Obsessives can't help dwelling on the same things. Compulsives are
enslaved to repeating habitual actions over and over again, even if they
don't make sense. Whether individuals or organizations, both types of
Obsessives have an "unreasonable, unhealthy focus on one thing. Most of
the time, it is the relentless pursuit of perfection" (Cohen, pp.
Perhaps the most debilitating symptoms of obsessive compulsive
organizations Cohen indicates are:
- * A strong need for perfection;
* Work must constantly be checked, re-checked, and checked again;
* Work is never good enough;
* All mistakes (or perceived mistakes) must be punished;
* Tendency to postpone or avoid decisions at virtually all costs.
* There is so much pre-occupation minutiae and details that nothing
gets done. (pp. 102-3)
Obsessive-Compulsive organizations, as individuals, are bent on
self-sabotage. Driven to realizing fantasy-based levels of perfection, they
go on "search and destroy" missions for mistakes. They squelch
creativity, initiative and risk-the necessary ingredients to proactive,
healthy future-directed decision making.
Intervention requires that leaders empower obsessive compulsives by
congratulating them for their mistakes. As obsessive compulsives learn that
near-perfect is good-enough, their anxiety may begin to subside. This
enables them to begin making decisions, taking risks, etc.
5. Post-traumatic syndrome
"Post-traumatic stress syndrome" is "the serous
emotional disturbance that follows a traumatic experience." (p. 115).
The list of events which traumatize organizations and church is virtually
innumerable. Pastoral change, sudden exit of pastor, sudden shift in
leadership, death of any "pillar" leader, dramatic increase or
decrease in members, finances, etc., schism and splits, mergers,
reorganization, external events (wars, economy, lawsuit, community factors,
etc.), doctrinal dissent, and improper or ineffective intervention in a
congregational dysfunction is but a short listing.
Trauma, regardless of its roots or the time passed since its occurring,
can affect organizations for years. Cohen notes some symptoms:
Trauma recovery is generally countered by setting progressive goals. Start
with a small number of relatively small goals. Then progressively "up
the ante" and move to higher goals. The key to this intervention is
that it requires a most important step: you must take action. Stay
proactively focused on progressively larger and more
- 1) Shock, erratic behavior, or both;
- 2) Over-reference to a negative event in the past;
- 3) Actions that conflict with crucial needs;
- 4) Inability to perform at top capacity;
- 5) Inadequate performance;
- 6) Leaders and others in the organization do their jobs in a daze;
- 7) Routine work gets done;
- 8) leaders and organization are unable to deviate from routines lest
they experience some kind of breakdown. (p. 118-9).
Cohesion therapy is also helpful, especially in the heat of trauma. The
psychological unity with others is, in itself, healing. Within Christian
organizations, the fellowship in the Body of Christ promotes even greater
healing through the action of the Gospel. Cohesion is, according to military
historian and psychologist, S.L.A. Marshall.
Cohesion can, Cohen notes, can be accomplished with trauma. "However,
traumatizing an organization deliberately can be dangerous" (p. 123).
Perhaps the most effective way to build cohesion is the military way.
Slogans such as "Be all you can be in the Army" demonstrate that
military recruiters understand the importance of cohesion.
- "I hold it to be one of the simplest truths of war that the
thing which enables an infantry solder to keep going with his weapons is
the near presence of the presumed presence of a comrade" (Quoted by
Cohen, pp. 122-123 from Marshall, Men Against Fire. New York:
Morrow, 1947, p. 42).
Cohen summarizes the nature and purpose of cohesion.
Cohen would suggest that whatever it takes to build pride and visibility,
just do it. Buttons, pins, mottoes, logos, organizational name changes,
celebrating people are just a very small listing of what can be done.
- "The point is to aggressively promote whatever it is that your
group is best at. You want each person to see constant reminders of the
group's excellence. Gradually the feeling of pride in this one area
will bring a mental shift away from the post-trauma" (Cohen, p.
Such items also lend themselves to another form of intervention,
"Distraction Therapy." Distracting the organization away from
trauma can be accomplished in numerous ways including:
A final note. Whatever intervention is used, post-traumatic stress syndrome
"may be felt some time after the original trauma, and it can be
triggered at any time" (p. 126). For post-traumatic stress syndrome,
time may be the greatest healer.
- * Doing something that has nothing to do with the problems;
* Working on an effort totally different from what the organization
or its sub-groups expect;
* Directing energies toward working on future problems in the
- 1) Treatment for one disorder may or may not work. If
it backfires, the disorder may become reinforced or more greatly entrenched.
This may or may not be in the control of those doing the intervention. As
much as possible, any intervention should share the same overall objective
as any therapist: "Do no harm."
- 2) Successful interventions may plant the seed for
tendencies toward other organizational disorders. If successful, empowerment
and deregulation, key strategies for dealing with obsessive compulsives, may
become an incipient form of neuroticism. If obsessive compulsives become
empowered, they may start looking over the shoulders of others or engage in
other organizational illness or excess.
- 3) Any intervention disrupts equilibrium. Any
disruption of equilibrium bears its own risks. Leadership does not come
without a price. Leaders use discretion to pay that price by careful,
prudent and prayerful intervention.
- 4) The healing for any psychosis or neurosis is often a
slow process. Healing can be slow. Relapses can and do occur. But
intervention must continue and be reinforced by long-term strategies to
maintain and uphold organizational health.
- 5) Dysfunctional systems are made of sub-elements and/or
individuals which each may bear corresponding dysfunction.
- a) Since birds of a feather flock together, some of
these dysfunctions may be deeply rooted into the organizations specific,
- b) Some of the changes may be possible only to the
extent that affected individuals in the organization are willing to
- 6) Organizations may have one, two, or traces of
all of the above. Because of subjective factors, it may not be readily
apparent which psychoses and/or neuroses are predominant. Intervention based
on the wrong diagnosis is a real and present danger that must be respected.
- 7) Organizational leaders must be extremely careful not
to get caught up in the organization's respective dysfunction. Having a
non-anxious presence, a healthy level of self-differentiation, lack of
demonstrable levels of any of the above dysfunctions in one's personality,
and a strong sense of calling can go a long way toward leading and
influencing organizational change.
- 8) Organization change can be momentary, short-term or
permanent. So can the impact over time. The manner and timing of any changes
experienced may be due to many factors-some of which are not even seen or
- 9) Timing is everything. Some interventions must be done
during the initial stages of leadership tenure; others dare not be. Some
interventions require familiarity for greater effectiveness; for others
familiarity reduces their effectiveness. One size doesn't fit
- 10) Intervention may change the organization. The
immediate, short-term or long-term results may exceed or fall short of
- 11) Sometimes intervention by itself can bring about
change. However, insofar as individuals and organizations tend to persist in
their given patterns, sometimes the best and most lasting interventions
occur more easily through changes in leadership personnel or organizational
- 12) Though an organization is diagnosed properly, not all
individuals in the organization share the same diagnosis. Using one style of
intervention for renewing the organization can have destructive,
anxiety-evoking side-effects on some individuals. If this anxious response
is wrongly diagnosed a antagonism, these side-effects of the intervention
can undo the intervention. Systems and individuals must both be acknowledged
- 13) The purpose of intervention is not to
"label" an organization. Use of neurotic or psychotic labels it
may undermine you. The purpose is not to demonstrate how sick the patient
is. Instead, the goal is to motivate them to a healthier level of
performance. Thus, before one enters the intervention, one should be
committed to implement whatever strategies are necessary and, as necessary,
to pay the necessary prices.
- Basic Interventive Strategies
- 1. Organizational
- The bad news is that virtually every organization-congregations
notwithstanding--are afflicted with varying levels of the above. The good
news is that the effects of the damage caused by these disorders doesn't
have to be permanent. There is help. There are effective and proven
intervention strategies. Cohen includes a helpful diagnostic instrument in The
Paranoid Organization. There are certainly others, too.
- Perhaps the most remarkable organizational insight is that intervention in
each of these methods nearly always finds its solution in the basics:
casting vision, making mission statements, defining purpose, setting
objectives, monitoring progress, maintaining accountability et al.
- Regardless of the diagnosis, these basic elements are virtually always
integral to effective, change-directed organizational transformation.
- Perhaps leaders might be well to focus on the goal, not the
dysfunction, in their intervention. After all, those who dwell on what
is wrong with them will be doomed to continue to stay "stuck" in
their dysfunction. A more "solution-focused," vision-driven
leadership style may really be the most helpful long-term intervention to
energize organizational transformation.
- 2. Spiritual
- The insights are not limited merely to organizational dynamics. Each one
of these neuroses or psychoses also suggest spiritual strategies, too. As
these various dynamics are rooted in the permeative and enduring dynamics of
original sin, one can be sure they will always be there to some degree or
- Christian leaders who find themselves complaining about this reality ought
not be surprised that there really is sin-in various, multiple
forms-in their congregations. It's what Christian ministry is all about.
- Since these spiritual dynamics are present, the remarkable insight
relating to spiritual intervention is, frankly, not that remarkable. It,
too, harps back to the basics: maintaining the constant awareness of sin and
its affects (confession), holding forth the new life to which God has called
us through absolution, developing various forms of fellowship groupings,
offering quality pastoral care and support groups, and the like.
- The Most Important Intervention
- The most important intervention, however, may be to underscore all of the
above is to develop a healthy content base of Scriptural doctrine. With this
as the basis, a healthy, Scriptural faith process can integrate each
individual and organizational process.
- As individuals and communities understand the process of their unique
spiritual journey in the context of the Body of Christ, they can look beyond
themselves, their fears and their weaknesses and aspire to greatness in
- In this understanding of spirituality which gives Christian organizations
their enduring legacy in Christ's gracious Word. It is this distinctively
Christian spirituality, found in the written Word of promise to "build
His church", and rooted in overwhelming grace which overcomes any
- Since the Word of God is our strength, whatever organizational-or
individual-dysfunction characterizes the organization whom God called us
to minister, we have God's guiding and promise in Isaiah 40:29-31.
- "He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the
weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;
but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar
on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk
and not be faint." Isaiah 40:29-31 (NIV)
- Thomas F. Fischer
Index Articles 1-49
Articles 50-99 Articles
100-149 Articles 150-199
200-249 Articles 250-299
Articles 300-349 Articles
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was revised on:
Tuesday, October 05, 2004 11:02:48 PM