For the digital age — an Introduction to Systems Psychodynamics

For the digital age — an Introduction to Systems Psychodynamics

This book describes this new and expanding paradigm – bringing together the social-technical and the people dimensions for the first time. 

An Introduction to Systems Psychodynamics: Consultancy, Research and Training is published by Routledge and is now available to order. The book provides an introduction to systems psychodynamics theory and how it can be applied to change and development in organisations.

This is a ‘How to’ book, peppered with many case studies illustrating the theories, bringing them to life. It is written in easy-to-understand language and reveals how Organisational Development consultants do their work.

If youre interested in understanding the complexity of working life and wondering why making change in your organisation can be so difficult, this book is an accessible and thorough guide to understanding and using systems psychodynamic ideas for business & organisational leaders and managers, change agents, policymakers, systems analysts, consultants and researchers in a wide range of professional settings.

So, what is this thing called Systems Psychodynamics?  This book describes this new and expanding paradigm bringing together the social-technical and the people dimensions for the first time examining its application to present-day organisational and social difficulties and showing how a holistic approach to these difficulties can offer a fresh perspective crucial in the current digital revolution.

Systems refers to open systems concepts that provide a framing perspective for the structures of organisational systems. These include:

  • an organisation’s design, division of labour, levels of authority, and reporting relationships;
  • the nature of work tasks, roles, processes and activities;
  • the organisation’s mission and primary task; and
  • the nature and patterning of the organisation’s task (what people are there to do) and the sentient (people’s feelings/emotions); and how these interact dynamically.

Psychodynamics refers to human behaviour and ideas/feelings in the context of organisational life that include:

  • conscious and unconscious motivations for work;
  • the emotional investments that people make in their roles and responsibilities; and
  • the political tensions that arise therefrom; plus
  • their status and the achievements that are related to work.

It also refers to:

  • the nature of people’s membership of groups/work teams and associated issues of leadership and followership
  • their professions, disciplines, organisations and industries; and
  • how their personal identities are tied to their group/work team membership – plus
  • the satisfactions and frustrations around how these are resolved (or not).

The book, with an introduction by Larry Hirschhorn, also includes a history of the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations; the systems psychodynamics approach; the psychoanalytic contribution; working with individuals; Bions theory of groups; working with groups; the contribution of Group Relations; organisational consultancy; defences against anxiety; and socio-technical systems in the 21st Century.

See a preview of An Introduction to Systems Psychodynamics


David Lawlor is a social scientist and professional partner of the Tavistock Institute and both authors specialise in research and consultancy practice.  Together with David, Mannie Sher, a Principal Social Scientist at the Institute, co-directs Organisational Consultancy: Working with Dynamics, our professional development course.  Mannie has also written: The Dynamics of Change: Tavistock Approaches to Improving Social Systems (2013); and co-edited: Dynamics at Boardroom Level: A Tavistock Primer for Leaders, Coaches and Consultants, this year.

Look out for the next books in the series coming along in 2022:

Volume 2: Systems Psychodynamics: Innovative Approaches towards Change, Whole Systems and Complexity

Volume 3: Systems Psychodynamics: Theorist and Practitioner Voices from the Field

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