Home Concepts Best Practices Coaching in Organizations: A Status Report (Past, Present and Future)

Coaching in Organizations: A Status Report (Past, Present and Future)

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Individual vs. System

There is yet another level at which the dialogue is engaged between the personal and organizational orientations to professional coaching—and even within the organizational orientation. This concerns the focus on individual and group dynamics within organizations versus a broader systemic orientation. Even if Rachel and Sam focus on the ambivalence of Kurt (Sam’s president), this is still an isolated, individualistic perspective. To what extent is this president’s ambivalence a manifestation of a broader ambivalence regarding profit and quality within this hospital. And to what extent, is this ambivalence manifest in very tangible ways – such as in the performance review standards and reward systems of the hospital? What about the complimentary roles being played by Kurt as big-picture visionary and Sam as practical problem-solver (Sam)? Are they playing out these roles on behalf of the entire hospital system? Is the splitting that occurs in the often-frustrating (at least for Sam) relationship between Kurt and Sam a broader systemic splitting that is often found in contemporary hospital systems—which must offer hope to its patients (and staff) while simultaneously being run as a business.

While a few organizational coaches have come out of the Continental School and many organizationally-oriented coaches have come out of the American School of organization development (often identified with the NTL Institute), others (especially elsewhere in the world) come out of the “British School” (often identified with the Tavistock Institute)—a school which not only emphasizes the unconscious (psychodynamic) life of organizations, but also the systemic nature of organizational dynamics. Thus another choice point: should Rachel and Sam explore organizational issues at Sam’s hospital from an American perspective (with its emphasis on individual leadership behavior and group dynamics) or from a British perspective (with its emphasis on the dynamics of systems)?

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