Organisational Interventionists

March 20, 2007

Over at Disorganizational Behaviour Travis has an interesting post about interventions:

One of my favorite shows on TV is called “Intervention” on A&E, which is about the struggles of people dealing with addiction. On the show, families stage interventions with the addicted member of the family in order to get them to seek help and change their ways. One of the principles that is encouraged is not only that the person is willing to change and get help, the family needs to come together in order for the change to work.

I haven’t seen this particular programme on this side of the pond but am familiar with the concept – Travis applies the thinking to organisational change processes and suggests that there needs to be a healthy “family” and a desire for change if this process is to work effectively in organisations. He goes on to say:

The dynamic of the workplace, whether it be a team, group, division, or whole organization, has to be in a healthy state for the organization to undergo serious and permanent organization change. It is almost a paradox that in order for change to be successful, there must be some level of stability in terms of relationships, communication and culture before the instability of change takes place.

This got me thinking about the way in which interventionists are used – the 3Cs Counsellors, Consultants and Coaches. Very often (not always) the 3Cs are called in when an individual is perceived to be “unhealthy”…the 3Cs are marshalled in the service of keeping the organisation healthy by splitting off the unhealthy individual to be made more healthy externally and reimported once s/he is sorted out. To take Travis’s example above (and addiction is a great example of a systemic approach) there are other questions to be asked about what work the individual does on behalf of the system and how the system itself contributes to and informs how the individual behaves within it. Increasingly I am working with client organisations to feed back into the system the dynamics that emerge within the coaching relationship and this is having significant impacts. The contract with the individual respects the content of the discussion but also makes space for the overall themes to be explored in the context of the whole system and as such is fed back as organisational intelligence.