Autumn Update

Dear all

The future of OPUS

It is now three months since I began as OPUS Director. The feelings of anxiety, uncertainty and insecurity that typically accompany leadership transitions were present within OPUS before that moment, and have continued since. They are difficult for everyone, myself included, but they tell us how much this process matters.

Arrivals and Departures

The cost of transition is reckoned by real as well as a psychic entries on the balance sheet. There have already been gains and losses of personnel – sometimes at my prompting, sometimes outwith my control. Ben Neal and Helen Shaw have stepped down from OPUS Consultancy, as has Anna Reali from OPUS Events. Gill Dowden is also shortly moving on to pastures new after nine years running OPUS Admin. I am sincerely grateful to them all for their contributions and service to OPUS – far greater in all cases than my own.

With these departures come arrivals: Corinna Arndt is taking over as Head of Events; John Wilkes is resuming his role as Head of the Conference; and Evangelia Laimou is preparing to take over as Head of the Listening Post. I will cover the role of administrator for the time being. There are more announcements to make about OPUS Consultancy and Training.

New management structure

My plan is eventually to combine all of the OPUS committee ‘silos’ into a single management committee, with individuals and sub-committees responsible for pursuing specific initiatives. In my view, the approach of using a Director as the sole conduit between the operational and governance functions of OPUS has had its day.

So the work of reforming OPUS has begun. I believe reform is necessary to relieve OPUS from its current ‘stuckness’ (or ‘constipation’, as one of you aptly put it). OPUS has felt to me like an organisation constrained by a rigid orthodoxy in which doubts and questions could not be aired.

Perhaps OPUS mirrors the dynamics of wider society in the way that it seems safer to opt out of conversations on difficult subjects rather than engage with the polarities of feeling and expression that they evoke in some quarters.

I believe that OPUS has to open itself to thoughtful contributions on every issue, even those potentially threatening its survival or identity. The doubts and questions I had as an OPUS associate did not go away when I joined the board; indeed, I joined the board to do something about them. So I invite everyone who has an idea for a change they would like to sponsor within OPUS to put it on the table for discussion.

An OPUS led by ideas

In initiating this process, I hope to release OPUS to become what it should be: an ideas-led organisation that serves as a potential space for creativity, experimentation and exploration of every kind of organisational and social dynamic.

In this endeavour, I see OPUS as an orchestra rather than a one-man band: we should be participants in a shared creation rather than spectators, customers or silent witnesses to events performed by a few frantic actors. Contributing to OPUS should be the surest way to get something out of it, and the least valid measure of that contribution should be the financial one.

Special Interest Groups

With this in mind, I believe we should pursue an understanding of Society (and organisational life) not as one giant project but by starting with the particular aspects that interest us most. Anyone at OPUS is invited to set up a Special Interest Group – send me your proposals and I will try to help you find others who wish to join you.

SIGs may be formed around virtually any topic – for example, a place (eg societal issues in Manchester, Leadership development in Denmark, the Syrian Refugee Crisis), a particular institution or segment of society (eg the health service, the banking sector, the homeless, women), an activity (eg Group Relations, Social Dreaming), a branch of theory (Bion, Lacan, Object Relations)… or a hundred other possibilities I haven’t thought of.

The only rules I would impose at this stage are that a SIG must:

comprise at least three OPUS Associates
be a public group open to all OPUS Associates who want to join it
develop its own internal leadership/ communications structure (reporting to me)
pay attention to its own intra- and inter-group dynamics as it works
accept collective responsibility to produce some tangible output every year – a paper for the conference, an article for the Journal, an event, some research, etc.

I am adding a forum/messageboard to the OPUS website (upgrade still underway) to see if this will prove useful as a place to congregate and discuss ideas and opinions about any aspect of society, as a place to establish SIGs or as a place to give feedback on any aspect of OPUS membership. I will let you know when it has gone live and encourage you to visit it, post on it and discover what conversations ensue.

Open Forum at the conference

I have also arranged for members of the OPUS board to join me in holding an open forum meeting on 19th November at the OPUS conference. This is intended to provide an opportunity for you all to air your views and gain answers to your questions about OPUS and its future direction.

I hope these initiatives can help to begin the transformation process within OPUS, and that you will all consider playing a full part in this creative, experimental and explorative process.