The Socially Constructed Organization

Views: 883
Ratings: (0)

This new work looks at the dynamics of organisations from a social constructionist viewpoint, taking the organisation as something that is constructed continuously through individual interactions with others, both within and without the organisation.

List price: $28.99

Your Price: $23.19

You Save: 20%

 

7 Slices

Format Buy Remix

CHAPTER ONE. Social constructionism and systemic thinking

ePub

Systemic thinking is a way to make sense of the relatedness of everything around us. In its broadest application, it is a way of thinking that gives practitioners the tools to observe the connectedness of people, things, and ideas: everything connected to everything else. Certainly, people from all walks of life—from the mystic to the medical practitioner, from the ecologist to the engineer—are “thinking systemically” when they address the in-terconnectedness within their field of vision, but within the social sciences, and particularly the field of family therapy, the discourse about the relatedness of people has been heavily influenced by general systems theory (von Bertalanffy, 1950; see also Ashby, 1956)

This body of theory has been advanced and applied to the social sciences over the past 30 years by such people as Anderson, Goolishian, and Winderman (1986), Bateson (1972), Boscolo, Cecchirt, Hoffman, and Penn (1986), Hoffman (1981,1993), Keeney (1983), and Von Foerster (1981), and readers should turn to these sources for a fuller unfolding of systemic thinking. General systems theory has given us all a language to organize the world in certain ways. Advocates speak about differences which constitute the mutual feedback that connects people and reveals a pattern of behaviour. They speak of behaviour acquiring meaning from the context in which it is observed by an active observer of one part of the larger system which represents the whole. And these tools have been applied to many different clinical and organizational settings, to such an extent that there is now a rich body of knowledge, or a discourse, that generates clinical practice, research methodologies, and, of course, dialogue amongst its adherents. Many of these concepts were developed in the field of family therapy, where practitioners found that thinking of the family as a system was a metaphor indispensable for their work.

 

CHAPTER TWO. Outline

ePub

Although I think that conceptualizing and theorizing are essential for one person to be able to communicate to another, there is a time at which the talking must stop and the ideas must be matched with action. We have now reached the point where we must spell out the ways these ideas are put into practice in organizational work.

My model of consultation to organizations, presented in chapters three, four, and five, is assembled to mirror the stages that the process goes through from start to finish. These six different stages are:

1. getting started;

2. creating a safe environment;

3. creating a focus for work;

4. essential conversations about specific dilemmas;

5. action plans;

6. structures for the future.

Each stage is discussed in detail and is supported by examples (set out in italics) from my recent work. Some exercises are also included, which readers may find will transfer to their own work.

The context for my practice is that I have been ensconced in organizations for many years. A large part of my work is as a course organizer, a trainer, and a therapist in a large postgraduate training centre for the National Health Service in the United Kingdom, which means that I can reflect on all the activities going on around me to validate some of my ideas about how organizations work. I also offer supervision to others about their work. Much of this work is “role consultation” for people who are managing services within larger organizations. My practice takes me into both public- and private-sector institutions, and the differences between these sectors play an important part in my work; however, these have been discussed in detail elsewhere (see Campbell, Coldicott, & Kinsella, 1994) and will not be dealt with here.

 

CHAPTER THREE. The contract and the consulting environment

ePub

Getting started

”A job well done … is a job well started.”

Proverb

I have been approached by many people who would like some type of outside help for their organization. The majority of these requests would fit Schein’s (1969) model of expert consultation in that they appear to result from a manager and/or staff group deciding what the organization’s problems are and what type of person should be invited to help. But I have learned to keep an open mind about these specific requests, for several reasons:

1. I think that it is important for any agency or organization to feel in control of the process of change, and this is particularly so where the process involves bringing in an outside person to kick-start the change process. Certainly, one way to retain control is to present an agenda that is worked out and owned by the staff. Related to this is the issue of whether the consultant is known and can be trusted to work respectfully with the organization. This is crucial to starting the process and is discussed later.

 

CHAPTER FOUR. Focus and action

ePub

Creating a focus for work

When given the opportunity to change things within their own organization, most people will have an idea of what it is like for them in the present (point A) and what they want things to be like in the future (point B). So, in its simplest terms, I begin by assessing with the group what point A looks and feels like and what point B looks like and how they will know when they have arrived. This can be done in a number of ways, from individual interviews, to postal questionnaires, to small or large group discussions, depending on the constraints and culture of the organization.

Several years ago, I was invited to offer consultation to the management team of a housing agency that consisted of different departments representing different aspects of the agency’s work: finance, personnel, vetting applicants, housing stock, and so on. There were big differences in each manager’s perception of the agency, and there was also some bad feeling about the way the agency was managed. In discussion with the director, we decided that I would interview each of the seven managers, at hourly intervals, during one day. I would then pool the information and draw my own conclusions about what was going on, and this would form the basis of a one-day seminar with the management team. This was a fascinating exercise because as I saw the agency through each person’s eyes—fully convinced that each manager was “right”, or at least justified in their views—I slowly acquired an overall picture that gave some meaning to their difficulties.

 

CHAPTER FIVE. Structures for the future

ePub

Consultation in the social constructionist approach is not about solving problems once and for all, but about changing the way employees understand the construction of problems in the first place, and the way problems can be deconstructed and re-constructed through conversation. If the employees come to value this process, preparing for the future becomes an exercise in ensuring that essential conversations can take place to develop the necessary strategies and structures for the future.

The social constructionist model suggests that an organization needs opportunities to continue essential conversations long after the consultant has left the field. This is one place where social construction and structure have a reciprocal relationship. They need each other. The conversation creates structures that all can agree on, and these structures ensure that further conversations will be possible to tackle new problems and articulate new organizational values and create new structures.

One structure that clearly possesses the potential to maintain a social constructionist process is the staff meeting. This is one place where the organization is continually being constructed through conversation amongst its members. It is also the place where the more formal constructions such as policies and procedures are hammered out, and the more informal constructions of values and opinions are established.

 

CHAPTER SIX. Conversations and beliefs

ePub

I have worked as a consultant to a small marital mediation service (10 staff) on and off for several years. They asked me to spend one and a half days with them following a difficult year in which several staff had had personal problems that took their attention away from work and left the agency feeling the need to pull together and clarify its direction.

Because of the personal preoccupations of the staff, I thought they might like to begin by each person telling the group “where they were” as individuals working in this agency. I invited them to say what they wanted the group to understand about what was on their minds about themselves and their work. During this round, a number of people spoke of a dwindling creativity in the work. I simply noted this to myself.

I often begin working in this way. It connects me with the experience of individuals in the group, but it is also the beginning of a social construction process, because each staff member can listen attentively to the others.

 

CHAPTER SEVEN. Learning the hard way

ePub

I think there is much to be gained from looking at cases that did not seem to go so well. They provide a rich opportunity for learning about—and from—ways that, in the words of the balloonist, “didn’t fail,just didn’t work”. It is in this spirit that I present the following case

I was asked to work with a small organization that provided housing and support services for a wide range of clients. The organization consisted of two departmental managers (both men), the director (a woman), and about 50 employees. The director approached me about the work saying that she would interview several prospective consultants, including myself, and then choose the best person for the job. She also asked permission to contact two previous clients of mine to assess the outcome of my work. This seemed eminently appropriate, but there was something about the way the director approached this that put me on the defensive, and I remember feeling more pressure than usual to show myself as competent and successful.

 

Details

Print Book
E-Books
Slices

Format name
ePub (DRM)
Encrypted
true
Sku
9781780497488
Isbn
9781780497488
File size
0 Bytes
Printing
Disabled
Copying
Disabled
Read aloud
No
Format name
ePub
Encrypted
No
Printing
Allowed
Copying
Allowed
Read aloud
Allowed
Sku
In metadata
Isbn
In metadata
File size
In metadata