The experience of illuminating organisational culture from a Systems Psychodynamic perspective

Gray, Karen (2021) The experience of illuminating organisational culture from a Systems Psychodynamic perspective. Professional Doctorate thesis, Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust / University of Essex.

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Having encountered significant resistance in both leaders and myself as a consultant when providing systems-psychodynamic cultural feedback, I set out to investigate the experience of illuminating the unconscious elements of organisational culture, both for organisational leaders, and for the researcher. Taking a single case study approach, within the Royal College of Surgeons, I applied psychoanalytic observation alongside a systems-psychodynamic supervision group to gather both conscious and unconscious data around organisational culture. I also incorporated organisational members’ experience of culture through focus groups and captured my own experience in a research log. Characterising organisational culture as ‘ways of being’, thematic analysis generated twelve cultural themes which I then illuminated with organisational leaders in a feedback loop. I captured leaders’ experiences of cultural illumination in subsequent interviews and recorded my own experiences in narrative form. Interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA) of leader experience yielded four master themes – Positive Awakening; Stimulating or Stuck?; Group Therapy; Painful or Painless? Applying a systems-psychodynamic perspective, I hypothesised that leaders dealt with these positive, negative and nearly unbearable experiences of cultural illumination by splitting good/bad elements between themselves and utilising myself as a metabolising container of organisational anxieties. Conducting IPA on my researcher narrative generated three master themes – professionally engaged, hopeful & relieved; defensive, wary & impeded; useless & guilty. Discerning countertransference, I interpreted ‘useless and guilty’ as a 13th cultural theme and unconscious way of being. In a systems-psychodynamic frame, this could be understood as the organisation unconsciously processing the uselessness and guilt which arises for their surgeon members around death in surgery so they can continue to operate. This research has innovatively applied IPA to researcher narrative as a means to access and interpret researcher countertransference in psycho-social research. It has also offered a practical methodology to illuminate organisational culture at both conscious and unconscious levels.

Item Type: Thesis (Professional Doctorate)
Additional Information: A thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the University of Essex in collaboration with the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust for the Professional Doctorate in Consultation and the Organisation. No date specified when available to download.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Professional Doctorate in Consultation and the Organisation, D10D, Embargoed
Subjects: Groups & Organisations > Groups/Institutions/Organisations
Groups & Organisations > Occupational Groups
Groups & Organisations > Organisational Development
Psychological Therapies, Psychiatry, Counselling > Consultation
Department/People: Adult and Forensic Services

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