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Exploring Individual and Organizational Boundaries

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One way of conceptualizing the relationship of individuals, through their roles, to their various groupings (such as families, communities, and business and industrial enterprises) is to consider their political relatedness. This includes an exploration of organizational structures, management, and issues of responsibility, leadership, and authority. Beyond this, the Tavistock open systems approach has always held that unconscious social processes are of central importance in such explorations. The methodology of the approach, therefore, is one that encourages people to consider the unconscious in relation to the political dimensions of institutions, This involves people in examine a range of boundaries, such as those between the inner and outer worlds of the individual, between person and role, and between enterprise and environment. Also involved are less obvious boundaries - or limits, or distinctions - such as those between certainty and uncertainty, order and chaos, innovation and destructiveness, reality and fantasy, and relationship and relatedness.This volume, with a new foreword by Mannie Sher, describes the educational approach of the Tavistock open systems mode of group relations training for exploring and interpreting such boundary issues and problems. Examples of its application include family systems, rural developments, and organizational development. This volume should be of value to students and teachers of organizational analysis, training, and development, as well as to students and teachers of organizational psychology and sociology.This volume is one of a series being reissued by Karnac Books representing the theory and practice of organizational development used over many years at the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations.

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1. Introductory Essay: Exploring Boundaries Boundary Management in Psychological Work with Groups

ePub

W. Gordon Lawrence

This collection of papers has been brought together to convey some of the current thinking of those involved in the kind of group relations training which was developed within the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations and is now conducted by its Group Relations Training Programme. Since the beginnings in 1957 when the first conference was held in conjunction with Leicester University, and which is described by E. L. Trist and C. Sofer in Exploration in Group Relations (1959), there have been a number of institutional developments. Within the Tavistock Institute a group of people led by the late Dr A. K. Rice, and principally supported by Mrs I. E. P. Menzies Lyth together with Drs P. M. Turquet, R. H. Gosling, and E. J. Miller, pressed forward the particular version of group relations training with which this volume is concerned.

Between the first conference and those under the directorship of A. K. Rice there occurred a critical division among those scientific workers of the Tavistock involved in group relations training. At the first conference the events were Study Groups and Application Groups. The former were designed to give participants experiences of the dynamics of small groups and the latter to explore how the learning could be applied in real-life situations. It was realized that while this design gave participants opportunities to become intensely aware of the destructive and creative processes of the unconscious in Study Groups there was a gap between such experiences and the world of work. Hence, H. Bridger introduced the Inter-Group Exercise at the second conference which was held at Buxton in 1959 (Higgin and Bridger, 1965). Bridger’s version of the Inter-Group Exercise provide participants with opportunities to form their own groups for the purpose of deciding on a programme of special interest sessions which would occupy the second half of the timetable for the conference. This event had a double task: the study of group processes in relation to a particular project. A. K. Rice and his colleagues, however, believed that the educational objectives of conference would be better realized if events had a single task, i.e. if the task of the event was framed in such a way that the existential nature of the event was preeminently available for study by all the participants. To have a double task for an event would mean that the exploration of the ‘here and now’ processes, which undoubtedly raise anxieties, could be defended against by participants. Thus the phenomenal stuff of unconscious group phenomena would be lost.

 

2. Boundary Management in Psychological Work with Groups

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David L. Singer, Boris M. Astrachan, Laurence J. Gould and Edward B. Klein

We have found the social systems based organizational concepts developed by the late A. K. Rice and his colleagues (e.g. Rice, 1963,1969; Miller and Rice, 1967; and Turquet, 1974) of the Tavistock Institute, London, useful in thinking through a variety of issues in therapeutic, educational, and group training enterprises. For example, we have applied these concepts to analysis of group psychotherapy (Astrachan, 1970), a comparison of group training models (Klein and Astrachan, 1971), the intake process in mental health centres (Levinson and Astrachan, 1974), the role of psychologists in schools (Singer, Whiton, and Fried, 1970), the dilemmas of a group of nonprofessional T-group trainers in a school district (Bunker and Singer, 1974), and a compensatory education programme (Klein and Gould, 1973). In this paper we examine some management aspects of leading small group events in which the feelings and behaviour of the participants—in the here and now or in their outside lives—are central to the group’s work. This would include ‘psychotherapeutic’, ‘encounter’, ‘training’, ‘sensitivity’, ‘Gestalt’, ‘T-A’, ‘marathon’, ‘personal growth’, and ‘human relations’ groups, among others. In particular, we shall focus on issues of task, role, structure, contract, and accountability.

 

3. The A. K. Rice Group Relations Conferences as a Reflection of Society

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Margaret J. Rioch

The A. K. Rice Institute, a national organization constituted at present by seven local centres in the United States, is concerned with the study of groups and institutions conceptualized as open systems. The work, which includes education, consultation and research, is based on a tradition which was developed in the Centre for Applied Social Research of the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations of London under the leadership of the late Dr A. Kenneth Rice. A major part of the educational work of the A. K. Rice Institute is done through group relations conferences, which provide opportunities for the study of intragroup and intergroup processes in the ‘here and now’ as they occur. The emphasis is on the nature of authority and the problems encountered in its exercise.

The concepts underlying the conferences stem from three major sources: psychoanalysis, the social sciences and practical experience. The psychoanalytic concepts are primarily those of Melanie Klein and Wilfred Bion. From the social sciences the concepts from field theory and systems are the most significant. The practical experience of Dr A. K. Rice in government and commerce led to the development of fruitful ways of thinking about any enterprise, whether it be commercial, educational, religious or any other kind, as an open system. The conferences have learning as their primary task and the level of focus is on the group as a system. One of the most important exercises in the conferences as they have developed is called the ‘intergroup event’ or the ‘intergroup exercise’. It was developed by A. K. Rice and has served for over ten years to illuminate the problems, tribulations, joys, and vicissitudes of life among groups. Its purpose is to provide opportunities for the study of intergroup relations as they happen.

 

4. The Pseudomutual Small Group or Institution

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James P. Gustafson

There are many ways to preserve the status quo of a small group or institution. The traditional methods are the use of literal force and favour and the cultivation of irrational hopes and fears that will assure loyalty. Bion (1961) has argued that we are prone to three types of irrational group formation which may be used to prevent development: the basic assumption dependency group which acts as if it only need wait for the godlike leader to provide for all the group’s needs; the basic assumption pairing group which acts as if it only need wait for a pair of people to produce a messiah or messianic idea; the basic assumption fight-flight group, which acts as if it only need flee from or attack the supposed danger. Bion suggests that the major conservative institutions are based on specialized use of one of the three basic assumptions: the church (also, the medical profession) uses basic assumption dependency, the aristocracy uses basic assumption pairing, and the army uses basic assumption fight-flight. While all of these modes may be very powerful, and crude, at least they are familiar. Since we may define these assumptions, we are less apt to lose ourselves in their spell.

 

5. Another Source of Conservatism in Groups

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Robert H. Gosling

The ways that groups resist change in the face of good reason have often been the subject of comment. What Lewin (1951) called ‘quasi-stationary equilibrium’ can be seen in the way groups from the very smallest, the pair, to the largest, a conglomerate of institutions such as a state, cling to the status quo despite a widely agreed need for change and considerable internal and external pressure to bring it about.

Psychodynamic studies have usually pointed to two sources of this conservatism: reluctance to give up established relationships, and fear of the unknown and the unfamiliar. A third source will be described in this paper suggested by Winnicott’s work on transitional phenomena and their importance in creative and cultural activities.

In the animal kingdom attachment behaviour can be observed universally between the mother and her young. Depending on the biological maturity of the neonate the efforts made by the young to maintain proximity to the mother are variously intense (Bowlby, 1969). If separation exceeds a certain point, vigorous efforts are made to overcome it. In the case of human beings, because of the notable and prolonged immaturity of the baby, attachment behaviour is both intense and elaborate.

 

6. Manifestations of Transference in Small Training Groups

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Edward B. Klein

This paper is a beginning effort to elucidate and demonstrate the meaning and utility of the concept of transference as it is applied to understanding some psychological issues in small training groups. It is a preliminary attempt to answer these questions: What are manifestations of transference in small groups? Is transference more apparent in some groups than in others? A theoretical analysis using personality and group systems will be employed in understanding transference in small training groups.

Most of our knowledge of transference comes from classical psychoanalysis. A recent definition from that context is given by Greenson (1965):

Transference is the experiencing of feelings, drives, attitudes, fantasies and defenses toward a person in the present which are inappropriate to that person and are a repetition, a displacement of reactions originating in regard to significant persons in early childhood. I emphasize that for a reaction to be considered transference, it must have two characteristics : it must be a repetition of the past and it must be inappropriate to the present, (p. 171)

 

7. A Manager's View of the Institutional Event

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Dennis Guereca

The ‘institutional event’ seeks to lead to an understanding of the internal life and behaviour of the conference. Members and staff have each joined from their own individual environments and have experienced the process of joining and creating a unique organization which, by the start of the institutional event, has written some of its own history, established its own myths and allocated its own stereotypes and roles for a variety of tasks. While conference life is internally generated, it is inevitably coloured by the importation by the members and staff of their own values and experiences gained from their normal operational environments. Conference experience may already have severely tested and challenged the attitudes and behaviour of conference members, which are matters of passionate importance to individuals. It is not surprising that members’ resentment and anger is aroused and directed to the staff who have presumed to organize and participate in a conference where the primary task is to explore and understand human behaviour—not through a series of cosy theoretical lectures but simply by letting it happen with all its excitement and drama. The only constraints are those exercised by the members themselves and the only structure is the time boundary of conference events and the maintenance of professional roles and behaviour by the staff. Members are not bound as the staff are by this same minimal structure. They are free to pursue their learning experience in their own ways. Whether they choose to operate within or outside the framework of the design of the conference is in itself a piece of experience with which members and staff can work.

 

8. Men and Women at Work: A Group Relations Conference on Person and Role

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Laurence J. Gould

The exploration of issues related to gender, sexuality, and age seem particularly germane in our current work and personal situations. In recent years we have witnessed the dramatic upsurge of many sorts of incipient revolutions. Certainly one among these has been in the sexual realm—not only in the intimate and narrow sense of sexual, but in the broader areas concerning the nature of the family unit itself, and role shifts or changes in the world of work. However, there is much to suggest that the ability of men and women to work together effectively is still often seriously impaired by deeply held gender-linked attitudes, fantasies, and stereotypes that men and women have about themselves and each other. Adding to these dilemmas are the powerful ways in which age or stages of adult development interact with such gender-related issues. And finally, the loosening of sexual constraints, both internally and externally, confront us continually with the dilemmas of temptation, choice, and action which cross traditional boundaries. This constellation of gender, sexuality, and age may be viewed, therefore, as an increasingly salient aspect of group and organizational work settings as it influences or interacts with issues of authority and leadership.

 

9. By Women, for Women: A Group Relations Conference

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Susan Taylor, Marcia Bogdanoff, Danielle Brown, Linda Hillman, Cheryl Kurash, Julie Spain, Barbara Thacher, and Lissa Weinstein

In psychodynamic studies of group process, the behaviour of women in groups, and women’s relations to those in authority and leadership roles, have usually been studied in mixed-sex settings (e.g. Freud, 1950; Gibbard and Hartmann, 1973; Slater, 1966). Yet women find themselves with increasing frequency in task groups of their own sex: in a work context (even in occupations which are not traditionally female-dominated), in civic, religious, and voluntary organizations, or in groups gathered for ‘consciousness-raising’. Do such groups manifest concerns that are gender-specific? Do women encounter particular difficulties around leadership, authority, and participation in same-sex groups? In order to pursue these questions, the authors planned and staffed a three-day, nonresidential group relations conference which focused on issues of authority and leadership among women. This article will describe the conference and the dominant psychodynamic themes which emerged when women came together to study the functioning of all-women’s groups.

 

10. A Model for Distinguishing Supportive from Insight-oriented Psychotherapy Groups

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Robert H. Klein

Frequent discussions of the features characterizing group therapy appear in the literature. Some descriptions focus upon structural aspects of groups, e.g. size (Castore, 1962; Wolf and Schwartz, 1962), duration (Mintz, 1971; Stoller, 1968), setting (Jacobs and Spradlin, 1974), specific techniques and format utilized (Kaplan and Sadock, 1972; Sager and Kaplan, 1972), etc. In other instances, the leadership (Lieberman et al., 1973; Turquet, 1974), the population served (Friedman, 1976; Neighbor et al, 1958; Reddy and Lansky, 1974), the curative factors (Corsini and Rosenberg, 1955; Lieberman, 1976), and the theoretical persuasion of the therapist(s) (Cohn, 1970; Durkin, 1964; Whitaker and Lieberman, 1969; Yalom, 1971) have received considerable attention. At a somewhat broader level, psychotherapy groups are often differentiated in terms of whether they are ‘supportive’ or ‘insight-oriented’. ‘Supportive’ generally refers to groups composed of more severely disturbed patients in which limited goals of symptomatic relief are pursued, while ‘insight-oriented’ is usually applied to groups for neurotic outpatients which aim at uncovering and working through unconscious determinants of patients’ behaviour. Experience suggests, however, that such descriptions usually confuse rather than clarify matters by their lack of precision. These terms frequently are used as if they are mutually exclusive, and as if they identify a dichotomous classification, whereas, in our opinion, these labels refer more accurately to a continuum along which a given group may be characterized as more or less supportive or insight-oriented.

 

11. The Adolescent, the Family, and the Group: Boundary Considerations

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Roger L. Shapiro and John Zinner

In this paper we want to discuss the boundary concepts which have given orientation to our work in a research treatment programme for disturbed adolescents and their families. Boundaries are demarcations which are crucial to the definition of any system, in that they separate it from its environment and from other systems in its environment (Miller and Rice, 1963; Rice, 1965,1969). As such, boundary concepts are central in explicating a psychology of the individual personality system, of the family system, or of the group. Boundaries are also constructs which speak of the relationships between parts of a system and thus provide an essential framework for conceptualization of differential aspects of psychological processes within the individual or family or group (Landis, 1970).

We assume that there is an important correspondence in the structure of the personality system and its subsystems, and the structure of external reality— especially the social system and its subsystems—which impinges on that personality (Edelson, 1970). The same concept, then, would be expected to have an important homology in each system. The correspondence between the boundary concepts of individual psychology and the nature of boundaries in the family system and the group is the focus of our study. The aim of this study is to define the relation of boundary characteristics of the family system, in particular, characteristics of the boundary between the family and the individual adolescent, to the nature of self boundaries which have developed within the adolescent himself (Shapiro and Zinner, 1976). In addition, we consider how characteristics of self boundaries in the adolescent relate to the role boundaries he establishes in new interpersonal and group situations. Where there is pathology in the adolescent and in the family, we design treatment situations so that the manifestations of pathology in boundary problems, or the origins of pathology in boundary problems, may be explored (Shapiro, 1966, 1967, 1968, 1969).

 

12. Learning and the Group Experience

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Barry Palmer

In 1976 I took part in a one-day seminar on a particular approach to management development. My own contribution to the seminar was a lecture on learning. At the end of the day one of the participants commented that he assumed the two main influences on the approach presented at the seminar were Wilfred Bion and Gregory Bateson. The indebtedness to Bion had been made clear in my lecture, but his reference to Bateson was a surprise to me, since I knew nothing of his work. I obtained a copy of his collected papers (Bateson, 1973), and found that, although some of his terminology was unfamiliar, his ideas had considerable relevance to my current thinking about learning, to management development, and to the working conferences on group relations (Rice, 1964) in which I had been involved since 1963. The book generated new lines of thought by forcing me to think about familiar experiences in unfamiliar categories, and brought into prominence issues of which I had previously been only peripherally aware. At the time of writing I have not yet put them down.

 

13. Darkness

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John Broadbent

I offer some literary parallels to group phenomena. People in groups often say, ‘It’s not like that—we’re not sitting in that order’; ‘He didn’t say that; or, if he did, it doesn’t mean anything’. Yet the characters of high literature manifestly do sit like that and say things like that—very odd actions and speeches occur; and the artist must intend some meaning. What’s more, these events are usually felt to be, as a whole, true to life. So my thesis is that as the artist stands to life so the interpretation stands to the group.

I was in a recent meeting of a mutual consultation group. Pierre Turquet had been its initiating consultant at the Leicester University’s conference in 1973. Something like this passage occurred:

A. It’s stifling.

B. Somebody ought to start getting us out of it.

C. It can’t be me because it would mean going into the dark and that’s dange

rous.

D. When you said ‘going into the dark’ you were gazing at the table in the

middle of us. Isn’t the dark the task?

 

14. The Psychology of Innovation in an Industrial Setting

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James C. Miller

The research reported on in this paper is the result of an interdisciplinary project of six social scientists1 who shared an interest in organizations, but who differed widely in their theoretical orientations and their approach to organizational consultation. We acted as consultants to a small, innovative, technologically based factory in a middle-sized community in upstate New York. For those of us more familiar with governmental, education, and mental health institutions, it provided an opportunity to contrast the unclarities and uncertainties which characterize these systems with a greater potential for articulation and direction in a relatively isolated industrial operation. For those of us more familiar with business consultation, it presented an opportunity to study a small industrial unit in a larger corporate enterprise which was relatively distant from corporate management, and thus from the usual kinds of corporate training enterprises.

The plant was presented to us as a success story within the larger corporate organization. Since for most industrial organizations the primary task revolves, in one way or another, around making a profit, we doubted that the plant would have been presented to us as a success had it not been an economic success. As we learned more, we discovered that indeed by most standards it was an economic success, having developed production technologies that allowed the product to be produced at a lower cost than at other, similar plants without lowering the socio-economic status of its workers compared with those employed at other plants in the area. Moreover, it became clear that the plant was seen as a success in still another way. Labour-management relations were seen as having been maintained at a consistently high level of collaboration and satisfaction from the inception of the plant down to the present, such that turnover and absenteeism were low, job satisfaction was high, and workers generally saw it as possible to ‘progress’ within the system. To put it another way, the ‘quality of life’ within the organization was seen as more than acceptable, and as setting a standard for the corporate organization.

 

15. Open Systems Revisited: A Proposition about Development and Change

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Eric J. Miller

Reinventing the wheel is not always the profitless exercise it is made out to be. Familiar objects and ideas can be taken too much for granted: the wheel is just a wheel, and one tends to stop thinking about it in terms of a relationship between vehicle and surface. Conditions change, so that only through questioning that functional relationship does it become possible to confirm that the wheel really is the most appropriate solution. In this way better wheels are developed and very occasionally quite new relationships are conceived; so the tank or the hovercraft gets invented. Gosling (in press) has described his repeated experience as a psychoanalyst of discovering with surprise that the novel dynamic he has teased out with a patient turns out to be the classical Oedipus complex. But if he had identified and labelled it sooner, would the work have been so effective? Almost certainly not, because that construction might well have interposed a filter between what the patient said and what the analyst heard. Similarly, those of us who take staff roles in group relations conferences sometimes relearn unexpectedly what we thought we knew already, about groups and about ourselves. Yet what is relearned is never quite the same as what was learned before; and one of Pierre Turquet’s contributions to staff groups was often to link that reexperience to the culture of that specific conference, in that specific environment, and in this way to generate new insights. As I see it, such a heightened capacity to listen to the data and to be surprised by them is the hallmark of the good therapist, the good educator and, indeed, the good scientist. Without making any such claim for myself, I intend to explore in this essay my own rediscovery of the open system.

 

16. A Concept for Today: The Management of Oneself in Role

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W. Gordon Lawrence

The group relations training which continues to be developed and articulated through the Tavistock Model that this book explores is not an activity that is divorced from concerns about the larger society. Since these educational ventures began there have been shifts in the larger society and, for example, authority has become a ‘bad object’ even though, on the surface, it looks as if we are living in stable, rational enterprises and institutions. In much the same way that the development of psychoanalysis as a discipline of thought and practice has meant that an analysis takes longer as analysands become more defended simply because there are more insights publicly available, I guess that participants in group relations experiences, too, become defended. More positively, however, it can be said that having experienced, identified, and named particular social phenomena of an unconscious nature which can be rediscovered in each educational venture, hitherto unnamed phenomena begin to become apparent. Therefore I believe that there are two challenges before those who sponsor and take up consultant roles in such group relations ventures. The first task is to continue to identify unconscious social processes as manifested in group settings. The second task emerges from this and the history and traditions of the thinking and practice generated through this Tavistock Model: to make explicit and to realize the political value of this work. This is the concept of the management of oneself in role.

 

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