In addition to the five core OD theories there are other theories that a solid OD practitioners must understand to build on their theoretical foundation for practice. Good grounding in theory is essential for every OD practitioner. The better you understand the theory, the better you will understand the complex and intricate nature of the OD process and OD tool kit.
Psychodynamic Theory in Brief
The Psychodynamic approach includes all the theories in psychology that see human functioning based upon the interaction of drives and forces within the person or organisation, particularly unconscious, and between the different structures of the personality.
Psychodynamic Theory explores, experiences that have been pushed out of conscious awareness and argues that individuals and organisations have an unconscious that contains vulnerable feelings that are too difficult to be consciously aware of and as a result have developed defence mechanisms, such as denial, repression, rationalisation, etc., but that these defences cause more harm than good and that once the vulnerable or painful experiences are processed the defence mechanisms reduce or resolve.
At its core the theory emphasises the examination and resolution of inner conflicts helping organisations and individuals gain a perspective of pure insight in order to recognise the character traits, actions, responses, and behaviours that need to be transformed if performance is to be achieved.
The application of the theory in the organisational setting seeks to uncover the underlying conflicts that are the catalysts for the disturbing and unhealthy symptoms. The first job of the OD practitioner is to address the symptoms before working with the client to devise and construct elements of change that can be implemented.
- Human behaviour and relationships are shaped by conscious and unconscious influences.
- All behaviour has a cause or reason (usually unconscious). Therefore all behaviour is determined.
- Different parts of the unconscious mind are in constant struggle.
- Personality is made up of three parts (i.e. tripartite). The id, ego and super-ego.
- Behaviour is motivated by two instinctual drives: Eros (the sex drive & life instinct) and Thanatos (the aggressive drive & death instinct). Both these drives come from the “id”.
- Parts of the unconscious mind (the id and superego) are in constant conflict with the conscious part of the mind (the ego).
Applying Psychodynamic Theory in an OD intervention
- Design activities that work to expose areas of transference and resistance
- Develop processes for addressing difficult and challenging issues in order to develop cohesive and supportive relationships within the organisation.
- Encourage groups and teams to experiment and express themselves creatively as a method for strengthening their bond and accessing deeper tools of communication.
- Address questions such as “What does it mean that this organisation, with their unique history and concerns, is doing or saying this particular thing at this time? How might past experiences be impacting the organisation now? What are the unspoken expectations and underlying beliefs that are limiting potential?”