Communication Consultants as Organizational Sensemakers: Applying the Team Metaphor
The Speech Communication Association of Pennsylvania, Inc.
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This study concerns an organizational communication intervention in which researchers explored the role metaphor plays in organizational development and change. Specifically, the team concept as a strategically ambiguous metaphor was applied as an interpretive approach to an intervention involving staff in an office providing support services for students at a medium-sized public university in the upper Midwest of the U.S. A survey questionnaire, administered through face-to-face interviews, served as the primary analysis tool. The questionnaire, which functioned as an interview guide, was designed based on discussions between the three researchers, the office director, and information from a recent annual report written by the office director. Open and closed-ended questions were designed, for example, to investigate communication patterns and networks existing among the office staff; the impact of numerous recent changes; the nature of job satisfaction; descriptions of critical incidents that had occurred with the past calendar year; and perceptions of “teamness” among office staff. Researchers met to review and interpret the data; responses for each question were organized into thematic categories. Recommendations were presented to the office staff. Feedback from the staff revealed the team metaphor functioned as a relevant and helpful framework for understanding shared experiences. Approximately one year later, follow-up interviews were conducted with the staff. Overall, responses indicated the staff continued to view the intervention as a positive and beneficial experience; they seemed to support the utility of the team metaphor, strategic ambiguity, and overall interpretive approach. This study illustrates the problems arising from different understandings of the team metaphor, the utility of the team metaphor as a means of therapeutic perceptual reframing, and the overall value of interpretive techniques for organizational assessment and intervention.
Framework for understanding shared experiences
Interpretive approach to intervention
Organizational communication intervention
Perceptions of teamness
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