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Mack, C., Jr (2005). Things Happen: Managing Crisis in the Living History of the Tavistock Perspective. Organ. Soc. Dyn., 5(2):183-198.

(2005). Organizational and Social Dynamics, 5(2):183-198

Things Happen: Managing Crisis in the Living History of the Tavistock Perspective

Carl Mack, Jr, Ph.D.


This is the third in a series of articles that attempts to describe the application of Tavistock group relations conference experiences and learning to public school settings in the United States. The first article focused on executive leadership in a public school district (Mack, 1995). The second focused on the centrality, impact and use of groups in public schools and districts (Mack, 2003). Why this series of articles? For me, the Tavistock conference perspective and experiences (Banet and Hayden, 1977; Hayden and Molenkamp, 2002; Rice, 1965) provide an insightful view of the dynamics of leadership in groups. The Tavistock model brought into my conscious focus the dynamics of groups as they function as a whole, the impact of the unconscious on work tasks, and the complexities of authority and leadership in the context of group and organizational life.

The purpose of this article is to report my experiences in the role of a public school district Superintendent managing a crisis situation using learning from Tavistock group relations conferences and experiences. It is an application focused on the practical demands of administering a public school district and those aspects of leadership that reflect the interplay between the leader and the led - often played out between the conscious and unconscious - where there are no easy answers (Heifetz, 1995).

While in the role as Superintendent of Schools, I experienced myself and the District's staff as competent. Or, perhaps more accurately, we as a staff reflected various levels and states of competence.

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