please note, too, that Organisational Therapy seems best suited to organisations approaching or actually having the Synergistic mindset. It may appear too disciplined for the Ad-hoc folks, and too whacky for those of an Analytic mindset. As I choose to limit my involvement to organisations approaching or actually having the Synergistic mindset, this seems quite a good match for me.

Why Therapy?

Organisational Therapy offers a non-directive approach to addressing some of the dysfunctions present in any organisation. It allows the organisation to grow in self-awarness and capability by seeing itself more clearly, and then finding its own solutions to some of its more pressing issues. My post “Zen and the Art of Organisational Enlightenment” talks about this in more detail.

The Therapist’s Stance

Organisational therapists, like their personal therapy counterparts, typically refrain from making or expressing judgements about their clients, and from making suggestions or recommendations regarding potential solutions or changes. This helps build self-confidence and self-reliance in clients. Profoundly, the humanness and empathy of the therapist are essential ingredients in the journey.

“To take on a client, any client, is to make a tremendous commitment to that person, which in some cases could last months, if not years. For better or worse, no matter how the client behaves, the therapist feels an obligation to be available, understanding, and compassionate. From the moment a client settles himself in the chair for the first time, we take a deep breath, knowing that what is about to occur is the beginning of a new relationship. It will have moments of special closeness and others of great hardship. The client will, at times, worship the therapist, scorn him, abuse him, ignore him, play with him, and want to devour him. And through it all, regardless of what is going on in his own life – sickness, births, deaths, joys, disappointment – the therapist must be there for the client, always waiting.”

~ Jeffrey Kottler, On Being A Therapist

Supportiveness, warmth, and closeness contribute to the cathartic healing of trauma, but these same attitudes can prove ineffective and even harmful in other situations such as working with impulse disorders. Mutual creation and ongoing monitoring and discussion of the Treatment Plan can help keep the therapist’s stance matched to the clients evolving therapeutic needs.

And the mutuality of the relationship can get overlooked. As the client’s state of mind evolves, so does that of the therapist. The relationship between the two parties also evolves, in some instances and at some times coming closer, at others, further apart.

Therapy Skills

Therapy does not generally involve the transfer of particular skills from the therapist to the client. Although the therapist often helps the client identify areas in which greater skills might be beneficial, having the therapist swap into a “trainer” or “coach” role could jeopardise the therapeutic relationship. Often, the therapist and the client will discuss this issue to find a way forward.

The Business Case for Organisational Psychotherapy

You might also like to read the my post outlining the business case a.k.a. value proposition for organisational psychotherapy.

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