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CHAPTER FIVE. Structures for the future

Campbell, David Karnac Books 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.

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CHAPTER ONE. Social constructionism and systemic thinking

Campbell, David Karnac Books 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.

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CHAPTER 6. By which process do people learn to do consultation?

Campbell, David Karnac Books ePub

Berit Sander

This is the story about my encounter with the systemic approach to consultation in groups and organizations. I shall try to draw a picture of the changes in my perception of problems, problem-solving, group processes, and ultimately in the way I picture the interacting world around me. It has been a very interesting personal development, but at the same time unexpectedly difficult and slow: you do not change your picture of the world overnight—not even over months. Why, then, should I want to work within the framework of this new concept? Let me try to explain.

GOOD-BYE, SCAPEGOATS

Analysing, describing, and recommending are all daily tools in the consultant's work when establishing change in organizations. Such tools are, of course, necessary and relevant for a structural kind of consultancy.

But the kind of consultancy work that addresses cooperation and management—that is, which is directly related to interrelations—demands another approach. I will put it as strongly as to say that it is an explicit advantage to adopt a new “perception of the world” when our task is to be found within the context of relations and processes between people.

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CHAPTER 1. Seminar one

Campbell, David Karnac Books ePub

I think of the Danish seminars as one long teaching event lasting ten months, but I also think of them as three distinct two-day events, with different short-term goals for each. In the longer view, I expected to introduce the participants to the main systemic concepts that are useful in consultation work; I expected to practice interviewing skills through role-plays; I expected to relate these ideas and techniques to their own cases through case discussions—mine and theirs—and discussion and role play; and I expected them to develop some awareness of what they personally brought to this work.

I prepared a plan to begin with mostly concept- and skill-based work, then to apply this more intensively to the participants' own professional situation and do more personal work towards the end of the process, when they had a clearer idea of what this was all about and were more familiar and secure with each other. I relied on the participants learning from many different sources: from me, from their wider reading, from each other, and from the exercises on the course—but primarily from themselves. I expected them to play with new ideas and try them out in their own work. I also expected them to develop their ideas and skills in the space between sessions.

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CHAPTER THREE. The contract and the consulting environment

Campbell, David Karnac Books 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.

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