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Dialogic Organization Development Gervase R. Bushe Ph.D Professor of Leadership and Organization Development Keynote Address 2013 conference on Knowledge,

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Presentation on theme: "Dialogic Organization Development Gervase R. Bushe Ph.D Professor of Leadership and Organization Development Keynote Address 2013 conference on Knowledge,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Dialogic Organization Development Gervase R. Bushe Ph.D Professor of Leadership and Organization Development Keynote Address 2013 conference on Knowledge, Culture and Change in Organizations

2 Dialogic Organization Development A label created by Bob Marshak (American University) and myself to group together a set of organization development practices that violate some central tenets of organization development theory. A label created by Bob Marshak (American University) and myself to group together a set of organization development practices that violate some central tenets of organization development theory. Dialogic OD is NOT about having better dialogues. It is about the process of planned, transformational change. Dialogic OD is NOT about having better dialogues. It is about the process of planned, transformational change.

3 Art of Convening (Neal and Neal) Art of Convening (Neal and Neal) Art of Hosting (artofhosting.org) Art of Hosting (artofhosting.org) Appreciative Inquiry (Cooperrider) Appreciative Inquiry (Cooperrider) Complex Responsive Processes (Stacey, Shaw) Complex Responsive Processes (Stacey, Shaw) Conference Model (Axelrod) Conference Model (Axelrod) Coordinated Management of Meaning (Pearce & Cronen) Coordinated Management of Meaning (Pearce & Cronen) Cycle of Resolution (Levine) Cycle of Resolution (Levine) Dynamic Facilitation (Rough) Dynamic Facilitation (Rough) Engaging Emergence (Holman) Engaging Emergence (Holman) Future Search (Weisbord) Future Search (Weisbord) Narrative Mediation (Winslade & Monk) Narrative Mediation (Winslade & Monk) Open Space Technology (Owen) Open Space Technology (Owen) Some Dialogic OD Techniques Organizational Learning Conversations (Bushe) Reflexive Inquiry (Oliver) Real Time Strategic Change (Jacobs) Re-Description (Storch) Search Conference (Emery) Solution Focused Dialogue (Jackson & McKergow) Structure of Belonging (Block) Syntegration (Beer) Systemic Sustainability (Amadeo & Cox) Talking stick (pre-industrial) Technology of Participation (Spencer) The Circle Way (Baldwin) Visual Explorer (Palus & Horth) Work Out (Ashkenas) World Café (Brown & Issacs)

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5 Three Underlying Change Levers 1.a change in the organization’s dominant narrative or discursive patterns leads to a change in social relations 2.a new, generative image creates an opportunity for people to imagine new ways of thinking and acting that is compelling to them. 3.a disturbance in patterns of interaction is managed so as to sustain the emergence of new, more complex patterns of interaction  complex adaptive systems theory,  complex responsive process theory, and  theories underpinning organizational discourse studies such as social construction (broadly defined) provide a theoretical basis for those change methods grouped under the label “Dialogic OD”.

6 In 1987 something happened that so transformed relations between eco-advocacy groups and business/government that Greenpeace Canada almost fell apart trying to adapt to the change…….what was it? In 1987 something happened that so transformed relations between eco-advocacy groups and business/government that Greenpeace Canada almost fell apart trying to adapt to the change…….what was it?

7 Generativity The "…capacity to challenge the guiding assumptions of the culture, to raise fundamental questions regarding contemporary social life, to foster reconsideration of that which is 'taken for granted' and thereby furnish new alternatives for social actions" (K. Gergen,1978, p.1346) The "…capacity to challenge the guiding assumptions of the culture, to raise fundamental questions regarding contemporary social life, to foster reconsideration of that which is 'taken for granted' and thereby furnish new alternatives for social actions" (K. Gergen,1978, p.1346)

8 A Generative Image the outcome of Dialogic OD is generative when one or more new ideas arise that compel people to act in new ways that are beneficial to them and others. The compelling nature of the idea shows up in a number of ways: it keeps being talked about, shifts the discourse, and results in new sense-making which in turn results in new actions. the outcome of Dialogic OD is generative when one or more new ideas arise that compel people to act in new ways that are beneficial to them and others. The compelling nature of the idea shows up in a number of ways: it keeps being talked about, shifts the discourse, and results in new sense-making which in turn results in new actions.

9 How generativity changes organizations what we think decisions and actions shared attitudes and assumptions culture A Generative Image changes A generative image changes

10 Emergence Emergence is nature’s way of changing, in which increasingly complex order arises from disorder. Emergence is nature’s way of changing, in which increasingly complex order arises from disorder. This pattern of change flows as follows:  Disruption breaks apart the status quo.  The system differentiates, surfacing innovations and distinctions among its parts.  As different parts interact, a new, more complex coherence arises.

11 Emergence - 2 From Holman, 2010

12 Planned Emergence From Holman, 2013

13 Planned Emergence- 2 Change is part of the continuous process of self- organizing that occurs in all human collectives. Change is part of the continuous process of self- organizing that occurs in all human collectives. New organizational behaviours and practices result from emergent rather than directed processes. New organizational behaviours and practices result from emergent rather than directed processes. In other words, one does not plan for a specific change, but instead helps to foster the conditions that lead to new ways of thinking and new possibilities. In other words, one does not plan for a specific change, but instead helps to foster the conditions that lead to new ways of thinking and new possibilities.

14 Narrative and Discourse that emerges through dialogic processes. What any particular group believes is “reality,” “truth,” or “the ways things are”, is created, conveyed, and changed through mental models, stories, narratives, and other symbolic interactions. Organizational “reality” is a social construct that emerges through dialogic processes. What any particular group believes is “reality,” “truth,” or “the ways things are”, is created, conveyed, and changed through mental models, stories, narratives, and other symbolic interactions. How things are framed and talked about becomes a significant, if not the most significant context shaping how people think about and respond to any situation. How things are framed and talked about becomes a significant, if not the most significant context shaping how people think about and respond to any situation. A central premise is that language does more than simply convey information. shapes organizational members’ mindsets, and influences the resulting organizational behavior. A central premise is that language does more than simply convey information. Instead language creates, frames, sustains, and transforms social experience, shapes organizational members’ mindsets, and influences the resulting organizational behavior.

15 Narrative and Discourse - 2 Narratives are coherent stories that are shared by a group of people and explain how things are, help them make sense of their world, and provide a rational for decisions and actions. Narratives are coherent stories that are shared by a group of people and explain how things are, help them make sense of their world, and provide a rational for decisions and actions. It’s assumed that in any organization there are a variety of different narratives about the same things. It’s assumed that in any organization there are a variety of different narratives about the same things.

16 Narrative and Discourse - 3 Dialogic OD processes do not attempt to decide which narratives are “right”, but they can try to: Dialogic OD processes do not attempt to decide which narratives are “right”, but they can try to:  help people look at the consequences of the narratives they hold,  understand the variety of narratives influencing situations,  recognize which narratives are “privileged” or suppressed,  and/or support the emergence of new narratives

17 Dialogic conditions for Transformational change - 1 Disrupting prevailing social reality by adding diversity of ideas, questions, actors, processes, and so forth to the existing situation. This introduces new narratives, stories, and perspectives from which new social agreements about the state of affairs, and what to do, can emerge. Disrupting prevailing social reality by adding diversity of ideas, questions, actors, processes, and so forth to the existing situation. This introduces new narratives, stories, and perspectives from which new social agreements about the state of affairs, and what to do, can emerge.

18 Dialogic conditions for Transformational change - 2 Creating a “container” that provides the right ingredients and space for participants to inquire together, making room for both individual and collective expression through which old ways of thinking are contested, and new possibilities emerge. Providing specific dialogic activities or processes that engage participants in interactive processes, intended to create the conditions whereby transformed thinking will emerge. Creating a “container” that provides the right ingredients and space for participants to inquire together, making room for both individual and collective expression through which old ways of thinking are contested, and new possibilities emerge. Providing specific dialogic activities or processes that engage participants in interactive processes, intended to create the conditions whereby transformed thinking will emerge.

19 Dialogic conditions for Transformational change - 3 Emphasizing generativity rather than solving a problem or enhancing a current condition. Generative processes can be things like: confronting or re-framing prevailing ways of talking about or experiencing things; supporting the coming together of a diversity of participants and their social realities; creating new images, language, or stories that open doors to new ways of conceiving of a situation; and so forth. Emphasizing generativity rather than solving a problem or enhancing a current condition. Generative processes can be things like: confronting or re-framing prevailing ways of talking about or experiencing things; supporting the coming together of a diversity of participants and their social realities; creating new images, language, or stories that open doors to new ways of conceiving of a situation; and so forth.

20 Dialogic conditions for Transformational change - 4 Importantly, in Dialogic OD the focus is on fostering conditions that will lead to new ways of thinking and better outcomes without a commitment to specific changes as is the case in more directive, planned change approaches. Ideas emerge from the change targets. Importantly, in Dialogic OD the focus is on fostering conditions that will lead to new ways of thinking and better outcomes without a commitment to specific changes as is the case in more directive, planned change approaches. Ideas emerge from the change targets.

21 Dialogic conditions for Transformational change - 5 Inviting the “whole person” – not just the mind, but the physical, emotional, intellectual, and even spiritual aspects of self. As such, change processes often employ more than words and use other forms of interaction, such as music, art, movement, and other analogical forms of interaction. Inviting the “whole person” – not just the mind, but the physical, emotional, intellectual, and even spiritual aspects of self. As such, change processes often employ more than words and use other forms of interaction, such as music, art, movement, and other analogical forms of interaction.

22 When is Dialogic OD appropriate? Complex Cause-effect is only perceptible in retrospect Probe – Sense - Respond Emergent practices Complicated Cause-effect requires investigation and/or application of expertise Sense-Analyze-Respond Good practices Chaotic No cause effect relationships at system level Act-Sense-Respond Novel practices Simple Cause-effect is known Sense-Categorize-Respond Best practices Disorder

23 In Summary A host of innovations in Organization Development practice that appear to be different actually utilize the same three underlying change levers. A host of innovations in Organization Development practice that appear to be different actually utilize the same three underlying change levers. These are: These are:  Changes in discourse and narratives  Emergent processes  Generative Images

24 By labeling these we: Open up vast new areas for research on planned transformational change Open up vast new areas for research on planned transformational change Create a generative image for the field of organization development Create a generative image for the field of organization development Challenge the existing orthodoxy of OD education based on the action research model Challenge the existing orthodoxy of OD education based on the action research model

25 For my papers on Dialogic OD and a copy of this presentation go to For my papers on Dialogic OD and a copy of this presentation go to


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