The Institute is a Type C organization. It has had continually to face the dilemmas and conflicts of needing to be an innovative research
body at the leading edge and an operational body to a considerable extent paying its own way. This has been a condition of preserving its independence. To accomplish both of these aims simultaneously constitutes a
paradox fundamental to the existence of such bodies.
Type C institutes are not organized around disciplines but around generic problems (meta-problems or problematiques), which are field determined. They
need the capacity to respond to emergent issues and to move rapidly into new areas. Sub-units need to be free to move in and out. So do staff.
The experience of fashioning the Institute showed that Type C
organizational cultures need to be based on group creativeness. This contradicts the tradition of academic individualism. A group culture is inherent in projects that depend on collaboration for the achievement of
inter-disciplinary endeavors. What gets done is more important than who does it. This affects questions of reward and recognition. A very strong tradition of group values had been inherited from the war-time
Tavistock group. Appropriate ways had to be found of reaffirming them. These have not always been successful.
A difficult question arises regarding financial stability. The funding pattern described in the
discussion of optimum balance is an ideal which the Institute succeeded in approximating only at certain times. Two organizations with which it has compared itself - the Institute for Social Research at the
University of Michigan and the Work Research Institute in Oslo - have been able to achieve financial stability in ways unavailable to the Tavistock. In the first, the University allowed the Institute to retain
overheads which would otherwise have gone to the University itself and staff to hold part-time faculty appointments which were not at risk. In Oslo, the Norwegian government provided for a certain number of senior
appointments and assisted with overheads. The Tavistock has never attained such conditions. A priority for any Type C institute is continually to search for appropriate means of securing financial stability.
A structural necessity is to allow a very high degree of autonomy to subsystems and to tolerate wide differences of viewpoint. This creates the need for a democratic system of governance such as that
constituted by the pre-war Tavistock organizational revolution that laid the basis for future developments. The form of organizational democracy that grew up after the war had become eroded when the division into
two groups occurred.
This failure points to the need for a Type C institute to maintain the process side of its organizational life. In the rapidly changing conditions of a turbulent environment fresh
appreciations have to be made frequently and staff conflicts worked through. If the organization is to remain an open system in its environment it has to maintain an open system within itself.
of the Institute's basic organizational character was strengthened when it became a member of an international network. Beyond a certain stage innovative Type C organizations need such a network. They cannot go
Innovative organizations that come into existence in response to critical problems in their societies can usefully continue only so far as they remain capable of addressing further problems of
this kind. Some of the organizations in the Tavistock network have already gone out of existence, but new ones have emerged. The London organization has survived several crises, but is still, after 40 years, a
transitional organization. Though its member organizations may change, it is much less likely that the network itself will go out of existence. The evolution of the Tavistock enterprise has now reached a higher
system level - that of the network. Yet in time, many of the nodes are likely to become more closely linked with other networks than the original set and to be absorbed in the more general stream of the
Three Research Perspectives
As the matrix became established it became evident that most of the Institute’s activities could be subsumed under three perspectives, called in these volumes the
socio-psychological, the socio-technical and the socio-ecological perspectives. These emerged from each other in relation to changes taking place in the wider societal environment. One could not have been forecast
from the others. Though interdependent, each has its own focus. Many of the more complex projects require all three perspectives.
The original perspective, which grew out of World War II, is called the
socio-psychological rather than the psycho-social, as, in Institute projects, the psychological forces are directed toward the social field, whereas in the Clinic it is the other way around. The source concepts
for this perspective are: the object relations approach, field theory, the personality-culture approach and systems theory, especially in its open system form. The Institute's contribution has been to bring them
together in a new configuration, which it has made operational.
Experience during World War II had shown that psychoanalytic object relations theory could unify the psychological and social fields in a way
that no other could. This was the reason for making psychoanalytic training an essential ingredient of the capabilities required to fulfill the post-war mission of the Institute. It soon led to entirely new
concepts: those of Bion (I96I) concerning basic unconscious assumptions in group life, which he linked to Melanie Klein's (1948) views on the paranoid-schizoid and depressive positions; and Jaques's (I953) theory
on the use of social structure as a defense against anxiety.
Field theory appealed to several of the Tavistock psychiatrists who were impressed with Lewin's emphasis on the here-and-now, the Galilean as
opposed to the Aristotelian philosophy of science and the theory of joint causation expressed in the formula B = f (P, E). His work on group decision-making and on the dynamics of social change, particularly as
put forward in his two posthumous papers for the first issue of Human Relations (I947), were found to be most cogent. His dictum that the best way to understand a system is to change it gave prime importance to
In I933 Trist had attended Sapir's seminar, given to his graduate students at Yale, on the impact of culture on personality, the theme of his epoch-making international seminar the previous
year. To link personality and culture was foreign to the structural approach in British social anthropology. While learning from the structural approach, Trist (Vol. I, 'Culture as a Psycho-Social Process')
was led to a concept of culture as a psycho-social process which could mediate between purely sociological and purely psychological frames of reference, a combination of which was needed in action research.
While on sabbatical at the Institute from Australia in I95I, Emery alerted his colleagues to the significance for social science of Von Bertalanffy's (I950) notion of open systems. This provided a new way of
considering individuals, groups, and organizations in relation to their environments and foreshadowed the importance later to be attached to Sommerhoff.s (I950, I969) theory of directive correlation. As time went
on the theoretical underpinnings of projects became an amalgam of these four conceptual traditions. The socio-psychological perspective (represented in Volume I) enables work at all system levels, from micro- to
macro-, to be covered within a single framework.
The socio-technical perspective (represented in Volume II), was entirely novel. It originated in the early mining studies (Trist and Barnforth, I95I).
Numerous projects have shown that the prevailing pattern of top-down bureaucracy is beginning to give way to an emergent non-linear paradigm. The new paradigm is based on discovering the best match between the
social and technical systems of an organization, since called the principle of joint optimization (Emery, I959). The notion of one narrowly skilled man doing one fractionated task was replaced by that of the
multi-skilled work group that could exchange assignments in a whole task system. This led to the further formulation by Emery (I967) of the second design principle, the redundancy of functions, as contrasted with
the redundancy of parts.
Efforts to bring about changes in this new direction have encountered resistances of profound cultural and psychological depth. These can be more readily understood when their basis
in unconscious processes is recognized, for they disturb socially structured psychological defenses in management and worker alike, and threaten established identities. The loss of the familiar, even if beset with
“bad” attributes, often entails mourning. The possibly 'good' may threaten because it is untried. Change strategies have to allow for the fact that working through such difficulties takes time. Moreover, intensive
sociotechnical change threatens existing power systems and requires a redistribution of power.
The main developments as regards operational projects took place in the I960s and I970s and are still
continuing. Until well into that latter decade the socio-technical field developed largely in terms of projects carried out by members of the Tavistock in a number of countries.
The importance of
self-regulating organizations has become much greater in the context of the increasing levels of interdependence, complexity and uncertainty that characterize societies at the present time. Beyond certain thresholds
the center/periphery model (Schon, I970) no longer holds. There come into being far more complex interactive webs of relationship that cannot be handled in this way. These changes in the wider environment prompted
the creation of the socio-ecological perspective (represented in Volume III).
The coming of the new information technologies and the signs of a transition to a post-industrial society pose new problems
related to emergent values such as co-operation and nurturance. Competition and dominance are becoming dysfunctional as the main drivers of post-industrial society. The value dilemmas created are reflected in
the conflicts experienced by client organizations and in higher levels of stress for the individual. A first attempt to conceptualize the new 'probťmatique' was made by Emery and Trist (I965) in a paper
entitled 'The Causal Texture of Organizational Environments' (Vol. III). This introduces a new theory of environmental types which arranges environments in terms of their increasing complexity. The
contemporary environment is said to be taking on the character of a 'turbulent field' in which the amount of disorder is increasing. In the limit is a 'vortical' state in which adaptation would be impossible.
Turbulence cannot be managed by top-down hierarchies of the kind exhibited in bureaucratic forms of organization. These are variety-reducing, so that there is not enough internal variety to manage the increase
in external variety (Ashby, I960). Needed are organizational forms that are variety-increasing. These are inherently participative and require a substantial degree of democratization in organizational life.
No organization, however large, can go it alone in a turbulent environment. Dissimilar organizations become directively correlated. They need to become linked in networks. A new focus of the Institute's work has
been, therefore, the development of collaborative modes of intervention for the reduction of turbulence and the building of inter-organizational networks that can address 'meta-problems' at the 'domain' level.
Projects of this kind have led it into the field of futures studies - 'the future in the context of the present' (Emery and Trist, I972/73) and 'ideal-seeking' systems (Emery, I976). New process methodologies such
as the 'search conference' have been introduced (Emery and Emery, I978) to solve multi-party conflicts, to improve social coherence and to envision more desirable futures.
The socio-ecological approach is
linked to the socio-technical because of the critical importance of self-regulating organizations for turbulence reduction. It is further linked to the socio-psychological approach because of the need to reduce
stress and prevent regression. Primitive levels of behavior can only too easily appear in face of higher levels of uncertainty. This is one of the greatest dangers facing the world as the present century draws to
These three perspectives, all arising from field experience, would appear to have general significance for work concerned with the social engagement of social science.
Ackoff, R.L. and F.E. Emery. I972. On Purposeful Systems. Chicago: Aldine Atherton.
Adorno, T.W., E. Frenkel-Brunswick, D.J. Levinson and N. Sanford (Editors). I950.
The Authoritarian Personality. New York: Harper and Row.
Alcock, T. I963. The Rorschach in Practice. London: Tavistock Publications.
Ashby, W. R. 1960. Design for a Brain.
London: Chapman & Hall.
Balint, M. I954. “Training General Practitioners in Psychotherapy." British Medical Journal, I: II5-20.
Bion, W.R. I948-50. “Experiences in Groups.”
Human Relations, I:3I4-20, 487-96; 2:I3-22, 295-303; 3:3-I4, 395-402; 4:22I-27.
_____. I96I. Experiences in Groups and Other Papers. London: Tavistock Publications; New York: Basic Books.
Bott, E. I957.
Family and Social Network (2nd edition, I97I). London: Tavistock Publications.
Dicks, H.V. I970. Fifty Years of the Tavistock Clinic. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
_____ I972. Licensed Mass Murder. New York: Basic Books.
Emery, F. I959. Characteristics of Socio-Technical Systems. London: Tavistock Institute Document 527.
_____. I967. “The Next Thirty Years: Concepts, Methods and Anticipations.“ Human Relations, 20:I99-237.
_____. I976. Futures We Are In. Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff.
Emery, M. and F. Emery. I978.
“Searching: For New Directions, In New Ways ... For New Times.” In Management Handbook for Public Administrators, edited by J. W. Sutherland. New York and London: Van Nostrand Reinhold.
Emery, F. E., E. L. Hilgendorf, and B. L. Irving. I968. The Psychological Dynamics of Smoking. London: Tobacco Research Council.
Emery, F. and E. Thorsrud. I969.
Form and Content in Industrial Democracy. London: Tavistock Publications.
_____. I977. Democracy at Work. Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff.
Emery, F.E. and E.L. Trist. I965. “The Causal Texture of
Organizational Environments.” Human Relations, I8:2I-32.
_____. I972/73. Towards a Social Ecology. London/New York: Plenum Press.
Friend, J.K. and W.N. Jessop. I969.
Local Government and Strategic Choice. London: Tavistock Publications.
Friend, J.K., J.M. Power and C.J.L. Yewlett. I974. Public Planning: The Inter-Corporate Dimension. London: Tavistock Publications.
Higgin, G.W. and W.N. Jessop. I963. Communications in the Building Industry. London: Tavistock Publications.
Hill, J.M. and E.L. Trist. I955. “Changes in Accidents and Other Absences with Length of
Service.“ Human Relations, 8:I21-I52.
Hill, P. I971. Towards a New Philosophy of Management. London: Gower Press.
Jaques, E. I951. The Changing Culture of a Factory. London: Tavistock
Publications. Reissued I987, New York: Garland.
_____. I953. “On the Dynamics of Social Structure.” Human Relations, 6:3-24.
Klein, M. I948. Contributions to Psycho-Analysis I92I-I945
. London: Hogarth Press.
Laing, R. D., H. Phillipson, and A. Lee. I966. Interpersonal Perception: A Theory and a Method of Research. London: Tavistock Publications.
Lewin, K. I947. “Frontiers in Group Dynamics.” Human Relations, 1:5-41, I43-53.
Menzies Lyth, I. and E. Trist. I989. In I. Menzies Lyth, The Dynamics of the Social. London: Free Association Books.
Miller, E. and A. K. Rice. I967. Systems of Organization: Task and Sentient Systems and Their Boundary Control. London: Tavistock Publications.
Pincus, L. (Editor) I960.
Marriage: Studies in Emotional Conflict and Growth. London: Methuen.
Rice, A.K. I965. Learning for Leadership. London: Tavistock Publications.
Schon, D. I970. Beyond the Stable State
. New York: Basic Books.
Sommerhoff, I950. Analytical Biology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
_____ I969. “The Abstract Characteristics of Living Systems.” In Systems Thinking,
edited by F. Emery. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.
Stringer, J. I967. “Operational Research for Multi-Organizations.” Operational Research Quarterly, I8:I05-20.
Thorsrud, E. and F. Emery. I964.
Industrielt Demokrati. Oslo: Oslo University Press.
Tomkins, S. I962. Affect, Imagery, Consciousness. New York: Springer.
Trist, E.L. I970. “The Organization and Financing of Social Research.” In UNESCO. Main Trends of Research in the Social and Human Sciences. Part I: Social Sciences. Paris: Mouton.
Trist, E.L. and K.W.
Bamforth. I95I. “Some Social and Psychological Consequences of the Longwall Method of Coal-getting.” Human Relations, 4:3-38.
Von Bertalanffy, L. I950. “The Theory of Open Systems in Physics and Biology.”
Wilson, A.T.M. I949. “Some Reflections and Suggestions on the Prevention and Treatment of Marital Problems.” Human Relations, 2:233-52.
Winnicott, D.W. I965.
The Maturational Process and the Facilitating Environment. London: Hogarth.