The theory

At Tavistock Consulting we apply a ‘systems-psychodynamic’ theory of change to our work with organisations. This label refers to the application and integration of three overlapping frameworks of thinking and research, which together offer a heuristic approach to understanding organisations and the behaviour of those who work within them:

  • Psychoanalytic ideas, which help us to understand the significance of the unconscious on behaviour, creativity and development. Developing awareness of emotions, conflicts and our own and other people’s blind spots allows us to be more fully present at work and to manage effectively the complexity of working relationships.
  • The extension of psychoanalytic theory to the study of behaviour in groups, based on the work of Wilfred Bion, whose ground breaking ideas beginning in the 1940s set in motion our awareness of group dynamics. Understanding what is really going on in groups at work is essential in creating engaged, high-performing teams.
  • Systems thinking, including both the open systems approach pioneered by Eric Miller and A.K. Rice in the 1960s and the systems perspective developed by family therapists such as David Campbell and Clare Huffington more than two decades later. Systemic ideas allow us to locate the organisation in its context and to understand the interplay between the parts of the whole.

The practice

In our consultancy and our coaching practice at Tavistock Consulting we take, and help our clients to take, a position that allows both a focus on the internal world of the organisation, working with the unconscious processes that play out within and between groups and individuals at work, and also looks outward, to the context in which the organisation is located, its structure and the way it operates.

Ours is a deeper perspective.  We wish to understand deeper motivations and resistance to change and to uncover and tackle the root of dysfunction rather than simply deal with its manifestations. We create safe spaces in which to address the emotional dimensions of organisational life, which are often unconscious or unexpressed.  We use our understanding of group dynamics to help teams understand what holds them back and prevents members from fully taking up their roles. We know that only by looking at how they are working together can a team be truly high performing and we introduce imaginative methods for individuals to learn to truly engage with each other.

Working systemically allows people to discover the links between and within the different layers of an organisation’s system and its wider context, leading to a broader picture of the issues and a wider range of possible responses. It allows us to examine how people operate and communicate across boundaries and to identify what the composite parts of an organisation represent for the whole.

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