logoDialogic Organization Development

This website provides free resources and links to tools and articles on Dialogic Organization Development (OD).

Dialogic OD is the next step in the evolution of organizational change theory, from thinking of organizations as organisms that adapt to their environments, to organizations as conversations where individual, group, and organizational actions result from self-organizing, socially constructed realities created and sustained by the prevailing narratives, stories, and conversations through which people make meaning about their experiences.

Beginning with their award winning paper in 2009, Gervase Bushe and Bob Marshak have been building a comprehensive theory that explains why 40 different change methods, like Appreciative Inquiry, Open Space Technology, Dynamic Facilitation, World Cafe, and Organizational Learning Conversations work or don't work.  Their new book, published in May 2015, explains the underlying practices that make each of those methods successful.

Organizations are seen as complex responsive processes where people's thoughts and actions are in a continuous process of meaning making  and emergence.  Change is not something that happens between periods of stability.  Rather change is always happening at varying rates of speed.

Dialogic OD has evolved since the mid 1980's as OD practitioners and organizational leaders grappled with how to manage "adaptive challenges" - problems so complex that no one knows what the right answers are.  Instead of the conventional "create a vision - get buy in - execute" approach to  planned change, Dialogic OD works by creating new conversations that:
  1. disrupt habits and embedded meanings so that something new and better can emerge
  2. bring increased diversity into conversations so that creativity and innovation are heightened
  3. energize networks of motivated people to propose and try small experiments that, if successful, can be leveraged into transformational changes.
From this perspective, change in beliefs and actions results from changing the conversations that shape everyday thinking and behavior.  However, Dialogic OD is not simply about creating good dialogues or objective exchanges of information.   Rather, transformational change depends on the ability of these conversations to disrupt the current status quo, introduce new, generative images that allow people to see old situations from new perspectives, and change the core organizational narratives - the prevailing beliefs, stories and images that shape how people in the organization make meaning of any situation.