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Seeing Systems

Book Description

Seeing Systems is the most accessible, penetrating book available on the dynamics of systems. In it, Barry Oshry explains why so many efforts at creating more satisfying and productive systems end in disappointment, and proposes an entirely new framework for dealing with human behavior. Oshry shows us how teams of top executives regularly fall into turf battles with one another; why organizational improvement efforts inevitably create tensions between the "good" cooperative workers and the "bad" resistant ones; how marriages seemingly "made in heaven" disintegrate. Oshry demonstrates how these breakdowns in organizations result from our blindness to the human systems of which we are a part. Finally, he shows how powerful, productive, and satisfying partnerships are created when we are able to recognize and stop these destructive "dances", and create new ones in which we understand and are respectful of one another and can work in productive partnership. Seeing Systems takes us to a whole new level of understanding ourselves as human beings.

Table of Contents

  1. Cover Page
  2. Title Page
  3. Copyright Page
  4. Dedication
  5. Preface to the Second Edition
  6. Prologue: Overcoming System Blindness
  7. Act I. Seeing the Big Picture
    1. Scene 1. When We don’t See the Big Picture
      1. 1. Pinball
      2. 2. The Manager of the Heart
      3. 3. The Mystery of the Swim
      4. 4. Seeing the Local Picture
      5. 5. “Stuff” Happens
    2. Scene 2. From Spatial Blindness to Spatial Sight
      1. 6. Seeing Context
      2. 7. The “Truth” about Jack
      3. 8. Charlotte is a Problem
      4. 9. Center Ring or Side Show?
      5. 10. Times Out of Time: Seeing the Whole
      6. 11. The TOOT Dilemma
    3. Scene 3. From Temporal Blindness to Temporal Sight
      1. 12. The Invisible Histories of the Swims We are in
      2. 13. History’s Burst of Illumination
      3. 14. Bart and Barb: A System Evolves . . . Perfectly
      4. 15. “Anthropology” or Mick Gets Wiped out
      5. 16. Applied Anthropology: Unraveling System History
      6. Summary
  8. Act II. Seeing Patterns of Relationship
    1. Scene 1. Relational Blindness
      1. 17. What about all the Drama?
      2. 18. The Dance of Blind Reflex
    2. Scene 2. From Relational Blindness to Relational Sight
      1. 19. Three Patterns of Relationship
      2. 20. One Wakes, the other Sleeps
      3. 21. The Top/Bottom Dance of Blind Reflex
      4. 22. It Takes Two to Tango . . . or does it?
      5. 23. Let’s Declare Bankruptcy: Transforming the Top/Bottom Dance
      6. 24. The Universal Civics Course
      7. 25. The End/Middle/End Dance of Blind Reflex
      8. 26. Daniel: Mutant in the Middle Space
      9. 27. Organizations in the Middle
      10. 28. The Provider/Customer Dance of Blind Reflex
      11. 29. Overcontrol or Transformation: The Mutant Customer
      12. 30. The Unfairly Judged Professor (And the Righteously Done-to Students)
      13. 31. Abused and Misused in the Space of Service
      14. 32. The Web of Relationships
      15. 33. How to Clean Sidewalks: It’s a Matter of being
      16. 34. Resistance or the Sound of the Old Dance Shaking
      17. 35. How We Can See the Dance
      18. Summary
  9. Act III. Seeing Patterns of Process
    1. Scene 1. Process Blindness
      1. 36. Are You Sure You have it all?
      2. 37. Turf Warfare, Alienation, and GroupThink: The Dance of Blind Reflex Continued
      3. 38. Relationship Breakdowns in a Nutshell
    2. Scene 2. From Process Blindness to Process Sight
      1. 39. Territorial Tops: Stuck on Differentiation
      2. 40. The Success of a Business, the Failure of its Partners
      3. 41. Learning from Experience: A Good Second Marriage
      4. 42. Help! No Recovering Top Groups Sighted
      5. 43. Advice for the Top Team
      6. 44. Alienated Middles: Stuck on Individuation
      7. 45. Alienation among the Middles
      8. 46. Can Alienated Middles Become a Powerful System?
      9. 47. Mutant Middle Groups
      10. 48. How to Create Powerful Middle Teams
      11. 49. Bottom GroupThink: Stuck on Integration
      12. 50. Immigrant Martha has a Breakdown
      13. 51. Where is Everyone? A Mutant Bottom Group
      14. 52. Power is Managing Differentiation
      15. 53. Creating Powerful Bottom Groups
    3. Scene 3. The Politics of System Processes
      1. 54. Huddlers and Humanists . . . Enough with Consensus!
      2. 55. Amebocytes and Slugs: The Politics of Individuation and Integration
      3. 56. The Politics of Gender
      4. 57. Or Would You Rather be an Earthworm? Societal Implications of Differentiation and Homogenization
      5. 58. Differentiation: Inquiry or Warfare?
      6. 59. An Ode to Homogenization
    4. Scene 4. The Challenge of Robust Systems
      1. 60. The Dominants and the others
      2. 61. Robust System Processes
      3. 62. The Dance of the Robust System: Ballet Notes
      4. 63. A Remarkable, If Somewhat Premature Epiphany
      5. Summary
  10. Act IV. Seeing Uncertainty
    1. 64. The Emergence of Organizational Positions
    2. Scene 1. Individuals in Uncertainty
      1. 65. Individuals Facing and Escaping from Organizational Uncertainty
      2. 66. A Mutant Moment in the Middle
      3. 67. Dancing in and out of the Tunnel of Limited Options
      4. 68. His Magic Consultant Card #2
    3. Scene 2. Groups in Uncertainty
      1. 69. Groups Facing and Escaping from Uncertainty
      2. 70. How to Transform Oppositional Struggles into Multifaceted Flexible Teams
    4. Scene 3. Facing and Escaping the Uncertainties of Existence
      1. 71. Not all Possibilities are Possible
      2. 72. Coping with Uncertainty through Mythos and Logos
      3. Summary
  11. The Next Act—Seeing more
  12. Epilogue: A Continuing Revolution
  13. Notes
  14. About the Author