Findings on organisation, leadership, and counselling in change

Ideology of change – the returning of the ›whole‹ person

Ideology of change – the returning of the ›whole‹ person

Organisational development and change consulting seem to be taking place without a compass in a disorientated, restless flight forward into the unknown. The state of emergency becomes the normal case of organisations, adversity is reinterpreted as a virtue, and change is declared a dogma. And in their lack of support, greedy institutions (Coser, 2015) reach out to their leaders and these increasingly to ›the whole‹ human being. People are then supposed to give their all, their work is supposed to become the centre of their meaning in life. (Kühl, 2019).

For all the diversity and contradictoriness of the methods, tools, terms and images generated in detail, there remains a fundamental commonality in general: The search for the next right answer is restricted within the established way of interpretation. And this is true both in terms of organisational questions and – and this seems to be central here – in terms of the misunderstanding of what constitutes the supposedly ›whole‹ person there within the organisation. Organisations and leadership thereby surrender themselves further and further to the attachment to the structural level, which at the same time they liquefy.

Accordingly, the majority of the recommendations are based on structural changes, i.e., adaptation, restructuring, and the liquefaction of internal organisational worlds. Tools are made available for individual mediation and for training social techniques that contribute to self‐​optimisation, the dissolution of organisational boundaries, and for the hyper‐​inclusion of people. »Purpose drive« (Fink & Moeller, 2018) and, for example, »mindfulness« (Kabat‐​Zin, 2006) and »presencing« (Scharmer, 2015) are ready‐​made vessels that have been stripped of their transcendental contents. They now serve the reception and nostalgic staging of a ›return‹ of feelings and together as a reception camp of the expected finite arrival of the supposedly ›whole‹ human being in his or her meant actuality, in collective entanglement, shared mindfulness, and in his or her absorption in a greater whole on the way to a ›higher self‹.

The instructions for self‐​optimisation and for ›feeling together towards something greater‹ are of a purely formal nature, they are transcendentally decoupled (Scharmer, ibid., 191; Kabat‐​Zin, 2019, 28) and pitted (Purser, 2019). Their application in the organisational context promotes the creation of an inner emptiness, an existential vacuum, and addresses a ›human nature‹ that is supposedly retreating from a horror vacui, which is then supposed to seek its salvation in organisationally administered offers to relieve the emerging depression of meaning. This legitimises a reductionist, instrumental and ultimately totalitarian understanding of human nature. People in organisations are now explicitly ›released‹, so to speak, as objects of purposeful influence. An instrumental understanding of the social interaction between individuals is staged on the backstage of meaning‐​giving offers, feel‐​good offensives and promises of happiness, which consistently targets the psycho‐​physical dimension and the structural conditionalities of people in organisations: That each may make the other an object! More often, this still appears under the banner of the humane and the proclamation of the contribution to a better world. – Or, to say it with Goethe (1787):

»I myself must say that I believe it to be true that humanity will finally triumph, but I fear that at the same time the world will become a great hospital and one will become the other’s humane nurse.«

Leadership then fails in its functional mission, which was linked to the maintenance of the organisation as a social system. The perspective of leadership narrows to a purely formal leader‐​follower relationship that has become detached from its material content. Leaders are becoming »influencers« (e.g. Liebermeister, 2020) who are concerned with the question: How do I get other people to follow me and be influenced by me? Nothing is being left to chance, and performances are staged to achieve the desired effect. Leadership then practices ›influence‹ (e.g. Cialdini & Cliffe, 2014; Morgan et al., 2017) and no longer follows its mission in a functional sense, but only as a meaningless management of emotions (e.g. Schaff & Hojka, 2018) to keep stakeholders ›happy‹ and shareholders ›in line‹.