Tavistock Institute in academic exchange with Vilnius University, Lithuania

Tavistock Institute in academic exchange with Vilnius University, Lithuania

Mannie Sher teaches and consults in Lithuania under the Erasmus programme of the EU.

Mannie Sher teaches and consults in Lithuania under the Erasmus programme of the EU.

This programme of teaching and consulting from 21st to 25th January 2013 was prepared in conjunction with Professor Jolita Buzaityte-Kasalyniene of the University of Vilnius and Milda Autukaite, Director of Human Resources at Swedbank, Lithuania. The programme was an integrated academic and experiential teaching week on research and consultancy in the social sciences with an emphasis on Tavistock Institute methodologies. The visit also provided an opportunity to prepare the forth-coming Tavistock group relations working conference, which will be held at Vilnius University from 21st to 25th August 2013.

The programme comprised 3 lectures, 3 seminars and 3 consultations. The titles of the lectures included: (i) the History and Work of the Tavistock Institute of Human Relations, (ii) Leading in Times of Uncertainty; and (iii) Group Relations as a relevant method for social and organisational change.

The programme focussed on the changing social contract between social institutions, like the health service, policing, education and banking and the people they serve. Attention was given to beneath-the-surface dynamics of organisational task and purpose in order to better understand the place of values and culture and the role of leadership that often get taken for granted, weaken, turn into assumptions, and cease to have a place in people’s minds and behaviour. Case presentation seminars followed the lectures in which volunteers presented their own organisational issues and challenges for discussion.

Three consulting assignments were conducted with different organisations, the common thread for all being their brevity, demonstrating that useful change-oriented insights can be arrived at in brief work. One assignment was a board evaluation with a bank; another was with a university faced with radical restructuring in order to survive, but facing huge resistance from faculty heads. The final consultancy was with a professional society that is grappling with the complacency of its membership while trying to develop a greater outward-facing stance.

The dynamics of organisational survival that were presented in the consultations, mirror a broader national struggle in Lithuania to survive as a nation in the face of a worrying trend of net emigration – large numbers of young people with precious skills leaving the country for better prospects in Western Europe. Developing specialist skills, valuing people and satisfying aspirations by creating improved prospects for wealth creation, career and social progression for young people, are the challenges facing Lithuanian leadership at all levels – political and organisational. There are huge gaps in learning-for-leadership because the perseverating attitudes of rule by fear of the two previous totalitarian regimes, Nazi and Communist, have not abated, and there is still a deep reluctance in the younger generation for people to step forward and offer themselves for new leadership roles in the new society. Through visits like this one and others of the Erasmus exchange programme, the Tavistock Institute is making a contribution to opening young minds to the risks and the benefits to themselves, their organisations and their country, of taking up leadership roles.

Lithuanian Group Relations Conference – Innovation and Authority in Organisations: Director’s Report (2010) can be read here.

Find out about our next group relations conference:
The Leicester Conference 2013.

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