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Re: Works by Chris Argyris

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  • Sheila Damodaran
    After sending my mail, got a mail from Chris Chew that he is curious about this ... am leaving some of my own insights here ... Chris Argyris works has been
    Message 1 of 2 , May 12, 2005
      After sending my mail, got a mail from Chris Chew that he is curious about
      this ... am leaving some of my own insights here ...

      Chris Argyris works has been all about uncovering "conversational structures"
      that keep our conversations unproductive.

      I had a chance to talk to Peter Senge (yes! it was so exciting ... will share
      more on this later) over the last weekend, while I was at Boston on this ... and
      he shared that deepening this work is key to the practice of team learning. He
      shared that the Fifth Discipline book was really to draw people's attention to
      such practices and he hoped to invite people to go deeper with them. If you
      notice Chris Argyris, Diana Smith and Bob Putnam are featured heavily in the
      Fifth Discipline texts around these ideas.

      The deliberate actionable steps we tend to ignore a few in our
      conversations, are namely:

      BYPASSING - not asking questions that might clarify what is being said
      (especially in a conflict situation, our statements tend to stay at the top of the
      ladder, remaining abstract to most except ... for oneself)

      NAMING - not identifying the behaviours that keep our conversations from
      being unproductive (for example, if we notice part of the group is bystanding
      and not involve in the conversation, we might name this behaviour and and
      then invite them to share their views and their thoughts) and if we had done
      so, we might help the conversation find a way out

      ENGAGING - in explosive issues, we may want to bring everyone's attention
      to the behaviours that keep the dialogue stuck (here it is not about focussing
      on the content, but rather on the behaviour) ... e.g. What's leading me and
      others to sit back and watch the two of them get stuck and when they get
      stuck, to switch the subject and the let the issues drop?

      Do read Diana Smith's write-up on these stuctures in conversations ... it is
      rather good ... www.actiondesign.com/resources/ theory/ksdm.htm ... she
      goes into it with a case study and also draws in related issues such as
      formal, interpersonal and cultural structures and what we might do at each of
      these levels to improve the quality of the conversation.

      Am leaving a related write-up that says more here (particularly about the
      frames that I mentioned earlier) ....

      Would like to invite the group to take some time to go through this ...

      Really like to hear the group's views on this!!!

      Warm regards

      Organizational culture and behavior are among the most powerful, and
      ambiguous, forces within an organization. Many change initiatives have stalled
      when existing values and behavioral patterns have become threatened. Yet
      there is rarely discussion about these potential factors in the success or
      failure of expensive change initiatives. Part of the reason these issues are
      bypassed has been that we have lacked an appropriate approach to
      understanding the systemic structures maintaining these patterns. However,
      in recent decades at least one approach has emerged, form the work of Chris
      Argyris, Donald Schon, Diana Smith, and Robert Putnam, that produces
      remarkable, enduring results. This approach has acquired the name: Action

      Action science advances the notion that our behavior is an automatic device
      for error-correction, driven by our mental models and the values they contain.
      The situations we bring forth through behavior reflect the values on which we
      act. For instance, if I wish to win at poker I will lie, distort, cover-up, and
      obstruct the flow of accurate information (about my hand). If I do this cleverly
      enough, I win the pot. I hold the value "it is good to win" and I act effectively to
      bring forth a situaiton that reflects this value realized: my winnings. this works
      very well at the poker table, yet it has drawbacks in organizational problem-

      To complicate further, we appear to be largely unaware of our mental models
      and the values they contain. Moreover, when we act in ways that conflict with
      our espoused values, we are rarely aware of the disconnect, though it seems
      clearly apparent to others around us.

      A result of this disconnect between our espoused values and the values we
      enact is that we may, upon making an error, act to protect ourselves from
      embarrassment or threat by distorting or covering-up key information about
      the error. This usually saves us, but it has the unfortunate consequence of
      also inhibiting just the kind of organizational learning that would be required to
      examine the conditions that gave rise to the error in the first place. We have
      acted in a way that has probably hurt the organization, yet we don't usually
      think of ourselves as sabateurs; we simply do what seems to make sense
      given the dilemmas of organizational life.

      The practice of doing action science is to join in a group process of
      examining the consequences of our behavior, and sometimes of guessing the
      values that we actually used in difficult situations. Through role playing
      alternate behaviors and discussing the results in groups we are able to invent
      and produce new behavioral patterns less likely to distort information or to
      evoke a defensive response in another.

      Once these new habits become entrenched at the top of an organization it is
      not uncommon to see a renaissance of creativity and passion among the
      people throughout. [END OF NOTES]

      -----Original Message-----

      Chris asked:

      From: Chew, Chris C SITI-ITIPPM [mailto:Chris.Chew@...]
      Sent: 11 May 2005 10:33
      To: dmsl@...
      Subject: RE: [LOPN] Digest Number 17

      Fantastic Sheila. Wonder if you can share what you've learnt and insights
      you've had.
      Very interested.


      --- In LOPN@yahoogroups.com, "Sheila Damodaran" <dmsl@p...> wrote:
      > Hi all.
      > Am just back from two weeks in Boston where I was attending a 5-day
      > workshop by ActionDesign (http://www.actiondesign.com/index.htm) on
      > Creating Productive Conversations. The programme is based entirely
      > on the works of Chris Argyris.
      > Am curious if there are anyone out there who has studied his work and
      > is an active practitioner or is actively seeking to be one.
      > Found the work absolutely fascinating in helping to shift conversations out of
      conflict into productive ones, based on two aspects:
      firstly by the use of deliberate actionable steps and secondly recognising
      our own (personal) frames that are getting in the way of productive
      > Hope all is well.
      > Warm regards and hoping everyone is having a nice time in this wet
      > weather,
      > Sheila
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