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Organizational therapy


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Mental 'illness' | Corporate therapy | See also


Most companies are sick. Not terminally so (at least in the short term), but distinctly and chronically under the weather. Still, they limp gamely along, doing their best and getting by. Repression, transference and a host of Freudian defense mechanisms are used to explain away modern middle-of-the-road performance. Past glories and the 'good old days' replace new challenges as a source of stimulating conversation.

Mental 'illness'

When people suffer from mental illness, they can go to a therapist for support and treatment. For many, this is a difficult step, but once they have recognized the debilitating nature of their condition, therapy becomes a welcome alternative to long-term disability.

Thankfully, the stigma of mental illness is not what it once was. We no longer fear such things and realize that, just as there is a difference between a cold and AIDS, so also are most mental conditions relatively harmless to others.

Yet in businesses, our individual and collective weaknesses often get swept under the thick corporate carpet. We collude in denial as dead elephants continue to lie on the table, unrecognized and undiscussed. And so we stumble on, half-blind and sub-optimal.

In these hyper-competitive times, any corporate weakness both limits growth and opens it to attack from fitter competitors. In the past, competition has been on products. Now it reaches into management style and culture. Any malaise in such areas as leadership or decision-making contributes directly towards limited profits and shareholder dissatisfaction.

Corporate therapy

A solution to this is some form of corporate therapy by which the dead elephants are uncovered and the firm is aided along the road to recovery. In some ways and in some places, this is happening already. 'Executive coaches' are talking managers through private weaknesses, and helping them function more effectively. Yet there are worries about such roles, as the coach can become the power behind the throne, especially if their success is based on more on charisma than real psychological understanding.

External coaches can sit uneasily with internal HR departments, both of whom seek to improve leadership yet who may each have very different ideas and methods.

Any support is a useful first step for many, but sooner or later a deeper, more coherent approach will be needed. Corporate therapy, by whatever name, is still in its infancy, but has the potential to be the most powerful business discipline yet.

See also


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