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Application of PCP in organisations
PCP is principally used in the Therapy and Health Care context. Over the last fifteen years, however, a small group of practitioners have extended its use into the domain of, mainly business, organisations. This entry summarises the eclectic possibilities for applying PCP in organisations. Readers are also referred to Jankowitz (1990) and Section Seven: ‘Understanding Organisations’, in Fransella (2003) for further elaboration on this topic.

Summary of PCP applications

PCP is a very flexible psychology. One can see this by observing a range of possible interventions in the life of a business organisation. Below is a table of Organisation Development (O. D.) interventions, ordered along a dimension ranging from a focus on a single individual to that of the culture of large groups of people.

Table 1: Range of O. D. interventions using PCP



(a)  Coaching and Counselling
(b)  Training and Development                              
(c)  Interpersonal Relationships
(d)  Group and Team Development
(e)  Goal Setting
(f)   Role Clarification
(g)  Organisational Structure
(h)  Management Processes
(i)   Functional Processes

  • Planning
  • Marketing
  • Customer Service
  • Human Resources
(j)    Organisational Culture

(a) Coaching and counselling

At this level one is closest to the well-developed use of PCP in therapy. Coaching and Counselling are at opposite ends of a spectrum of interventions with individuals in contexts that might be described as ‘Opportunistic’ through Coaching and ‘Distress’ through Counselling.

(b) Training and development

An example could be training in Leadership skills. One way to do this is to take a generic list of the attributes of a good leader in the particular context of the Business unit. Questions are used to elicit dichotomous constructs that could be arrayed on a repertory grid. Clients on a training workshop could be invited to rate themselves on a number of elements on this grid, e.g. ‘myself as a leader now’, ‘A good leader in my Business’, and ‘how I would like to be as a leader in 12 months time’.  The ratings could then be pooled anonymously to reveal a pattern for the group to allow individuals to see the degree to which they shared experiences with their colleagues. Each client is then helped to find insights from the ratings and to consider actions whereby they could act on their own initiative through experimentation to reach the desired ratings over the time period agreed. Similarly they could be helped to figure out ways in which a change in the context of their jobs could be negotiated to facilitate the desired movement.

(c) Interpersonal relationships

An example could be a form of mediation between two persons perhaps as a prelude to some form of team development in which they would participate. One way to do this is to meet the individuals separately to allow for catharsis of the feelings associated with the breakdown of the relationship. Then one could elicit constructs to do with each client’s expectations from the other and reciprocally their notion of what the other expects of him or her. These expectations are then converted into dichotomous constructs in conversation with each client to reveal what they wish to achieve and to avoid. The couple is then brought together against the background of ground rules for a fair process, like e.g. separating the person from the problem, focussing on interests rather than on positions, and no monopolies on the truth or of being hurt (Fisher & Ury, 1991). Sometimes the cathartic experience has to be continued through one or more meetings with the facilitator inviting each person to achieve sociality with the other by paraphrasing what the other has just said so that each one can get a sense of having been heard. The constructs based upon expectations of each other can then be tested with the two persons for clarity of understanding and acceptance of the various terms can be negotiated.

(d) Group and team development

An example could be to design and facilitate a process that would serve to improve the cohesion and functioning of intact work teams. This could be based on generic aspects of intact groups, e.g. clear goals and roles, and processes for dealing with the world outside the group and with relationships inside the group (Schein, 1985).

(e) Goal setting

An example here would be to use PCP, as in the intervention in (d) above, to elicit a group’s constructs of the demands made on them by a network of stakeholders by treating the group as an ‘open system’ (Beckhard & Harris, 1977). Options that emerge from the process can be tested using Implications grids and their ranking in terms of effectiveness and viability using ‘Resistance to Change' grids (Hinkle, 1965).
(f) Role clarification

An example could be similar to the first part of the process outlined in (d) above for using PCP in a Team Development intervention. In this case the people involved need not be members of an intact work team but persons in the same organisation that have some degree of pooled interdependence

(g) Organisation structure

Structure is an arrangement of roles used in organisations to focus power, responsibility and accountability. Usually when complaints are made about one or another structural feature, the underlying cause is a problem of power or lack of it. Personal construct psychology can be used to make explicit the construing of personnel about a problem inherent in a particular structure. That may be about inadequate decentralisation of decision-making, overly long lines of communication, inadequate personal discretion and autonomy. Moreover when allied to a personal construct understanding of resistance to change in those centres of power under threat, the process of change can be rendered less painful and traumatic for those concerned

(h) Management processes

Management processes such as meeting schedules, reporting formats, and various policy guidelines for action can be rationalised using PCP. Personal construct research focussed on a range of management processes as elements can highlight areas of dissatisfaction and mal-functioning. Feedback of the results of this research can lead to changes that allow organisation members to function more effectively with their time more optimally focussed on the core mission, such as service to clients as opposed to meeting internal bureaucratic needs that are often wasteful of effort.

(i) Functional processes

The possibilities here are as eclectic as the diversity of functions found in modern organisations. The examples of planning, marketing, customer service and human resources discussed in Brophy (2002) and cited below offer a mere hint of the range of possible applications of personal construct psychology.

(j) Organisation culture

An example could be when two organisations are merging and the cultures of both are studied, using the methods pioneered by the Diagnostic Research Unit of the PCP Centre in the 1980’s. This would allow a comparison of the construing of common elements and of each of the constituencies represented by groups in each organisation. During feedback sessions the sense of difference and commonality could be explored together with Kelly’s diagnostic constructs of anxiety, fear and threat to legitimise those feelings and to facilitate sociality between the proponents of both cultures.


  • Beckhard, R. & Harris, D. (1977) Organisation Transitions: Managing Complex Change, Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley
  • Brophy, S., (2002) Organisation Development Interventions using P.C.P. Paper presented to the 6th Bi-Annual conference of the European personal construct Association at Florence, Italy 26th March.
  • Fisher, R. & Ury, W. (1991), Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In, London: Penguin, 2nd Edition    
  • Fransella, F., (Ed.) (2003), International Handbook of Personal Construct Psychology, London: John Wiley and Sons.                 
  • Hinkle,D., (1965), The Change of Personal Constructs from the Viewpoint of a Theory of Construct Implications. Unpublished Ph.D. thesis, Ohio State University.
  • Jankowitz, D., (1990), Applications of Personal Construct Psychology in Business Practice, in G.J. and R.A .Neimeyer (Eds.) Advances in Personal Construct Psychology, Vol 1, (257-287).
  • Schein, E.H., (1985), Organisational Culture and Leadership, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Sean Brophy

Establ. 2003
Last update: 15 February 2004