Organisational design: The Unconscious at Work

Recently I was speaking with a character called Ben Metz about organisational psychology. (He’s one to follow, he’s organising a festival called Marmalade which is happening in April 2016, get involved!)

He got me reading The Unconscious at Work by Anton Obholzer and Vega Zagier Roberts. Here’s my notes from a chapter on open systems theory.


The distinction is made between what people are meant to be doing, the meaning they put on what they are doing, and what they are actually doing through their behaviour. Big differences between these can lead to miscommunication and dysfunction in the system.


Here are the questions that organisational design consultants can ask to help a system improve.

Often the aim of an organisation is too unclear, so the primary task that people ought to be doing is unclear and therefore can lead to dissatisfactory results. Defining what the aim is of an organisation can help define what activities staff ought to be carrying out.

It’s sort of obvious stuff, but it’s great to have terms to help articulate the subtleties of what’s going on. Having the right language can often make all the difference to be able to have a serious conversation about implementing change.

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