Posted By Mark Kretschmar, Monday, April 20, 2015
Updated: Monday, April 20, 2015

Fernando Flores lived at the intersection of computer technology and effective human communication. He predicted the Internet years before development on it was started. Through his work with artificial intelligence researcher Terry Winograd at Berekely, he began to understand the components and interactions of an effective “conversation for action.” Effectiveness comes from conversations, not instructions. According to Jack Reilly, who brought Flores and his methods to IBM, “The leader who gives a lot of instructions is asking for trouble.”

Conversations for action engage two parties in creating an agreed upon future. It’s all about making requests and making offers – and doing so with keen ear to the other person. We must be able to get out of our own heads, at least a little bit, to fully engage the other person. When we do that, our request and the other’s corresponding offer are aligned to achieve an expected outcome. Both parties are fully engaged and are aware of the “conditions of satisfaction.” These are the elements that describe the agreed upon future. It provides a measuring rod to test the outcome of the request. Does it satisfy them? If not, we have to adjust and do more; if they do, we can move on to the next thing. In the meantime, because the conditions of satisfaction are clear, we don’t have to continually renegotiate and refine the request.

This isn’t just internal communication. It has a profound impact on dealing with customers and clients. According to Reilly, “An organization defines itself by the offers it makes and the requests it accepts.” Conversations with those an organization serves defines the organization. Having better conversations will make a better organization with more satisfied clientele.

Employing conversation for action techniques can make a real difference inside an organization as well. IBM has credited Flores’ methods for saving them millions of dollars and adding considerable speed to development projects.

I hope you can come learn more about the Conversation for Action at our May 13 luncheon.