In this first episode of the new series we talk about change management and the role of language in successfully bringing this change about. In the introduction, we underscore the importance of language in terms its potential to construct and mold reality, which was also addressed in episodes 1 and 2 of season 1. We have a chat with Katie Best about this phenomenon of ‘culture leaks’ in a short interview. She’s the founder and director of the agency Taylorbest (https://www.taylorbest.com/) and she is also a visiting researcher at King’s College London Business School and head tutor on the LSE’s MBA essentials programmes. These ‘leaks’ provide an insight into what may actually going on behind the scenes in terms of corporate value, so much so that the company’s adherence to these values may be questioned (check our episode 9 on the toxic company culture at Enron).
Reference can also made to the many examples we can see nowadays urging people to follow the health and safety rules, many of which are directive, creative and even humorous c in nature, regardless of company culture . And there are plenty of other examples out there where the urgency of the situation justifies the type of language and imagery that is being used, regardless of the official image the company wants to associated with. Here are some more examples:
Erika gives a nice example of short directives from the Apollo space programme in flight director Gene Kranz’s speech, which came to be known as “The Kranz dictum”.
For a complete rendition listen to the interesting podcast 13 Minutes to the Moon, episode 4:
As a final note regarding language use, Bernard also introduces a myth-buster that does away with existing fixations on the ‘right’ average sentence length; topped off by Veronika’s remark on the dangers of verbosity. For more information on readability and sentence length, see
Smeuninx, N. (2018). Dear Stakeholder. Exploring the language of sustainability reporting: a closer look at readability, sentiment and perception. PhD Ghent University.
Our second guest is Dr Paul Lawrence, who is the co-director of the Centre for Coaching in Organisations, or (CCO). On the CCO website, they generously share journal articles and white papers. A really great resource if you’re interested in coaching [or] change management, both in practice and teaching. In the interview he explains the notion of dialogue (as opposed to conversation) as it is introduced and used in his publications;
Lawrence, P. (2014). Leading Change: How Successful Leaders Approach Change Management. Place: Kogan.
Lawrence, P., Hill, S., . Priestland, A., . Forrestal, C., . Rommerts, F., . Hyslop, I. & Manning, M. (2019). The Tao of Dialogue. London: Routledge.
Lawrence, P. & Moore, A. (2019). Coaching in Three Dimensions: Meeting the Challenges of a Complex World. London: Routledge.
In the final part of the episode we take a closer look at the use of metaphors in change management language and illustrate their cognitive, affective and narrative function by focusing on one particular metaphor that is often used in change management, i.e. the journey metaphor. This analysis includes examples of narrative metaphors in newspaper articles portraying the arrival of Spanish companies in the UK as a (successful) invasion of the Spanish Armada. The latter examples are based on research by:
Vandenberghe, J. (2017) The evaluative potential of colonial metaphor scenarios in (written) media representations of Spain’s economic expansion. Spanish investors as forceful aggressors or audacious pioneers? In: R. Breeze & I. Olza (Eds.), Evaluation in media discourse: European perspectives. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang.
Vandenberghe, J., Goethals, P., & Jacobs, G. (2014). ‘Economic conquistadors conquer new worlds’: Metaphor scenarios in English-language newspaper headlines on Spanish Foreign Direct Investment. In A. Musolff, F. MacArthur & G. Pagani (Eds.), Metaphor and Intercultural Communication (pp. 167-183). London: Bloomsbury.