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From Transformation to TransformaCtion

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This book describes a journey of discovery from transformation to transformaCtion that extends and enhances the life of the organization. The journey occurs on the seas of anxiety and passion, which threaten to sweep an organization towards either paralysis and depression or a hyperlife of perpetual hysterical motion. On this journey, the consultant serves as the chief advisory navigator, helping to guide the ship to circumvent the dangerous rocks as the organization zigs and zags though the waters. While at times the organization may find itself circling in a vortex, trapped in cyclical duplication and potential disappearance, there exists the underlying assurance that transformation is occurring, has occurred, and will continue throughout the journey to transformaCtion. David Gutmann points out that this is a never-ending journey for the organization, even after the work of the consultants has ended.

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CHAPTER ONE: Groups and transformation

ePub

David Gutmann, with Laurence Ponthieu, Jacqueline Ternier-David, and Christophe Verrier

Small groups, like any system, evolve and transform themselves continuously. Processes of transformation can be seen as going through recognizable stages. Awareness of these stages allows for better understanding of the processes and even their regulation. We will explore these conceptual stages here, using a case from our experience as consultants.

Before analysing this example of a process of transformation engaged in by a group, a few elements of methodology used regularly in our practice are presented.

Every group is a system open to forces of transformation that are transmitted from the inside and from the outside. But an aptitude for integrating these forces does not mean that the group is capable of transforming itself easily. On the contrary, each group is moved by a homeostatic principle that is more or less powerful and that is directly stimulated by forces of transformation. It opposes these forces in order to conserve the group in its original state as best it can.

 

CHAPTER TWO: Transformation

ePub

David Gutmann, with Christophe Verrier

O ur praxis of the work of adviser in leadership enables us to observe institutions regularly, often in great depth. They transform according to particular processes in which we have noticed certain analogies with biological mechanisms.

Thus, in order to describe our own representation of the trans formation of institutions, we will lean on a biological metaphor, while remaining cautious with the use of such a process. A biolog ical metaphor, while proving to be a useful framework in our demonstration, still remains somewhat limited. We will, therefore, attempt to overcome those limits by drawing on the political and psychic dimensions of these processes, making links to the role that managers and consultants can take up in these transformations.

Transformation and chaos

In the beginning there was chaos.

In almost every mythology, the world is born out of a transfor mation of chaos where elements progressively differentiate from one another.

From the very beginning of the world, chaos and transformation are intimately linked. Afterwards, chaos does not disappear completely: it remains present in one form or another. It consis-tently stands as one of the many possible futures, in particular in cases where the current transformation might be swept away by one of the regressions it carries in its very core.

 

CHAPTER THREE: Chaos and transformation: the primary scene

ePub

David Gutmann, with Christophe Verrier

I n this chapter, we would like to present some ideas about the way to facilitate handling the issue of chaos, to use it, to work with it: this way is transformation.

Chaos. My first encounter with “the English chaos” was in Leicester, when, at that time being unfamiliar with different British accents, I mistook the word for “cow”, and wondered briefly what these quiet animals were doing in a very serious seminar!

Chaos is a word derived from Greek mythology. It describes the global confusion of elements of matter before the formation of the world. It is the emptiness that pre-exists creation, ready to become the matrix of the world.

Thus, chaos has a double meaning:

•   emptiness, the confusion existing before creation (which becomes a process of differentiation and transformation);

•   disorder (although disorder is the opposite of order, and not of chaos).

Since chaos is not organized (and since it existed before man), the human spirit can neither describe it nor visualize it.

 

CHAPTER FOUR: The division into us them as a universal social structure

ePub

David Gutmann, with Miriam Berger and Avi Berman

Introduction

People tend to view their social, political, and in-group affiliations as an articulation of their chosen values, stemming from ideological roots and expressing a carefully thought out and rational worldview. At the same time, they are inclined to shun other groups that espouse contrary values and ideals. This avoidance, too, is perceived as freely chosen and value-based.

As opposed to this common belief, and without underrating the influence of value-based choice and ideological affiliation, we claim that the division into opposing groups, cast as “us” and “them”, constitutes a basic structure of human social organization. It is, in a sense, a projective way given of human nature (that people are disposed to deny). Conceived in this manner, this division predates contents, opinions, and ideologies, and is impulsive and unconscious in character.

It is this division that defines “us” as a source of closeness and sharing and “them” as different, antithetical, negative, and, often, a potential enemy. Ideologies and group history are built on the foundation of this structural division.

 

CHAPTER FIVE: The decline of the traditional defences against anxiety

ePub

David Gutmann, with Catherine Sandler

“Post equitem sedet atra cura” (At the rider's back sits dark anxiety)

(Horace, 65-68 BC, quoted in Raffel, 1983)

In considering the role of anxiety in individual and institutional life, it is clear that we are dealing with a double-edged weapon. Anxiety-in its purest form, an unnamed, diffuse fear of dis integration and death-is one of the primary and most basic emotions we experience. Throughout our lives, we are both defending ourselves against it and struggling to find positive ways of adapting in response to it. By “positive ways” I mean responses that facilitate growth and creativity rather than lead to blockage and regression. In this context, it is important to emphasize the role of anxiety as a vital source of productive tension: it is only through remaining partially vulnerable to our anxiety and responding to it that we can achieve our potential for creativity and innovation. It is equally important, though, to remember that excessive anxi ety can inhibit, erode, and even paralyse our capacity to function effectively.

 

CHAPTER SIX: Between tradition and transformation: existential process and primary task for the life of organizations

ePub

David Gutmann

For several decades, leaders in charge of organizations as well as institutions have faced profound changes. They have learned that their individual and collective roles must change and that it is no longer necessary to justify the need for change. Recent experience shows that the way we think about change must change.

Organizations and institutions have implemented “actions for change” and have mobilized considerable energy in finding and applying solutions. In retrospect, they can realize that the solutions they have chosen have themselves become problematic.

To take into account the existential dynamics of human systems is characteristic of institutional transformation (IT). In order to introduce this programme, we can identify the three main strands of IT.

The psychoanalytical approach

Because it takes the unconscious into account-which is individual as well as collective-IT allows the exploration of the political and spiritual products that are generated by the psyche.

Traditionally in organizations and institutions, most of the actions that aim to change the structures, the administrative methods or even behaviours stop where anxiety is lived, where representations are created on which the functioning of an organization is based. And, even if these actions involve the top managers, the links between psychic, political, and spiritual forces are denied. The search for How? has replaced the search for Why?

 

CHAPTER SEVEN: Transformation of language and social transformation

ePub

David Gutmann, with Laurence Ponthieu and Christophe Verrier

“We identify metals from the sounds, and persons from the words”

(Baltasar Gracian, Maxime CCXCI, Oraculo manualy
arte de prudencia
, or The Court Gentleman, 1684) “

The ego is not the master in its own house”

(Freud, 1923b)

E ach word that is used or pronounced carries a part of the unconscious with it. Lacan teaches us that unconscious is structured as a language and that words are the privileged way of expressing, or revealing, our own unconscious. We propose a hypothesis that is both opposite and complementary: words are not only one of the doors open to our unconscious; words have their own unconscious. Each one carries its own piece of uncon scious that testifies its trajectory of its history, of our personal and familial history, but mainly collective, through centuries. Thus, language is also structured as unconscious. How then to better understand what words mean?

Jacques Lacan insisted on the difference between container and contained. As signs, words have two faces, the signifying and the signifier. Through both, words express a hidden content coming from their own singular trajectory. Each word has a history, both conscious and unconscious. But words create history, too. To use a specific word has never been neutral; to confuse two words-for instance power and authority-has significant practical conse-quences. This hypothesis is, of course, very fruitful for the work of a consultant because it suggests that to understand words is a primary resource to understand the life of people and institutions. This is why transformation of language and social transformation seem to be closely linked. We will try to present some examples here.

 

CHAPTER EIGHT: Power and authority

ePub

David Gutmann

T he first human paintings, dating from before humanity began to use writing, show that power and authority, even at that time, are among its fundamental concerns. The scenes of Lascaux present an example that is both a devolution of power and a distribution of authority established on survival. It is, then, possible for the human being attached to an organized community to play a part not just in the life of people around him, but also in the natural (or supernatural) phenomena that take place.

Today, each thought on power and authority echoes in a particular manner, for we find ourselves confronting two processes that periodically meet to make us ask questions and to challenge us. On the one hand, it is the growing of complexity, or, more specifically, the feeling that this growing is accelerating, and, on the other hand, it is a mutation that reaches not just the economical sector, but also the political, the social, and the cultural sectors. We can pertinently quote Jacob Burkhardt, a Swiss social historian, who said that “The essence of tyranny is the denial of complexity” (1929, p. 89).

 

CHAPTER NINE: The paths of authority. From the unconscious to the transcendental: intervention at the Arab University of Jerusalem, December 1996

ePub

David Gutmann, with Ronan Pierre, Jacqueline Ternier-David, and Christophe Verrier

“Nothing can be taught to others. They can only be helped in their discovery”

(Galileo, in Clavelin, 1970)

S ince the School of Human Relations, numerous studies have referred to organizational development as an approach in the understanding of men and the systems to which they belong. However, as consultants at Praxis International, and at the International Forum of Social Innovation, our activity is closer to an approach of organizations in terms of institutional transformation (IT) than organizational development (OD).

Institutional transformation differs from organizational devel opment in the sense that its goal is to take into account the uncon scious and its expression, whenever possible. As consultants, we try to detect or interpret the unconscious processes in institu tions. From this perspective, consultants focus their attention on the exercise of authority, leadership, and transformation within the institutions.

 

CHAPTER TEN: Transformation and collusion: from conforming to forming an alliance

ePub

David Gutmann, with Jacqueline Ternier-David and Christophe Verrier

L ife, in human or animal-i.e., biological-terms, as much as the life of institutions (by which we mean human organizations built to work collectively towards a common goal), includes mechanisms of repetition, reproduction, creation, and innovation. In the case of institutions, our own representation of these evolutions highlights the role of the resistances that they generate and experience.

From that a dialectic tension is born, between the desire for transformation and the need for permanence. This tension is mani fested by dynamics of actions and reactions, progressions and regressions, co-operation and resistances.

Through this approach, collusion can be understood as one of the most habitual modes of resistance to transformation. Collusion is a process that individuals adopt, sometimes unknowingly, to oppose it and attempt to set it up to fail. Consequently, having become less clear, more difficult to understand for managers, consultants, or any of their own members, institutions lose some of their legibility and, more than that, some of their vitality.

 

CHAPTER ELEVEN: From envy to desire: witnessing the transformation

ePub

David Gutmann, with Jacqueline Ternier-David and Christophe Verrier

T his chapter sets out, on the basis of a case example, to discuss the workings of two major affects-desire and envy-as an integral part of the constructive and destructive processes underlying institutional life.

We begin by proposing a definition of desire and envy as both individual and collective feelings, outlining the nature of their impact in organizations. This is followed by an account of a workshop that revealed envy and desire as key elements of the client organization's dominant dynamic. Finally, we offer some concluding remarks on the significance and impact on organizationalprocesses of the transformation from envy to desire.

Desire and envy: conceptual framework

Etymologically, the word “desire” can be traced back to the Latin term desiderare, composed of de- (privative) and of sideris, “the stars”. Desire, therefore, literally means “to stop gazing at the stars” (Webster's Third New International Dictionary) and, hence, “to feel the loss of”, “to long or hope for”. Thus, the etymological perspective underlines the close relation between desire and lack. It also sug-gests that understanding one's own desire consists of having one's feet (back) on the ground, no longer being “star struck”, moving on (again), being (once again) in reality.

 

CHAPTER TWELVE: Paradoxes and transformations in the role of consultant: from reparation to revelation

ePub

David Gutmann, with Jacqueline Ternier-David and Christophe Verrier

T hose who choose to live and work in an institutional setting have various motivations: they find there an income, relative security (if not effective protection), and they also get a social standing and a way of integrating which is, very often, unique. They also try to enlarge and increase their action, their creativity, and their authority; i.e., their ability to become authors.

The institution enables them to do what they could not achieve alone: in the best circumstances, it is grounded on a shared desire. And eventually, if the main richness for the company is the human one, the company also represents a richness for its members.

Nevertheless, those who choose the institution elect, at the same time, to enter a wider restraining field, born from the tensions between the individual and the collective need to serve a given fundamental target. Life within the institution demands of those who are part of it that they give up the phantasm of total freedom.

 

CHAPTER THIRTEEN: Consultation and transformation: between shared management and generative leadership

ePub

David Gutmann, with Ronan Pierre

T he cloning process achieved by Scottish scientists with a sheep called Dolly shook the whole world in March 1997. The date is likely to be remembered by future generations: they will definitely have to confront the possibility of human cloning, despite all the reassuring speeches about prudence in experimenting. In this context, it is not difficult to relate to our science fiction literature background. From H. G. Wells to Philip K. Dick, which author has not written a story of human cloning? Traditionally, the human cloning theme is linked with two other themes in science fiction: immortality and/or totalitarianism. For cloning is a way to be immortal by copying oneself, and is also a way to produce masses of identical individuals, a basis for obedient and interchangeable servants.

In these extreme representations of society-what science fiction does best and is meant for-we can recognize two tendencies of leadership that unfortunately happen too often: leaders tend to concentrate all powers in their hands and to be exclusive in the exercise of their leadership.

 

CHAPTER FOURTEEN: Unconscious and politics: how to explore black and white in colours

ePub

David Gutmann, with Christophe Verrier

T his chapter is based on the workshop “Diversity, racial relations and transformation”, organized by Color Cubano (La Havana, Cuba) and The International Forum for Social Innovation (based in Paris, France). This event took place from the 4th to the 7th of November 2006, in The National Council of Houses of Culture in La Havana, Cuba.

This experience is about the difficulty in recognizing and touching processes of discrimination based on racial issues in a political system that promotes equality in a voluntary way. Thus, as anywhere else in the world, the act of uncovering hidden dynamics based on unconscious processes triggers strong resistances, both within the workshop and from its environment, but also some astonishing revelations. However, through the processes of interpretation in such an institutional setting, it was possible to uncover some of the links between politics and the unconscious. In other words, this chapter could also be entitled “The politics of the unconscious” as well as “The unconscious of politics”.

 

CHAPTER FIFTEEN: Anxiety and passion: about the inescapibility of depression

ePub

David Gutmann, with Pascale Ravot-Loucheux

A t the end of this journey into the core of the consulting profession, and most obviously to reach a better understanding of the transformation process, we come now to the most important part of these considerations: the connection between anxiety (the word “anxiety” is deliberately chosen instead of the word “stress”, which is more often used in a “politically correct” way (cf. Chapter Five) and passion.

These two concepts may seem puzzling, not to say out of place, in a book dealing with management and government. And yet, we cannot be closer to the point. What is at stake here is vital in a firm's life, as well as in our own lives. Far from wandering from our subject, we come back to the very start, where everything begins: it requires every part of us to build our own identity, and this is also what drives us to live and to act. Let us explain the reason why.

Two phenomena are acting in both people's lives and within institutions’ lives:

•   anxiety, on the one hand, born from the fear of death, which comes from the death instinct (Thanatos);

 

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