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06/2013 對話訊息:對話式領導 | Conversational Leadership

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對話式領導

朝邦文教基金會  CP YEN FOUNDATION 06 月2013年對話新訊息  June 2013 Dialogue Newsletter

「對話是員工們了解自己所知、與同仁分享、並為組織創造新知識的方式。在新的經濟體中,對話是最重要的工作形式…我們可以說對話就是組織。」取自於亞倫‧韋博(Alan Webber)於《哈佛商業評論》所發表的「新經濟體有什麼新的元素」一文 (What’s So New About the New Economy)

在一場自我組織系統的課程中參與第一次世界咖啡館的 Bob Veazie,當時有了一種不太習慣的體悟。當時他在美國奧瑞岡州HP任職擔任資深工程師、生產部經理。在世界咖啡館裡,Bob注意到人們從一個桌子移到另一個桌子,進行多次的對話,讓大家的想法交會穿插、找出意想不到的連接點,讓他體驗到集體的智慧其實可以看得見。那次的活動之後,Bob開始思考:「如果對話和個人的關係都成為我們工作的核心,那麼身為領導者的我,在這自然的流程中我都是如何地貢獻或削減能量呢?」

不多久後,Bob負責和同仁共同執行一項跨公司的安全性倡議,需要全球各地廠房共約五萬位同事共同參與,討論安全性的風險和如何處理相關的問題。在這些公司內部進行的一般性會議中,他帶著問題參加會議,而不是答案,設計出一些可以探索每個小組親身經驗、人際關係、共有智慧的對話,希望從中找到更好的方法來降低意外的機率。他的核心團隊將各個廠房構思出的好點子帶給另一個廠房分享,分享故事,並請不同階層和地點的同事一起彼此學習。「我參加的每一場員工會議就像是這個大型、持續進行的安全性咖啡館 –公司裡進行的這些對話網,都凝聚於這些關鍵性的問題上」Bob解釋。 

成果非常驚人。在波多黎各,發生意外的比例從4.2%下降至0.2%,奧瑞岡從6.2%降至1.2%。公司整體的意外率減少了33%,因此而獲取的利益也在安全性對話的持續下繼續維持下去。因為Bob對組織的觀點變了,帶來新的領導方式,也因此增加了員工集體達成目標的能力。他發現了對話式領導在促成行動上的力量。 

將對話做為核心的過程

對話式領導,是領導者在組織內部運用對話做為核心流程,以發展集體的智慧,創造出業務及社會上的價值。這種人際關係、想法的自然交流讓我們學習、探索不同的可能性、共創出各種可能的方案,透過我們所參與的對話網路讓未來成形。我們如何一起討論關鍵的挑戰與契機、我們所使用的合作性社群科技來思考重點議題,都會有不同的影響,帶來的成果可能不再是「一般性」的成果,而是突破性的思維和我們當下需要的行動。當我們精心設計、凝聚大家、引導對於重要議題的對話,並用有紀律的方式將這些談話串連起來,領導者就有了無限多的機會可以找到集體的智慧,引導出行動的意願,讓大家願意完成這共有的目標。 

運用對話式領導的結構體

以下是一個簡單的結構圖,可以瞭解對話式領導的運作模式。這結構體可以運用於簡單的會議,到多面向的計畫、長遠的大規模策略性倡議等領域。如果要設計出可以讓大家投入參與的結構體,對話式的領導者需要:  

  1. 釐清目標和策略性的意圖,
  2. 探索關鍵議題和問題,
  3. 讓所有重要的利益關係人都參與其中,
  4. 有技巧地運用合作性社群科技,
  5. 將集體的智慧導向有效能的行動,
  6. 滋養出創新的能力發展。

在設計讓大家可以投入參與的流程中,第一個重要的步驟就是釐清目標和策略性的意圖,讓人們瞭解他們的方向和為什麼。目標就能決定哪一些議題或機會是重要的,哪一些問題是有意義的,並且讓領導者知道哪些人是真正的利益關係人,再選出適合的社群科技來促成需要的合作,以便達到這些目標。目標也會指引出策略的發展方向,讓所有的參與者面臨快速變化的情況時,快速做決策時,可以分辨出什麼是要做的、什麼不要做。 

探索關鍵議題和問題

在組織內所有層級的領導者,領導能力的評估通常依據他們能否面對責任範圍相關的議題和策略性的問題。這些議題可以凝聚注意力、勾起我們的熱情、匯集我們的能量,讓我們願意針對我們關心的問題有所學習和作為。但是我們卻常常在還沒好好思考問題定義之前,就開始紛爭或採取行動。一個對話型的領導者知道該培養能力,引導和擬定關鍵性的問題,並在組織或社區中發展大家在這方面的能力。如果無法聚焦於關鍵性的議題和問題,就不需要採取行動,也沒有合作性學習的必要性。

讓所有重要的利益關係人都參與其中

「領導的任務就是有意圖地凝聚團體以及設計讓團體願意投入討論的問題。」 - Peter Block

隨著彼此交流而形成的對話網路,將原本片面的想法構思出意想不到的集體思考和洞察因此讓策略有效地演變。貫穿不同功能的團隊、凝聚不同類型利益關係人的對話、大規模的流程,都強調整個系統的投入,呼應大家已經有更深度的覺察,知道必須要以「思考的生態」來完整了解重要的議題、構思出可行的系統性方案,讓大家的參與更普及,支持組織或社區的改變。

對話型的領導者一開始就必須相信集體智慧的可能性 – 體認到多數人一定比一個人更聰明、更有創意、更有能力。實際上,我們就必須提問:「在這對話桌上,我們需要哪些人的想法或資訊?是因為他們在決策過程中扮演關鍵的角色嗎?因為他們必須參與執行的過程?因為最後的決定和進行的行動會影響到他們? 」如果不讓所有關鍵的利益關係人參與,思考上就很難有突破,比較不容易找到創新的做法,讓這些關鍵議題有所進展。

有技巧地運用合作性的社群科技

「如果你可以將實體的空間、社會性的空間、資訊的空間都設計在一起,強化合作性的學習,那麼整個場景就會化身為學習的科技。」- 全錄公司(Xerox Corporation) 前科學長布朗(John Seely Brown)

發現共有的目標、引發集體的智慧、構思有效的策略來執行行動方案,都不是意外的成果。我們必須有意圖地選擇對的流程,促進大家的集體貢獻,可以在不要控制的情況下打造整體性的成果。否則,將不同觀點的利益關係人凝聚一堂,反而可能引發兩極化的辯論、現場一片混亂,或是激盪出許多的想法,但是無法選出最適合的做法和行動,變成說話最大聲或最有力量的人才能決定最後的決策。

引導有意義對話的規劃原則:

  • 釐清架構和脈絡
  • 創造溫暖、歡迎的空間
  • 探索有意義的問題
  • 鼓勵每一個人的貢獻
  • 交叉對話和連結,尋求多樣化的觀點
  • 共同聆聽,尋找規律的模式、洞察、更深層的問題
  • 匯集並分享集體的發現

對話式領導者個人具備的能力:

  • 創造利於探索、讓新想法可以浮現的環境
  • 激發並尊重多元的觀點
  • 提問有力量的問題
  • 將預設的判斷懸浮起來
  • 探索各種假設和信念
  • 接受模糊和未知
  • 聆聽、尋求想法之間的關連性
  • 掌握關鍵洞察,將分享的理解有效說明

將集體的智慧導向有效能的行動

「現代的領導者必須做一位主持人- 可以將各方的人和觀點凝聚在一個創意的流程,讓彼此的智慧就此浮現。」  -惠特利(Margaret Wheatley),波卡納機構(The Berkana Institute)

這樣的活動帶來智慧、有效的行動方案,滿足想要達成的目標和策略性的意圖。在當下的環境中,培養出對話式領導、在每一個層面都能帶出「流程的智慧」,可能是組織中最有成效的投資。但是正式的教育系統、主管領導力課程、職場的經驗,都無法讓現在或未來的領導者有這樣的思維、能力或技巧來面對複雜的挑戰。我們必須培養出更遼闊的領導觀,在知識與個人的層面上具備可以創造、引導合作性網路和詢問系統的能力,同時持續願意提升學習、調整的能力,創造出長遠的企業和社會價值。 

創造正向的未來

真正的學習性組織是一個可以激發對話、轉化成行動的空間,創造出一個整合的地帶,激發出強大的力量來發明新的現狀,並將這新的現狀化身為行動!

本文節錄赫利(Hurley, T)與布朗(Brown, J)合著(2009年11月)之文章《對話性領導力:共同思考,促成改變》(Conversational Leadership: Thinking Together for a Change),取自《系統性思考者》( The Systems Thinker),Pegasus出版,Vol. 20. No.9

Conversational Leadership

“Conversations are how workers discover what they know, share it with their colleagues, and create new knowledge for the organization.  In the new economy, conversations are the most important form of work... such that the conversation is the organization.”  - Alan Webber, “What’s So New About the New Economy,” Harvard Business Review

After experiencing his first World Cafe dialogue at a program on self-organizing systems, Bob Veazie had an uncomfortable epiphany.  At the time, he was a senior engineer and manufacturing manager at a Hewlett Packard plant in Oregon.  In the World Cafe, Bob experienced how the collective intelligence of a group can become visible as people move from one table to another over several rounds of conversation, cross-pollinating ideas, making unexpected connections, developing new knowledge, and creating action opportunities.  Afterwards Bob began to wonder: “if conversations and personal relationships are at the heart of our work, how am I, as a leader, contributing to - or taking energy away from - this natural process?”

Shortly thereafter, Bob co-led a corporation-wide safety initiative that eventually engaged more than 50,000 people in manufacturing plants around the world in conversations about safety risks and how to address them.  Meeting people at every level of the company in the settings where they normally gathered, he went in with questions rather than answers and hosted conversations aimed at tapping each group’s own experience, relationships and mutual intelligence to come up with better ways to reduce accident rates.  His core team took good ideas from one plant to another, shared stories, and brought key people from different levels and parts of the company together to learn from one another.  “Each of the employee meetings I attended was like a table in this large, ongoing safety cafe - this network of conversations all over the company were connected by the key questions” Bob explained. 

The outcomes were impressive.  In Puerto Rico, the accident rate plummeted from 4.2% to 0.2%.  In Oregon, it fell from 6.2% to 1.2%.  The overall company accident rate lowered by 33% and these gains were maintained in plants where the safety conversations continued.  This shift in how Bob viewed his organization prompted a new approach to leadership that dramatically increased HP employees’ collective capacity to achieve their shared aims.  He had discovered the power of conversational leadership in action.

Conversation as a Core Process

Conversational leadership is the leader’s intentional use of conversation as a core process for cultivating the collective intelligence needed to create business and social value.  The natural cross-pollination of relationships, ideas and meaning enables us to learn, explore possibilities, and co-create together.  How we come together to address challenges and opportunities; and the collaborative social technologies we use to think together about key issues, may mean the difference between “business as usual” and breakthrough thinking and actions needed today.  By designing, convening, and hosting conversations about questions that matter - then linking those conversations in disciplined ways - leaders have unprecedented opportunities to tap collective intelligence and guide committed action toward the fulfillment of shared purposes.  

A Framework for Exercising Conversational Leadership

Below is a simple framework for understanding the practice of conversational leadership.  It can be applied from the design of single meetings to the development of complex programs with long-term, large-scale strategic change initiatives.  Designing effective architectures for engagement requires a leader to:

  1. Clarify purpose and strategic intent,
  2. Explore critical issues and questions,
  3. Engage all key stakeholders,
  4. Skillfully use collaborative social technologies,
  5. Move collective intelligence to effective action,
  6. Foster innovative capacity development.

Clarifying purpose and strategic intent is the first step in designing ways to engage, it shows people where they are headed and why.  Purpose determines which issues or opportunities are important and which questions matter; this helps leaders discover who the relevant stakeholders are and select which social technologies will support the kind of collaboration needed to fulfill that purpose.  Purpose guides the development of strategy, and enables all participants to decide both what to do and what not to do as they are called upon to make real-time decisions in rapidly changing circumstances.  

Explore Critical Issues and Questions

Leaders at every organizational level are typically judged on how well they address the issues and strategic questions that define their domains of responsibility.  Issues focus attention, evoke our passion and galvanize our energy.  We are motivated to learn and to act by the questions we care most about.  Yet we often quarrel or act on an issue without taking time to thoughtfully define it.  A conversational leader develops the capacity for evoking and articulating core questions - and fostering that capacity in others throughout the organization or community.  Without a focus on critical issues and the questions they evoke, there’s no reason to act and no context for collaborative learning.

Engage All Key Stakeholders

Effective strategy evolution depends on a web of conversations cutting across previously isolated knowledge sets, creating unexpected combinations of collective thought and insight.  The emergence of cross-functional teams, multi-stakeholder dialogues, and large-scale processes that emphasize getting the whole system in the room reflect growing awareness that a more robust “ecology of thought” is needed to fully understand any truly important issue, develop viable systemic solutions, and catalyze widespread engagement and support for organizational or community change.

Conversational leaderships starts with a belief in the possibility of collective intelligence - the recognition that we can be smarter, more creative, and more capable together than we can alone.  This leads to asking, “Who needs to be at the table because they have perspectives or information that’s needed?  Because they play key roles in decision-making?  Because they will be involved in implementation? Because they are affected by decisions made and actions taken?  Without engaging all key stakeholders, there is little chance of breakthrough thinking or finding innovative paths forward.”

Skillfully Use Collaborative Social Technologies

“If you can design the physical space, social space, and information space together to enhance collaborative learning, that whole milieu turns into a learning technology.” - John Seely Brown, former chief scientist, Xerox Corporation.

Discovering shared purpose, evoking collective intelligence, and crafting effective strategies for action doesn’t happen by accident.  We must be intentional about choosing processes that enable the contributions of all to coalesce in ways that foster coherence without control.  Otherwise, bringing key stakeholders with diverse perspectives together can lead to polarized debate, chaos or a proliferation of ideas without the ability to choose and act, or solutions become owned by those with the loudest voices or the most power.

Design Principles for Hosting Conversations that Matter:

  • Clarify the context
  • Create hospitable space
  • Explore questions that matter
  • Encourage everyone’s contribution
  • Cross-pollinate and connect diverse perspectives
  • Listen together for patterns, insights, and deeper questions
  • Harvest and share collective discoveries.

Personal Capacities of a Conversational Leader:

  • Creates a climate for discovery and emergence
  • Evokes and honors diverse perspectives
  • Asks powerful questions
  • Suspends premature judgment
  • Explores assumptions and beliefs
  • Embraces ambiguity and not-knowing
  • Listens for connections between ideas
  • Captures key insights and articulates shared understanding

Guiding Collective Intelligence Toward Wise Action

“A leader these days needs to be a host - one who convenes diversity, who convenes all viewpoints in creative processes where our mutual intelligence can come forth.”  - Margaret Wheatley, The Berkana Institute

The outcome of all conversation leadership is wise, effective action in service of purpose and strategic intent.  In today’s environment, developing these capacities and fostering “process intelligence” at every level of the system may be one of the most productive investments that organizations can make.  Yet our formal school systems, executive leadership programs, and on-the-job experience poorly equip current and future leaders with the mental models, personal capacities, or process skills needed to respond creatively to the complexity of today’s challenges.  An expanded concept of leadership development is needed which encompasses the skills, knowledge and personal qualities required to create and guide collaborative networks and inquiring systems that continually renew their capacity to learn, adapt, and create long-term business and social value.  

Shaping Positive Futures

True learning organizations are a space for generative conversations and concerted action, which creates a field of alignment that produces tremendous power for inventing new realities through conversation and to bring about these new realities through action!

This article is adaptated from Hurley, T. and Brown, J. (November 2009). Conversational Leadership: Thinking Together for a Change.  The Systems Thinker.  Pegasus Publishing. Vol. 20. No.9

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