Brian Due and Simon Lange

One of the most influential movements in applied Conversation Analysis champions the use of video in training service personnel – especially following the CARM method pioneered by Liz Stokoe. In this blog, I’m delighted to feature a report on a new development of the principle by Brian L. Due and Simon B. Lange: Videobased Reflection on Team and employee Interaction (ViRTI)

Brian Due

Brian Lystgaard Due

During the last couple of years an interventionist approach has emerged within the applied or institutional programme of CA. The book Applied Conversation Analysis by Antaki (2011), and especially Elizabeth Stokoe’s work on the Conversation Analytic Role-play Method (CARM) (e.g. Stokoe, 2014), has set the scene for a systematic reflection on how to use CA as a practical counselling method that can actually be of help to professionals “in real life”.

Tailoring CARM to team leadership

We initially tried to use CARM in an organizational context giving feedback on team and leadership interaction, but in the process we discovered that CARM was an insufficient method for these kinds of situations. We greatly appreciate Stokoes work, but find that it has to be extended in order to be of real help in organizations as a feedback tool on employee and leader interaction.

VIRTI

However, instead of trying to expand CARM – which anyway is not possible as CARM is a strong concept and a trademark – we chose to develop our own method which we call Videobased Reflection on Team and Employee Interaction (ViRTI) (described in this working paper). So far we have developed the method with help from five different Danish companies: A big international company, a small local company, a hospital, a business NGO and a humanitarian NGO.

The method is particularly aimed at enhancing interaction among employees in a specific organizational context, i.e. a team. The goal is to facilitate a process which can lead to enhanced self reflection, new perspectives on interactional patterns and eventually change and learning among a specific group of employees. The method thus expands on CARM in four areas:

  • It is a short ethnographic study in a specific group of employees in an organization, and the feedback workshop is held among the same employees. It thus has resemblances with the literature on business anthropology (Jordan, 2012), however intensifying it with the CA-focus.
  • It has emphasis on being a “good consultant”, regarding securing psychological safety and trust among the employees and using the full range of tools in the facilitator’s toolbox when it comes to the workshop.
  • Because of the use of video recordings and due to the fact that interaction per se is multimodal, the method has emphasis on doing multimodal analyses and focusing on different semiotic resources both during the analysis phase and in the presentation at the workshop.
  • Every step in the process is subjected to analysis. This is possible because every step should be documented and treated as data. Initial meetings, emails, midway meetings and contextual inquiries should be filmed and analysed using EM/CA.

The process in the method follows 6 steps as illustrated in this figure:

How VIRTI works

How VIRTI works

The method is applicable in organizations as a tool for interaction enhancement and development: by this we mean participants’ own reflections on what to do better or different in the future. We do not imply or impose a specific model on what is objectively “good” or “bad”, but the method gives participants the opportunity for reflecting on their own practice in order to chose whatever kind of interaction enhancement and development they prefer.

The method is aimed at the inner organizational life with a focus on meetings and employee interaction, thus providing an open reflexive space for talk about relations, interaction patterns, power, identity, leadership and different workflows regarding e.g. decision-making, idea development, etc. on the workshop. This do, of course, refer to the expanding literature on CA in business and meetings (e.g. Clifton, 2006; Asmuss & Svennevig, 2009; Kangasharju & Nikko, 2009; Nielsen, 2013; Landmark, Gulbrandsen, & Svennevig, 2015).

The VIRTI workshop

The key activity, seen from the perspective of the employees, is the workshop. We do not only show video clips, and let participants themselves reflect upon these as in CARM, but also – eventually – add our own analysis which, if possible, is presented using models, diagrams, figures, etc.

Our analysis from the five different organizations shows increased awareness among participants regarding their own interactional practices and dynamics in the team. This clearly demonstrates the value regarding CA-based analysis and focus on enhancement of particular interactional patterns, which thus is a promising perspective for interventionist CA.

However, the benefits go beyond just this value. Much more can be gained from such raised awareness. ViRTI can lead to less ‘bumbly’ interaction. But it may also lead to more egalitarian patterns of conduct, possibly better decisions made during processes of decision-making and possibly better relationships between participants. Whether these end goals are actually reached with the ViRTI method is still unclear, and the method needs to be evaluated especially regarding implementation and effect of the process and the workshop. A part of this will need to invoke discussions about whether possible change and interaction enhancement is due to the specific discussions of interactional patterns or just the fact, that participants has renewed focus on their own practice – as discovered by research like the Hawthorne experiments (Holden, 2001).

References

Antaki, C. (Ed.). (2011). Applied Conversation Analysis: Intervention and Change in Institutional Talk (1st ed.). Palgrave Macmillan.

Asmuss, B., & Svennevig, J. (2009). Meeting Talk: An Introduction. Journal of Business Communication, 46(1), 3–22.

Clifton, J. (2006). A Conversation Analytical Approach to Business Communication: The Case of Leadership. Journal of Business Communication, 43(3), 202–219.

Holden, J. D. (2001). Hawthorne effects and research into professional practice. Journal of Evaluation in Clinical Practice, 7(1), 65–70.

Jordan, A. T. (2012). Business Anthropology, Second Edition (2 edition). Long Grove, Ill: Waveland Pr Inc.

Kangasharju, H., & Nikko, T. (2009). Emotions in Organizations: Joint Laughter in Workplace Meetings. Journal of Business Communication, 46(1), 100–119.

Landmark, A. M. D., Gulbrandsen, P., & Svennevig, J. (2015). Whose decision? Negotiating epistemic and deontic rights in medical treatment decisions. Journal of Pragmatics, 78, 54–69. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.pragma.2014.11.007

Nielsen, M. F. (2013). “Stepping Stones” in Opening and Closing Department Meetings. Journal of Business Communication, 50(1), 34–67. http://doi.org/10.1177/0021943612465182

Stokoe, E. (2014). The Conversation Analytic Role-play Method (CARM): A Method for Training Communication Skills as an Alternative to Simulated Role-play. Research on Language & Social Interaction, 47(3), 255–265. http://doi.org/10.1080/08351813.2014.925663

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