Contents Vol. 20.2


Part I; A Historical Analysis of “Our leader”:  A University ten-year study on executive succession and affect.

Gry Osnes


The aim of the paper was to explore how the collapse of a leadership structure was followed by distrust, a radical governance change, emotional turmoil and, over the following ten years, several successful successions. An initial role and system analysis was the basis for applying a neuro-psychoanalytic theory suggesting PANIC, CARE and RAGE[1] (Pankesepp & Biven, 2012) are the main underlying feelings that contributes to disruption in succession processes. A model on for the primary task of governance enabled a system analysis, alternative to assuming individual idiosyncratic and/or Oedipal emotional states, and offered an updated and more coherent system-psychoanalytic perspective. A longitudinal action research project included participative bottom-up processes, facilitative processes, coaching, observations of board meetings, interviews and archive data.


Part II; A Strategy-as-practice model on executive succession: Group dynamics, objectification and trust

Gry Osnes


The aim of the paper was to analyze the complexity of successions and, counteracting destructive group dynamics, to present a strategy model. An in-depth case study of several successions within the same organization was used. Several Chair of board and CEO successions would restore and develop the trust of employees and stakeholders. By executing effective succession processes, a governance structure creates legitimacy and trust. The research identified different “doings”, called praxes, that objectified (Bollas, 1999) the succession dynamics. The more active and less habitual, the more effective was the execution of the strategy praxes. A longitudinal action research project included participative bottom-up processes, facilitative processes, coaching, observations of the board, interviews and archive data.


A Socio-economic System for Affect: Dreaming of Co-operative relationships and affect in Bermuda, Preston and Mondragón

Julian Manley, Mike Aiken


The post-global financial crisis era has presented sharp economic challenges to businesses and communities, accompanied by doubts about democratic processes and distrust of ‘facts’ amid the retrenchment on economic, environmental and social aspects of citizen’s lives. In this context, co-operative organisations – with their emphasis on principles of mutual governance – present models of alternative organisational systems for a post-growth future.

This paper examines the co-operative sphere to draw out how ‘affect’ and ‘relationships’ in co-operatives may radically alter the sense of working democratically. It draws on methods of social dreaming and free association to examine co-operative development in three cases at different developmental stages: in Hamilton, Bermuda; Preston, UK; and Mondragón, Basque Country. It examines evidence of the way relationships and affect may emerge in organisational systems that place a focus on participatory democracy as opposed to hierarchical structures. We draw from intensive work in these cases to consider the distinctive background and contextual features that may be present within co-operative development processes. The paper concludes that co-operative working can foster developmental relationships and present distinctive expressions of the affective realm over time.


Attachment Transition as a Means for Achieving Strategic Capacity: A Multi Case Study of Family Business Experiencing Change.

Victoria M Grady, James D. Grady, Gry Osnes 


In this article we explore qualities that have emerged out of the application of modern Attachment Theory and its contribution to successful global family businesses.  The analysis focuses on the nature of attachment behavior, how and why loss occurs, the mourning process as a function of attachment and the importance of honoring the loss of these attachments. We suggest completion of the mourning process may lead to the renewal or reorientation of the business in a more constructive and productive direction—ultimately enhancing the organisation’s strategic capacity.  The research data included is based on in-depth cross-cultural analysis with case study data representing China, Tanzania, USA, and Sweden.  


Recovering Human Inheritance in Organisations and Society: An Exploration of David Armstrong’s “Ethical Imagination”                                                                                                         

Peter Szabo


This article examines closely, explores, and expands upon David Armstrong’s idea of the ethical imagination in psychodynamically informed consultation and systems thinking. In his article, published in Organisational & Social Dynamics in 2017, Armstrong sought to recover, and to renew attention towards, the early emphasis of the field on the restoration of human agency in institutional settings. Armstrong challenged the field to broaden its perspective on the dilemmas it seeks to tackle and to “rediscover and re own the active voice” so as to help people, institutions, and society at large, develop more humanely and productively.

Using case study and reference to theoretical work, this article further characterizes the experience and role of imagination in organisational consultation, and explores and advances the “ethical” dimensions of Armstrong’s concept. The paper concludes by arguing that in the context of the current crises that threaten humanity (e.g., climate change, dehumanizing technological innovation), the field of systems psychodynamics needs to devise novel theories, techniques, and, as Armstrong urges, “new forms of group and organisational life,” that recover and revitalize foundational aspects of what makes us human: the capacity to think, the capacity to feel, and the capacity to integrate.


Exploring the roots of bullying in a ‘pristine’ organisation

Sheila White


This paper describes part of a small-scale research project looking into how bullying can arise when everything on the surface of an organisation appears pristine. The HR (Human Resources) team of a large international company were working hard to create a healthy working environment for employees and ticking boxes to achieve the status of ‘a great place to work’. However, cases of bullying were still arising. Two colleagues and I were invited to provide insights into the roots of the conflicts. As part of the investigation we carried out an observation day and this forms the focus of the paper. Observations, based on a reflexive research method and psychoanalytical theory, are described. The subjective findings illustrate how when there is an excessive desire to care and protect employees, emotional life can become split off, denied and repressed. Disconnections develop and the ability of employees to engage with reality and collaborate effectively can be undermined, potentially leading to shame, envy and bullying.


Towards a Theory of Work Group Mentalities the case against singularity and unanimity  

Gerard van Reekum


This article confronts Bion’s psychological group theory with the author’s experience of participating in grouping processes. After presenting some motives in the introduction, a generic theory about work group mentalities is proposed and exemplified.
Under productive circumstances people appear able to deploy a range of mentalities that utilise the sophisticated aspect of their grouping potential. Building on Bion’s construct ‘group mentality’, the author claims that work group mentalities are neither singular nor necessarily unanimous among all individuals involved (different from what Bion asserted about getting swamped by a mentality proper to the primitive aspect of grouping). This claim is illustrated by four work group mentalities, described with their conditions and characteristics, as distinct ways of delimiting one’s experience independently from how other people think.
The transition between different work group mentalities shifts the experience from being involved in one characteristic grouping process to another. As yet, it is unclear when these shifts are sociogenic, or triggered purposefully by agency of the individual or another actant. To find answers to that question, the first step is constructing a validable conceptual framework, a language in which to think about grouping anew. The article is intended to be a contribution to this end.


Book Review

Ghosts in the Human Psyche by Vamik Volkan

published by Phoenix press

Review by Richard Morgan-Jones



[1] The use of capital letters indicated, within affective-neuroscience/neuropsychoanalytic that one is referring to a biological circuit that has a specific affective function and is experiences as different feelings. These concepts are developed from neuroscientific application and testing of psychoanalytic ideas. The capital letter indicate it has a more specific meaning that how these terms has been used more generally. ATTACHMENT has be found to consist of two different a biological systems; PANIC/GRIEF and CARE.