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                 THE SOCIAL  ENGAGEMENT OF
                   SOCIAL SCIENCE

A Tavistock  Anthology
 

HISTORICAL  OVERVIEW

The Foundation  and Development of the Tavistock Institute

by Eric Trist and Hugh  Murray


THE  FORMATIVE YEARS

THE SEQUEL

GENERAL  OUTCOMES

The Founding Tradition

Division Into Two Groups

Type C Organizations

Post-War Transformation

The Matrix

Three Research Perspectives

Achieving a Working Identity

The International Network

References



THE  SEQUEL
Division into Two Groups
 

Before describing how  this division came about, it will be convenient to outline the Institute’s  structure and mode of functioning. It is an independent, not-for-profit  organization based on an Association of five hundred members - wellwishers  in key positions in the medical and academic worlds and also in industry  and other social sectors. To obtain such a support base became possible  only after prolonged effort. At this time, at its annual meeting, the  Association elected a small working Council that met with the Management  Committee (MC) every quarter. Members of the MC were nominated by the  staff and approved by the Council so that it could operate with a double  sanction. The MC proposed its own chairman but the Council had to confirm  the appointment. The MC met weekly to guide all aspects of the Institute’s  affairs as a group.

The permanent staff were of four grades -  consultants, principal project officers, project officers and assistant  project officers. When the Institute was separately incorporated in I947  there were eight staff members, in I96I there were 22. A pension scheme  had been negotiated by the Secretary after persisting difficulties. This  gave a much needed addition to security which, during the formative years,  had been exceedingly low. There were a number of people on temporary  assignment and many overseas visitors, especially from the United States,  who usually stayed a year. Administration was in the hands of a  professional Secretary, Sidney Gray, who had voting rights as a member of  the MC.

The MC met with the consultants quarterly and once every  year with the whole staff for a period of two days. There were fortnightly  seminars to discuss project and theoretical matters. The Council insisted  that members of MC be of professorial status. Salary scales had to be  approved by the whole staff and were in line with those of the  universities, the Scientific Civil Service and the National Health  Service. This system had functioned well; relations in working groups had  been good. A strong collegiate culture had persisted from the war and was  strengthened by the Institute having to contend with a largely hostile  environment.

In I958 Wilson had left to take up the position of  strategic adviser to Unilever world-wide. This was the first time a social  scientist (other than an economist) had been asked to fill a strategic  position at this level in industry. For ten years a balanced relationship  had existed between Wilson and Trist, as chairman and deputy chairman.  Wilson was a man of daring seminal insights. He had immense prestige in  both the medical and non-medical worlds and an exceedingly wide range of  contacts. He was adept at negotiations with government and foundations,  and opened up diverse channels which led to new projects. Trist had  complementary capacities in formulating concepts, project design and  research methodology and in acting as mentor to the growing body of  younger staff who required rapid development.
This partnership,  however, was no longer an organizational necessity; there was now a  well-developed staff, several of whom were active in finding and  maintaining projects and in coming forward with new ideas and  methods.

The Institute had become over-busy with its growing  project portfolio. The quarterly meetings with the consultants and the  annual retreats were not kept up. The place that had so strongly affirmed  the need to pay attention to the process side of organizational life had  been neglecting its own. With the departure of Wilson, the MC should have  asked for a radical reappraisal of the whole situation; but the requisite  meetings with the consultants and with the staff as a whole were never  called. It was assumed that the status quo would continue and that Trist  would become chairman with indefinite tenure. It was as though a  quasi-dynastic myth had inadvertently crept in to a supposedly democratic  process.

The staff was now beyond the limits of the small  face-to-face group it had been in I948. There was a far greater range of  interests, capabilities and projects and the problem of managing the  Institute as a single unit grew correspondingly greater.

Conflicts,  latent for some time, came to a head while Trist was in California on  sabbatical. Rice, as Acting Chairman, proposed that the Institute should  divide into three self-accounting project groups. This division was  resisted by many of the senior staff who wished to preserve the unity of  the whole. The differences were partly personal, partly professional, but  there was also disagreement over the direction in which the Institute  should best develop in the increasingly turbulent environment and how it  should be shaped to meet the new challenges. On Trist’s return an attempt  was made to resolve the differences but in the end two groups were formed,  the larger around Trist (the Human Resources Centre) and the smaller (the  Centre for Applied Social Research) around Rice.

Though not ideal,  the partition provided a “good enough” solution, to use Winnicott’s (I965)  term. Each group proceeded to work productively on its own  lines.

 

                                                               The Matrix


The  expansion of the Clinic and Institute during the I950s led to the need for  more space. The Ministry of Health offered to build new premises in the  Swiss Cottage district of Hampstead on the other side of Regent’s Park  from the existing set of buildings and the question arose as to whether  the Ministry would agree to the inclusion of activities of the Institute  that were not health related. The Minister at first said, “No.” Sir Hugh  Beaver, the then Chairman of the Council, had become convinced of the need  to keep the Clinic and Institute together and persuaded the Ministry to  allow all activities to be included so that the overall unity could be  preserved.

The I960s were now beginning. Many changes and  developments had taken place. How far was the original definition of  mission, made I5 years ago, still applicable? How far was the requirement  of psychoanalysis for all still relevant? How to find a formulation that  would no longer make the Institute appear as a para-medical organization  but would express the broader idea of the social engagement of social  science. Emery came up with the notion that everything it did - clinical  and non-clinical - was at a more general level concerned with improving  what he called “the important practical affairs of man.” He prepared a  document along these lines which was accepted by the Council.

The  Institute continued to administer the Clinic’s research and training  activities, which had grown into a large enterprise. Bowlby had molded  them into what he called the School of Family Psychiatry and Community  Mental Health. An attempt was made to get the School affiliated to one of  the London medical schools but the Tavistock was still too marginal and  too identified with psychoanalysis to be countenanced.

Another  development which began at about this time led to the setting up of an  Institute for Operational Research. A growing number of management and  decision scientists had become concerned that the capture of operational  research (OR) by academic departments focussed on mathematical modelmaking  was leading OR away from its original mission of dealing with real-world  problems. They were interested in establishing a connection with the  social sciences. Russell Ackoff of the University of Pennsylvania, a  leading authority on OR, who was in England on sabbatical during I962-63,  suggested setting up an institute for operational research in the  Tavistock orbit in conjunction with the British Operational Research  Society. This suggestion came to fruition. Ackoff also found a British  colleague, Neil Jessop, a mathematical statistician with social science  interests, who was willing to give up a senior post in industry to head up  the new enterprise.

There had been a large-scale development of OR  in Britain in industry but nothing had been done in the public sector,  outside defense. If it were to enter the policy field where problems were  often ill-defined, ambiguous and interest-group-driven, OR had to find new  concepts and methods to which the social sciences could contribute. OR  people had found that their recommendations were only too often left on  the shelf. They needed to involve the various stakeholders far more than  had been their custom, to admit the limits of rationality, to pay  attention to unconscious factors in organizational life and to acquire  process skills in dealing with them. The OR people had considerable  experience in dealing with large-scale problems at the  multi-organizational level which the Institute was just beginning to enter  and for which it lacked concepts and methodologies. On both sides there  was a need to establish common ground and to find an organizational  setting in which this could be explored. The status of an independent unit  within the Tavistock orbit provided the required conditions. The new unit  became known as the Institute for Operational Research (IOR).

The  Family Discussion Bureau had also developed into a large undertaking of  national standing. It needed a suitable identity to pursue its mission of  setting up a non-medical but professional channel for dealing with marital  difficulties. The title of the Institute for Marital Studies was proposed  and accepted. It became an autonomous unit within the Tavistock orbit  (Vol. I, “Non-Medical Marital Therapy”).

There were now five units:  those deriving from the original Management Committee - the Human  Resources Centre (HRC) and the Centre for Applied Social Research (CASR);  the School of Family Psychiatry and Community Mental Health; the Institute  for Marital Studies; and the Institute for Operational Research. The  Institute had become what Stringer (I967) called a multiorganization, a  federation of interacting units with the same overall mission of  furthering the social engagement of social science. Emery suggested that  it had acquired the character of a social matrix - a nourishing and  facilitating environment for all components. This matrix form of  organization had the merit of showing to the external world that the  overall mission could be pursued in different but nevertheless related  ways.

The mutation required a new organizational structure. While  each unit worked out its own form of internal governance the overall  organization was steered by a Joint Committee of the Council and Staff,  chaired by Sir Hugh Beaver with Trist as staff convener.

The  broader formulation of mission and the greater variety of activities and  people made it no longer possible or desirable that all staff should  undergo psychoanalysis. This had been falling into disuse since I958 and  became a matter of individual choice. Awareness of psychoanalytic concepts  and their relevance in the social field had become more widely accepted.  They were absorbed “by osmosis.” Moreover, one or two people with strongly  Jungian views regarding archetypes and the collective unconscious were now  on the staff. It was also found that capacity to work with groups and the  process side of organizational life was to a considerable extent a  personal endowment. Some of the best practitioners were “naturals.”  Nevertheless, a number of people continued to enter analysis and several  became analysts.

The matrix worked well for several years. Major  new projects were undertaken and a number of influential books produced.  The HRC, for example, embarked on what became known as the Norwegian  Industrial Democracy Project (Thorsrud and Emery, I964; Emery and  Thorsrud, I969; I977) and the Shell Management Philosophy Project (Hill,  I971). The CASR was instrumental in setting up an activity in the United  States based on the Tavistock/Leicester Group Relations Training  Conferences and Rice (I965) published a general account of this field.  Miller and Rice (I967) published their now classic book Systems of  Organizations. The IOR broke new ground with a project in which they  worked collaboratively with the HRC on urban planning. It was jointly  carried out with the city of Coventry with the support of the Nuffield  Foundation (Friend and Jessop, I969). The Institute for Marital Studies,  having published a book, Marriage: Studies in Emotional Conflict and  Growth (Pincus, 1960) which stated its theories and procedures, secured a  multiplier effect by training case workers from a large number of  organizations and extending its influence into continental  Europe.

There were unanticipated developments. Several key people  left the HRC. At the end of I966, Trist was appointed to a professorship  at the University of California (Los Angeles). Emery returned to Australia  in I969 as a Senior Fellow in the Research School of the Social Sciences  at the Australian National University. In I97I van Beinum went back to  Holland to develop a new Department of Continuing Management Education at  Erasmus University and in I974 Higgin left to set up a similar department  at the University of Loughborough. Pollock became a full-time analyst.  Growing out of his work with Unilever, Bridger instituted a unit of his  own - a network organization for career counselling. These individuals had  all been at the Institute either from the beginning or for a great number  of years. Though the moves all made sense and led to the appearance of new  nodes in an emerging international network, they severely reduced the  capacity of the HRC. The CASR was greatly impeded by the unexpected death  of A.K. Rice at the height of his powers.

The IOR also suffered the  death of its first leader, Neil Jessop, but the type of  social-science-linked OR that he was developing created such a demand that  the unit underwent extraordinary growth. It established offices in  Coventry and Edinburgh in addition to the London base; at its peak it had  20 professional staff, more than all the other units taken together. Three  books - Communications in the Building Industry (Higgin and Jessop, I963),  Local Government and Strategic Choice (Friend and Jessop, I969) and Public  Planning: The Inter-Corporate Dimension (Friend, Power and Yewlett, I974)  - established its academic reputation. The theory and practice of  reticulist planning which it introduced are now taught in planning schools  throughout the world.

In the mid-I970s, the International Monetary  Fund intervened dramatically in the British economy. Public spending was  cut by four-and-a-half billion pounds sterling. This meant that the funds  for the large IOR programs with government departments were instantly cut  and reductions in staff took place. The larger parts of HRC and IOR merged  to form a unit subsequently known as the Centre for Organizational and  Operational Research (COOR). In the early I980s even more drastic measures  became necessary; all the working groups became one unit in which the  members were on individual contract. There were no reserves to tide people  over between projects.

It seemed that the Institute might go under  but this did not happen. None of those left wanted the organization to  die. They had the tenacity to keep it going and have been rewarded by  seeing it re-expand and enter new areas of activity in which a younger  generation has the task of proving itself. The I987 annual report showed a  staff of 20.

During the financial crisis the IMS could no longer  accept the risk of remaining within the Institute. A new host organization  was available in the Tavistock Institute of Medical Psychology, kept in  existence for just such a need. IMS’s sponsors preferred this arrangement  with its even closer connections with the Clinic.

Recently, the  Clinic has acquired university status by becoming affiliated with Brunel  University in north-west London. There is no teaching hospital at Brunel.  There is, however, an inter-disciplinary Department of Social Science  founded by Elliott Jaques, one of the Tavistock founder members. New  opportunities, therefore, open up. The search for university status by the  Clinic and the School of Family Psychiatry and Community Mental Health has  ended in a novel way that by-passed the medical school connection. This  development was without precedent in Britain.


                                        The  International Network

With the establishment of the matrix  there began to emerge an international network of Tavistock-like centers.  These came into existence through the efforts of pioneering individuals  who had spent some time at the Tavistock or through the migration of  Tavistock staff to these new settings. The growth of such a network was  inherent in much that had been going on for several years, but events in  the I970s and early I980s prompted its actualization. Some of the projects  were (and are) joint undertakings between people at the Tavistock and  people in the other centers. A number of new endeavors have been large in  scale and have emerged in the socio-ecological perspective. They have  needed more resources than the Institute alone could supply. They have  often been international in scope and it has been necessary for them to be  mediated by organizations in the countries primarily concerned

Work  in these different settings has had a far-reaching effect on the concepts  and methods employed. It is rarely the case that a single setting can  carry forward a major innovative task for more than a limited period of  time. The variety created by multiple settings sooner or later becomes a  necessary factor in maintaining social innovation.

The following  tables summarize what has emerged. Table I briefly describes the centers  or nodes and the principal initiating individuals. The entries are by  country in the order in which they commenced operation. Table 2 shows how  far the movement was from the Tavistock to the node or in the other  direction. Visits were often for several months or a year. Some key  individuals migrated permanently or for several years, playing major  institution-building roles.

TABLE 1:  INTERNATIONAL NETWORK: DESCRIPTION OF NODES
(In order of  establishment)

NODE

INITIATING  INDIVIDUALS

DESCRIPTION

United  Kingdom

Scottish Institute  of Human Relations

Jock  Sutherland

When Sutherland  returned to his native Edinburgh in the late 1960s, on retiring as  Director of the Tavistock Clinic, he set up this independent center  to deal with the range of activities covered by the School of Family  Psychiatry and Community Mental Health.

Centre for Family  and Environmental Research

Robert and Rhona  Rapoport

This center was  set up in London in the early 1970s when the Rapoports (both  anthropologists and the latter also a psycho-analyst) moved their  work on dual career families and related concerns with the  family/work interface outside the Tavistock to establish an  independent identity.

Department of  Continuing Management Education, Loughborough University

Gurth  Higgin

In 1974 Higgin was  appointed to a new chair in this field and developed the first  department of its kind in a British university with a new type of  graduate diploma and strong links with industry in the region. There  has been an emphasis on participatory methods.

Organisation for  Promoting Understanding in Society (OPUS)

Eric  Miller

This was set up in  1975 by Sir Charles Goodeve, the dean of British OR and a member of  the Tavistock Council. It has an educational function, through which  citizens can be helped to use their own ""authority"" more  effectively. It seeks to investigate whether psycho-analytical  understanding can be applied to society as a field of study in its  own right.

Foundation for  Adapaption in Changing Environments

Tony Ambrose and  Harold Bridger

This small  Foundation concerned with projects in the socio-ecological field was  set up in the early 1980s by Ambrose, originally a developmental  psychologist, at the Tavistock's Department for Children and  Parents. It has the form of a network organization, being without  permanent staff. Originally at Minster Lovell, a village near  Oxford, it has now moved to Geneva as so much of its work has become  connected with the World Health Organization.

Europe

Work Research  Institutes, Oslo, Norway

Einar Thorsrud,  Fred Emery, David Herbst, Eric Trist

This has become one of  the principal institutions world-wide for the development of the  socio-technical and socio-ecological perspectives. Thorsrud, its  Director from 1962 until his untimely death in 1985, had been a  frequent visitor at the Tavistock. Emery-and to some extent Trist -  played a major role in its development during the 1960s. Herbst, alo  from the Tavistock, became a permanent staff member."

School of Business  Administration, Erasmus University, Holland

Hans van  Beinum

In 1971 van Beinum  returned to Holland to set up a department of post-experience  management education at Erasmus University. It has influenced the  development of the socio-technical and socioe-cological fields in  Europe.

Insititute for  Transitional Dynamics. Lucerne , Switzerland

Harold  Bridger

This small but promising  institute, set up by Bridger in the 1980s, focusses on  organizational transitions. It is a network organization without  permanent staff.

Australia

Centre for  Continuing Education, Australian National University

Fred and Merrelyn  Emery

When Emery  returned to Australia in 1969 as a Senior Fellow at the Research  School for the Social Sciences at the Australian National  University, he became associated with this center which is on the  boundary between the academic and practical worlds. It has become a  southern Tavistock in all three perspectives, being responsible for  many of the key conceptual and methodological  developments.

Canada

Action Learning  Group, Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University,  Toronto

Eric  Trist

In 1978 Trist  joined the Faculty of Environmental Studies with which his relations  had been growing for several years. The purpose was further to  develop the socio-ecological perspective, especially in Third World  projects, and to foster socio-technical projects throughout Canada.  Search conferences nave been introduced and teaching begun in  futures studies. The center functions as a Canadian  Tavistock.

Ontario Quality of  Working Life Centre

Hans van  Beinurn

Toward the end of  the 1970s the widespread interest in quality of working life (QWL)  in Canada caused the Ontario government to set up a center for  advancing this field, supported by employers and unions. Van Beinum  resigned from his chair in Holland to become its executive director.  Changes in the industrial and political climate in Canada have just  recently prompted the Ontario goverment to close the Centre despite  its considerable success."

India

BM Institute,  Ahmedabad

Kamalini Sarabhai,  Jock Sutherland

Kamalini Sarabhai,  the wife of Gautam Sarabhai, head of Sarabhai Industries, one of the  largest industrial concerns in India, came to the Tavistock for  training in child development. On returning to India she and her  husband set up what is called the BM Institute, very much along the  lines of the Tavistock Clinic School of Family Psychiatry and  Community Mental Health.

National Labour  Institute and Punjab Institute for Public Administration

Nitish De, Fred  Emery

"n unusual Indian  social scientist, the late Nitish De, pioneered the socio-ecological  and socio-technical approaches in the sub-continent. He had to move  from one center to another because of political difficulties. He  maintained strong relations with the Australian node.

United States

Wright Institute,  Berkeley, California

Nevitt Sanford,  Eric Trist

Sanford, a  principal author of The Authoritarian Personality (1950), spent a  sabbatical at the Tavistock in the early 1950s. Prevented by  constraints at both Berkeley and Stanford from integrating social  and clinical psychology, he set up, during the 1960s, an independent  organization modelled on the Tavistock. It has functioned as a U.S.  Tavistock (West). Since Sanford's retirement, however, it has been  principally concerned with training clinical  psychologists.

A. K. Rice  Institute

Margaret Rioch, A.  K. Rice

In 1964 Margaret  Rioch from the Washington School of Psychiatry, with which the  Tavistock had close connections, set up an American version of the  Leicester Conference with the assistance of A. K. Rice. On his  unexpected death in 1969 she named the American organization the A.  K. Rice Institute. It has since developed chapters throughout the  United States.

Center for Quality  of Working Life, University of California, Los Angeles

Louis Davis, Eric  Trist

Davis, an engineer  turned social scientist, had introduced the socio-technical study of  job design in the United States. In 1965/66 he spent a sabbatical at  the Tavistock. The next year Trist joined him at UCLA and together  they developed the first graduate socio-technical program in a  university at both the master's and doctoral levels.

Department of  Social Systems Sciences, Wharton School, University of  Pennsylvania"

Russell Ackoff,  Eric Trist

Wishing to set up  a new Department of Social Systems Sciences, Ackoff persuaded Trist,  then at UCLA, to join him in 1969. A very large and successful Ph.D.  program developed, beginning a U.S. Tavistock (East). However, many  Wharton faculty have not been friendly towards a systems approach  and recently the University has phased out the academic program. One  of the two associated research centers has been absorbed into the  Wharton Center for Applied Research. The other, with Ackoff, has  become linked to the Union Graduate School, where doctoral and  master's programs are about to begin  again.


TABLE 2:  INTERNATIONAL NETWORKS:
INTERCONNECTIONS AND  PERSPECTIVES

PEOPLE  ESTABLISHING

PERSPECTIVES OF  WORK*

Node

Visitor to  Tavistock

Visitor from  Tavistock

Migration from  Tavistock

sP

sT

sE

Centre  for Family and Environmental Research

*

*

Scottish  Institute of Human Relations

*

*

"Department of  Continuing Management Education, Loughborough University"

*

*

*

*

Organisation for  Promoting Understanding in Society (OPUS)

*

*

Foundation for  Adaptation in Changing Environments

*

*

*

*

"Work  Research Institute, Oslo, Norway"

*

*

*

*

*

"School  of Business Administration, Erasmus University, Holland"

*

*

*

*

"Institute for  Transitional Dynamics, Lucerne, Switzerland"

*

*

*

"Centre  for Continuing Education, Australian National University"

*

*

*

*

"Action  Learning Group, Faculty of Environmental Studies, York University,  Toronto"

*

*

*

*

Ontario  Quality of Working Life Centre

*

*

"BM  Institute, Ahmedabad"

*

*

*

National  Labour Institute and Punjab Institute for Public  Administration

*

*

*

"Wright  Institute, Berkeley, California"

*

*

*

*

"A. K.  Rice Institute, Washington, D.C."

*

*

*

"Center  for Quality of Working Life, University of California, Los  Angeles"

*

*

*

"Department of  Social Systems Sciences, Wharton School, University of  Pennsylvania

*

*

*

*

*

*

*The codes, sP, sT and  sE, indicate in which of the three perspectives (socio-psychological,  socio-technical, socio-ecological) work has been carried out in the new  settings.

The network in  its present state of evolution [1989] may be characterized as  follows:

  • All nodes express the  philosophy of the social engagement of social science. The engagement is  with meta-problems that are generic and field determined rather than  with issue-specific single problems.
     
  • The work is future  oriented and concerned with the transition to the post industrial social  order and the paradigm shift which this entails.
     
  • Since they are  concerned with bringing about basic change, the activities undertaken  encounter opposition. This makes it hard for the various nodes to  acquire the resources they need.
     
  • This situation creates  severe stress which in turn generates internal strain in both  organizations and individuals.
     
  • The nodes have been  developed by pioneering individuals who gather groups around them and  connect with similar individuals in one or more of the other  nodes.
     
  • Though most of the  nodes have existed for a considerable number of years they are,  nevertheless, temporary systems. Unless they can engage with the next  round of critical problems they have no further useful  function.
     
  • The nodes wax and  wane, go out of existence or trigger new developments  elsewhere.
     
  • A  number of them are no longer linked with the London  organization.
     
  • Apart from the London  center, the most densely connected are the Work Research Institute,  Oslo; the Centre for Continuing Education, Canberra; the University of  Pennsylvania group and the Faculty of Environmental Studies, York  University, Toronto.
  • Several centers have  added new ideas beyond the scope of the original organization. This is  particularly true of the four mentioned above in which very substantial  advances have been, and are being, made both conceptually and in the  type of projects undertaken. As these concern the socio-ecological  perspective their exposition is reserved for Volume III.

It is  postulated that networks of this kind will play an increasingly important  role in the future development of fields concerned with the social  engagement of social science.

Next  Section: "General Outcomes"