-

The Ladder of Inference

The Ladder of Inference is a model of our reasoning steps as we assess a situation and decide what action to take. This article describes the features of the Ladder and how it can be used to help people reflect on their behavior and the reasoning behind it.

Learn More →
 -

Advocacy and Inquiry

Advocacy and Inquiry are key communication behaviors with critical implications for interpersonal, group, and organizational effectiveness. This article discusses the features of both productive and unproductive advocacy and inquiry and how the quality and balance of these two behaviors impacts learning.

Learn More →
 -

Double-Loop Learning

Double-loop learning refers to the distinction between learning that keeps a behavioral system operating within a field of constancy and learning that changes what the system seeks to achieve or to keep constant. Chris Argyris and Donald Schön introduced this distinction to the domain of leadership and organizational learning.

Learn More →

Too Hot to Handle?

How to Manage Relationship Conflict

Conventional wisdom, along with the weight of published management advice, has suggested that managers engage task conflict but avoid relationship conflict. Implicit in this advice is the premise that it is indeed possible to separate the task and the relationship aspects of a business conflict. This article argues that this…

Learn More →

Recipes and Reflective Learning

"What Would Prevent You From Saying It That Way?"

Many of us who seek to engage people in significant learning experiences disparage formulas, rules, or recipes for action as superficial. Yet well-intentioned learners do search for rules and recipes, especially early in a learning process. This chapter considers the role of recipes in learning a theory of practice for engaging members of social systems in reflective learning.

Learn More →

Unlocking Organizational Routines that Prevent Learning

Organizational life is awash with incongruities. In one organization the CEO told the world, “Product X is our top priority,” even as the development group was putting it on the back burner.  In situations like these, the players are usually acting rationally from within their local perspectives—despite appearances…

Learn More →

Climbing out of the Muck:

A story about how Diana, Bob, and Phil of Action Design developed as a partnership

Preface (from The Dance of Change) The three people who look after one another in this roundtable are all partners in the consulting firm Action Design, scholars of organizational learning, and preeminent practitioners of the skills of inquiry and reflection. They have all been colleagues and friends to The Fifth…

Learn More →

The Muck Stops Here

The following guidelines for helping ourselves out of the muck were forged over time, as we observed our own interactions: Collect data on the things you say and do: The biggest single differentiator between success and failure among study groups is the use of a tape recorder. People are so…

Learn More →

Collaborative Off-Line Reflection

A Way to Develop Skill in Action Science and Action Inquiry

This chapter illustrates a process by which the three authors (and many students of action science before us) conduct research to improve their own effectiveness.  It starts with one member writing a case about a problematic situation s/he faced.

Learn More →

Keeping a Strategic Dialogue Moving

In conference rooms all across the country, executives are caught up in strategic conversations right out of a Eugene O’Neill play: What’s wrong? How bad is it? Who’s to blame? What’s to be done? People’s answers to these questions all too often clash, generating point-counterpoint debates that waste precious time and produce poor choices. Underlying all strategic choices are steering mechanisms that drive how those choices get framed, discussed, understood, and ultimately made. When strategic conversations go awry, you need to shift attention onto those mechanisms or risk making choices you’ll forever regret.

Learn More →