The art of conversation

Managing change successfully is pure alchemy, says new research from Critical Eye: "part science, part art and with a serious dose of wisdom thrown in".

by Critical Eye
Last Updated: 23 Jul 2013

Cynics might also argue that it's equally impossible to achieve, but that's not the view taken by report authors Lynda Gratton and June Boyle. According to them, change can be managed successfully, and when it works well it can make a significant and lasting impact on organisational health and well-being. But when it fails to work, it can "leave cynicism and despondency in its wake".

Gratton and Boyle argue that the key to managing change successfully is 'meaningful conversation'. They believe that one of the symptoms of a functioning senior team is their ability to converse with each other and their willingness to talk. This may seem easy, but is in fact 'devilishly difficult', they say.

So how is meaningful conversation supported? One of the main ways is to change the context, or 'container'. At RBS, for example, one of the key ways of supporting conversation was a significant investment in a series of executive development programmes with a faculty at the Harvard Business School. Taking time out of working life, these executives began to learn the power of harnessing collective conversations while also receiving 'brain food' for these conversations. 

Other factors key to supporting meaningful conversations are commitments and variety. Commitments can be achieved by making clear to participants what they can expect to result from these conversations, for example by collectively agreeing performance goals.

Variety can be provided by introducing a range of different approaches to creating meaningful conversation. This enables participants to think in different ways, say the authors.

Source: Critical Eye
22 August 2006
Review by Nick Loney

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