20 June 2006

Does size count?

In answer to the perennial management question about the best size for a team, the answer from the academic frontline is . . . wait for it . . . 'it depends'.

This is an undoubtedly too-flip summary of a more sophisticated discussion by professors at Wharton business school, who suggest that while optimum size can be an important consideration and depends partly on the team's role, it's not the most important feature in putting a team together. The team's tasks and the mix of skills required are likely to be primary.

By the way: if your team has more than five people in it... oh-oh!


19 June 2006

Will dialogue build trust?

If lack of trust is an issue in your organisation, would dialogue be a helpful way through it? In this short excerpt from his book on conflict, Mark Gerzon makes a case for using dialogue in organisations, and usefully summarises some of what distinguishes dialogue from debate.

I can't see that Gerzon provides much evidence in this excerpt for his assertion that dialogue fosters trust (though I'm biased to believe this). And if it isn't obvious, I would add that I think the assumptions and attitudes inherent in dialogue can also represent a frame of mind with which you can approach any conversation: it doesn't have to be a facilitated process for groups as a whole to follow.


17 June 2006

Storytelling - ownership and meaning

Last week I went to the international conference of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) in Vancouver. One of the recurring themes (fads, some might say) running through some of the presentations was that of story telling, or narrative.

The most important insight, for me, on this topic was not found at the conference, however. I found it on a card at Vancouver's Museum of Anthropology, in front of a display of Native American totem poles:

"Only those who know and have the right to the stories can tell the meaning of the totem poles."
This raises questions in my mind about story telling in an organisational context. Who owns the stories? What totems acknowledge that ownership? Who can tell the meaning of the stories?

The idea that different stories might be owned by different groups, that we might create artifacts to remind a community (or organisation) of different stories, and that ownership and meaning are somehow integral to each other, suggest a highly developed social and conceptual framework for narrative that both intrigued and delighted me. I wonder to what extent business communicators' relatively recent enthusiasm for storytelling rises to the sophistication of the communities that carved these poles.