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Changing Conversations in Organizations: A Complexity Approach to Change (Complexity and Emergence in Organizations) Paperback – 25 Jul 2002


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Changing Conversations in Organizations: A Complexity Approach to Change (Complexity and Emergence in Organizations) + Tools and Techniques of Leadership and Management: Meeting the Challenge of Complexity + Strategic Management and Organisational Dynamics: The Challenge of Complexity (to Ways of Thinking About Organisations)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge (25 July 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415249147
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415249140
  • Product Dimensions: 15.6 x 1.1 x 23.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 290,525 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Must of the thinking about orgazational change suggests that we can choose and design new futures for our firms. Questioning this idea, this book also describes an approach to change and development informed by a complexity perspective..

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First Sentence
I began to ask myself what kind of work I was doing as an organizational consultant, when I found that from time to time I was being accused, albeit with curiosity, of not being a 'proper' consultant, or coach, or facilitator. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

40 of 41 people found the following review helpful By Tony Quinlan on 22 July 2004
Format: Paperback
At last, recognition that real change doesn't happen purely because of top-down, management dictats, but is embodied by real people having real conversations that are not structured by clear objectives, goals and processes. Inherently scary for all those who rely on management as a control process in their organisations and change as a corporately-guided process, this instead looks at the informal organisation and how creating spaces for conversations between like-minded change agents can be the most effective.
This veers slightly too far into complexity and informal processes only for me - I believe that a balance is required between formal change and informal conversations, but this is still an important broadening of the discussion on corporate change.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Pete Burden on 19 May 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
I agree with the previous reviewers - this is a thought provoking and useful book.

I recognised a huge amount from my own experience of working in and with organisations. The examples of consulting engagements ring completely true - for me at least. And I really enjoyed having my natural suspicions of formal planning processes confirmed academically.

I also found the chapter which compares the Shaw/Stacey approach with other better recognised approaches really useful. The simple format of "what is similar" - "what is different" helped clarify their position.

Like Shaw, I am a tiny bit suspicious of many of the approaches she describes (Open Space Technology, Future Search Conferencing etc). And it helped me to think about the reasons why I have that instinctive response.

However, I really missed in that section, and more generally, the sense that she and Stacey are building on the "shoulders of giants". It would have really helped me throughout to have heard even a tiny acknowledgement of the remarkable contribution of others to the practice of OD. At times it really got in my way - I kept getting the sense that the author "doesn't have much time for" Schein, Argyris, Bohm, Bion etc - people who whatever their failings might be have in my view made enormous contributions.

I also wondered whether there is a simple flaw in her thinking. Patricia Shaw is clearly an highly intelligent and articulate woman. There were times when I was worried that her explanations were going to disappear into the realm of 'meta-twaddle' - but she always rescued things, in my view. She is 'clear' herself, despite the difficulty of some of the material.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By G. de Groot on 20 Feb 2011
Format: Paperback
Patricia Shaw wrote a great book because it gives a completely different view on the contribution of the "change" consultant to organizational change. Don't introduce models and schemas but initiate and fuel conversations in the organization not as a planned event but as a way of working. The strong point of this book is that Shaw lets the reader look into her consultant kitchen and takes you along with her "discoveries". It is a must read for every consultant with an urge to initiate all kind of change initiatives in organizations. And it is the most concrete example of the where the complexity 'school' from Ralph Stacey stands for I could find.
I have only one objection to this otherwise fantastic book. Shaw finds it necessary to set herself aside from all the other alternative change approaches in her last chapter. I would have liked this book even more if she just had skipped that chapter.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By JSaunders on 29 April 2014
Format: Paperback
I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, I am very sympathetic to the argument the author makes about the nature of organisational life as the complex, emergent product of ongoing sense making through conversations. Shaw's focus on the importance of the everyday act of conversing in creating our understanding of 'what we're doing here', and therefore how we decide what to do next, is laudatory.

However, the book is let down by a number of factors. It's not long, but I can't tell you how many times I felt I was reading a phrase or indeed entire sentence used previously. Shaw reiterates over and over the perspective she is coming from - many sections and passages seem to end in an almost identical manner. I was very frustrated by this.

Secondly, the structure of the book in some ways makes repetition inevitable, ranging back and forth between case study examples and exposition, theory and critique with no apparent significance to the order. This means constantly reframing and putting things in context as she moves from one section to the next, only to do it over again a few pages later. A more systematic argument and structure would have added a great deal to the book's punch, elminated the need for much of the repetition, and made a more accessible and digestible read.

For example, the book ends with an examination of various trends and approaches to organisational development from recent years, contrasted with her approach. This provides an excellent overview and critique of such methods, and concurrently defines her approach much more precisely than elsewhere in the text. This section would have been helpful earlier on, in order to give an understanding of the thinking behind Shaw's practice as described in the case study section.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 5 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
A completely different view on the role of the change agent 11 May 2008
By G. de Groot - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Patricia Shaw wrote a great book because it gives a completely different view on the contribution of the "change" consultant to organizational change. Don't introduce models and schemas but initiate and fuel conversations in the organization not as a planned event but as a way of working. The strong point of this book is that Shaw lets the reader look into her consultant kitchen and takes you along with her "discoveries". It is a must read for every consultant with an urge to initiate all kind of change initiatives in organizations. And it is the most concrete example of the where the complexity 'school' from Ralph Stacey stands for I could find.
I have only one objection to this otherwise fantastic book. Shaw finds it necessary to set herself aside from all the other alternative change approaches in her last chapter. I would have liked this book even more if she just had skipped that chapter.
Organization Development 2.0 29 Nov 2013
By Ronald p Milam - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Thought provoking, action inspiring! Patricia brings a complexity lens to organization development and facilitation. I recommend it to organization development practitioners looking to expand their capacity to support change.
An important read for change agents 22 May 2013
By Jeffrey Marsh - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Dr. Shaw's work hopefully will re-ignite more action research in transformative organizational change.

There is a long thread of academic conversation that suggests major change is vastly complex and chaotic to say the very least. Predetermining the endpoint in major business change/re-engineering has proven to be highly unsuccessful for decades. New thinking about lasting change is called for. Dr. Shaw, in reflecting on her consulting experiences highlights these issues and, at the same time, offers an approach/mindset that change agents should seriously consider.

I can personally attest to the efficacy of such a stance in affecting change.

Jeff Marsh Ph.D.
5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
A formal meeting will never quite be good enough ever again 2 Mar 2007
By H. Rawlinson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I really enjoyed this book. It is very readable and very practical. I have a Masters Degree in Complexity Theory and this book beautifully complimented my understanding of the power of conversations to get to the deeper complexity of issues and the limitations of our traditional workplace meetings. I have been pushing for a conversational structure to my meetings at work (I work in organisational development), discussion and development groups that I run outside work and in my interpersonal relationships.
0 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Arrived on time and in great condition! 2 Nov 2009
By D. V. Hernandez - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The book arrived on time and in great condition! I was very pleased with the purchase and price.
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