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Anxiety and complexity in a postprofessional era: [...]
David B. Drake
The title for this paper brings to mind Donald Schön’s observation that, ‘Problems are abstractions extracted from messes by analysis…Managers do not solve problems; they manage messes (pp. 15-16).’ I would contend that the title ends up being a bit misleading nonetheless in that the common usage of the word ‘complexity’ is offered, obscuring some of the important distinctions made in the paper itself. Even so, I commend the author(s) for bringing this body of work to bear on deliberations on the future of coaching as a potential profession. As one who developed the term ‘postprofessional’ (Drake, 2008a) as a frame for coaching and its evolution and who has advocated for an artisan’s view of evidence and mastery (see Drake, 2011), I welcome this contribution to the conversation about coaching psychology. I would offer four primary reflections on the paper.
At the conclusion of a useful introduction to some of the key terms, the authors note that Stacey and his colleagues have moved beyond their original construct to talk about organisations as ‘Complex Responsive Processes’. However, there is no explanation as to why this new terminology was dropped in favour of returning to a modified version of the original ‘Complex Adaptive Systems’ language. I would have liked to see a fuller discussion of this distinction, the process by which the decision was reached and the rationale for it, and the implications of the choice for coaching, ie, the relative emphasis on individuals versus environments. I am also curious about the role of ‘agency’ in both models given the emphasis in coaching on developing greater accountability, new meaning-making and more productive actions. Karl Weick’s (1995) work on leadership and decision-making in complex environments would have been useful here.
Full article: Volume 7, Issue 1 pages 106 - 108