What words should be defined? LO29100

From: Malcolm Burson (mburson@gwi.net)
Date: 09/02/02

Replying to LO29018 --

Replying to LO29018

On August 16, Ellery July wrote,

> What words/phases need to be defined or agreed to up front that enables an
> efficient and positive experiences for those new to LO?
> An organizational learning process uses words, many with a variety of
> definitions. Certain words initially can create confusion for people new
> to LO work and processes. Even the word "learning" can convey multiple
> meanings and connotations.
> Having seem many processes and projects where the definition of words
> slows and hinders progress, beyond good facilitation skills, what are some
> methods people have used to minimize the "what does that word really mean
> discussions."

Ellery, I'll leave it to others to identify the words that might need
defining for those new to LO work. But I find myself disagreeing with the
tenor of your request, specifically your concern for "efficiency" and
"minimizing discussion" of the meaning of key ideas and concepts.

The practise of organizational learning, as I've known it, always requires a
certain inefficiency and messiness, just because of the importance of
exploring assumptions, creating shared mental models, and learning together.
The "what does this word really mean discussions" you want to minimize are
precisely those of most importance as a group begins to discover what
learning as an organization is all about. So far from wanting to minimize
those conversations, I would urge you in the strongest terms to maximize
them, for it is here that you and your collegues will begin to build the
skills and competencies you need if your organization is to learn. The
definitions that emerge will never be permanently fixed (how often, on this
list, have we revisited the meaning of key words, usually to good effect?),
but will provide an alignment among those who have uncovered them that is
crucial to your common success.

What do others think?

Malcolm C. Burson
Director of Special Projects
Maine Department of Environmental Protection



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