Words, Words, Words or Dialogue

Margaret WilliamsonWritten by: Margaret WilliamsonIllustration of Alice and Humpty Dumpty from Alice Through The Looking Glass. Image by Morphart Creation, Shutterstock

As I continue my research into the impact of Dialogue on organisational change, it is clear that when we talk about Dialogue we don’t always mean the same thing.  Apart from the obvious use of dialogue to describe any conversation in a book, a play or a film; we often hear the word used to describe conversations to resolve international conflicts -UN ‘peace dialogues’ for example.

Even in the field of organisational change the word Dialogue means different things to different people, so I thought it might be interesting to share some of the definitions I have come across.

“Big conversations are often typified by the same issues that bedevil conversations further down – a lack of openness, an inability to listen, a default to old patterns and behaviours.”

Margaret WilliamsonWritten by: Margaret Williamson

The Right Conversation: Spotlight on Dialogue,
What conditions enable effective conversations at work? 

Whether they are strategic conversations in the boardroom or conversations between front-line team members, two things matter: a conducive environment and well-developed skills.  The Right Conversation’s Spotlight on Dialogue, research report identified four necessary conditions and three essential skills for dialogue to take place.

“Dialogue facilitates multi-agency working in the criminal justice system”

Margaret WilliamsonWritten by: Margaret Williamson

The Right Conversation: Spotlight on Dialogue,
Promoting the right conversations at work

Over the past year I’ve been researching the impact of using Dialogue for organisational change, both in the published literature and in conversation with people working with dialogue in the public sector.

There are few, if any, systematic research studies of the overall impact of dialogue on organisational or personal change but there are many individual examples of where dialogue has been employed successfully to:

How do we know that dialogue is an effective way of generating effective change in organisations and individuals?

Margaret WilliamsonWritten by: Margaret Williamson

In 2011 The Right Conversation published a research report on the importance of the quality of conversations in organisations.   The organisations they interviewed all reported a positive correlation between the quality of conversation and organisational effectiveness.  The argued that the quality of conversation impacts directly on:

  • Employee engagement
  • Relationships with key stakeholders
  • “The richness and inclusiveness of strategy development”

Given that there is general agreement that conversation matters – what are leaders doing to develop the skills of dialogue in their organisations?

Dialogue Update

The National Dialogue Community of Practice (DCoP) met and had a productive session on the 15 November at the COSLA Conference Centre, Edinburgh. Sharon Millar, Principal Lead Organisational and Leadership Development at NHS Education for Scotland, opened the session, reviewing the DCoP journey so far and the recent evaluation carried out by Marie Laidig from Insight Expedition. See Sharon’s insights on the session below.

Our Steering Group Needs You!

At the session, we decided to form a steering group of between 8-10 members of the DCoP to keep the drive for dialogue to support people through system wide transformation of public services.

The commitment of Steering Group members would be:

  • Contribute to quarterly meetings: face-to-face, telephone or Skype (locations will suit the membership)
  • Plan and shape events on behalf of the dialogue community
  • Guide the overall direction of the different strands of DCoP activity and their contribution towards national outcomes
  • Network and connect the DCoP with other relational based networks, groups and practitioners

What tools does a Fire Starter need?

Day 5 of the Fire Starter Festival was an opportunity for colleagues from across public services to come together and try out some of our Workforce Scotland tools. Janet Whitley, Workforce Scotland lead, blogs for us about two of those tools: the Enabling Collaborative Leadership Pioneer Programme and the Dialogue Community of Practice.

We began with a taster of the Enabling Collaborative Leadership Pioneer Programme, which is an offer to work with collaborative teams (‘Pioneer Sites’) across public services on real work issues where there is a need to find different kinds of solutions to complex challenges. The approach is built around a core model of action inquiry, supported through a team of facilitators and a shared commitment to learning as we go.

For me, hearing some of the stories from the collaborative teams that we have been working with really brings the programme to life. This approach has made a real difference to how they have worked and the outcomes they have achieved.

Colleagues from the Musselburgh Pioneer Site shared some of their experience of working with families who were intensive users of multiple services, beginning with the questions: “What is it like to be in this family?” and “What is it like to be me as a practitioner working with this family?” This approach has really changed how they’re thinking about this work.