Critical Story Sharing as Communicative Action in Organisational Change
Moss, M. A. (2012). Critical Story Sharing as Communicative Action in Organisational Change (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/6726
Permanent Research Commons link: https://hdl.handle.net/10289/6726
My PhD journey started with my research question: “How can digital storytelling support organisational change?” My research perspective was grounded in radical humanism. This led me to engage with others who were interested in social change because radical humanism sees organisational change as a change in the social relationships of people who share a common purpose, rather than seeing change from a structural perspective. Social change from a Habermasian critical theory perspective is built on relationships and communication that value equality, justice and freedom to participate in re-designing our organisations to meet the needs of the people they serve and the people who work for them. The goal is to create organisations and decision-making systems that are more humane, compassionate and innovative in order to be part of the solution to the challenges we face in the twenty-first century and support the common good. My research journey included being a participant in a story circle, working with others to capture the essence of the story I felt compelled to tell and to understand. I was holding one image that captured the essence of my story; my relationship with my brother and my fear of speaking about difference. Philip was 18 months older than I am. When we were in our late 20s he was diagnosed with AIDS. Before he died he asked me if I was afraid of him. My experience of participating in a digital storytelling workshop, where I was given time to creatively reflect on and work with familiar images, music and important stories was personally transformational. Our life experience leads us to the organisations that we chose to work for. The stories of our life experience and our ability to listen deeply and bear witness to others, gives us the power to participate in the transformation of our organisations guided by our shared values for the common good. I was influenced by Laughlin’s (1991) application of Habermasian critical theory to models of organisational transitions and transformations. He captured the essence of first order change through models of rebuttal and reorientation; and second order change through models of colonisation and evolution. I was further influenced by Laughlin’s (1995) and Broadbent and Laughlin’s (2008) middle range thinking approach to research that supports partial general empirical patterns providing skeletal theory including: a structured role for the observer’s engagement; critical discursive analysis; qualitative data narrative and; the use of documents, interviews and observation in data collection methods. A skeletal theory is used to frame empirical observations before entering the field (Laughlin, 1995) and used to guide thinking, communication and change. I used a critical-emancipatory action research approach (Duberley & Johnson, 2009) to contextualise digital storytelling theory in practice. My life’s experience, both in my personal life and my business activities, led me to introduce digital storytelling into a local women’s wellness charitable company where I continued my research journey by facilitating others to share their stories. The women who worked for the organisation and volunteered to participate in the pilot were given the opportunity to listen deeply and share deeper. Their lived experience gave them their natural authority to contribute to the shared story of Women’s Wellness in New Zealand. This pilot helped me to identify and understand issues that arise when implementing digital storytelling in an organisational context and was a springboard to induct my Digital Storytelling Intervention (DSI) skeletal theory from the literature. My DSI skeletal theory had mediation, the ability to resolve difference, at the heart of digital storytelling, organisational storytelling and organisational change. This supported communicative action, the ability to communicate openly in plain language in order to reach a shared understanding, create new knowledge and agree on action, within a community of practice that leads to changes in individual practice, group practice and ultimately to organisational change. When I reviewed the literature, I uncovered a gap in the application of critical theory to organisational story and storytelling. The next step in my research journey was to interview organisational and digital storytelling practitioners to learn from their experiences. I interviewed a diverse range of twenty practitioners; from leaders in their field to new and emerging practitioners and researchers. This supported me to compare, contrast and critique existing methods of digital storytelling practice within the context of my skeletal theory. I used my DSI skeletal theory as a structure to present my findings as four case studies and make sense of other practitioners’ experience. The insights I gained helped me to develop and refine DSI into Critical Story Sharing (CSS) skeletal theory which focuses on the use of all forms and modes of critical story sharing in a larger conversation to support action and change. CSS is about having a personal connection and lived experience to share with others who face the same challenge; for example the state of the health care system. It is about listening and bearing witness to others who have contradictory experience and insights so that we can work together to resolve our differences and create new knowledge and agree on new action because we can change the system and change organisations to better meet our shared needs. CSS can be seen as a journey from personal transformation, to changes in shared practice to critically mediated organisational change. I then did a cross case comparison where the case studies were mapped to: sociological paradigms (Burrell & Morgan, 1979); communication approaches (Deetz & McClellan, 2009); change models (Laughlin, 1991); engagement typology (Kellerman, 2007) and my CSS skeletal theory. Finally I used my CSS skeletal theory as a structure to present alternative anecdotes from the field to amplify its meaning. CSS was developed through an iterative process of reflection on both theory and practice. My thesis contributes CSS skeletal theory as a guide to support a diverse group of people to participate in organisational change. The case studies flesh out all four of Laughlin’s (1991) organisational change models. My thesis also contributes to the third generation of critical theorists who focus on the role of lived experience in the process of transformation (Scherer, 2009). Critical story sharing captures the essence of lived experience which can be used as a catalyst in a dialectical conversation to transform thinking, improve communication and prompt action toward the common good. CSS skeletal theory is based on the values of equity of voice, freedom to participate and justice to support the common good. The transformational process of mediation develops partnerships based on trust, compassion and respect in order to humanise the work place and re-design systems to meet the needs of the people who use them. CSS skeletal theory can guide diverse decision-making, support social creativity and innovative practice to address twenty-first century business challenges. I ended my research journey back in a story circle mediating difference between practitioners’ experience in order to contribute to our shared discipline and start the next cycle in our dialectical discussion. My lived experience, my relationship with my brother and my research journey taught me to listen deeply and share deeper in order to resolve difference. It is my hope that CSS skeletal theory will allow others to use critical story sharing to help co-create a world that we want to live, learn and work in.
University of Waikato
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