Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Language of Change

Dipping into The Intelligence Advantage - Organizing for Complexity by Michael D McMaster a gem of a book, I came across this section, which seems particularly pertinent to our situation in Ireland.

Organisations first appear in Language

Language is at the center of society, cooperation and the coordination of action. All social organization occurs in language. Community is a function of language. How we distinguish those who "belong" from those who do not is by the way they speak. Even when the distinction is based on common practices, these practices emerge from a society where language was the fundamental organizing medium.

A corporation, like a community, is held together by it's language, given meaning by its language, and is distinguished from other corporations by its language. IBM, Apple and NEC (that dates it!) all have unique language, unique stories and unique ways of speaking. Equally important, their unique ways of understanding things and listening. These ways of speaking, listening and understanding not only constitute the culture of a company, but they also constitute a company's unique way of organizing, managing and relating to the marketplace....

and further on...

If there is no change in the way that problems are described, the way challenges are spoken about, or the way values are stated, then it is very unlikely that any major change is occurring in that corporation.

I think there is a groundswell of opinion in Ireland that significant change is required in the culture of our public organisations. We will know that our decision makers and politicians also want change when we here a change in the language they use to describe our problems and how they talk about the future.

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