RE: Linguistic Domains LO1024
Tue, 2 May 1995 11:29:45 -0400

John asks "Within the communication sphere of the LO,
has anyone given any thought to the methodology for
developing a shared linguistic domain in organizations
(i.e., the mixing bowl within which consensus might be
stirred up)?"

We (Tom Robinson, Chuck Keating, and myself) have had
some success in, we think, developing a shared linguistic
domain for executives or middle level managers within
large organiztions. Our approach, massivley summarized,
looks like this:

1) work with a small group that is responsible /
accountable for somthing.

2) use interviews centered around some key focal issue
forthat group. Comb the interview data out into SHORT
perspectives. There might be as many as 150 or so. Make
sure the perspectives are inthe language of the
participants and and that they raise the tough questions
for the group.

3) mount the perspectives on a computer that asks for
each perspective to be evaluated, on a 7 point likert scale,
three different ways: personal belief, perception of
organizatonal rhetoric, and perception of organizational
behavior. Just seeing the perspectives articulated by
others causes lots of reflection.

4) put the participants thru the computer survey a
second time, but this time display the number of
distribution of responses for each perspective on eachof
the three scales. HIghlight the participants own response
so he/she can see how he/she compared to the rest of the
group. Seeing the outliers (and dicsovering where oneself
is the outlier) generates intense reflection. There is also a
button to vote for "We realy must discuss this

5) The software spits out an analysis of gaps between
what the group believes, what it says, and what it does.
This helps set priorities for group discussion.

6) a series of meetings then discuss the perspectives that
the group is most interested in.

A couple of comments on this method. First, it surfaces
great deal of tacit knowledge (i.e., things tht the
participants didn't know that they knew, but that are
crucial to the way they as a group actually operate). The
process begins to uncover what we call the underlying
dynamics for the organization.

Second, we are convinced that true orgniztional learning
must include modeling of the learning system, i.e., some
explicit representation of how that group learns. The
perspectives used in the computer survey are a first
crude step in that direction, i.e. the perspectives are a
verbal description of what the group believes and how
they operate. We have done some work on translating
these verbal descriptions into a formal simulation model
using system dynamics. The key for the simulation model
is that we feed back to the group a formal model of their
own mental models. These models are very simple and
there is no pretense that our simulation represents
anything in the real world.

We have written several papers on this line of work and
hope to have them online so folks can access them in the
near future.

As a parting shot, I really think that much of the power
of John's own methods is that they do in fact create a
shared linguistic domain. John is entirely too modest (as
one other person already pointed out). Anybody seriously
interested in org change / org learning really really needs
to read Warfield's stuff!