Does your corporation work like the Borg or a holistic therapist?

Ideally, there should be an element of central control and empathic communication in every organization, says HBR Working Knowledge's summary of Changing Minds. This new book reminds us that there are intangible forces at play when communicating, especially in an environment as stress-laden as a company undergoing structural change. These can include cultural differences across organization units, the particular working "ticks" of technical specialists (you know what I mean), personal learning styles and those darn MBPT results.

It is one thing to instigate such changes; it is quite another to weave them into the well-worn corporate fabric and the DNA of its workforce. Indeed, few goals are more challenging to achieve than significant, lasting change in adult human beings. So, even when everyone agrees in broad terms on what needs to change, someone still needs to work out a plan to implement change in a lasting way ...

To put this in terms of a cognitive perspective, a leader must proceed from her own internal representations of both the present and of the desired (new) state of affairs to some kind of a public presentation that captures this vision. Moreover, each member of the leadership team will likely have his own mental representation, and each will likewise utilize modes of expression that are comfortable. The team must hammer out an acceptable consensual representation. The leadership team then needs to communicate this representation widely�preferably in a number of discrete yet compatible forms�and test whether it can gain support ...

In our terms, a leader must first define the content of the message she wishes to convey and then find the formats that convey that message well enough to create meaningful and lasting changes of mind�first in the leadership team, eventually throughout the company.

Howard Gardner, a prof at Harvard and the Senior Director of Project Zero, goes on to make the point that managers and communicators need to assume there will be dissent from the master plan, and we must develop strategies and tools to resolve conflict as it emerges.

Define it, understand the reasons for its provenance, point out its weaknesses, and then develop multiple ways of undermining that view and bolstering a more constructive one. In other words, search for the resonance and stamp out the resistance.

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