Contents Vol. 19.2              


Transformational and digital change, a UK perspective.                 

Rob Allen


This paper is based on a qualitative interpretivist methodology that helps to analyse, interpret, and explain the meanings that executives and consultants (as social actors), construct regarding so called transformational and digital change in the corporate setting. It explores change interventions viewed through a psychodynamic perspective that recognises many of the forces operating in an organisation may be ‘under the surface’ and may need to be made explicit if collective progress is to be made.

The author has attempted to produce research that is relevant to both practitioners and scholars by following some suggestions of Toffel (2016) to bridge the potential gap between perceptions and workplace realities. The study was primarily concerned with discovering what management practices (if any) are used by executives and consultants in the operationalisation and implementation of transformational and digital change. There are profound implications for the way societies, organisations, people and technology interact.

In conclusion, this paper calls for a move away from mechanistic management to an enlightened management approach a concept based on the work of Nonaka (2008) one that values individuals and interactions over processes and tools. This approach may go some way to ameliorate the impacts of change at the individual level.

‘Scallywag battalions’: Reflective Practice Groups with multidisciplinary teams in mental health and social care systems 

John Adlam


‘Reflective practice’ is a term imprecisely understood and used to describe a wide range of different activities or interventions. In this paper I examine the Reflective Practice Group (RPG) as an intervention offered to multidisciplinary teams (MDTs) in mental health and social care settings. Drawing extensively upon the work of Wilfred Bion and on the ‘Northfield I’ experiment which he led in 1942, I formulate the existential, conceptual and functional challenges of the MDT in terms of the problematic interplay between the drive towards autonomy and the exigencies of interdependence. I take this interplay as the figure, with the ground being the baseline disarray of traumatised systems that both defines and contextualises the individual worker’s predicament within the team. Analysing the nature of the MDT sheds new light on longstanding controversies about what ailment the RPG is there to address; what skill set is needed to facilitate it; and what methodology may be most appropriately used for its delivery.

Group Relations Love: Sentience and Group Relations Work   Part 1

Ellen Short 


Part I of this paper will focus on the relationship between sentience and group relations conference work. Literature concerning group relations work and sentience will be explored. Sentience will be explored structurally and externally through the lens of task and group, with a focus on systems, organizational transformation, as well as the history, philosophy and design of group relations conferences. Group relations work and sentience will also be focused on in relation to inquiry of why one does the work, embodying an internal perspective regarding the complexities of the consultant role and relationship to the group. The construct of Group Relations Love will be introduced in connection with aspects of sentience in group work. 


Group Relations Love: Sentience and Group Relations Work   Part 2

Ellen Short 


Part II of this paper will provide a focus on sentience and group relations work through the narratives of individuals who responded to a questionnaire about their lived experiences of group relations conference work. Formulated meanings, themes and theme clusters of the respondents’ narratives will be presented and explored using application of phenomenological analyses. Group Relations Love and the possibility of love of and for group work will be more deeply explored. A discussion and implications for group relations work will also be presented.


The Unconscious won’t go away – especially in organization

Susan Long


This article traces some of the ways in which the idea of the unconscious has transformed and been adapted from its origins in the eighteenth century to the understanding of organisations in the twenty-first century. Throughout the twentieth century psychoanalysis captured the term through its work with the repressed or dynamic unconscious. While psychoanalysis has often been attacked and has waned in scientific circles, the idea of the unconscious does not seem to go away; it returns in different forms and has continued to evolve since its beginnings. For example, neuroscience talks of ‘unconscious bias’ and has popularised this idea; organisational research looks to the ways in which groups develop cultures with unconscious assumptions; and social psychologists examine social factors that leave societies with blind spots. This article argues that to minimise destructivity and increase creativity, organisations need to be aware of unconscious social processes as they are evidenced nowadays. It ends with stressing some areas where organisations can do this.

Working with Attention and Distraction in Leadership Development

Peter Simpson, Robert French & Rob Sheffield


Bion’s theory of groups is used to explore the dynamics of learning on a leadership development programme. The dynamic of a group is influenced by the capacity of its members to negotiate, consciously and unconsciously, the tension between the opposed tendencies of attention and distraction, which is related to the tension between a desire to learn and a hatred of the process of development. Bion’s model of work-group and basic-assumption mentalities, which we equate with the dynamics of attention and distraction, is used to reflect on a two-month period of a development programme in a UK public service organisation. In related literature there is a tendency to focus on the pathology of basic-assumption mentality with limited interest in the healthy functioning of work-group mentality. Basic-assumption mentality contributes to understanding a group that is distracted from its purpose, but a focus on this, without comparable attention to work-group mentality, can lead to an inappropriately negative view of group process. This is contrary to Bion’s essential optimism about the powerful psychological structure of work-group mentality. The paper demonstrates the importance of combining an analysis of both attention and distraction to fully appreciate the complex dynamic of groups engaged in a developmental process.


Owning our part: from denial-based business to a regenerative economy       

Matthieu Daum


In this article, we explore a core set of organisational and social dynamics at work in the business world: the denial and disowning of the part we play in co-creating the world we live in, and the splitting needed to protect us from the guilt and shame that owning our part would unleash. We begin with exploring the Winnicottian splitting between the “false self” and the “true self”. We then venture into new territories, by exploring the denial, disowning and splitting that is needed in the “business as usual” economy to keep business going and avoid acknowledging its degrading impacts on social and eco-systems, creating, to paraphrase Winnicott, a split between a “false world” and a “true world”. Mainstream organisations have tended to structure this splitting formally through organisational defences, but are now at risk of being flooded with their split off parts. We then ask ourselves what can be done to start addressing our impact truthfully, and contribute to a shift from a degrading economy to a regenerative economy. The importance of containing and working through the guilt and shame that this might generate is explored, as well as the notions of purpose and purposeful leadership.

Accounts of Interventions

Applying the opinion blocks framework in catastrophic conflict: A practice paper

T Martin Ringer


Groups and teams that are involved in acute and/or prolonged conflict with each other create impermeable barriers between them that robustly resist change. This paper uses the framework of ‘opinion blocks’ to illustrate a means by which such conflict can worked with. Whilst the framework outlined is relatively recent, it has enabled the author to engage with situations of ‘catastrophic’ conflict in a way that has resulted in surprising improvements in the effectiveness of collaboration between the involved parties.  The opinion blocks framework was introduced in an earlier article in this journal (Ringer, 2017b) in which the etiology of ‘collective self-righteousness’ was examined. The reader is advised to refer to this earlier article for a theoretical background to the opinion blocks framework.

The paper that follows uses a modified real life example from the author’s consulting practice to illustrate the principles involved.                 


Book Review

Social Dreaming, Associative Thinking, and Intensities of Affect

by Julian Manley (2018) Palgrave Macmillan. London 
Reviewed by Angela Eden


Robert French by Peter Simpson and Christopher Grey