Communicating Well As a Group

by Siobhan Soraghan

Where can dialogue add real value?

Ideal opportunities in organisations for practising dialogue include any situation where there are complex issues to be addressed that cross many boundaries and so results benefit from shared input from people across the ‘system’. Such situations include

  • Policy making
  • Change management across the organisation
  • Multi-stakeholder decision-making
  • Strategy formulation for organisations operating in fast-moving, complex, competitive markets
  • Collaborations and partnerships
  • Handling challenging negotiations with multiple parties
  • Politically sensitive decisions
  • Scenario planning of high risk, unpredictable situations.

Teams that need dialogue to optimise success

It is becoming more and more important for organisations to support their teams in learning how to master dialogue.

Co-opetition

Co-opetition describes the situation where competitors collaborate in parts of their businesses where they do not believe they have competitive advantage and when they believe they can save money on shared costs. For co-opetition to work, companies need to define clearly where they are working together and where they are competing. The process of getting to this clarity is helped both by internal dialogue and dialogue between the competitors.

Public sector

Increasingly, government works in a myriad of partnership arrangements to help best deliver services to the communities it serves within its financial constraints. This can result in complex stakeholder maps and the need to bring relevant parties together to agree objectives and so on. This process can benefit from dialogue.

Communities

Over the years many approaches have been taken to addressing to inter-racial tension in communities. Conducting a series of dialogue sessions is also a powerful way to engender real empathy and build bridges.

Policy-making

Without quality dialogue in the early stages of policy formulation, it is not unusual later on in the process (in exploring solution options or agreeing implementation tactics, for example) for people to recycle back to the earlier bigger questions that dialogue could have bottomed out. This muddle, where some are attempting to go back to issues suitable for dialogue while others are pushing towards discussion and closure, can make the decision-making process tortuous and time consuming.

Change management

For organisations that want to truly engage people in both why and what change is needed, dialogue is extremely valuable. If the time and skills are put in place to do dialogue well at the outset, a swifter, more collaborative decision-making process generally ensues, with more robust problem-solving and well-supported plans for change.

Multi stakeholder decision-making

When resolving issues related to many stakeholders, it is best to hold dialogue with as many of the key stakeholders present as possible. This may seem intensive in time and resource, but it is a very wise investment. Discussion requires fewer people, with more expert knowledge, if it is to be efficient.