Monday, April 28, 2008

What's Not Being Said

Understanding the processes that an organization uses to make decisions is important to understanding why a group makes the decisions that it does. I have found that many organizations don't make full decisions because of their thinking processes and because of their group dynamics. For me, one of the first steps in understanding a group's dynamics is to obverse their interactions in group meetings over an extended period of time.

Watching a group interact tells volumes. Besides the verbal interplay, there is so much to notice. Who sits where? Do they sit in the same spot every time? Where does x sit in relation to the Boss? to their arch rival? What is the tone of the speech? the body language? Who is not really listening but doing a myriad of other things like talking to their neighbor, passing notes, answering email? Who only talks to the Boss? Who is virtually invisible and why?

After I have watched a group for four or five meetings, I ask myself this question, looking closely and carefully at the group for the answer: what are the unspoken beliefs and assumptions in this discussion right now? If I can connect what is being said to someone's unspoken root beliefs and assumptions, then I can start to help solve problems. Not until I identify the unspoken beliefs and assumptions can I begin to influence the group's thinking in a way that will be effective.

Sometimes after applying concentrated effort to hearing what is not being said, the realizations become so loud in my conscious that I have to remember that everyone else can't hear them screaming.

Ever noticed how a group really has the same meeting, different topic all the type? Who says what, what is decided, and the how are almost predictable. In large part, this is because nothing is happening in the group to change perspectives, root assumptions, and beliefs. The group is not learning or thinking together. There is no real collaboration. The decisions this kind of group will make are perfunctory. Nothing interesting, nothing new.

What's not being said in your meetings?

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