Conversational Paradigm LO5674
Fri, 16 Feb 1996 08:22:34 -0500

Replying to LO5657 --

Rick Karash writes:

"On the more direct point, I'm very curious about how the language/action
models are useful. They make sense to me looking backwards at
conversations, and it does make sense to me to be clear about what is a
request and to be clear in saying "OK, I'm satisfied with that" but in my
limited attempts to apply them, they have always felt too rigid, too
constraining, too inhibiting."

William J. Hobler, Jr." <> writes:

"My experience too. I have been party to attempts to implement the
workflow software system based on the Flores & Winograd model. The
software works, the people disliked it, morale fell, the system was
circumvented. When these projects were analyzed the conclusion was that
the software was too rigid, people felt distrusted. This experience is 8
or 9 years old, perhaps the software has changed and become less rigid.

I know of only one place that rigid action -- commitment language is used
with great success. In the nuclear power generation environment all
directives to change the status of a power plant are given, repeated,
confirmed and committed, accomplished, reported and acknowledged. When
this was first introduced into the Navy we operators resented it, 'they
don't trust us' (They - Admiral Rickhover, Us - submarine sailors). But
it did reduce errors and the possible consequences of errors in running a
nuclear power plant are too severe to ignore any way of reducing errors.

IMHO, in the context of a learning organization this rigid structure has
very limited application. "
** end of quotes..

I have studied some with Flores and worked with clients with some of his
offshoots and have found his work INCREDIBLY valuable and VERY useful in
learning organizations.

I spent the last year working with a client instilling the principles of
effective conversations for action. (We did not install or use the
software.) This has made a tremendous difference in the effectiveness of
the company!! It does not have to be rigid. Once you are competent in
the conversational moves for requests, promises, declaration of completion
and declaration of satisfaction, it isn't awkward or limiting at all.
Consider the metapor of learning to ride a bicycle with training wheels
and then taking them off once you know how.

What we found was that certain "moves" in the work flow were either
missing or not effective. With these moves missing or ineffective, there
could be nothing but confusion and miscoordination. With them, people
were able to coordinate very effectively with each other. The model gives
people a structure to see what's missing in their conversations for action
and take corrective action.

There are, of course, many other conversations besides conversations for
action. So, don't try to put everything into a work flow model; perhaps
that is the difficulty that makes some say it is rigid. Still, most
conversations in business are conversations for action and most people are
not very good at them. This work is incredibly powerful and has potential
across numerous organizations, IMHO.

Margaret McIntyre
Management Consultant
Atlanta, GA


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