Improving the Quality of Your Dialogues
In “The Fifth Discipline”, his pioneering work on the learning organization, Peter Senge writes that the practice of dialogue is a key skill for team learning. Dialogue is commonly confused with discussion, but as defined by Senge it is distinctly different. As a result of this confusion, the skills that enable effective dialogue are often underdeveloped or misunderstood by teams. In this session we’ll use a specific dialogue format called World Café to explore the many factors that influence dialogue quality, and how to accelerate agile team learning through the use of dialogue.
(10 min) Introduction – What do we mean by “dialogue” and how is it different from “discussion”? Why are the skills of dialogue important for agile teams and team learning?
(5 min) Explanation of the World Café dialogue process and the exercise we’ll be doing. World Café is a proven dialogue process that has been used around the world since 1995 (see http://www.theworldcafe.com/).
(60 min) World Café Dialogue Exercise
In World Café, small groups talk about specific questions and move around in a defined way to cross-pollinate ideas and synthesize collective wisdom. This particular World Café will have the following format:
- Participants form into small groups of 3 to 4 people.
- Participants are given a specific question to talk about in their group. The question is designed to stimulate conversation around the qualities of effective dialogue.
- After about 15 minutes, we’ll take a few minutes to hear what has been happening in different groups. This builds a larger conversation.
- Each group chooses someone to remain as the “host” and everyone else moves to a different group.
- The host provides a brief summary of the conversation that occurred in the previous round.
- Participants are given a new question and the conversation continues with the new question, building upon the prior dialogue.
- After another 15 minutes, we’ll again stop and hear from a few people on what has been happening in their group.
- A new host is chosen and everyone else moves to a new group.
- Final round with a new question for 15 minutes.
(15 min) Back as a large group, share observations and insights from the exercise. Closing comments and suggestions for how to learn more and how to apply World Café in an Agile environment.
- Experience the World Café dialogue format. (This exact workshop has been used within salesforce.com to teach teams about dialogue skills and could be reused within your organization.)
- Gain ideas for improving the quality of dialogue in your organization/team
- Experience the impact of focal questions in shaping dialogue