What Lies Beneath: How Organisations Really Work

Author(s) : Ajit Menon, Author(s) : Trevor Hough

What Lies Beneath: How Organisations Really Work

Book Details

  • Publisher : Karnac Books
  • Published : June 2021
  • Cover : Paperback
  • Pages : 132
  • Category :
    Organisational Psychology
  • Catalogue No : 95510
  • ISBN 13 : 9781912691920
  • ISBN 10 : 1912691922
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This book looks beyond the public face and below the surface of organisations. Using a deceptively easy-to-read and accessible narrative concerning eight international organisations, it covers many fields: real estate, banking, finance, retail, market research, wildlife reserve, fashion, and IT. Each case presents a particular situation or event ranging from dealing with conflict to working with culture and team dynamics.

Opened by an incisive foreword from Vega Zagier Roberts, there comes a clear introduction of the authors’ journey so far within the field of organisation development. Each compelling story demonstrates the complexity of working with organisational problems. The supervision conversations captured within clearly show how consultants can get caught up in and derailed by the dynamics of the organisational system.

This book is written for those who work in and with organisations – for founders and executives, for leaders and managers, and especially for other organisational consultants and those who work with or are considering working with them. Through these accounts, the authors encourage interest and curiosity in a way of working with what lies beneath the surface.

Reviews and Endorsements

This book brilliantly highlights what organisations are really about. The title intimates how much there is below the surface in any business and how the dots need to be connected to unlock the full potential of an organisation. The book is a practical, thoughtful addition to the library of open-minded business leaders confronted by the complexity of the fast-moving business landscape of our times.
Hendrik du Toit, founder and CEO of Ninety One

I could relate to many stories I read in the book and identify with the founders/CEOs on the issues they have been confronted with. The authors have authentic discussions with the management teams and hold up mirrors to their clients. This will be good reference material for me and other CEOs as we navigate through the journeys in our professional lives.
Sanjay Chamria, Managing Director, Magma Fincorp

It is so refreshing to read something that is deep, authentic and self-critical in the pursuit of learning. The stories have made me reflect on my own leadership style as well as how quickly, easily, and without realising we unintentionally collude and become part of a system. The questions the authors ask each other are not only relevant to the particular story but have made me think about parallel situations in a new light.
Vivian Leinster, Chief People Officer

In eight beautifully crafted stories, the authors share how problems of culture, authority, succession, transition, and leadership team alignment are based on underlying and often unconscious emotions of fear, anxiety, envy, uncertainty, abandonment. The resulting defences (denial, blame, splitting, pairing, collusion etc.) blur the view of the “real” problem, which needs to be solved by the client. “Not-Knowing” is at the core of psychodynamically informed organisational consulting. The authors demonstrate well how this difficult to achieve but necessary attitude provides them with better interventions and thus solutions for their clients. This book is a highly valuable, reflective, inviting, and entertaining resource for leaders searching for consultancy and for experienced and more recently trained consultants and coaches.
Professor Dr Claudia Nagel, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, Managing Partner Nagel & Company, Germany, consulting and coaching for the top executive level

For those leaders who believe that people are the ultimate source of sustainable competitive differentiation, this book is a must-read. The humility and vulnerability displayed by the authors in their storytelling is unusual. It invites the readers to slow down, reflect on their own biases, to look at “what lies beneath” the surface of their organisation, and to avoid jumping too quickly to solutions. These “checks and balances” are the conditions for both identifying and dealing with the root causes of problems. In our changing context, this book is a timely reminder that strong relationships are the cornerstone of good business.
Xavier Isaac, CEO, Accuro Fiduciary Group

I am a team leader within my organisation and often find myself at a loss as to how I should function. I have put myself under pressure to maintain a consistent leadership approach and apply the same rules to all situations. This book highlighted two key insights for me. The first was that all leadership situations are unique and that there is not a ‘one-size-fits all’ approach for operating as a leader. It is normal and natural for leaders to function differently and draw on a variety of strengths and approaches, depending on the context of each situation. A leader’s role can and should be adapted to the uniqueness of each situation, including standing down when another team member fulfils the role more appropriately. This was very reassuring.
The second and more important insight is that organisational systems can effectively blind leaders and disable their ability to see beneath the surface to resolve corporate issues. Only through building a leader’s ability to step beyond the system and diagnose from the outside (guided by a qualified consultant), can these issues be dealt with effectively. Seeing beneath the surface is indeed an invaluable perspective and vital to the long-term health of any organisation.
This is a highly thought-provoking read, and recommended for existing leaders or leaders in the making.
Deborah Whitlock

This is a fine and inspiring book, written by two highly talented consultants with a wealth of experience. The book is especially remarkable for its honesty and candidness about the opportunities and challenges of working with and consulting to organizations. What is unusual are the excellent ‘supervision conversations’ at the end of each case, conversations that shed much light on the challenges of the work. I really enjoyed reading this book and can thoroughly recommend it.
Professor Mark Stein – Professor Emeritus of Leadership and Management, University of Leicester

An invaluable tool for anyone who works in and with organisations – from founders and executives to managers – it enables readers to face the hard choices confronting them, to challenge how things are done within their organisation, reflect on their own biases, identify blind spots and adapt to ensure their business survives and thrives post-pandemic.
Sally Anne Butters, Elite Business Magazine

The book “What Lies Beneath. How Organisations Really Work” is an excellent storytelling reference in organizational development (DO): it’s fascinating for both experts and beginners because it offers the opportunity to know eight different cases of organizational life that could happen in every organization around the world.
Written in a refined and straightforward language, the reader learns a lot about OD’s “Art of consulting” in OD.
Another relevant strength is the link with the theoretical principles that is very natural and permits giving value to the reader who gets the impression to be the consultant and be in action.
Finally, it is an excellent reference for OD consultants to have new ideas to manage and help their clients find a suitable solution and for OD students to start to familiarize themselves with OD challenges and to a pragmatic, human and efficient methodology.
Dr Chiara Raffelini, Organizational Psychology Lecturer at the University of Quebec

Table of Contents

Foreword by Vega Zagier Roberts
Preparing for our journey

1. Mumbai
2. London
3. Hong Kong
4. Johannesburg
5. Rio de Janeiro
6. Nairobi
7. Paris
8. Milan

Reflections of our journey
About the authors

About the Author(s)

Ajit Menon is a business psychologist and consultant with many years of experience consulting to organisations of all sizes and complexities. He started his career in India, and then subsequently moved to the UK where he worked as an organisation development consultant in the financial services. Over his career he has consulted to a range of organisations from banks, media, insurance, private equity to criminal justice and government. Ajit is the co-founder of Blacklight Advisory Ltd, a specialist organisational consultancy to a diverse range of clients. He specialises in organisational culture and works with leaders to create an environment to support businesses to thrive and adapt to their changing contexts. This interest came from his early research into culture in diasporic communities in Kenya. Ajit has been visiting faculty on organisation development and consultancy at the London School of Economics and the Tavistock and Portman. His passion is working with leaders to solve complex organisational problems related to culture and behavioural change.

Trevor Hough is a clinical psychologist, executive coach, and organisation development consultant. Trevor grew up as a nomad living all over the world and through this developed a keen interest in diverse cultural experiences. After his clinical training as a psychologist, Trevor worked as a psychotherapist in Cape Town for a few years before the nomadic voice within him spoke up. Trevor has been consulting to a diverse range of organisations globally for the last 15 years, these have included organisations from financial services, alternative energy and recycling companies as well as big retail concerns. Trevor has a strong interest in working with impact investment portfolio companies and has worked extensively with such organisations in Africa, India and Asia. Trevor works with Ajit as a principal consultant at Blacklight Advisory Ltd. Outside of his consulting work Trevor’s great passion is being out in the nature. He has trained as a field and trails guide in the African bush and is in his element when out tracking animals on foot.

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