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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

What does ''being corporate'' really mean? -- challenging self-limiting assumptions, loosening the collusive lattice'

This paper was prompted by observations of the pervasiveness and cost of perverse interpretations among senior managers in the NHS in the UK of the increasingly widely-used phrase ''being corporate''. Notably, at a time when the prevailing discourse is about scarcity and shrinking resources, we are noticing that the perceived demand to ''sing from the same hymn sheet'' is preventing organizations from accessing the full range of their internal resources. Even very senior managers are withholding their perspective, ostensibly to comply with decisions made at more senior levels, as if ''being corporate'' means ''being seen to be corporate'' by focusing on achieving targets even at the expense of achieving the purpose for which the organization exists. A long history of hierarchical models of decision-making and of an us-and-them social defence system between clinicians and managers contribute to this, as do the relatively newer fears about a future where ''we'' will no longer exist.