Dialogical Organisation Development is a change management strategy based on theories by George Herbert Mead and Mikhail Bakhtin. Dialogical Organisation Development is used by parts of the NHS as well as by change management specialists such as MCS and Partners. Dialogical Organisation Development is about how dialogue and communication can be used to make employees change the way they think as well as the way they behave.
In many organisations change is imposed from above. If a department needs to be re-organised, or processes changed, someone in management makes the decision and then tells the people on the ground what is going to happen. Sometimes an effort will be made to ask employees what they think about the change and persuade them that it is a good idea, more often they will simply be told what to do. Whether employees are engaged in this change and willing to work to make it a success will depend on whether they think it is a good idea, or whether they think it is management interference. Often employees will simply go through the motions without any real enthusiasm and considerable time will be lost in a slow and ineffective change process. Traditionally change management consultancy has been about managing this disruption to a business rather than approaching change in a more sophisticated way.
Dialogical Organisation Development takes a very different approach. It considers they key aspect of bringing about change in a business to be changing the way employees think. If employees genuinely think that a change is good for them, their job and the business they work for then they will want it to succeed. If they have had a hand in shaping that change then they will be even keener to make it work.
The theories on which Dialogical Organisation Development are based are very focussed on the content and meaning of communication. It looks at what people are saying and what they really mean. In the workplace, where there are power dynamics at play, people are often afraid to say what they mean and will instead say what they think is expected of them. When presented with change many people will try to be good employees and will feign enthusiasm to management while secretly thinking their plan is a recipe for disaster.
The sessions that we run allow MCS and Partners to come in as an independent sounding board. We can help to uncover what employees, and leaders, really think about changes to the business and what their attitudes really are. We can then foster dialogue within the business where concerns and ideas can be genuinely discussed. The point of this is not simply to talk but to change the way people think through dialogue. By discussing the best way to implement changes, and the reasons for them, employees can get behind the changes that need making.
We don’t simply want employees to say that they welcome a change to the business we want them to believe it and actively work for it. The first step to this process is getting employees to talk about the changes in a genuinely positive manner.
MCS and Partners are a boutique business consultancy based in Hull. We call our approach ‘Therapy for Organisations’. We specialise in improving employee engagement and motivation and in fostering a positive work environment. We believe that key to this is creating open and honest communication within organisations. To find out more about how MCS and Partners can help manage change in your organisation give us a call on 01469 531580 or email firstname.lastname@example.org