Seeing Systems : Unlocking the Mysteries of Organizational Life

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  • Edition: 2nd
  • Format: Trade Paper
  • Copyright: 2007-08-12
  • Publisher: Berrett-Koehler Publishers

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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 behaviour. 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.

Table of Contents

Preface to the Second Editionp. xi
Prologue: Overcoming System Blindnessp. xii
Seeing the Big Picturep. 1
When We Don't See the Big Picturep. 2
Pinballp. 2
The Manager of the Heartp. 4
The Mystery of the Swimp. 7
Seeing the Local Picturep. 9
"Stuff" Happensp. 10
From Spatial Blindness to Spatial Sightp. 14
Seeing Contextp. 15
The "Truth" About Jackp. 20
Charlotte Is a Problemp. 22
Center Ring or Side Show?p. 25
Times Out of Time: Seeing the Wholep. 27
The TOOT Dilemmap. 31
From Temporal Blindness to Temporal Sightp. 33
The Invisible Histories of the Swims We Are Inp. 34
History's Burst of Illuminationp. 36
Bart and Barb: A System Evolves...Perfectlyp. 38
"Anthropology" or Mick Gets Wiped Outp. 46
Applied Anthropology: Unraveling System Historyp. 58
Summaryp. 59
Seeing Patterns of Relationshipp. 61
Relational Blindnessp. 63
What About All the Drama?p. 63
The Dance of Blind Reflexp. 64
From Relational Blindness to Relational Sightp. 69
Three Patterns of Relationshipp. 69
One Wakes, the Other Sleepsp. 71
The Top/Bottom Dance of Blind Reflexp. 72
It Takes Two to Tango...or Does It?p. 80
Let's Declare Bankruptcy: Transforming the Top/Bottom Dancep. 83
The Universal Civics Coursep. 86
The End/Middle/End Dance of Blind Reflexp. 89
Daniel: Mutant in the Middle Spacep. 97
Organizations in the Middlep. 100
The Provider/Customer Dance of Blind Reflexp. 101
Overcontrol or Transformation: The Mutant Customerp. 106
The Unfairly Judged Professor (and the Righteously Done-to Students)p. 108
Abused and Misused in the Space of Servicep. 112
The Web of Relationshipsp. 117
How to Clean Sidewalks: It's a Matter of Beingp. 120
Resistance or The Sound of the Old Dance Shakingp. 121
How We Can See the Dancep. 123
Summaryp. 127
Seeing Patterns of Processp. 129
Process Blindnessp. 131
Are You Sure You Have It All?p. 131
Turf Warfare, Alienation, and GroupThink: The Dance of Blind Reflex Continuedp. 132
Relationship Breakdowns in a Nutshellp. 138
From Process Blindness to Process Sightp. 139
Territorial Tops: Stuck on Differentiationp. 139
The Success of a Business, the Failure of Its Partnersp. 142
Learning from Experience: A Good Second Marriagep. 145
Help! No Recovering Top Groups Sightedp. 147
Advice for the Top Teamp. 148
Alienated Middles: Stuck on Individuationp. 152
Alienation Among the Middlesp. 153
Can Alienated Middles Become a Powerful System?p. 156
Mutant Middle Groupsp. 158
How to Create Powerful Middle Teamsp. 164
Bottom GroupThink: Stuck on Integrationp. 166
Immigrant Martha Has a Breakdownp. 169
Where Is Everyone? A Mutant Bottom Groupp. 176
Power Is Managing Differentiationp. 178
Creating Powerful Bottom Groupsp. 181
The Politics of System Processesp. 183
Huddlers and Humanists...Enough With Consensus!p. 184
Amebocytes and Slugs: The Politics of Individuation and Integrationp. 187
The Politics of Genderp. 189
Or Would You Rather Be an Earthworm? Societal Implications of Differentiation and Homogenizationp. 192
Differentiation: Inquiry or Warfare?p. 193
An Ode to Homogenizationp. 197
The Challenge of Robust Systemsp. 198
The Dominants and the Othersp. 199
Robust System Processesp. 205
The Dance of the Robust System: Ballet Notesp. 209
A Remarkable, If Somewhat Premature Epiphanyp. 213
Summaryp. 215
Seeing Uncertaintyp. 217
The Emergence of Organizational Positionsp. 219
Individuals in Uncertaintyp. 220
Individuals Facing and Escaping from Organizational Uncertaintyp. 220
A Mutant Moment in the Middlep. 225
Dancing in and out of the Tunnel of Limited Optionsp. 229
His Magic Consultant Card #2p. 235
Groups in Uncertaintyp. 239
Groups Facing and Escaping from Uncertaintyp. 239
How to Transform Oppositional Struggles into Multifaceted Flexible Teamsp. 245
Facing and Escaping the Uncertainties of Existencep. 251
Not All Possibilities Are Possiblep. 251
Coping with Uncertainty Through Mythos and Logosp. 253
Summaryp. 257
The Next Act-Seeing Morep. 259
Epilogue: A Continuing Revolutionp. 261
Notesp. 267
About the Authorp. 271
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