As I’ve suggested many times in this blog, it is not credible to acknowledge the socially complex nature of organization and then to claim that a particular concept, tool or technique is certain to deliver the sought-after results. Despite this, managers are called upon to act with purpose into this unknowable future. That is, their role places them in charge but they are not in control of the outcomes that might emerge from their own and others’ contributions.
So how are they to proceed? What might they use to inform the judgements that they make, as they seek to enable people to perform in organization-enhancing ways?
The starting proposition is that organization is enacted through the myriad conversations and interactions through which people make sense of what’s going on and decide how they will act. And it is through the widespread interplay of these ‘local’ (i.e. small-group and one-to-one) conversations that performance ‘outcomes’ emerge and that "success" and "failure" come to be recognized as such. A sobering thought for managers is that most of these interactions take place in their absence. And yet it is through these conversations that people co-create the meaning of what they are doing and that individual and collective action is mobilized – whether in support of the official agenda or in opposition to it.
So, against this background, how might leaders participate in this ongoing process of conversational interaction, if their intention is to enable people to perform at their best?