personal construct psychology in organisations
Originally developed by George Kelly in 1955, Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) is one of the most comprehensive theories of personality and change.
PCP is not essentially a clinically-derived theory – it is about all of us, all of the time – a ‘psychology for living’ – helping us understand our ways of making sense of the world.
The emphasis on understanding individuals in their social and cultural contexts makes PCP a particularly relevant and robust theory for application to organisational and business settings. It has been used enthusiastically by organisational psychologists, business managers, personnel and human resources specialists, and management and training consultants, to help make sense of the complexity of life in larger systems.
PCP is particularly applicable in understanding more about:
* the process of individual and collective change – giving us an immensely helpful and well-elaborated model of the change process. PCP highlights the ways in which we are all trying to make our own best sense of our world and encourages us to share and explore our views. The key to developing effective role relationships is through attempting to understand each other’s meanings and interpretations, suggesting that organisational change is at heart a relational and conversational process. PCP leads us to believe that there are always alternative ways of construing any situation – an essentially hopeful and optimistic stance;
* the significance of core beliefs and values, and their impact on our behaviour – PCP suggests that we develop core constructs which are key to our sense of identity and give meaning to our lives. These values and beliefs are at the heart of our individual construct systems, influencing most of our interactions and behavioural decisions. Understanding what is core for others, and which personal values they most cherish, enables us to help people play to their strengths while making the adjustments and accommodations necessary for working in groups and teams;
* the exploration of ‘resistance’ to change – PCP encourages us to see ‘resistance’ as something to explore and understand rather than something to overcome. Our theory would lead us to believe that people are behaving in the ways which make most sense to them given the way they are construing their worlds. If we want to engage people in change, we need to understand where they are starting from, and what this change means to them. Through exploration and dialogue we are able to help people develop the range of meanings and actions available to them, developing a shared sense of how to move forward together;
* decision-making processes and how they can be improved – PCP gives us a simple but powerful model of personal and collective decision-making which enables us to identify strengths, preferences and problems, and to develop more robust and well-balanced cycles of reflection, decision and implementation;
* individual differences and the management of diversity – with its emphasis on understanding and working with similarities and difference, PCP is well placed to underpin work on diversity and equality. The theory’s deep respect for the integrity of individual psychological processes and its emphasis on inquiry as a way of living, gives us a firm foundation for dialogue and exploration;
* group processes and how to work creatively with them – the detailed exploration of the nature of helping relationships which runs through our theory offers many insights and generative questions for understanding and working with groups.
PCP is compatible with a wide range of existing tools and procedures currently used in education, training, management, and group-work. As such it can provide us with a comprehensive theoretical underpinning to our work with individuals, teams, partnerships and organisations.
Mary Frances 2011