ASQ - Team and Workplace Excellence Forum

April 1999


A Sunny Forecast
Grassroots Teams Help Sun Micorsystems Raise Customer Satisfaction

Coming Full Circle
Measuring and Improving Organizational Effectiveness

Oil Change
Externalization, Change Management Key to Realignment

Project Management:
Just Do It!

A Step by Step Overview ofa 1950's Organizational Tool Experiencing a 1990's Rebirth


Hope Is Where You Find It
by Peter Block

Sorry We're Closed: Diary of a Shutdown


Brief Cases
Business News Briefs

Views for a Change

Sites Unseen
Reader's Favorite Websites

The Quality Tool I Never Use

Book Review

Letters to the Editor

Calendar of Events

Letters To The Editor

The Power of Conversation
We just finished reading Peter Block’s column, “Conversation for a Change” which appeared in the January, 1999 News for a Change. We want to applaud him for his thoughts around conversation and dialogue. Dialogue is a very powerful tool that should not have to follow a specific process for the magic to happen. We would push his ideas further than just in the conference room—into the work setting and into the classroom. As consultants and educators, we ask ourselves, how are we creating environments that encourage dialogue and conversation?
The process of sitting in a circle goes back many years. Native Americans and other cultures used this process for their storytelling. So why should we encourage this magic only in the conference room or classroom? People who micromanage would tell us that “chatting” is a waste of time and that we must control this non-productiveness! Our experience in both a business and an educational setting have been just the opposite. Information and new ideas are produced when people can get together and casually discuss issues. Persons who feel an environment of trust and safety are capable of a higher level of learning and productivity.
The environment not only affects dialogue and conversation, employees or students working in the kind of environment we discuss are also more creative. According to Robinson and Stem (1997), there are six essential elements for creativity. Consider how three of these elements might also encourage dialogue in the training of staff and/or the education of students: self-initiated activity, serendipity and within-company communication would all support the type of conversation you describe in your ten steps?
As far as our feelings about the future, we suggest the following strategies:
- Re-arrange work stations to promote conversation and storytelling amongst individuals.
- Create space in every cubicle to allow for natural conversation to emerge.
- Allow more small group discussion on a guided topic to occur in the conference room/classroom.
- Promote faculty and professional development opportunities that encourage natural dialogue.
In our opinion, these strategies will enrich “conversation for a change.”

Ginny Birky, Jennifer Webster
Doctoral students
Oregon State University
Corvallis, Ore.

Humbly Speaking
I look forward to Peter Block’s column every month. He offers some great insights. Regarding his February ‘99 column, “Y2K Calling,” I think that there is still another word to learn—humility. Without humility we won’t be able to listen to either our customers or the call to purpose. Without humility can there be learning? Over 13 years of consulting, I don’t know of one U.S. company that includes humility as one of their values. Do you?

Ernie Huge
Systems for World Class Comp.
Monterey, Calif.

Try It, You Might Like It
I tried Peter Block’s suggestion for evoking a new conversation at our last leadership team meeting. It was very well received and did seem to focus and energize the group, as well as serve as a reminder that we CAN transform, that we don’t have to stay in the same rut. I tied this into the old Will Rogers saying, “If I find myself in a hole, the first thing I do is stop digging.”
The group was a little resistant and uncomfortable at first (especially when they saw that I had taken away their tables!), but once they got rolling, two of the three small groups didn’t want to stop. The third group claimed they had indeed had a new conversation, but were done early. I just said, “Well, have another new conversation then.”
Anyhow—thanks for the suggestion. I think it has raised our awareness and moved us forward.

Joe Haberman
OD Specialist
City of Portsmouth
Portsmouth, Va.

April News for a Change | Email Editor
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