Starting Dialogue LO5981

Kelly Pearce (
Tue, 5 Mar 1996 21:46:56 +1000 (EST)

Replying to LO5963 -- was: Intro -- Tuwenia Barnes

Hi Tuwenia,

In response to your question (be warned - Long winded message follows)

> How do you get people to even start using dialogue?
>From the readings, I understand that these things cannot be forced on
>employees, but just how would one get started? Say for example, you're a
>manager or an executive and you want to turn your company into one that is
>focusing on team learning. What do you do first?

We have been experimenting with introducing Dialogue and other
Organisational Learning Ideas into our organisation in a number of
ways. Some of those ways follows.


I am privaledged to belong to an Australian Public Service organisation
that manages an Australia wide broadcast network, called the National
Transmission Agency (NTA). We have 120 staff + or - 10 in any given
month. We are a very young organisation, with the baggage of 30 years
of previous organisations.

What to do first? (NB:nothing new in my answer)

Decide whether now is really the time and place, look at the
organisation,look at its strengths and weaknesses in a learning
organisation context. Use some of the tools about looking at systems,
get a feel for what barriers you can remove, what is going to stand in
your way. Do all the things a good consultant does when deciding
whether to take a job or not. Playing this game is dangerous -
especially if you are not ready to ride the tiger. I have a number of
scars to show from some of our experiments, all of us learnt from them
but not necessarily the right things.

What then -

Well we chose to pick some key points in the organisational web to do
some preparation and education. I have a strong belief in hitting
things in many places at once, and in preparing the right ground by
building in the themes that become the main song later on - especially
if I know I have got some good sponsors. The other thing we looked
(still looking for) for were accepted themes that have similarities or
a platform on which to build - for example we found TQM is a good place
to build from.

We chose to use our senior management group as reluctant heros -
fortunately we had already primed the General Manager, who is quite
inspirational once you set him off(one of those fortunate events of
sending someone off for R&R at a course and them coming back all fired
up saying - now I see what you mean).

The internal and external consultant team who took on this task then
wisely chose to combine facilitated skill development with Senior
Management Strategic meetings. Our mob won't move without something
practical tied to it. This has been happening once a month since March
95, with a break over Xmas. Outcome: Some behavioural change in most
of the group.

At the same time we picked on a process improvement team drawn from all
levels in the organisation, with some of the middle level shakers and
movers. Again a practical focus with a lot of room for using Learning
organisation tools and developing skills. We took all of them to one
of Rick Ross' three day workshops run in Australia last year (mixed
success, not quite what we were after, but it certainly got a few
people fired up). Some immediate change, now in need of a recharge.

We have been weaving the same thread into all our training and
development programs, especially the Leadership and Management
programs. This is causing a bit of a problem for some middle
management, as we chose to tackle first line management and senior
management first, and some of them are beginning to get a little

This year the work group I belong to (new team) started using some of
the Fifth Discipline material in looking at more effective
communication - particularly between ourselves and the organisation.
We've had a few successes in debriefing meetings we have had and
managing to improve how we managed it the next time.

So our answer has been to build the themes in at many levels and to
build up leadership at all levels (NB this can be messy while the
organisation tries to sort out what rules it is playing by) and to try
and remove some of the barriers (especially the attitudinal ones).
Ours is not the only answer and we know we can;t stop here - this is
life-long learning and that means lots of rethinking, reframing and
changing of strategies and themes as we learn from what we have been
doing. By the way - It can be fun!

Appologies if I got evangelical at any point, and I hope this is what
your seeking.

Kelly Pearce



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