Conversations in Organisations
Conversation is crucial to the work of a consultant. Even more importantly, it is the key to organisational transformation. Our belief is that it is the conversations which people have which create and sustain organisational culture. If you want to change the culture you need to enable people to have different conversations.
There has been a growth recently in our understanding of the importance of good conversations. Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan and Al Switzler is a good introduction to the importance of conversations in organisational life and contains practical approaches towards building better conversations.
A wonderful exponent of this approach to organisation consulting is Patricia Shaw. Her Changing Conversations in Organizations: A Complexity Approach to Change is a very readable account of the way she undertakes this kind of work.
John Shotter has done a lot of the work on conversations which underpins this approach to change. He is one of the primary advocates of social constructionism in which reality is continually being constructed in the conversations and interactions between people (see also Appreciative Inquiry, which draws on the constructionist approach). His work isn't always easy to read or understand but persistence will be repayed. Shotter's paper, written with Arlene Katz, 'Living Moments' in Dialogical Exchanges is a good example of this approach.
For a more formal approach to analysing conversations see a couple of papers by Professor Charles Goodwin of the UCLA Center for Language, Interaction and Culture:
Notes on Story Structure and the Organization of Participation offers a minute analysis of the words, gestures and unconscious collaborative interchanges which take place during a simple conversation at a dinner party.
Conversation Analysis, written with John Heritage appeared in the Annual Review of Anthropology 1990. It offers a comprehensive introduction to the techniques and assumptions of academic conversation analysis.
Dialogue is a form of conversation, developed by physicist David Bohm, which has been advocated as an effective approach to conversation in organisations.
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ed in the Annual Review of Anthropology 1990. It offers a comprehensive introduction to the techniques and assumptions of academic conversation analysis.