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Bob Marshak wrote this book to show powerful processes that impact organizations that usually remain unseen, unspoken, or unacknowledged. This is what he calls covert processes which includes hidden agendas, blind spots, organizational politics, wish lists, assumptions and unconscious dynamics.

Covert processes have a significant impact on change efforts in organizations – covert processes govern behavior in what we say and in what we do. Covert processes are the hidden dynamic that impact on a situation – power, politics, relationship history etc. Change efforts in the context of covert processes becomes problematic as the change is delivered by people that are perceived to be not always rational and logical but are involved with emotions and feelings which are more often at times- intangible and immeasurable.

To effectively implement a change strategy, the book states that we need to understand and diagnose what the current and existing paradigm is in an organization and to plan and think through shifting strategies on how to circumvent the negative covert processes from mind maps which are affected by age, education, gender, race, profession amongst other things.

Circumvention of negative covert processes like uneasiness towards a certain goal should be opened and aired out. Effective circumvention starts with discussion to release the emotions that are otherwise being kept inside individuals under the table, be it repressed or buried. Limitations during discussions should also be set in order not to trigger undesirable emotions. Preparations such as “What are the un-discussables? What’s in the no-go zone? What concerns do they have? What do people feel uncomfortable admitting to?” . Not minding and investing in this preparation migh preempt individuals to just pay lip service to the vision that is being cascaded down to them.

In some ways this book can be seen as an extension of the pioneering work by organizational psychologist Ed Schein on process consultation, especially on the importance of being able to decipher hidden forces. "One of the most important functions of process consultation is to make visible that which is invisible"

Toward that end, this book provides frameworks, principles, and practices that will be useful in diagnosing and addressing the hidden dynamics that can impact what you are doing and how it gets done. Although the ideas are grounded in a wide range of social science research and theory, there is little attention to definitions and literature reviews of specific theories or types of covert processes.

Finally, the book integrates all hidden dynamics instead of focusing on one or two. It asks and answers the question: What do all types of covert processes have in common and what can you do about them?

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2 Comments

  1. Where can you buy this book? I can’t find it even in WorldCat.

    • It’s a really old book and I just sort of borrowed it on a loan from my instructor in school.


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