Change Implementation Techniques for Laying a Foundation for New Ways

Technique 1.28 Discussability of Issues

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Take a moment to reflect on the issues that need to be discussed in your organisation.

Once you have identified them, put the issues into one of the following categories:

Discussable (most likely to be raised in your organisation)

Maybe discussable (in the right context or environment, they could be talked about in your organisation)

Undiscussable/unmentionable/unspeakable/unsayable (never able to be talked about in the open in your organisation, ie feel risky to discuss but are usually the most important and need to be discussed for the organisation to progress)



Maybe discussable


(an alternative classification system is referred to as "barking, non‐barking and sleeping dogs"

barking dogs ‐ important and urgent issues

non‐barking dogs ‐ items of strategic importance but not urgent

sleeping dogs ‐ undiscussable issues that no‐one is willing to talk about but their existence may make it difficult to proceed unless they are raised in conversation

NB Over time, check to see if any of the placing of issues changes.

People start discussing "undiscussable" subjects when they develop the reflection and inquiry skills that enable them to talk openly about complex, confronting issues. People start seeing and dealing with interdependence and deeper causes of problems when a non‐threatening environment is created and they have the necessary skill set, such as systems thinking. People start challenging one another's assumptions when they respond to questions such as:

What is it that you see that leads you to make that statement?

What types of assumptions are evident in the decisions you have made so far?

What types of limits are you aware of?

This process is equivalent to the practice time of a sports team or rehearsals of a symphony.

The choice of the issues is critical. The more relevant people find them, the more effective the discussions and dialogues will be. It is not a problem‐solving meeting; rather, the aim is to raise the quality of thinking. It is not just looking at the issues, but at the ways in which the team deals with the issues. You need to be willing to discover aspects of the issues that you hadn't thought about before. It is important to look at many facets of the broad issue, rather than quickly converging on it and moving to a hasty conclusion.

In these exercises it is best to use an outside facilitator. He or she is able to ask the "dumb" questions that reveal contradictions or difficult issues. Internal facilitators bring an understanding of the organisational culture and politics, but, on the other hand, they can be perceived as having their own biases or agendas.

Some additional questions that can be helpful in this process

1. How helpful were others in moving the group forward? What kind of role did the others play? How can we improve?

2. How did the group move to agreement? Did diverse points of view get voiced? Did people check in with others who have differing points of view?

3. Did anyone summarise key themes and points of disagreement?

4. Did it look like people had lots of unexpressed and unvoiced views?

(sources: Bob Dick, 1997 & 1998; Peter Senge et al, 1999; Germaine Greer, 2003)

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