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Essentials of the course "Organisational and Group Dynamics"

Authors:
Number 88 / 2016
Working Paper Series
by the University of Applied Sciences BFI Vienna
Essentials of the course
„Organisational and Group Dynamics“
Writings on intervention science
Degree Program SHRM, 3rd Semester
May 2016
Roland Schuster
University of Applied Sciences BFI Vienna
ISSN 1995-1469
Hinweis des Herausgebers: Die in der Working Paper Serie der Fachhochschule des BFI Wien
veröffentlichten Beiträge enthalten die persönlichen Ansichten der AutorInnen und reflektieren nicht
notwendigerweise den Standpunkt der Fachhochschule des BFI Wien.
Working Paper Series No. 88 3
Abstract
Diese Schrift dient dazu, Studierenden im HR-Bereich Definitionen, Anknüpfung zu Literatur und Begriffe zur
Verfügung zu stellen, um innerhalb von Organisationen und Gruppen navigieren zu können. Außerdem
beinhaltet die Arbeit einen Überblick zu Theorien der Organisations- und Gruppendynamik. Der inhaltliche
Fokus liegt auf der FH Lehrveranstaltung Organisational and Group Dynamics. Der theoretische Rahmen
stammt aus dem Gebiet der Interventionswissenschaft.
Focusing on the UAS course Organisational and Group Dynamics, this paper provides a set of definitions,
literature suggestions and some wording useful for HR students to navigate in organisations and groups, as
well as an overview of the topic Organisational and Group Dynamics. The theory applied comes from
intervention science.
4 University of Applied Sciences BFI Vienna
List of contents
1. ECTS Description of the Course Organisational and Group Dynamics ..................................................... 6
2. Basic assumptions according to intervention science ................................................................................ 8
3. Hierarchy and enhanced hierarchy .......................................................................................................... 11
4. Outline of the teaching process ................................................................................................................ 14
5. Dedication in teaching on the institutional level ....................................................................................... 15
6. Intervention science body of (acquired) knowledge ................................................................................. 16
7. Roots of theory ......................................................................................................................................... 17
8. Intervention Research .............................................................................................................................. 19
9. Sources .................................................................................................................................................... 19
Figure 1: Context and focus of the course Organisational and Group Dynamics ............................................. 5
Figure 2: Frozen state of hierarchical organisation (collective / individual) ..................................................... 12
Figure 3: From hierarchy to enhanced hierarchy ............................................................................................ 12
Figure 4: Individual teacher as nucleus for the collective including students and teacher(s)
to reach self-similar state of reflection .............................................................................................. 13
Figure 5: Bipolar didactic approach of intervention science ............................................................................ 13
Figure 6: The three phases of a teaching process .......................................................................................... 15
Figure 7: Dedication in teaching (connecting job experience, teaching practice and intervention research) . 15
Figure 8: Flow of immanent and accumulation of transcendent knowledge ................................................... 16
Figure 9: Physiological aspect of consciousness ............................................................................................ 17
Figure 10: Teaching process in relation to immanence / transcendence and guidance / facilitation .............. 18
Figure 11: Overview of intervention science.................................................................................................... 18
Working Paper Series No. 88 5
Objective
Focusing on the course Organisational and Group Dynamics, this paper aims to provide a set of
definitions, literature suggestions and some wording useful for HR students to navigate in organisations and
groups, as well as an overview of the topic Organisational and Group Dynamics. The course is held in the
third semester of the master program Strategic Human Resource Management in Europe (SHRM).
1
As
shown in Figure 1, the context is given by intervention science, whose basic assumptions provide the
background in which both the theoretical and practical parts of the course are embedded. The concept of
hierarchy forms the beginning of the course journey, whose ultimate aim is the concept of enhanced
hierarchy in theory as well as practice. The central idea behind enhancing hierarchy by introducing the
ability to reflect is to make hierarchy adaptable to change, thereby increasing its flexibility.
Figure 1: Context and focus of the course Organisational and Group Dynamics
intervention science
body of knowledge
intervention research
UAS course
Organisational and
Group Dynamics
Intervention science signifies inter- and
transdisciplinary social science. It is designed to be
emancipatory and unbiased as to the outcome; its
focus lies on social processes.
The course facilitates learning by experience supported by
theoretical concepts that provide explanations for human
perception and behaviour from different fields, e.g. physiology,
medicine, sociology, etc. Overall, the course aims at inspiring
reflection based on both theoretical inputs as well as students’
(and teachers’) personal experiences.
degree program
SHRM
1
Total duration of the program: 4 semesters.
6 University of Applied Sciences BFI Vienna
1. ECTS
2
Description of the Course Organisational and Group Dynamics
The ECTS Description of the Course
3
provides an overview of content and objective.
Course title:
Semester #:
Course type:
Hours per week:
ECTS:
Special fields:
Instructors’ names:
Course level:
Course Contents
Historical development of organisational and group dynamics, issues of organisational and group dynamics
in science as well as regarding economic topics with focus on the role of human resource professionals,
learning by experience
a) by reflecting students own role in the UAS BFI Vienna and
b) by the group simulation game Simidea Island facilitated by Steven Crawford (visiting teacher, JAMK
UAS (http://www.jamk.fi/en/Home/)
Feedback processes used for reflection in action are the special focus of the course.
Course Objectives
After completion of the course, students will be able to initiate and design feedback processes. Furthermore,
students will be able to recognize, interpret and identify their specific role in organisational and group
dynamics. In particular, students will be able to identify and classify the role of human resource professionals
in organisations.
Teaching Methods
Integrated course: in total, 50% continuous participation assessment (e.g. forms of group reflection and
group discussion, short input, working in small groups, group feedback, simulation of and reflection on a
group task, group simulation game (Simidea Island), 50% final written examination
Prerequisites
1st and 2nd semesters
Mandatory reading
Schuster, R. J. (2016): Essentials of the Course Organisational and Group Dynamics. In: Working Paper
Series by the University of Applied Sciences BFI Vienna, 88 (2016). Downloadable at: http://www.fh-
vie.ac.at/Forschung/Publikationen/FH-Workingpapers, (13th May 2016)
2
ECTS: European Credit Transfer System (ECTS [2])
3
European Credit Transfer System, e. g. http://www.fh-vie.ac.at/en/ECTS-DS/Description-of-Individual-Course-
Units?major=705&studyplan=146&term=3, (30 Dec. 2015)
Working Paper Series No. 88 7
Recommended reading
OEGGO (2013): Here and Now. Collected Writings on Group Dynamics. Vienna: Verlagshaus Hernals,
pp. 77-91, 103-13, 115-21, 123-32, 189-204
Gallos, J. V. (ed.) (2006): Organization Development. A Jossey-Bass Reader. San Francisco: Wiley.
Pesendorfer, B. F. (1983): THE DYNAMICS OF ORGANIZATION
http://www.pesendorfer.de/downloads/BP1983_Dynamics_Organisations_.pdf (pp. 1-13)
Sporidi, K.: Handout Organizing the HR Function (Evolution (Overview))”
Assessment
Continuous assessment (participation) combined with final exam
8 University of Applied Sciences BFI Vienna
2. Basic assumptions according to intervention science
Indispensability of emotions
- Due to biological facts, human interaction always includes emotions (Bull 1968: 21-23; Norretranders
1999: 124-56; Damasio 1999: 133-67). Biological evidence proves that emotions have an impact on
organisations (Krainz 2011). Damasio (1999) emphasizes the function of feeling regarding con-
sciousness. He states:
Feeling is, in effect, the barrier, because the realization of human consciousness may re-
quire the existence of feelings. The looks of emotion can be stimulated, but what feelings
feel like cannot be duplicated in silicon. Feelings cannot be duplicated unless flesh is dupli-
cated, unless the brain’s actions on flesh are duplicated, unless the brain’s sensing of flesh
after it has been acted upon by the brain is duplicated (314-15).
Damasio calls the brain the “body’s captive audience(150) and argues:
Under no normal condition is the brain ever excused from receiving continuous reports on
the internal milieu and visceral states, and under most conditions, even when no active
movement is being performed, the brain is also being informed of the state of its musculo-
skeletal apparatus (150).
- The question of intervention science is: how are humans in general able to live sustainable mutual
lives in complex social togetherness (Krainz 2006: 24)? The special interest of the course Organisa-
tional and Group Dynamics lies in the possibility of teaching, training, studying etc. of social skills
that in the best case enable respectively improve human communication and consensual deci-
sion-finding.
- To provide an argumentative basis for explanation, the way people process data is segmented into
three states: rational, emotional and instinctual. Though in practice not distinguishable by clear
boundaries, a verbal distinction can help to understand and to change communication processes.
This should help to optimize human communication processes regarding sustainable consensual
decision-finding within a reasonable timeframe.
Role(s) of the instructor
- In accordance with the instructor’s own psychodynamic balance, it is vital for the success of the
teaching process to be able to assess the opportunities, impacts and limits of the instructor’s role
(Goldmann 2012: 246-54). In other words: don’t take it personally but rather take it role-related
(Hirschhorn 1985: 335-51).
Awareness of distance to a certain issue (associated / immanent vs. dissociated / transcendent)
- It is assumed that differentiating between transcendent knowledge and immanent phenomena, be-
coming aware of their connection and using this as a concept for facilitating reflection is meaningful.
The teaching situation 1) someone else there and then is seen as the most distant, situation 2)
me
4
/the group there and then is in between, and situation 3) me/the group here and now is seen as
4
This implies: “me, the teacher (lecturer)” and the “me” of the students directly involved in the teaching process (in the
lecture).
Working Paper Series No. 88 9
the closest regarding the involvement of the people reflecting
5
(Schuster 2015a: 15-16). Starting
from the distant and mostly theoretical situation 1), the teacher directs and facilitates a journey to sit-
uation 3), to the here and now, including reflection on current emotional states as well as the con-
nection to models of explanation for organisation (e.g. organisation charts etc.). The concept of
transcendent knowledge and immanent phenomena will therefore be one of the columns of the
course regarding theory as well as practice.
Hierarchy biologically, socially and historically
- The biological fact of human beings’ dependence within a certain timescale
6
of their development is
a vital part of the psycho- and sociodynamic concepts considered. Schwarz distinguishes three
phases of individual development: dependence, counter-dependence and interdependence. He ar-
gues that parents
7
authority is necessary for infants simply because they are biologically not able to
survive on their own. This adult-infant connection can be seen as at least temporarily necessary
biological hierarchy. At the start of adolescence the phase of counter-dependence
8
begins and ideal-
typically leads adversarially to (social) interdependence. Adults individual identity and sub- and un-
conscious roles in society are related to this process. Furthermore, this process is fundamental for
an individual’s sub-, un- and conscious conjunction to and perception of hierarchy (Schwarz 2001:
104-28).
- Historically according to Schwarz and highly shortened the concept of hierarchy resulted from
the conflict between (unsettled) hunter-gatherer and (settled) agricultural and stock farming socie-
ties. While there were still many hunting-gathering groups around, another way of living developed:
agriculture and stock farming. Schwarz (2001) argues that there was a phase of back and forth of
hunters robbing farmers and farmers building up structures to defend and protect themselves (177).
Another necessity for building/changing structures came with the increasing amount of people inter-
acting. The small groups of hunters were able to use direct communication, the settled farmers
needed to develop indirect communication because they were divided into different functions.
Schwarz (2001) concludes that ideal-typically small groups of hunters interacted via the exchange of
women (exogamy). The exchange of surplus animals and products then is a continuation of the ex-
change of women (166). Reciprocal exchange of goods happened as early as the hunter-gatherer
societies. Large-scale exchange in the sense of trade needed division of labour and surplus pro-
duction as well as a central place where the traders could meet. Schwarz (2001) calls this the cen-
tralization of functions and sees the origin of such places as communicative necessity (167). Perma-
nent settlement at the places of centralization needed enforced domination and development of the
military, transportation, bureaucracy, stockpiling, etc. under pressure of time. According to Schwarz,
the price for the rapid establishment of central government was the enforcement and development of
domination (177-78). The author defines four axioms of the new structure: (1) axiom of decision
9
, (2)
5
People concerned in the context of the course are the students attending and the instructors involved.
6
approximately from birth to the start of puberty
7
Since it is possible for infants to survive birth despite their mother‘s death the authority can also be provided by the
father alone or other caretakers.
8
Counter-dependence is related to the parents (caretakers) and seeks for allies outside the family, that is generally
speaking in society.
9
Decision is exclusively the right of the central government.
10 University of Applied Sciences BFI Vienna
axiom of truth
10
, (3) axiom of wisdom
11
and (4) axiom of dependency
12
(178-90). The hypothesis is
that over decades the principle of hierarchy solidified and the axioms became a largely sub- and un-
conscious part of societies. From the vantage point of intervention science hierarchy is a generally
(un-)conscious form of organisation in (western) societies with lack of self-reflection as a drawback
(Schuster 2012a: in detail: Heintel/Krainz 2000: Schwarz 2007).
Hierarchy crisis, project management and enhanced hierarchy
- According to Heintel and Krainz, hierarchy is facing a crisis because of its resistance to reflecting on
itself (“Selfreflexionsresistenz”, Heintel/Krainz 2000: 57). In its opacity and infinity a hierarchical or-
ganisation frightens the individual. Power, risk, corruption, etc. are all around. Trust is permanently
endangered and only attained via detours (Heintel/Krainz 2000: 72).
- Project management is seen as a possibility for hierarchies to overcome crisis (Schuster 2012a: in
detail Heintel/Krainz 2000). Project teams have direct communication and the advantage of trans-
parency within small groups. Projects come with a defined duration segmented by milestones, in-
cluding a start and end date.
13
This helps the people involved to get an impression of the whole and
thereby to make sense of the individual effort related to this whole. In small groups, emerging emo-
tions are directly addressable and thereby easier to handle (Heintel/Krainz 2000: 72).
- In interpreting project management as a special concept for overcoming hierarcharcical crisis, the
objective of the author (R.J.S.) is to develop enhanced hierarchy as a general concept (see below).
In the context of teaching the course Organisational and Group Dynamics, the challenge is to pro-
vide the theoretical concept as well as practice, thereby offering opportunities for learning by experi-
ence. It lies in the nature of intervention science that students learning by experience goes hand in
hand with teachers learning as well. Furthermore, the teacher has two roles: teacher and researcher.
Teaching involves providing explicit/transcendent theoretical knowledge and facilitating a pro-
cess to enable implicit/immanent learning by experience. The research process runs parallel to
the teaching and includes observation, reflection within the research team and analysis of students’
feedback.
Exchange of expertise by reflection
- In focusing on teachers as well as students’ expertise the aim is mutual exchange within the collec-
tive (including teacher(s) and students). This can be seen as data mining in the field of interest, the
idea being that successful mutual data mining requires a certain state of the collective, which I define
as enhanced hierarchy. This leads to the necessity to reflect on hierarchy, on its impact on the
teaching process as well as on the concerned collective.
10
Due to the monopoly of information the center had more and more important information than the periphery.
11
This refers to a monopoly of all contacts and communication involved held by a non-participant third party, i.e. the
authority.
12
This relates to the subordinates’ dependency on the superiors. It has to be warranted that the subordinates obey the
orders of the superiors. This is secured by far-reaching dependency of the subordinates.
13
Looking at different definitions of the term project, Maylor (2010) identifies three common themes: projects are unique,
temporary and focused (5).
Working Paper Series No. 88 11
Learning by experience
- In experiencing a certain process and reflecting the concomitant phenomena immediately after their
occurrence, learning by experience should be fostered and increased by teacher facilitation. Thus,
there is high probability of raising student awareness by reflecting and discussing the emerging phe-
nomena that everybody including the teacher (or team of teachers) is part of. The mutual ex-
change of individually perceived reality by all participants therefore is an important source of gaining
insight into the status quo of a group. Regarding individuals, half-second delay (Norretranders 1999:
213-50) means the biological fact that if we want to perceive consciousness as a materially based
quantity caused by activity in the brain, consciousness can never come first. Something must have
started before consciousness can commence (222). This fact of human data processing
14
shows
that reflection (of individuals and/or groups and/or organisations) is not about installing a redundancy
of thinking twice on actions taken but rather about dealing with the inescapably unconscious origins
of actions. It is fundamental for this concept to complement the explicit (transcendent) part, i.e. the
knowledge of theory (models, concepts, conceptual ideas, etc.) and different individual life experi-
ences with the implicit (immanent) part, i.e. the experience and reflection of the communication pro-
cess itself happening here and now. The main advantage of the design is the insight gained by direct
enlightenment of explicit and implicit aspects.
3. Hierarchy and enhanced hierarchy
The basic idea in organisation is that necessarily a sub- and unconscious matrix is involved to reduce the
otherwise overwhelming complexity of mutual human interaction. The conscious part, covered by rationality,
is therefore only a very small fraction of the whole. Taking the abovementioned states of human data pro-
cessing into account, rational interaction within a hierarchical system can be seen as based on a frozen state
of instincts and emotions (Schuster 2015a: 16). The term frozen indicates that mastery of instincts and allo-
cation of emotions are usually stable in relation to certain established routine behaviour hence the term
frozen but could be unfrozen and changed.
14
For detailed physiological data, see e. g. Zimmermann 1985, 82-139 (partially quoted in Norretranders 1999).
12 University of Applied Sciences BFI Vienna
Figure 2: Frozen state of hierarchical organisation (collective / individual)
collective
rational
state
collective
emotional
state
collective
instinctual
state
frozen mastery
of instincts
frozen development
of emotions
individual
rational
state
individual
emotional
state
individual
instinctual
state
individual
rational
state
individual
emotional
state
individual
instinctual
state
levels of hierarchy
top
bottom
according to the level of
hierarchy
according to the level of
hierarchy
frozen connection of
instincts and emotions
The expression frozen state is illustrated in Figure 2. Regarding individuals relation to the collective, the sub-
and unconscious matrix of hierarchy is self-similar
15
and mutually reinforcing. Though there are differences in
the level individuals are used to a specific level of hierarchy and a promotion to the next level implies
changes in general hierarchy implies certain inertia. An individual’s step from hierarchy to enhanced hier-
archy is shown in Figure 3.
Figure 3: From hierarchy to enhanced hierarchy
un-
freeze
un-
freeze
individual
emotional state
individual
instinctual state
individual reflection on
mastering instincts
individual reflection on
developing/changing emotions
individual
rational state
processes of reflection and
communication require time
and space
individual
rational state
individual
emotional state
individual
instinctual state
HIERARCHY ENHANCED HIERARCHY
individual reflection on
connections of instincts
and emotions
The teacher’s challenge is to facilitate the process of reflection within the course. The facilitation requires
time as well as space.
The teachers function is to be a nucleus for the unfreezing process (Figure 4). In the best case, ultimately
the collective including students and teacher(s) is able to reflect on mastering instincts as well as emo-
15
The term self-similar is taken from the field of mathematics and used as analogy to explain certain structural
properties.
Working Paper Series No. 88 13
tions and by doing so to develop and/or change emotional patterns in a way that enables collective learning
(Krainz/Krejci 2013: 203-04).
Figure 4: Individual teacher as nucleus for the collective including students and teacher(s) to reach self-
similar state of reflection
individual
emotional
state
individual
instinctual
state
individual
reflection on
mastering
instincts
individual
reflection on
developing/
changing
emotions
individual
rational
state
collective
emotional state
collective
instinctual state
collective reflection on
mastering instincts
collective reflection on
developing/changing emotions
collective
rational state
collective reflection on
connections of instincts
and emotions
individual reflection on
connections of instincts
and emotions
The overall design of the course aims at least for the duration of the course to extend hierarchy to the
enhanced mode. The central idea of enhancing hierarchy by introducing the ability to reflect is to make hier-
archy adaptable to change and thereby increase its flexibility (Heintel/Krainz 2000). This bipolar didactic
approach is shown in Figure 5.
Figure 5: Bipolar didactic approach of intervention science
role of teacher(s):
professional authority providing
guidance
role of teacher(s):
facilitator(s) of (group)
reflections
advantage: provides
structure, guidance and
orientation
disadvantage: illusion of a
ready-made solution;
terminology is in the foreground
thereby hiding complexity
advantage: large creative
space; great possibility to
collect different viewpoints
and different emotional
reactions on discussed
issues
disadvantage: little structure,
guidance and orientation; no
definite answers; no ready-
made solutions; increased
uncertainty
pole I
transcendent
knowledge
pole II
immanent
phenomena
Source: Schuster 2015a: 5
Due to its finality every ready-made solution is an illusion regarding living systems. This disadvantage of
transcendent knowledge as shown in Figure 5 is inevitable for every theory. It is the conviction of intervention
science that every theory however complex it may be can be replaced by other models of explanation,
14 University of Applied Sciences BFI Vienna
e. g. other theories (concepts, models, ideas, etc.). If a teacher’s approach is to teach theory exclusively,
without mentioning the inevitable illusion included, there is a danger of planting this illusion into students
subconsciousness (Feyerabend 1982 [1978]: 108). This illusion might then lead to the belief: if only the
theory is studied well enough, everything will function properly. To counterbalance this, occurring immanent
phenomena (pole II) should be introduced by the teacher as a possibility for reflection within the context of
theory. In changing from the role of professional authority (pole I) to the role as facilitator of the group (pole
II), the teacher not only talks about the importance of taking a practical look at theory, but the actions are
consistent with this message. In other words: she or he walks the talk.
4. Outline of the teaching process
Contrary to the difficulty to choose and define exact boundaries in practice start or end moments of a pro-
cess, for instance, do need an explicit decision the teaching situation has a stringent structure triggered by
time. Furthermore, the teaching design is shaped by certain requirements in the degree program. The follow-
ing abstraction provides an outline of the teaching process within the given boundaries.
The assumption here is that the teaching process contains three phases: the beginning, the working and the
conclusion phases. One three-phase sequence is defined as the minimum unit of a teaching endeavour
based on intervention science. Depending on the number of courses in a degree program employing this
approach, several sequences can be involved.
Beginning phase: from the viewpoint of group dynamics, social systems need a certain time and space
to socialize and to establish mutual understanding of the current situation despite all the written infor-
mation available, like the mandatory ECTS
16
descriptions, etc. This is the reason for the beginning
phase, which in the best case produces a field (Carnabucci/Anderson 2012: 23-24) that enables collec-
tive working together creatively. The beginning phase ends with the formation of groups (min. 4, max. 5
students per group). Group, intergroup, and plenary work are the three settings used in this process.
Working phase: in this phase the groups work on alternating tasks e.g. discuss certain papers, take
decisions how to proceed, summarise their opinion on a certain question raised by the teacher(s), fulfil
special tasks assigned by the teacher(s), etc. If suitable and/or necessary, a teacher gives theoretical in-
put related to events occurring in the process. Another teaching aspect is the change in the teacher’s
role(s) between being the authority on theory and the facilitator of a collective process of reflection. In the
best case, the working phase allows the students to learn about hierarchy and enhanced hierarchy and
organisational and group dynamics theoretically as well as by experience and reflection.
Conclusion phase: similar to the beginning, the conclusion phase is an endeavour to address mainly
social aspects. It provides time to digest the experiences made. The teachers facilitate a plenary discus-
sion to summarise participants’ actual experiences in the teaching process. Ideally, the conclusion phase
closes the field opened in the beginning phase, thereby allowing satisfactory leave-taking.
16
European Credit Transfer System, e. g. http://www.fh-vie.ac.at/en/ECTS-DS/Description-of-Individual-Course-
Units?major=705&studyplan=146&term=3, accessed 30th Dec. 2015.
Working Paper Series No. 88 15
Figure 6 shows the three phases constituting the minimum unit of a teaching process in one course.
Figure 6: The three phases of a teaching process
Beginning Phase:
coming together, course introduction by the
teacher(s), evaluation criteria and non-negotiable
aspects, introduction of decision-making
possibilities for students, group formation
Working Phase:
group work, student group negotiation, special
group tasks (simulations), theoretical input by
teacher(s)
Conclusion Phase:
questions and answers, collective reflection of
the full process, theoretical input, leave-taking
5. Dedication in teaching on the institutional level
Dedication in teaching is used to generate synergies by cross-linking different levels of organisation of the
University of Applied Sciences BFI Vienna. Figure 7 shows an overview.
Figure 7: Dedication in teaching (connecting job experience, teaching practice and intervention research)
different degree programs
UAS BFI Vienna
courses of a degree program
individual courses
publication of teaching designs as well as intervention research
results for ongoing development of didactics; group and
organizational dynamics on a scientific level; supervision of master
theses in the field of intervention science
exchange of expertise; theoretical aspects of intervention science; actions and
reflection; intervention research and course evaluations
coordination of different courses through formal and informal communication;
parties involved: program directors, course coordinators, lecturers/
instructors/teachers, students, student representatives
continuing education and exchange of knowledge regarding
experience gained in courses
students confrontational or supportive interventions by instructors depending on ongoing feedback and
students’ individual situation; viewpoints: there and then versus here and now
Similar requirements and generalisable principles are collected and publicised. Formal and informal commu-
nication between students, lecturers/teachers, department coordinators and program directors leads to adap-
tation of and fine-tuning between courses. To make this practical knowledge accessible to everyone, Practi-
cal Experiences for Practical Use” was initiated and several teaching-related papers have been published
(Schuster/Holik/Weiss 2011; Schuster 2012b; Pircher/Schuster 2013; Schuster 2015a). This gives estab-
lished lecturers/teachers the possibility to see peer approaches while novices have the opportunity to orien-
tate themselves. Of course, students can also access the publications and thereby gain deeper insight into
the teaching context as well as instructors’ motives.
The continuing education (Schuster/Holik/Weiss 2011: 22) seminar Teamteaching is offered especially to
support novice course instructors. This is seen as a nucleus to live practice in the sense of life-long learning.
16 University of Applied Sciences BFI Vienna
Apart from the focus on student learning, strong emphasis is also put on lecturer/teacher learning. This re-
sults from the fact that knowledge acquisition is the key characteristic of science, thus making life-long learn-
ing by employees an inherent principle of every scientific institution. An integral part of this is the supervision
of master theses in the field of intervention science by the author (R.J.S.) in the degree program Strategic
HR Management in Europe (ECTS [1]).
6. Intervention science body of (acquired) knowledge
The theory on organisational and group dynamics is accumulated in the body of (acquired) knowledge of
intervention science in the form of scientific papers and/or monographs and/or edited volumes. As explained
above, it is the idea of intervention science that the teaching process contains the aspect of teaching as well
as that of learning and research for teachers.
17
The flow of immanent and accumulation of transcendent
knowledge are depicted exemplarily in Figure 8.
Figure 8: Flow of immanent and accumulation of transcendent knowledge
General Data (intervention science body of [acquired] knowledge)
Specific Data (for the
next teaching
sequence)
Beginning Phase Working Phase Conclusion Phase
generalised
DATA gained out of the
teaching process
specialised
minimum unit of a teaching process continuous teaching
theory, models for explanation, concepts
Theoretical input for the course
Organisational and Group Dynamics.
Theoretical input for the
teaching.
timeline
The minimum unit of a teaching process involves theoretical input by the teachers as well as action.
18
While
working on a given issue, the (groups of) students are drawn into the task. Once some work has been done,
the instructor changes the focus and starts to facilitate student reflection on the occurring actions and nego-
tiation outcomes. The challenge for the students is to recognise that it is possible to differentiate the layers
reflection and action. Also challenging is the physiological fact of consciousness inevitably being positioned
in the past as shown in Figure 9.
17
Here it is assumed that these lecturers are intervention scientists.
18
The actions are e.g. inter- and intra-group-work, negotiations, etc.
Working Paper Series No. 88 17
Figure 9: Physiological aspect of consciousness
0.5 seconds here
and
now
the human
sensory system
receives data -
depending on
individual
physiology -
sub- and
unconsciously
past
the individuum
perceives
already
selected and
processed data
consciously
within approximately ½
second a complex
process of selection and
interpretation happens
individually (related to
the concerned collective
and its culture, routines,
habits, customs, etc.)
timeline
Culture, routines, etc. in general: preconditioned social forms and interactions are strongly related to the
delay of consciousness. It is the idea of intervention science that training the ability to reflect on phenomena
occurring during a phase of work-related action can increase social competence. To do so, it is necessary to
observe the actual phenomena occurring. In other words: whatever shows up is right and can help to find out
existing prejudices and their impact on individual and/or group action in a given social context. The success
of a course on action and reflection depends on the self-similarity of the theory on the layers of reflection and
action and the implementation of reflection in action into the process of the course. A large part of this suc-
cess hinges on the structure of the course as well as the instructors’ ability to fit into their two roles, profes-
sional authority and facilitator.
Finally, in gathering data on the teaching process and discussing and reflecting the cases occurring, general
(transcendent) knowledge is gained and accumulated in the body of (acquired) knowledge of intervention
science. This knowledge can be used in future courses or transferred to other contexts.
Regarding self-similarity it is important to keep in mind that for a successful teaching process the form
and content of the process have to be congruent. Accordingly, the teacher has to be aware of his or her own
role and of the structure of the organisation and/or the changes in them during the entire teaching pro-
cess. To enable learning by experience the people involved (students and teachers), the different roles and
the teaching design have to be the subject of reflection (on as well as in action). Especially individual and/or
collective reflection of the organisational processes themselves (reflection in action) touches unfreezes
taboos (Schuster 2012a: 4). Unfrozen instinctual and emotional states stir up anxieties in individuals as well
as in groups. In the worst case this can lead to mutual reinforcement of these anxieties and to collective de-
fence against the teacher’s attempt to facilitate reflection. The challenge for teachers and the art of teaching
in this conceptual frame lies in keeping the process within the collective bearable range.
7. Roots of theory
The ideas developed here (Schuster 2015b) are rooted in the Austrian school of group dynamics (Krainz
2006: 27-28) and intervention research (Krainer/Lerchster 2012). Group sizes and different settings in the
18 University of Applied Sciences BFI Vienna
teaching process are aligned to optimise human communication towards a balance of action and reflection
(Schuster 2010). Furthermore, the general principle of self-similarity of the concepts provides an identifiable
GESTALT in the sense of gestalt theory (Krainz 2006: 15-16).
Figure 10: Teaching process in relation to immanence / transcendence and guidance / facilitation
me / the group (of students)
here and now
me / the group (of students)
there and then
me / someone else
there and then
transcendence
dissociated
immanence
associated
increasing transcendence (dissociation)
increasing immanence (association)
professional guidance
by the teacher
professional
facilitation by the
teacher
increasing facilitation (of the group)
increasing authoritarian guidance
Source: adapted from Schuster 2015a: 16
Figure 10 shows the connection between immanence / transcendence and professional guidance / profes-
sional facilitation of a teaching process according to intervention science. At large, self-similarity is seen as
crucial regarding intervention science itself, its teaching and its application in practice.
The complexity of the course design in general is a key factor in enabling collective learning to cope with the
overwhelming complexity of living systems as such (Spindler 2013: 141-50; Lesjak 2013: 77-89). Figure 11
depicts a contemporary overview of intervention science.
Figure 11: Overview of intervention science
Science
Economy / National Economy / Society
Intervention Science
Group Dynamics Scholars Intervention Research
Scholars
Organisation Development (OD)
Intervention Research
Source: Schuster, 2015b [translated by R. J. S.]
Intervention science signifies inter- and transdisciplinary social science. Intervention science is designed to
be emancipatory and unbiased as to the result, its focus lies on social processes.
Working Paper Series No. 88 19
Intervention science connects practice economy, national economy and society with scientific reflection;
hence, a differentiation between rather scientifically dominated intervention research and rather pragmatic
organisation development (OD; Jamieson/Worley 2008: 102-4) is useful.
Furthermore, due to the enormous spectrum of special knowledge in intervention science the author sug-
gests a distinction between intervention research and group dynamics scholars.
The centre of Austrian intervention research is located in Carinthia, Klagenfurt (O. G. I. 2015a; O. G. I.
2015b).
8. Intervention Research
Students interested in writing their master thesis in the field of intervention science and practicing interven-
tion research please contact roland.schuster@fh-vie.ac.at.
It is typical for intervention research to be case-centred and therefore to have a detailed case situation and a
rather abstract basis connected. In the best case students do research within their professional environment.
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Chapter
In diesem Beitrag wird aufgezeigt, wie Interventionswissenschaft mittels Interventionsforschung im Kontext österreichischer Fachhochschulen verwirklicht wird. Außerdem werden jene Aspekte des österreichischen Fachhochschul-Studiengesetzes reflektiert, die aus interventionswissenschaftlicher Sicht einen optimalen Rahmen für Interventionsforschung bieten.
Chapter
Full-text available
Triggered by the observation of and the increasing involvement in international connections the whole training and consulting business is more and more confronted with the phenomenon of multi-culturality. Be it in the field of research, education, business, projects and so forth-wherever you are, the chance of meeting someone who is not like yourself has become higher and higher. Meanwhile many organisations working worldwide need to find ways how to cooperate in multi-cultural contexts (Bartlett and Ghoshal 2002). Consequently, these developments do not only require a high standard of professional expertise but also specific "soft" skills for all parties involved. In addition to functional, technical and social skills also "cultural skills" seem to become vital (Landis et al 2004). It also seems reasonable to develop training programs not only for expatriates before going abroad, but also for all staff working in a context where internationality and/or multi-culturality play a significant role (e.g. project teams, task forces, long-term missions and short-term involvements, etc.).
Article
Full-text available
In der vorliegenden Forschungsarbeit wird über die Verwendung des Begriffs Kultur im Kontext von Projektmanagement reflektiert. Die Basis dafür bildete einerseits eine umfassende Recherche in Bezug auf die Verwendung des Begriffs Kultur in verschiedenen (organisations-)theoretischen Werken. Andererseits bildete die Durchführung einer Gruppenreflexion zur Frage: „Welche Widersprüche birgt die Beteiligung verschiedener Kulturkreise im Projektmanagement?“ eine wichtige Basis für die Arbeit. Die Gruppenreflexion wurde im Rahmen des 2. PM-Symposiums an der FH des bfi Wien durchgeführt und dabei von zwei Forscherinnen (Kreindl / Pircher) beobachtet. Im Anschluss daran wurden die Beobachtungsprotokolle in einer Resonanzgruppe gemeinsam mit dem Moderator der Gruppenreflexion (Schuster) analysiert. Sowohl die Beobachtung als auch die Analyse der Gruppenreflexion basieren auf der Theorie der psychoanalytischen Organisationsbeobachtung. Die durchgeführte Gruppenreflexion kann somit als Intervention im Sinne von Interventionsforschung bezeichnet werden. Die wichtigsten Erkenntnisse, die im Forschungsprozess gewonnen worden sind, wurden in der vorliegenden Arbeit schriftlich festgehalten. The workingpaper contains a reflection on the term culture within the context of project management. On the one hand it is based on an extensive research on the use of the term culture in different works on (organizational) theory. On the other hand the performance of a group-reflection with regard to the question: What contradictions occur in project management due to participation of different culture areas? was an important basis. The group-reflection was realized within the 2nd PM-Symposium at the university of applied sciences bfi Vienna and was observed by two researchers (Kreindl / Pircher). The records of the observation were analyzed within a resonance-group. The group-reflection and the resonance-group were moderated by Schuster. The observation of the group reflection as well as the analyses due to the resonance-group are based on the theory of psychoanalytical organization observation. The realized group-reflection is to be seen as an intervention in the context of action research. The workingpaper also contains the most important scientific findings gathered during the research process.
Article
Full-text available
In dieser Reflexion wird, unter Anwendung der dialektischen Methode, diskutiert, wie psychoanalytische Organisationsbeobachtung in Bezug zu menschlicher Kommunikation und menschlichen Denkprozessen eingesetzt werden kann. Beginnend mit einem Modell für menschliche Wahrnehmung wird ein hypothetisches Muster für den menschlichen Denkprozess entworfen und aufgezeigt, wie die Komplexität des menschlichen Organismus in sozialen Prozessen zur Wirkung kommt. Ausgehend von den argumentierten Hypothesen wird die Sinnhaftigkeit von gezielter Selbstbewusstwerdung von Individuen und Gruppen aufgezeigt. Zum Abschluss wird dabei aus der Perspektive der angewandten Gruppendynamik eine konkrete Umsetzung der Methode dargelegt.
Article
Full-text available
In dieser Betrachtung wird dargestellt, wie eine "Gruppenreflexion" dazu dienen soll, die Kommunikationder Teilnehmerinnen eines PM-Symposiums zu unterstützen. Grundsätzlich geht es um das Begleiten des Lernens von und in sozialen Systemen. Die Idee war hier, durch ein passendes Kommunikationsdesign den Wissenstransfer während einer Großveranstaltung zu optimieren. "Group-reflection" is shown as a possibility to encourage participants' communication. The objective was basically the learning of individuals by interaction with other members of a group in order to optimize the knowledge Transfer during a major event.
Article
Full-text available
Diese Arbeit reflektiert die Organisationsform Hierarchie und die Stellung von Projektmanagement innerhalb dieser Organisationsform. Zuerst wird Hierarchie als Organisationsform dargelegt, danach wird argumentiert, welche Aspekte von Organisation durch Projektmanagement abgedeckt werden. Als Schluss werden Möglichkeiten einer sinnvollen Einbettung von Projektmanagement in die Organisationsform Hierarchie diskutiert. The working paper reflects on the organizational form hierarchy and the role of project management within hierarchical organization. At first hierarchy is explained accordingly project management and its impact on organization is argued. Finally a reasonable embedding of project management within hierarchy is discussed.
Chapter
The term “sensory systems” is applied to those parts of the nervous system that receive signals from the environment and from the interior of the body, and conduct and process these signals. This chapter is a general introduction to the mode of operation of these sensory systems, relying chiefly upon examples taken from the somatosensory system (the cutaneous senses). The greatest emphasis is laid upon the objective, neurophysiologically measurable processes; the subjective perceptions and their psychophysical correlates have been discussed at some length in Chapter 1.