I was at  a Napier University Event at the Scottish Parliament last night – I’m alumni of Napier  and it  holds a special place as one of the four Universities in Edinburgh – much of the emphasis is on knowledge & research into practice –  linking students with commerce & work, but with an academic underpinning. It’s a model  that worked well for me when they put me on placement in HR at Russell Athletic and I was shadowed by an excellent HR professional, who really helped me see how the theory needs to be adapted and used lightly to fit with the reality of the HR Practice ( a Twitter conversation I sort of had with @HR_Cass recently about using SWOT & PESTLE lightly… anyway)

Professor Helen Francis is passionate about dialogue. Through Napier University business School and the Edinburgh Institute, she is looking to set up a cadre of practitioners that can work with big business and SME’s in Scotland to improve the quality of conversation, raise the capacity for holding difference and debate in the workplace and get a better working life for the majority of people in organisations. This is music to my ears. I attended her Professorial debut a few weeks ago where she mapped her research and thinking for the future and I got really enthused about what could be on offer here in Scotland. Helen used to tutor me when I studied my CIPD at Napier, back in the day and I have the utmost respect for her, so I sought her out at the Scottish Parliament event we attended last night.

We started talking Dialogue – what fuchsiablue is up to, what Napier & the Edinburgh Institute are up to – and  we reached a conversation about David Kantor’s 4 player model of conversation ( a foundation stone in some of the work we do – much like the GROW model in Coaching or SWOT in strategy). I’m fond of the Kantor model. I like it’s simplicity, it’s fluidity…. so I’m nodding as we talk about how this can be used….

and then we reach a point in the conversation where Helen is talking about a questionnaire and tool to help measure the extent to which folk move, follow, bystand….. and how we can use this tool to analyse conversation in organisations and offer gap analysis to Boards… and I  made this noise: ” nooooooooooooooooooo”  and then I blushed deeply…..

here was my response ( not all spoken out)

Please? Please not another tool to measure and analyse? Not another MBTI/ Here is your box solution?  Please don’t let’s keep going to Boards and pointing out the gaps? Please let’s not do this with Dialogue? My Dialogue is lively and human and contextual. My Dialogue depends on who is in the room, who speaks, who shuts up. It is dynamic and unpredictable. It is emergent and creative and connected and argumentative and edgy. As a practitioner, I want to be able to stand in front of Boards and say quite simply and categorically that you cannot measure the dynamic of a team. You can watch it and nurture it and nudge it and challenge it but you cannot quantify it.

this is about joie de vivre, je ne sais quoi, magic, chemistry – the chemical reaction you have in your body when you are angry or lit up. The chemical reaction I had in my body when I said NO and blushed to the roots of my hair at the boundary I’d overstepped.

Please? Can we just trust ourselves as human beings that we “know” intuitively, intellectually, emotionally – what is going on around us and whether that is right or wrong, with out a measuring stick or a sodding tick box?

And trusting ourselves, can we then go back to leaders and Boards and shareholders and say “you know what? this just doesn’t feel right”

Oh Lord… I can Hear John Lennon again…..


7 thoughts on “Please?

  1. I am so with you on this…not behind you but standing right alongside you….to me what you are talking about is the deepest dimension of dialogue – the 4th quadrant – the ‘real’ bit and the part where the unknown can the unknown be measured, and as you say, so eloquently, because dialogue is s many different things one thing for sure is that it is never the same, even with the same people, in the same room talking about the same thing. I would suggest it is impossible to be objective about dialogue..isnt that kind of the point…..
    I am inspired to hear the plan to take dialogue out into businesses, the NHS is also looking at how how it can be used to improve services and patient care……lots of work to be done. You asked in a previous blog about our contribution…….I am beginning to suspect mine may be similar to yours – its about ensuring the feeling and knowing part of dialogue is heard as clearly as the thinking logically part … get to it…

  2. Translated: “We need something different. But we want to do it and deliver it the same.”

    You can just see them reaching for the light and then fear and status quo inertia pull them back.

  3. Tools and measuring are very industrial – mostly we live in that industrial-controlled metriculation world. We probably cant change that in a rush – and many wont want to change that..

    The benefit of tools is that they scale and they can be used widely. That doesnt sound as intimate as your own method. But they do start a conversation and shape self-awareness and provide a language we can use to express our challenges.

    Is there a better word we can use than tools – sounds a bit cold and rusty?

  4. I enjoyed this. It made me think and recall a few learning points of my own.

    Wrongly or wrongly managers mostly do numbers, frameworks, process, operating rhythms etc.

    Those that really get the soft stuff are relatively poorly represented on the board. They are there, but they are few.

    The frameworks we apply to the soft stuff impoverish it. But it gets it on the agenda and, however frustratingly minimally, makes it stick, at least with a few.

    I did MBTI a decade ago. Got my four letters. Realised it was a laughable over simplification, but made a start.

    Teaching people who know nothing can be frustrating for an expert. Often, people who are just learning for themselves are the greatest asset to others in the foothills.

    If the newbies need some frameworks, pigeon holes and some numbers for comfort then so what?

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