In looking at organizations as living systems and not as machines, we are required to understand that human beings and human organizations of all sizes have a dual existence at all times - conscious and unconscious realities - that quite frequently are in conflict with each others. This is a situation that gives rise to great complexity.
Group theorists have long recognized that when people come together and form a group, there are conscious and unconscious components to group life.We are born into groups, also known as families, and we are involved with many groups throughout our lives. The roles we assume in groups are often unconsciously driven by previous expediences that have been with us since childhood, and then we relate to colleagues in an organization based on those early experiences.
Like a family, every group and every organization has its own values, beliefs, norms and behaviors that are affirmed and transmitted to every new member. In every organization there are many visible subgroups and invisible subgroups that we, as individuals, move in and out of routinely, while the organization as a whole also develops a conscious and an unconscious identity. Just as it is possible to understand the multiple levels of an individual human being, it is also possible to work within the complexity of human systems. But problems arise when we fail to grapple with this complexity.