What did you do your PhD on?

by Feb 3, 2023


What did you do your PhD on?

It’s a question I am often asked and even 20 years later, I can’t say I have short snappy answer that satisfies!

It started with an observation in the mid to late 90s that something had shifted in the changes I was working on. They were becoming more frequent. No beginning and end. Cumulative.

And the wisdom of the day “Communicate, communicate, communicate” didn’t really hold up. In fact when there were multiple and continuous changes occurring this advice was having the opposite effect. It seemed to be amplifying anxiety and distress.

So I was really curious about the how different models of change communication impact employee’s receptivity to change in the context of continuous change.

Such a mouthful.

What my research revealed was that there were three main models of change communication in play. We knew a lot about one: monologic. This is the top down, one way, issued from those more powerful to those less powerful. It creates stability with messages of certainty and information.

We knew some about the second: dialogic change communication. But the knowledge was theoretical and less applied. It’s hard to do. You have to assume a symmetry in power with those leading change and those receiving. Its really effective at generating more change in organisations. Change emerges from the dialogue. New ideas, new thoughts, new products, new services, new ways of doing things.

And we knew very little about the third: the background talk of change. This traditionally had been written off as gossip and rumour. And yet it was the arena where most change is made sense of and the decision to adopt or not is made.

The kicker was as a change manager or leader you needed to be deliberate in which approach you use at which time. There was a sequencing dynamic that was important.

And this has been research I have used in every engagement in practice and now teach in the Agile Change Leadership Institute courses.

Because continuous change and agility is now our everyday life. And the costs of not communicating change effectively are very, very high.

Amazing. 20 years on.

Question: what are you curious about NOW that might serve you well in 20 years?

For the really nosy – the full thesis here.

Mindfulness is simply a conduit to better data processing


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