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The socio-technical approach to managing business and organizational change has been around for about half of the 20 th century. Ever since the pioneers of the approach at the Tavistock Institute for Human Relations published the outcome of their study of the attempts by the National Coal Board in the UK to improve productivity by the introduction of mechanization Trist ; Trist and Bamforth ; Trist et al. Advocates of the socio-technical approach can be found over the entire industrialized world Coakes, Lloyd-Jones, and Wills

The Tavistock Group

It was responsible for initiating a range of different types of enquiry into organizations: identifying organizational culture, work and organizational design, and organizational strategy in different environments, which are all reflected in management theory today.

Tavistock Group members also developed different kinds of collaboration with managers and organizations: from full action research engagement at all levels in the organization to advising managers on how to support and engage with their employees.

Keywords: human relations , management theory , organizational culture , organizational design , Tavistock Institute of Human Relations. This group made key contributions to developing new ways of designing job and organizational structures and processes and to understanding the role of organizational culture as a critical factor in organizational development which have been influential in management theory ever since.

TIHR, set up as an independent organization with charitable status in , was the setting for an interdisciplinary group who were to contribute significantly to shaping the theory of management emerging over the post-war period.

Rice, who moved from a role on Council to that of staff member in the first year and later comers, particularly, Fred F. Emery and Eric Miller. This chapter on management theorists thus adopts a narrower definition of the Group than Trist: those contributing to organization and management, rather than TIHR staff who explored broader societal fields, such as education, marriage, and the family.

Members of the Group did not work in isolation from one another or the wider field but collaborated with a broad network of individuals and organizations among their contemporaries in the field in the UK, Europe, and the US. In particular, the group drew on the action research and systems approach of Kurt Lewin and, a distinctive quality, an p. In its early years, all staff members committed to a personal psychoanalysis, which they believed would counter any tendency to project their own issues and agendas into those of the systems they researched or consulted to.

The action orientation derived both from their own urgent desire to engage with and contribute to society and from the powerful influence of action research—even when these studies did not employ action research methodologies—gave their theories an emergent quality. The action orientation also gave a very practical flavour to their collaborations with managers and workers in the different organizational settings they worked in.

The stimulation of the group's collective life, encountering diverse theoretical frameworks and methodologies and challenging themselves and each other through initial psychoanalytic enquiries into their individual and group life together, provided for rigour in developing theory, and attracted a range of intellectually able, strong-minded and charismatic members eager to take action to improve society and the experience of everyman. They acted as a group in that the theory they developed came out of a series of enquiries into organizational life in which they collaborated, and which produced findings which built on each other's work and thinking.

Although one stream of work identified and elaborated organizational culture while another developed job-, work-, and organization design, their preoccupations in these evolutions significantly overlapped. Like any group, especially one committing to methods which took them into surprising and novel places, the Tavistock Group experienced intense affections and loyalties, resentments and difficulties, which often persisted over many years, in some instances for decades.

Although the first chairman of the staff group, Tommy Wilson, played a crucial role in securing early funding and inspired enormous affection and respect, Eric Trist was the intellectual powerhouse and driver, initially as his deputy and later as his successor, a man of charismatic enthusiasm and warmth, who attracted similar affection to Wilson, though also rivalry which could make it difficult for some to find their own place in the Institute.

Most notably, Trist collaborated with a range of other group members to develop socio-technical systems design in manufacturing and heavy plant which became hugely influential over the following decades, a project also involving Fred Emery, Ken Rice, and Eric Miller among others at the Institute and beyond. First though, Elliot Jacques, a psychoanalyst by training, led a broad action research study in Glacier Metal Company which led him to identify organizational culture as a key paradigm for understanding organizations.

Jacques went on to explicate his understanding of how our unconscious defences are institutionalized in organizational life to create barriers to change and improvement. This understanding was applied by Isobel Menzies later Menzies Lyth in a study which analysed how p. Ken Rice, who collaborated with Jacques in Glacier Metal Company, having built on the work of Wilfred Bion to provide an account of culture at the factory, went on to apply the emergent ideas about socio-technical systems design in the Calico textile mills in Ahmademad, with the subsequent collaboration of Miller, first as an internal consultant to the company and later as a TIHR member.

Although other members of TIHR, and beyond, were important in developing complementary and alternative models and enriching the intellectual and group life of the Institute, these thinkers constitute the core of this chapter, as they worked to refine the scope and focus of the emergent Institute's theory of management and organization. An important role in the first phase of Tommy Wilson's leadership was played by Industrial Fellows, former workers sponsored through higher education often by their unions, who were recruited for training in field studies, but who also gave credibility and insider knowledge and contacts to research in different industries, especially Ken Bamforth, a former miner.

Bamforth had a key role in initiating socio-technical systems design through his initial collaboration with Trist in the coal-mining studies. The Tavistock Group was generally outward facing and broad in its wider affiliations and networks, collaborating over many years with a wide range of other actors across the world. The original texts of the Tavistock Groups, many appearing in the journal Human Relations , have been worked over by many writers over the ensuing years; this chapter uses the re-working of members of the original Tavistock Group themselves, rather than the broader set of authors who have written about their work Miller , Trist and Murray While each member of the Tavistock Group had a different theoretical background and training, they also wove three common theoretical roots into their professional practice and development of new theory: systems thinking derived from gestalt and an action research orientation influenced by Kurt Lewin, the systems theory considerably enriched later by thinkers such as von Bertalanffy, and the psychoanalytic perspectives of Melanie Klein and Wilfred Bion, with the additional element of working in the here and now derived from Kurt Lewin.

All group members except Fred Emery owned the influence of Melanie Klein's object relations theory on their emerging thinking and work. Klein's theory paid attention to p. In group behaviour this often appears as scapegoating or idealization. Klein's theory was important to the Group, both in terms of analysing what was happening in groups and organizations, but also in terms of the data available to the action researcher through processes of transference and counter-transference.

Building on Klein's understandings but developing a distinctive approach from observations of hundreds of groups through the war-related activities of the Clinic, Bion drew attention to the way groups work in two ways: first, on the overt task; and, second, in the way they collude in defensive behaviour to avoid the anxiety of learning and working together on that task through variants of three types of behaviour.

Members of the Tavistock Group, such as Wilson and Trist, had worked with Bion in the war-related activities such as officer selection and civil resettlement of prisoners of war, where therapeutic communities were developed, and Bion consulted to the first management group of the emergent independent Institute as the Clinic was taken into the new National Health Service in All members of the Tavistock Group except Emery participated in such groups, which enabled them to learn this approach experientially even before they began to be reported in Human Relations from onwards.

This was eventually collected in book form Bion While only two of the founder members of TIHR were psychoanalysts by training, for most of the group, understanding an organization in terms of its underlying unconscious dynamics was or became a habitual application in the client systems which were to pay the Institute as an independent organization.

Subsequently, Tavistock Group members were to bring together these different streams of psychoanalytic p. Kurt Lewin, possibly best known for saying the best way to understand a system is to try to change it, was an important early contributor to the Tavistock Group's practice of group work, action research aspirations, and adoption of a systems perspective.

In other respects, their group work diverged from his. A stronger influence lay in the Tavistock Group's adoption of action research, although in this also there was a departure from his practice, which they saw as over-rigid in its adherence to control groups and in giving primacy to the social scientist's or theory's requirements over those of the client system. In fact, Lewin and the Tavistock Group were only just beginning to work out the theoretical and practical implications of action research at the stage when Lewin suddenly died following his article on the subject in the first issue of Human Relations The importance of action research as an orientation strongly pervaded the Group and their shared practice, Jacques first constructing for the group at Glacier Metal Company an action research methodology which they would all largely adopt and adapt.

The initial studies, most reported in the journal Human Relations , initially a joint venture with Lewin's Research Centre for Group Dynamics at MIT later University of Michigan , are narrow in focus, the novelty of their findings assumed for readers at the time, and providing a strong sense of the emergent nature of their theory.

This can be seen in the Tavistock Group's emphasis for managers on what goes on at the boundaries of teams or work groups and their departments, between departments, and between the organization and its environment.

After Emery's arrival in brought the Tavistock Group's attention to the work of von Bertalanffy , systems thinking about organizations as organic and mechanical systems—with inputs, transformative capability, and outputs—supported them in analysing work organization and work processes to effective good job and work design. Jacques was to leave the Institute after gaining his PhD from Harvard for his book on Glacier Metal Company, having had no response to the book's offer to managers to engage in culture change Trist and Murray : 9.

Later he withdrew from his earlier positions about the role of the unconscious in working life, finishing his career as Professor of Social Science and Director of the Institute of Social and Organizational Studies at Brunel University. His early departure from the Institute was resented by some of the Tavistock Group, who perceived it as personal and professional disloyalty to their collective enterprise.

Jacques may himself have experienced a similar ambivalence to his former colleagues, and it is notable how accounts of his work and Trist's in management theory are often described in isolation from each other, despite their strong overlapping shared theory and practice e.

Pugh and Hickson, , Ramage and Shipp From Jacques led a large team of researchers in an action research project at Glacier Metal Works, which adopted the new action research methodology espoused at the p. Almost the whole of the first three years of their time there was dedicated to establishing and maintaining their independent identity as a research team, only working on problems when they were invited in to do so by the internal structures involving managers and employees together.

This allowed them to take up a role which would support the company's staff in addressing their own specific practical problems through addressing underlying issues which dogged their own attempts to create a positive climate between departments and hierarchical levels. The lead the managing director gave was to avoid direct instruction, adopting a form of consultative behaviour which detached itself from his executive role.

Team working between senior managers was inhibited by the convention of private communication between the managing director or general manager, which preserved the appearance of friendliness without surfacing or resolving differences.

Two of these made important contributions to the Tavistock Group's understanding of culture and how they worked with it: John Hill's study of survival curves in labour turnover contrasted the performance of different departments at Glacier Metal which related to the culture of the department Hill et al.

The explorations of the differences between departments as sub-systems would be continued in Rice's work with the Calico Textile Mills, recounted in the next section. Taken together, Jacques and Rice, but especially Jacques, contributed to the way the rest of the Tavistock Group, as well as many other management theorists and practitioners, understood organizations as having distinctive cultures which might support or impede their work.

This was later reflected in a major collaboration with Shell Refining later Shell UK Ltd in developing a new management philosophy from , initially involving Trist and Emery Cooper and Foster In addition, the theorists contributed to a practice of how to work with organizational culture, which other group members, and a much wider group of practitioners among managers and their consultants, learnt to pay attention to and in many cases adopt or adapt.

Jacques provided a more generalized account of how unconscious processes shape organizational life in a key Human Relations journal article While Jacques had by this time left the Institute, he drew on his experience at Glacier Metal Company to apply Paula Heimann's concepts of social defences These built on Melanie Klein's ideas about the way defences against paranoid anxiety, mobilized at infancy, continue to act as default unconscious settings when we encounter difficulties in our adult lives.

This process provides group and organization members with temporary alleviation from the intolerability of their own negative feelings by participating in group idealization, a splitting off of their own bad feelings which are then projected into others, sometimes disguising these bad objects by dressing them up as in idealization. In Glacier Metal Works, Jacques saw the positive attitude of managers to workers as both an idealization of the workers and the placation of their hostile representatives.

This protected the managers from their guilt for their own status, an authority felt unconsciously to be uncontrolled and omnipotent, carrying the threat of retaliation. Isobel Menzies's famous study of nursing Menzies Lyth provides an account of how socially constructed defences are mobilized across a profession, and also of how such institutional elements pervade individual organizational responses.

Originally an economist, Menzies was initially recruited to the Clinic's social department from Aberdeen by Trist who had made this move earlier, joining the work on the civil resettlement units.

Isobel Menzies Lyth, after her marriage was the only woman among the founder members of the Institute and went on to become a psychoanalyst continuing as a member of the Tavistock Clinic for her clinical practice and as a member of the Council trustee board of the Institute well into her retirement.

Perhaps her continuing support enabled her contribution to social defences against anxiety to be more readily celebrated than that of Jacques, who had left the Institute by the time of this publication. Menzies spoke to the inherent challenge in nursing, where the usual social etiquette is continually breached by the requirement to respond to the physical needs of the sick, p.

This effectively interrupted their capacity for concern and compassion and from experiencing themselves as good, and capable of making the right decisions. The result was a higher degree of anxiety was being experienced by nurses than was entirely warranted.

Menzies gives a detailed analysis of the many ways in which these defences are expressed, through breaking down nursing tasks into meaningless routines, the wearing of uniforms, and the enforcement of petty hierarchies, among other devices. Important developments to the way the Tavistock Group and others understood the organizations they analysed and worked with were made by Rice, later Miller and Rice Rice articulated what can perhaps be seen as implicit in the theory and practice of the Tavistock Group which brought together two separate theories: on the one hand, following the lead of Wilfred Bion, that group members each have a differentiated as well as undifferentiated part to play in group life and, on the other hand, Kurt Lewin's gestalt ideas about subsystems being part of the whole system.

Systems psychodynamics expresses the idea that the psycho-dynamics of a subsystem will manifest the psycho-dynamics of the larger system and, indeed, may only be understood in that broader context. The differentiation of organizational tasks and of different subsystems across organizations is a key aspect of the socio-technical theories described in the second section of this chapter.

They also provided the focus for application of the psychodynamic approach, highlighting the unconscious aspects of interactions between different groups and systems.

Rice Institute in the US, which celebrates Rice's contribution to this methodology, following his early death. Rice also made a distinctive contribution to the development of socio-technical systems design which is discussed later in the chapter. Until post World War II, job and work design had been dominated by the needs of technology in the rational approach proposed by Frederick Taylor, which subordinated the human and social needs in organization to those of the machine.

Partly this reflected the relative capital intensiveness of plant and the cheap cost of labour over the first part of the twentieth century. Changes in social relationships, reinforced by experience of the war, highlighted a desire among social scientists to overcome the conflicts between workers and management inherent in this approach.

A large number of people in different institutions came to be associated with STS over many years, including most remaining and incoming members of the Tavistock Group. However, socio-technical systems design is most identified with the work of Eric Trist, a member of the Tavistock Group involved in war-time officer selection boards and civil resettlement units, and first Deputy Chairman of the Tavistock Institute under Tommy Wilson in the newly formed Institute, taking over as Chairman on Wilson's departure to Unilever.

Eric Trist was a social psychologist who had broad disciplinary interests and a strong capacity for fostering intellectual enquiry and engagement. On a two-year fellowship to the United States in the early s, he was influenced by the cultural anthropologist, Edward Sapir, who was linking ideas across anthropology, social psychology, and psychoanalysis at Yale, and met Kurt Lewin at Yale.

Trist had been deeply affected by the living conditions of the unemployed in the US Depression and those of Dundee on his return to the UK to lecture at St Andrews, resulting in a strong concern for working conditions.

Joining Bion at the Tavistock Clinic's social department during the war years gave him the opportunity to explore his intellectual and political p. At the same time as the work in Glacier Metal Company was being undertaken, Eric Trist and Ken Bamforth, an Industrial Fellow who was a former coalminer, began a stream of studies in the English coalmines. This would begin the identification of semi-autonomous team-working and, eventually a stream of thinking about job- and organizational-design.

This emergent theory was also applied and developed by Ken Rice in the Calico Textile Mills in Ahmadebad in India, where he was joined in a follow-up study by Eric Miller, initially as an internal management consultant to the company, later joining the Institute staff for the rest of his career A number of others made further important contributions to socio-technical systems design, including Phil Herbst the principle of minimum critical specification, Herbst , Harold Ashby principle of requisite variety.

Most importantly, Trist's collaboration with Fred Emery, who joined, then led the collaboration with Einar Thorsrud in Norway, led to the spread of STS design in Europe, as well as formalizing and extending its theory for managers.

The initial study in coal-mining was conducted in the mine where Bamforth had worked as a miner and where his brother-in-law still took up the role of union secretary, facilitating access to the work. There, miners and their supervisors were responding to different conditions from long-wall mining through small-group working, more like conditions pre-mechanization, which engaged and motivated the miners. Mechanization had had the effect of introducing larger-scale working units with supervisors to a task which had previously often been undertaken by small groups, perhaps of one skilled worker with two or three unskilled workers, with highly specialized tasks which limited job variety as well as social interaction.

Tavistock Institute

It is a lot bolder and more innovative than first meets the eye. But, the real work still has to follow. It asks the pivotal question: how can we address risk more strategically and sustainably? What must our minds and senses be alert to, especially when we need to overcome our own resistance to confront the uncertain and unexpected? Risk concerns the future. It is an assessment of expected gain or loss. Whilst, technically, the value of those results may be positive or negative in general when we refer to risk management, we tend to focus more on the potential harm that may arise either from incurring a cost human, financial or other or by failing to attain some benefit, how ever that may be measured.

It might be the truth, but not the whole truth. Every person, every organization, and every nation has its own arrangement of powers and vulnerabilities - they all are part of complex interrelated social systems. Power can turn into vulnerability, and vulnerability may not mean powerlessness. Negotiations are important in the relations within and between organizations, communities and nations. Negotia-tion is a part of everyday life, whether personal or profession-al.

The Tavistock Institute of Human Relations

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He argues that we know how to do it, but somehow we seem to keep getting it wrong. I concluded with a question: What are the conditions in which it is possible and acceptable to be vulnerable in our society and survive? This book is my contribution to addressing that question at a time of continuing uncertainties in local and global economic and political life.

Experimenting with Organizational Life

It was responsible for initiating a range of different types of enquiry into organizations: identifying organizational culture, work and organizational design, and organizational strategy in different environments, which are all reflected in management theory today.

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Management takes place within a structured organisational setting with prescribed roles. It is directed towards the achievement of aims and objectives through influencing the efforts of others. Reduces the span of attention or effort for any one person or group. Develops practice and familiarity. The right to give an order. Should not be considered without reference to responsibility.

This article introduces Elton Mayo and Eric Trist, who have made significant contributions to the field of human relations and management consulting. The first section of the article provides a short biography of Mayo and Trist, while the following section summarizes their roles as consultants. The article then considers Mayo and Trist's impact on management practitioners. This article concludes with several comments on their contributions to the professionalization of management and management consulting. Keywords: Elton Mayo , Eric Trist , human relations , management consulting , school of management , organizational development , Tavistock Institute of Human Relations , management practitioners. The acceptance of management ideas by the business community does not necessarily follow from their scientific credibility or from purely socio-economic and technological factors.

Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read. Want to Read saving…. Want to Read Currently Reading Read. Other editions. Enlarge cover. Error rating book. Refresh and try again.

Human Relations has had a long tradition of bringing social science disciplines together in order to understand the character and complexity of human problems. We publish incisive investigations from an international network of leading scholars in management, psychology, sociology, politics, anthropology and economics. This note states briefly the mission of the journal.

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ISBN 13: 9780963401977


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