Dialogue: How to create change in organisations through conversation

In organisations people spend up to 80% of their time in conversation. 'Talk' is our key action tool - and often a neglected discipline. Changing the nature of conversations in organisations may be the single most powerful way to bring about performance breakthroughs.

Dialogue is a leading edge OD approach that benefits from being tried-and-tested in organisations as well as substantiated by theory. It is being increasingly used in organisations to help build trust and cohesiveness in teams (Nath, 2009), a key benefit in times of uncertainty, complexity and rapid change. Empirical research shows that high performing teams talk together in distinct ways (Losada and Heaphy, 2004) that lead to:

  • Greater productivity and profitability
  • Higher levels of customer satisfaction
  • Better relationships with colleagues

This workshop is for psychologists, leaders, managers, consultants and other change agents who need to convene conversations to engage people’s hearts and minds. It equips participants with skills and knowledge to lead and participate in powerful conversations at work and to re-focus conversations when they become dysfunctional or difficult.

There is a second stage advanced workshop (Stage 2 - Advanced) that builds on this workshop running on 23 June 2011. Attendance at Stage 2 is only available for delegates on this Stage 1 workshop.


Draft programme for the day

09.00 - 09.30 Registration and refreshments

09:30 Workshop starts

13.00 - 13.30 Lunch (buffet provided)

17.00 Close

Please note: timings are approximate and may be subject to change on the day.

Learning outcomes and objectives

  • What makes conversations dysfunctional and how to make successful interventions to re-focus them;
  • How to generate new possibilities for action through getting people beyond posturing by balancing inquiry with advocacy;
  • How to create a positive atmosphere and gain maximum engagement through using some tried-and-tested dialogic processes;
  • How to prepare for and engage in difficult conversations;
  • Assess their own conversational skills and identify how they can develop these further using a shared language based on dialogic models of practice.

General aims of the workshop

  • Build conversational skill using empirically derived models of practice which have been tried and tested in organisations
  • Re-frame conversation as a key action tool - a fundamental and primary means through which change happens in organisations
  • Understand how dialogue differs from debate and how to move people on from debate into dialogue for more effective decision-making
  • Raise awareness that dialogue is a leading edge OD approach that has a substantial body of theory and empirical research to guide practice

Benefits of attending

Participants will enhance their ability to lead and participate in powerful conversations at work through understanding some of the theory of dialogue and practising applying it to current work challenges. In addition participants will the opportunity to reflect on their current level of conversational skill and identify how this can be improved.

Psychological theory underpinning the course

The original theory of dialogue was developed by the quantum physicist David Bohm (Bohm, 1996) and has been translated into practice by psychologist David Kantor and the OD practitioner Bill Issacs (Issacs, 1999). 'Talk' is a primary and fundamental means by which things get done so that changing the nature of conversations in organisations becomes a critical OD intervention (Shaw, 2002).

A dialogic approach can help to overcome the following challenges to group effectiveness identified by social psychologists:

  • The pressure to conform. Groups can exert powerful pressures to conform to the majority position (Asch, 1956). When people find it difficult to voice different or dissenting views, risky decision-making can occur and new ideas can get stifled.
  • Groupthink. A group that is highly cohesive can become more concerned about protecting the identity and convivial atmosphere of the group than coming to optimal decisions (Janis, 1972). Such groups may fail to think through alternative options and be insufficiently critical.
  • In-group/out-group dynamics. Psychologists see people seeking to achieve and maintain a positive image of themselves by comparing groups that they identify with ('in-groups') favourably with those they do not identify with ('out-groups') (Tajfel, 1978).

A dialogic approach helps to address these dynamics by giving groups a shared meta-language for talking about how they are talking together. This enables a group to re-focus when conversation becomes difficult or dysfunctional. Dialogue promotes reflexivity - a key capacity contributing to more effective team functioning (West, 2003). Dialogic processes can help people to move through conflict and resistance to change by encouraging people to express what they really think and feel, to challenge the majority view and through generating a sense of 'we’re all in this together'. This in turn can lead to better decision making, more innovative ideas and reduces the likelihood of ethical dilemmas.

Facilitator: Sarah Rozenthuler CPsychol

Sarah is a founder of Bridgework Consulting Ltd which provides services in coaching, conversation and conflict resolution. She coaches business leaders and their teams to bring about change in organisations through convening powerful conversations. Her clients include American Express, BP, MoD and the University of Cambridge. Sarah has worked with some of the global experts in the field of dialogue and continues to pioneer this approach. She is a Chartered Occupational Psychologist and accredited workplace mediator.

Co-facilitator: Andreas Priestland

Andreas Priestland is an organization learning consultant and Senior Associate at Dialogos EU. He has over twenty years experience of international consulting, working in both the public and private sector. He is co-author of the HBR article ‘Developing First - Level Leaders’. Andreas’ experience of organisations comes from spending his career in market research, teaching, community affairs, and OD, in large and small companies, and in traditionally and non-traditionally organised work places.

He is known for his facilitative style, creativity and ability to generate engagement. He has advised leadership teams as they go through periods of change and transition, and designed and led award winning leadership programmes. His clients have included the Saudi Basic Industries Corporation, AirFrance/KLM, TNT, BP, PWC, Castle Cement, Oxfam, GSK, the BBC and others. He has spoken at, and run workshops for the Society for Organisational Learning’s Global Forum, various business schools, and has written articles on change and leadership development.

Andreas has degree in Environmental Science, a postgraduate certificate in Education, a diploma in market research, and NTL Institute certificate in OD. He was raised in the UK, US, India and Lebanon, and now lives just outside London.

Booking information

Who should attend?

Any change agent (psychologist, leader, manager, consultant etc) who wants to bring about change in an organisation through conversation. It is suitable for psychologists and non-psychologists, OD practitioners and both internal and external consultants.

Pre/post course work: Some pre-course work will be required.

Workshop fee

DOP Members £220 + VAT
BPS Members £260 + VAT
Non-BPS Members £345 + VAT
Concessions £100 + VAT

Persons eligible for concessionary rate are student members of the Society, graduate members registered under Rule 15.ii, Rule 21 members, and members who are unemployed. For evidence of unemployment, we will require a copy of your job seekers allowance book.

Register online by visiting the BPS Shop.

To pay by cheque or invoice please complete and return the registration form.

You may also be interested in Dialogue – How to create change in organisations through conversation (Stage 2 – Advanced)


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Mon, 23/05/2011 -
09:00 to 17:00
BPS Learning Centre