A dialogue is a party! Especially online and especially asynchronously. Different from a workshop where most people are not invited. Because how many really fit in such a meeting room or Teams session? And unlike a survey or poll that does not offer any interaction between participants who think differently than themselves. There are more people and therefore more brainpower than a meeting allows, and we learn much more from each other than a survey tool understands. Online dialogue combines all that: any number of people, learn from each other and then tell them what you think about it again, and participate at your own time and from your own place. Collaboration at its best!
Dialogue is fun!
At a party you have music, a drink and a snack. That connects, that invites. In dialogue, language is the music, time to think and learn from each other is the drink, and (privacy) anonymity is the bite!
How do you apply language to connect invitees to your subject, your challenge, your issue? What do you want to see answered, why, by whom and what are you going to do with it? This also feeds the unique QuestionDesignLab, which enables you to design strong, specific open questions, jointly with the CircleLytics platform.
You will have to delve deeper into these questions, into your issue, the context, the limitations, the degrees of freedom. And you have to think about the people you invite. Why do you do that, why do they participate, what, for what? You probably enter into online, asynchronous (any moment, any place) dialogue because other working methods do not do justice to your situation, your issue, nor your talented audience. Depth, importance, different perspectives, giving people time, showing trust, necessary anonymity, increasing awareness among participants: and there are even more reasons to choose online dialogue over other working methods such as surveys or meetings. If you list a limited number of keywords as to why you are inviting them, you have come a long way. Now that you have written down the why, you are ready for the next step.
Then write what you are inviting them to. To discover or analyze something together? Or to solve something, be creative or even innovative? Or to predict something, to think about something that still lies (partly) in the future? Or do they look back, do you want to evaluate something? Clearly connect to the phase your issue is in. Suppose you are working on a complex change process, and you are in the “knowledge” phase of, for example, the ADKAR model, then focus on that and be clear. Demarcate. A customer organization (that does not exactly follow a specific change model) recently deliberately asked questions that did not provide definition (such as the components of PDCA or ADKAR). They learned that different groups appeared to be in different phases of these models, and that these different groups could learn and accelerate from each other through each other’s experience. Or think of a very open question as to why employees would choose this organization again today. So the message is: know what you choose: how sharply you demarcate or not, what degrees of freedom you have to offer.
And then, on to the preparation of the party!
Where do people come from (mentally, intellectually, background of the company, etc), what is their context, what do they already know? What do they need to know from you about the issue before they can respond to your questions? And in addition to being able to do so, they must also want to do so. Are they busy, rushed, stressed, why? Are they loyal, absent, disinterested, committed, why? Fortunately, we are all curious and the participants share that they work at your organization, department or team, or live in the same city or district, or belong to the same association: there are always similarities, as well as differences. Write down in a number of key words what your target group ‘looks’ like. For example, you can describe a number of personas with keywords. Hold this up to a few colleagues: do they recognize these personas and descriptions?
What will you do afterwards with the results of the dialogue? Tell them, write it down in your concept dialogue! It may be that you don’t know that yet: then say so. You may have a management meeting two weeks later with the results and then you want to communicate what the follow-up actions are. You may use it as input for a meeting with a project group and come back later in the quarter. Make sure it matches reality, your reality. Under promise, over deliver. In other words, be precise about the expectations you create and don’t want to create. People want clarity about why they participate, and not just what and how. That’s why we say: when designing your new dialogue: start at the end. What is planned, or a concern, an ambition, a bottleneck, a duty or a goal? Reason back from there to give people clarity about what is being done with it.
You already notice it. A workshop with a group or a survey with roughly 20-30 questions is simply set up and carried out faster. But not better, usually worse. And the good news: you can learn to design a dialogue! And our opinion is: you should always make this preparation: for every working method or intervention, but those other working methods are chosen without thinking, and out of habit, while this is not always the case with dialogue. Always prepare well is our starting point: it takes time, but you will be rewarded in quality, visibility, engagement and in faster and more precise decision making.
It is important and necessary to think hard about all these things. Your brain delves into the other person and the issue and how you connect them together. The easy way simply yields less. The path of dialogue is more meaningful but tougher. That’s why we do it together 🙂
How will participants join this CircleLytics Dialogue? Tell them that you offer privacy (anonymity), give them some days of thinking time. And explain that they are rewarded by the second round, in which they will see answers from others who think differently than them. They will have meaningful influence this way.
And for the leaders among us (as far as we are concerned, we all are, because we open ourselves up to people who think differently!): people expect quite a bit from you! In fact, it can make them stay or leave. Or for your dialogue that you are now preparing: it can make them participate or drop out. This is the perfect opportunity to show that you listen and want to involve people in issues that are also theirs and that can be solved better together. Our reading tip is “How to Listen” by Oscar Trimboli or listen to the Deep Listening podcasts.
Now let’s share and experiment with language.
We seriously need you to understand how […] came about and more importantly: what we can do about it together.
Or better yet: I need you for the following.
That’s even more personal. But you can also do it more informally:
How nice that you want to participate. Important too, because […] is about all of us.
It’s great that you took the time and are interested in […]. Important too, because with this we ensure that … .
Alternatives, depending on context, where you and everyone come from (see our introduction above):
As you heard, we stopped doing surveys because we couldn’t do anything with them, although we tried. Measuring via surveys turns out not to be knowing nor learning. Now we are going to listen much better in an innovative way: through this online dialogue.
We finally want to get started on improving […] and we can do that more intelligently together.
We have been hired to guide the management and department to […] accelerate, and we want to do this by involving the entire department: all of you.
Do you know how […] it can be delivered to the customer in a shorter time, say in 10% less time? Then take part in this challenge now.
As MT, we want to know what we can feasibly tackle to reduce workload, while we want to maintain and achieve our commercial goals. That’s not easy, so join in!
What do you think about […] and what is needed to achieve […] within two years? Will you please help us figure this out together?
You can emphasize the help you need from people. That’s nice, because when you ask others for help, they are happy to offer it. This is reflected in their response, both quantitatively, qualitatively and in terms of diversity.
What are your thoughts about […] and would you like to share them anonymously and learn what others think about […]? Then we challenge you to participate in this online dialogue through two rounds.
This is not a survey: we really want to know what you think about it and therefore ask you open questions. There are only three, but serious questions about an equally serious subject that we all have an interest in: […].
Discussions we have had with various colleagues show that […] must be given priority. Together with you, we want to understand why and, above all, what this will mean for all of us, and especially: the customer.
What have you learned in recent months or years about […] that we can all learn from?
Be precise, keep your sentences short, and realize that you can place more or less emphasis on feeling, relationship, process, content, etc.
The management wants to understand your feelings and impressions about the newly announced cost savings and therefore anonymously asks you some open questions about it.
The management explained the need to save costs last Tuesday and this can be read via this link […]. What additional cost savings can you think of?
If you choose to enter into dialogue but also to stay in dialogue, you can beautifully refer to a previous dialogue:
Thank you for your suggestions and openness to the previous dialogue about […], which has allowed us to achieve […]. This month we once again present an important issue to you.
And how and where in your text do you talk about privacy, hence anonymity? Depending on the mood and confidence surrounding the issue, its context and the target group involved, you can dedicate different sentences to it, such as the following:
Your contribution to this dialogue is anonymous.
So, nice and clear. Short and sweet. Sometimes you have to start talking about that right away, in your first sentence.
And what if a breach of trust recently occurred? For example, because during an employee survey rumors spread that “managers knew who did and did not participate.” Unfortunately that happens. We hear it from the agencies themselves. Of course that’s morally wrong of them. Your text might need some extras, when turning to CircleLytics Dialogue as your new listening solution:
Your contribution to this dialogue is anonymous. Nothing can be technically traced back to you as an individual and this is established in contracts. If you have any questions about this, you can reach our privacy officer via this email address […].
Or in relation to the culture that exists in your organization:
We want you to be able to think completely freely and independently about […]. For that reason, this dialogue is anonymous: nothing can be traced back to a participant. Also, take your time.
In order to really include every colleague in the policy for […], in addition to meetings, we want to hold this online, anonymous dialogue. Every thought and contribution is good and this anonymous working method has been chosen to remove all barriers.
If people are under pressure and so is your issue, addressing the delay now through online dialogue is critical. Showing even more haste is not exactly what is needed. Slow down.
It is important to solve the problem together as quickly as possible and to understand how we can prevent this from happening in the future. Therefore, take a few days to think about it or discuss it with colleagues, for example.
We’ll leave it at this for now. Hopefully it inspires you to get started with your dialogue and start the party! Preferably together with others, or together with us. Feel free to schedule a design session here.