Discussing the Undiscussable: A Guide to Overcoming Defensive Routines in the Workplace / Edition 1

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Since his 1990 landmark book Overcoming Organizational Defenses, Chris Argyris has extensively researched and written about how well-meaning, smart people create vicious cycles of defensive behavior to protect themselves from embarrassment and threat. In Discussing the Undiscussable, Bill Noonan enlivens the scholarly work of Chris Argyris through the use of reflective exercises and easy-to-read chapters that illuminate the basic human experience endemic to the creation of defensive routines. This book offers hope for altering organizational defensive routines by leveraging the greatest opportunity for change—the way we think and act.

Discussing the Undiscussable provides a set of practical “how to do” exercises for detecting, surfacing, and discussing organizational defensive routines in a safe and productive way. The combination of text, business fable, and interactive and reflective exercises is versatile in its application to both individuals and groups. The companion DVD contains video vignettes of the book’s business fable where the actors model both defensive routines and virtuous cycles of behavior. Readers will instantly recognize what has long been going on in the workplace, and will be able to develop the skills to talk about it productively. 


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What People Are Saying

From the Publisher
“I highly recommend this book to leaders, consultants, and anyone else who wants to help teams and organizations learn to address their most challenging issues. Bill Noonan’s insights, stories, and practical methods make this an important book to read.”—Roger Schwarz, author, The Skilled Facilitator, and coauthor, The Skilled Facilitator Fieldbook

“Noonan makes Chris Argyris’s pathbreaking work on organizational defensive routines accessible, and even entertaining.”—Bruce Patton, coauthor, Getting to YES and Difficult Conversations

“Whether at work or home we can use Bill Noonan's work to improve our lives and those of the people we interact with.”

—Robb E. Van Cleave, treasurer, International Board of Directors, Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM)

“In a world of increasing complexity where multiple perspectives are required for addressing work issues, the ability to guide groups in having honest discussions where both intuition and data are given full and fair consideration is more and more important.”—Ralph Biggadike, professor, management division, Columbia Business School

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780787986322
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 9/28/2007
  • Series: The Jossey-Bass Business and Management Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 7.01 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.79 (d)

Meet the Author

Bill Noonan is an educator and consultant with an international practice that includes facilitation, conducting workshops, and designing web-based learning programs. He has consulted to leading learning organizations such as Federal Express, Hewlett-Packard, Shell Oil Company, and Herman Miller.

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Table of Contents

Foreword by Chris Argyris.


About the Author.


1. Framing the Issue: The Work of Chris Argyris.

2. The Foundational Skill Set.


3. Conditions of Threat and Embarrassment: Fix It Now or Fix It Later, Scene One: The Bad News.

4. Being in Control: Fix It Now or Fix It Later, Scene Two: The Word Gets Out.

5. Bypass Tactics and Covering Up: Fix It Now or Fix It Later, Scene Three: Being Nice.


6. Strategic Interventions: Interviews and Mapping.

7. The De-Escalation: Fix It Now or Fix It Later: Mark and Brenda Reflect.

8. Engaging Differences.

9. Key Thought Enablers.


10. Mistakes, Continuous Learning, and Progress.

11. Helping Those Who Teach, Learn.


Appendix A: Mapping Templates.

Appendix B: Strategies for Case Study Groups.



How to Use the DVD.

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