Dialogue, interactive communication and the management of organisations

L. Minkes, A. Gear, Martin Read

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review

Abstract

This paper brings together a number of ideas, which we have been exploring for some time on the nature of discourse among members of groups and organisations. In 1994, we published a papers entitled 'Process, Conflict and Commitment in Organisational Decision Making' (Minkes and Gear: 1994), which was concerned with the processes through which decision makers approaching problems from different functional and personal perspectives might succeed in arriving at agreed courses of action. We pursued this further in a paper 'On interactive communication and decision making' (Gear, Minkes and Read: 1999). At that time we gave considerable attention to the use of technologically-based group support systems: but we had already seen this approach within the wider context of decision making as a whole in respect of strategic decisions, especially though not uniquely, in business corporations. A comment by the physicist Heisenberg "Science is rooted in conversation", seemed apt as a description of the processes of communication from a managerial point of view. A book by Van der Heijden, 'Scenarios: The Art of Strategic Conversation' (1996) reinforced the philosophy of our approach. In the present paper, we build on our previous studies and explore the idea of dialogue in organisations and the ways in which conflicts may be resolved. In this respect, we are thinking of conflict in the sense of imperfect compatibility of approaches and views, which has to be resolved in order to secure action. Ross (1969) has treated this, to some extent, as 'constructive conflict' in a book with that title, although he was dealing with the question in a different context. While we are not concerned only with decision support systems, we pursue the idea that their usefulness, at any rate at this stage of their development, may be in their role in developing intercommunication within groups, as well as resulting in better decision outcomes. In this respect, in fact, they may be seen as a contribution to organisational learning. We also seek to relate these considerations to the idea of strategy as an emergent process which draws on contributions from different levels of an organisation rather than as purely top-down (C F Simon’s early critique of the lonely captain on the bridge). This leads, in turn, to the significance of 'shared understanding' of 'negotiated environment' in groups and organisations. The main emphasis in this paper is thus on ideas and inter-relationships, but it is underpinned by in situ data, to which references are made.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2002
EventDeveloping Philosophy of Management: Crossing Frontiers - Oxford, United Kingdom
Duration: 26 Jun 200229 Jun 2002

Conference

ConferenceDeveloping Philosophy of Management
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
CityOxford
Period26/06/0229/06/02

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