Conversations: Which, when and how.

Ultimately, an organization is made up of conversations: who talks to whom, about what. And those conversations get amplified (or ignored) and codified in documents, processes, systems and culture.

Current and future decisions, actions, and sense purpose are grounded in these conversations …”so much so that the conversation is the organization.” (Alan Webber)

The problem is that we have optimised for, rewarded, trained in and been attuned to certain (limited) types of conversations.

A simple example: the cognition and leadership required to be creative (or to extract, allow for and maximise creativity) is very different to the ways of thinking, acting and managing required in a conversation for optimisation.

To succeed in our collaborative enterprises, we need to get better at knowing which conversations we need to have, when to have them and how.

(Hat tip to Fernando Flores, Juanita Brown, David Isaacs, Paul Pangaro and Michael Geoghegan)

Justice and the bottom line

morale < job satisfaction < employee engagement < justice

All too often, we break our people. We do injustices to the people in our teams; we send them home frustrated, disillusioned, dispirited, distressed, and damaged.

And all too often, the source of the damage is our conversations: we find we are misaligned, our efforts are misdirected, our efforts are wasted, our understandings clash, and so much more.

When we get our conversations right – when we do justice to the good people with good intent in our teams – we not only produce happy and healthy employees, we drive performance.

 

Waste in knowledge work

When we make with our hands we can see the waste, inefficiencies and breakdown in our production systems. Similarly, we can see the injustices we do to people in damaging their limbs or robbing them of their physical health. But when we make with our minds collectively – knowledge work at scale – we fail to see the cause of the waste, inefficiencies and breakdown in our work. And worse, we do injustices to the people in our teams – not with broken hands or poisoned lungs – we go home frustrated, disillusioned, dispirited, distressed, and damaged: broken in our heads, hearts and being.

How can navigate the full spectrum of conversations required for productive endeavours in knowledge work contexts and to minimise the damage done when our conversations break down?

Or, in other words: how do we talk to get stuff done?