In our triweekly Systems Changes Learning Circle meeting, @gmetcalf brought up the idea of stuckness.
Here’s a reference that points backwards towards individuals, and forward towards organizations.
The literatures of psychotherapy and family therapy make it clear that individuals and families get stuck because an impasse develops between a conscious desire for change and an unconscious desire to avoid change. Fisch, Watzlawick, and Weakland (1974), explain how, in these circumstances, some attempts to change can actually make things more rigidly fixed; trying harder is one classic way of remaining stuck, as every insomniac knows. “Stuckness” is defined by Watzlawick as:
A person, a family, or a wider social system enmeshed in a problem in a persistent and repetitive way, despite desire and effort to alter the situation.
Small groups get stuck too. It is 40 years since Bion (1961) told us that small groups work at two levels: the conscious level of the work group and the unconscious level of the basic assumptions groups. The mysterious forces of the latter, emanating from the unconscious psyche of the group and with one commanding purpose (the survival of the group) are very strong and so long as they remain out of awareness, exercise a powerful influence on the functioning of the group.
This easier-reading article points back to some other references that are relatively well known.
Watzlawick, Paul, John H. Weakland, and Richard Fisch. 1974. Change; Principles of Problem Formation and Problem Resolution . Norton. (2011 edition on Google Books preview)
Bion, Wilfred Ruprecht. 1961. Experiences in Groups: And Other Papers/Wilfred Ruprecht Bion . Tavistock. (2003 edition on Google Books preview)