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They meet, they talk … but nothing changes: Meetings as a focal context for studying change processes in organizations

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In this chapter, we discuss how meetings relate to organizational change management. We present a coding instrument that assesses meeting talk in terms of change or sustain talk, two psycholinguistic constructs that are supposed to facilitate or inhibit organizational changes and that represent participants’ readiness versus their resistance to change. We present a step-by-step guideline on how the dynamics of readiness and resistance to change within one meeting can be graphed using a time-sensitive measure that we call R-index (i.e., for readiness and resistance to change). We show how two theoretical frameworks—Lewin’s field theory and the Transtheoretical model of change—are related to the operationalization of change talk and sustain talk in meetings. Finally, we discuss how the R-index can be used as a dynamic measure of change readiness in meetings.
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Zitieren als:
Klonek, F. E., Paulsen, H., & Kauffeld, S. (in press). In J. A. Allen, N. Lehmann-Willenbrock
& S. G. Rogelberg (Eds.), The Cambridge handbook of meeting science. New York, NY:
Cambridge University Press.
Chapter 18
They Meet, They Talk … but Nothing Changes:
Meetings as a Focal Context for Studying Change Processes in Organizations
Florian Erik Klonek, Hilko Paulsen, & Simone Kauffeld
Technische Universität Braunschweig
Abstract
In this chapter, we discuss how meetings relate to organizational change management. We
present a coding instrument that assesses meeting talk in terms of change or sustain talk, two
psycholinguistic constructs that are supposed to facilitate or inhibit organizational changes
and that represent participants’ readiness versus their resistance to change. We present a step-
by-step guideline on how the dynamics of readiness and resistance to change within one
meeting can be graphed using a time-sensitive measure that we call R-index (i.e., for
readiness and resistance to change). We show how two theoretical frameworks—Lewin’s
field theory and the Transtheoretical model of change—are related to the operationalization of
change talk and sustain talk in meetings. Finally, we discuss how the R-index can be used as a
dynamic measure of change readiness in meetings.
Keywords: meetings, observational methods, motivational interviewing, readiness to
change, resistance to change, change talk, R-index, transtheoretical model, driving/hindering
forces
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THEY MEET, THEY TALK … BUT NOTHING CHANGES
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Mr. Schmidt works as a consulting engineer in a service company that specializes in the field
of energy efficiency. He has evaluated the energy efficiency performance of the local hospital
and discovered several sources of energy waste in the laboratory. Today Mr. Schmidt has a
meeting with the principal doctor who is head of the laboratory. Mr. Schmidt’s aim is to
discuss new measures to improve the energy performance of the building.
Mr. Schmidt:
Thanks for your time for this meeting.
Doctor: Well, I have heard that there is something wrong here... something about the
electricity bill or so.
Mr. Schmidt:
Yes, that’s right. I am here to talk with you about reducing your energy
costs. We have investigated which sources contribute to strong energy
waste.
Doctor: For sure, I know that our lab requires a lot of energy. I can imagine that this
is a problem.
Mr. Schmidt:
There was an extensive use of a lab machine in the second floor. The one in
room number 201 and …
Doctor: Are you talking about our new laboratory device [technical name]? … Oh
no. I was so glad to get it three years ago.
Mr. Schmidt:
Well, but you should know that this machine uses a lot of energy …
Doctor: To be honest, I would not survive without this tool. It saves me so much
time.
Mr. Schmidt:
Well, maybe you should also think about the costs then.
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Doctor: I don’t pay the bill directly, so I actually don’t care that much.
Mr. Schmidt:
You could still use a stand-by or energy-saving function. That is literally no
effort!
Doctor: I think that the security should turn it off at night … Isn’t it their job to look
after these things?
Mr. Schmidt:
For me, it's incomprehensible that you do not take any responsibility in this.
Doctor: I can't give the energy consumption top priority. You know, we have to be
present here all day in case there is an accident that is not foreseen. So I
don't want to be concerned with having the machine stop and not running. It
must be there when I need it.
Mr. Schmidt:
Okay, maybe we can meet again next week and I can see if I can talk to
security—to see if they can do something about this.
Doctor: Well, I hope that this will help.
Mr. Schmidt:
Thank you for your time and see you next week.
This case study has illustrated a meeting in which change was of focus in the
discussion. In this particular case, the meeting included one participant who was responsible
for initiating change (i.e., saving energy) within the organization, while the other participant
was affected by these changes (i.e., the change recipients, cf., J. D. Ford, Ford, & D’Amelio,
2008; Kanter, Stein, & Jick, 1992). As illustrated in this conversation, the willingness to carry
out the changes is vital to the success of the initiative.
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This chapter stresses how meetings are crucial means for initiating change processes in
organizations: Participants share information, work mutually on solutions, and engage in
action planning (Kauffeld & Lehmann-Willenbrock, 2012). If meetings are not used
effectively, they can be a waste of time and money (Rogelberg, Shanock, & Scott, 2012) and
may even have negative effects for an organization (Kauffeld & Lehmann-Willenbrock,
2012). As meetings offer an opportunity to produce organizational change by means of
interpersonal communication (J. D. Ford & Ford, 1995), this chapter integrates research from
psycholinguistics and clinical psychology (e.g., Lombardi, Button, & Westra, 2014) into the
science of meetings. We offer new research directions for understanding how change is
produced—and sometimes inhibited—in meetings. Specifically, our approach contributes to
the scarce research that investigates how verbal behaviors within the interaction process
contribute to successful meetings.
The first section sets out the process of how meetings are related to organizational
changes. The second section introduces the notion of change talk—a psycholinguistic
construct from research in motivational interviewing (MI). We will give a brief introduction
of MI and outline in detail a behavioral coding scheme that can be used for analyzing
participants’ readiness and resistance to change in meetings. The third section elaborates on
the temporal dynamics of change language. We show how the behavioral codes can be
transformed into a numerical index of readiness or resistance to change, and we provide a
step-by-step guideline for meeting researchers. In the fourth section, we discuss differences
and similarities between our coding scheme with existing observational instruments
(act4teams from Kauffeld & Lehmann-Willenbrock, 2012, and Interaction Process Analysis
from Bales, 1950) that have been used previously to analyze meeting behavior. The fifth
section provides two theoretical change models—Lewin’s, (1952) force field model and the
Transtheoretical model of change from Prochaska & Di Clemente (1982)—that can be used as
THEY MEET, THEY TALK … BUT NOTHING CHANGES
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a framework for analyzing change talk in meetings. The final section sets out theoretical and
practical implications for meeting researchers and HR practitioners.
Introducing Change Language as a Key to Understanding Meeting Outcomes
Meetings can have different functions for an organization: For example, coordination
in terms of the determination of future actions (Clifton, 2009; Huisman, 2001), distribution of
information (Boden, 1994; Tepper, 2004; Terry, 1987), or searching for solutions (Kauffeld &
Lehmann-Willbenbrock, 2012; Schwartzmann, 1989)—to name only a few. The following
chapter introduces the idea of considering meetings as a place where changes are discussed.
We build on the ideas that “talk in organizations drives action within organizations” (King,
2003, p. 1206) and that meeting talk can produce change in a dynamic way (J. D. Ford &
Ford, 1995). Therefore, researchers should focus on change-related communication in
meetings. We define this as any verbal behavior that is either positively or negatively related
to a previously defined organizational or behavioral change goal.
Meetings are used as a means of coming together and discussing procedures or to
deciding on future actions (Mirivel & Tracy, 2005). In this respect, meetings offer an ideal
field research laboratory to systematically observe whether organizational members show
readiness or resistance to change (Klonek, Lehmann-Willenbrock, & Kauffeld, 2014). Some
authors have argued that meetings provide a necessary precondition for initiating strategic
change because the daily workflow of organizational members is interrupted and may
therefore be changed (Jarzabkowski & Seidl, 2008). In other words, meetings provide a space
in which current behavioral routines are destabilized and can be changed (Lewin, 1952).
Furthermore, meetings are also used to discuss changes and to carry them back into the wider
organization (Jarzabkowski & Seidl, 2008). This can be summarized in the following way: “If
the meeting is to have an effect on the wider organization, any decisions taken or changes
proposed during the meeting must be incorporated into the organization” (Jarzabkowski &
Seidl, 2008, p. 1395). We also embed our chapter within a theoretical framework, that is, the
THEY MEET, THEY TALK … BUT NOTHING CHANGES
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transtheoretical model of change (TTM; Prochaska & DiClemente, 1982)—sometimes also
called stages of change model. The TTM assumes different stages of change that describe a
varying degree of readiness for individuals. Since its development in 1982, the TTM has been
used as a generic change model for a wide range of behavior changes (Prochaska et al., 1994).
It provides strategies to guide individuals through change and to adopt alternative behavioral
routines (Prochaska & Velicer, 1997). The stages of change are five discrete stages that are
associated with specific cognitions, including participants’ readiness to change, which are
called (1) precontemplation, (2) contemplation, (3) preparation, (4) action, and (5)
maintenance.
Individuals in precontemplation do not actively think about changing. In other words,
they are unaware that change might even be a possibility for them. In a meeting, this stage
would describe participants who have no intention whatsoever of changing the status quo. In
the contemplation stage, individuals start thinking about change, but they will not take any
behavioral actions toward it. In a meeting, participants at this stage would, for example,
discuss what the costs are and what the benefits of changing are. In the preparation stage,
individuals have made the decision to change and are making plans about how to achieve this.
Also, initial behavioral steps toward the new behavior can be observed. In the meeting
context, participants in this stage would make an action plan about how change measures
should be accomplished. In the action stage, individuals would take clear behavioral steps
toward the change goal. In the meeting context, it is rarely the case that determined actions
are directly acted out while people are still meeting. Jarzabkowski and Seidl (2008) reported
that working groups are often used as a means to develop and advance proposed changes.
Nevertheless, behavioral actions most regularly take place outside the meeting. If changes are
maintained over a specific period of time, individuals move into the maintenance stage. We
assume that readiness in meetings can be operationalized by investigating how meeting
participants talk about changes. Specifically, we demonstrate in this chapter how change
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readiness in meetings can be operationalized using a single, time-variant, and dynamic index
of change.
There are only a few studies that have investigated the relation between meetings and
change management in organizations (Jarzabowski & Seidl, 2008; Klonek et al., 2014; Preget,
2013). Preget (2013, p.340) argued that “talk is an important resource in ‘doing’ change
management work.” She proposes that a conversation analysis in meetings can contribute to
our understanding of organizational change because this method examines naturally occurring
interactions, and thus might reveal what change might look like (Preget, 2013). In our own
research (Klonek et al., 2014), we followed this line of research using the quantitative method
of interaction analysis. We found that change agents can, indeed, contribute to resistance to
change within change-related interactions.
Overall, we have outlined that organizational changes are often discussed in meetings
and there is increasing research interest in this topic. The current chapter aims to present a
tool for studying change-related interactions in meetings. Our chapter contributes to the
science of meetings as we focus on actual behaviors within the dynamic meeting context
(Baumeister, Vohs, & Funder, 2007) and discuss how these verbal behaviors facilitate or
inhibit meeting outcomes (Kauffeld & Lehmann-Willenbrock, 2012). We will take a process
analytical approach and shed light on the temporal dynamics of change readiness within
meetings. Conceptually, this chapter is restricted to meetings with change-related
conversations, that is, we focus on meetings in which participants discuss a concrete
behavioral, strategic, or organizational change.
In the next section, we present a verbal coding scheme that can be used to capture
change-related communication in meetings. As our coding scheme originates from research in
MI, we will give a brief definition of this communication method.
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Motivational Interviewing: The Origins of Change Talk
Motivational interviewing is a client-centered and directive counseling style to
enhance intrinsic motivation to change (Miller & Rollnick, 20013). It originates from clinical
psychology and was developed as a way of motivating participants for drug and alcohol
treatment or to change their consumption behavior (Miller & Rollnick, 2013). Motivational
interviewing covers a variety of communication techniques that are supposed to enhance
intrinsic motivation of participants who talk about change-related goals, and it has a specific
focus on participant’s language, namely change or sustain talk.
1
One of the central
assumptions in MI is that readiness is created through communication and can be empirically
observed when counselors meet with their clients. This idea was tested by psycholinguist Paul
Amrhein and his colleagues (2003), who coded participants’ verbal behavior using a system
that distinguishes language in favor of change (termed change talk) from language against
change (termed sustain talk). Since then, this coding scheme has been applied in many
clinical studies in order to investigate how participants express motivation to change in face-
to-face communication (e.g., Lombardi et al., 2014). Only recently has this discursive
analytical measure been transferred to the field of organizational studies (Klonek et al., 2014,
Klonek & Kauffeld, 2012; Paulsen et al., 2013). Within these first studies, the coding scheme
has been applied to study resistance in change management projects (Klonek et al., 2014),
coaching interactions (Klonek & Kauffeld, 2012), or to study change-related communication
of software engineering teams (Paulsen et al., 2013).
Coding Change and Sustain Talk
In the change talk coding system, participants’ verbal behavior in meetings can be
considered as a natural measure of their readiness for organizational changes: Participants’
verbal expression of interest in change reveals readiness (i.e., change talk), whereas verbal
1
Some authors also utilize the term „counter change talk“ which is synonymous to sustain talk
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expressions of concern and arguments against change indicate a lack of commitment for
future actions (i.e., sustain talk).
------------------------------------
Insert Table 18.1 about here
-----------------------------------
Table 18.1 shows how verbal utterances of participants can be classified in more
detail. For example, participants can reason why change makes sense (“I can see how this
pays out for us”), or they can commit to a certain action (“I will do it”). In contrast,
participants can also voice reasons why changes do not suit them (“This will only cost me
more time”) or they can withdraw commitment (“I am never going to change this”). Even
though verbal behavior is coded in more detail, participants’ verbal behavior in meetings can
be analyzed on the first level, that is, by using only the two codes change or sustain talk. This
is in line with a research guideline for observational schemes from Bakeman and Quera
(2011, p. 19), who recommended that “when in doubt, you should define codes at a somewhat
finer level of granularity than your research questions require (i.e., when in doubt, split, do
not lump).”
The Temporal Dynamics of Change Language within Meetings
In the previous section, we described the verbal coding scheme of Paul Amrhein and
colleagues (2003) that is used to categorize language that drives versus language that inhibits
change. This particular behavior can been characterized by two functions: Change and sustain
talk utterances are micro-acts that (1) express participants’ readiness/resistance to change and
(2) determine if the meeting will result in organizational changes that follow the meeting. To
illustrate the second function: If participants express a lot of sustain talk in a meeting, we
would assume that important actions will not be carried out afterwards. In contrast, we would
expect that meetings with a high amount of change talk facilitate necessary organizational
actions to implement changes that are later carried out.
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However, what happens if participants offer a lot of sustain talk (e.g., “This might not
work in our team”) at the beginning of a meeting, but eventually show high readiness to
change (for example, because their concerns were taken seriously). There is actually no
empirical research that has looked at the temporal dynamics of change readiness in meetings.
As the observational coding of participants’ verbal behaviors preserves time information, a
meeting can be regarded as a time series of change-positive and change-negative events. This
allows for tracking the temporal dynamics of a change process within one single meeting. We
propose a new index in order to capture the temporal dynamics of resistance and readiness to
change. We call this index R.
The R-index (i.e., Resistance/Readiness to change) constitutes the verbally expressed
temporal readiness or resistance to engage in a previously defined change goal. It is a
state construct that can show temporal variations ranging from strong resistance to
change to strong readiness to change.
It can be formalized as:
=

where:
t = current event
C
i
= +1 if i-th event is coded Change Talk
C
i
= -1 if i-th event is coded Sustain Talk
C
i
= 0 otherwise
In other words, the time-variant index R
t
is the difference between the frequency of all
change talk and all sustain talk utterances at time t.
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If R
t
> 0, then “readiness” is dominant up to time t
If R
t
< 0, then “resistance” is dominant up to time t
If R
t
= 0, then “ambivalence” is prominent up to time t
If R
t
is positive, the participants show more readiness to change than resistance to
change until time t. If R
t
is negative, the participant shows more resistance than readiness to
change until time t. If R
t
is zero, the participant is ambivalent at time t. We recommend
defining a window of tolerance of +/- k units around the zero value in order to capture a
smoother transition between states of resistance-ambivalence-resistance. The value of k has to
be determined within the research context.
A Step-by-Step Illustration of Change Talk in the Meeting Context
In the following sections, we show how the R-index can be used to investigate the
change readiness/resistance of participants across time within a single meeting. On the basis
of three dyadic meetings, the present section offers a step-by-step illustration of how to
analyze change processes in meetings. In sum, our aim is to give a demonstration of research
possibilities and not to test specific hypotheses. Figure 18.1 gives an overview of the research
procedure.
------------------------------------
Insert Figure 18.1 about here
------------------------------------
Step 1: Recording the meeting.
We apply this step-by-step illustration with data that originates from a recent study
(Klonek et al., 2014). In this study, we videotaped three meetings in the context of a European
energy-saving project on re-commissioning (details of the data acquisition are described in
Klonek et al., 2014). Re-commissioning (Re-Co) is a form of building quality management
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723
that involves technical and behavioral changes in building maintenance in order to improve
cost and energy performances. Engineers who work in the field of re-commissioning often
have meetings with building occupants and building owners in order to discuss measures and
changes that have to be implemented. Changes can affect building operations, standard
procedures, and user behavior.
Re-Co advisors had a role-playing meeting with one of the building users (i.e., change
recipient). The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the implementation of re-
commissioning measures. Re-Co advisors had the possibility to talk about the measures that
they actually wanted to apply in the real project. Another Re-Co advisor played the role of the
change recipient. Note that we use this data from these meetings for mere demonstrational
purposes. Six participants voluntarily participated in the role-playing meeting. Building users
were given a short role description that stressed that they were resistant to the proposed
changes.
Step 2: Coding of meeting.
After data collection, the verbal behaviors of participants in the meeting are coded by
independent observers. Verbal behavior of building users is categorized into three main codes
(cf. Klonek et al., 2014): verbal behavior that speaks against change (sustain talk), verbal
behavior that speaks in favor of change (change talk), and verbal behavior that is related to
neither change nor resistance (neutral following). Both change and sustain talk can be further
specified into reasons, desire, ability, needs, activation, taking steps, and commitment. Table
18.2 shows a transcript with examples of how verbal behavior is coded on the first level.
------------------------------------
Insert Table 18.2 about here
------------------------------------
Coding can be accomplished with paper/pencil methods (cf. Bakeman & Quera, 2011)
or with software support (e.g., INTERACT, Mangold, 2010). We implemented the coding
THEY MEET, THEY TALK … BUT NOTHING CHANGES
724
scheme in INTERACT in order to record time-event data (i.e., sequences of behavioral codes
for which onset and offset times have been recorded; cf., Bakeman & Quera, 2011). As a
result, readiness and resistance of change recipients is tracked on an utterance-by-utterance
level. Coding results in a two-dimensional table with its rows showing behavioral events,
on/offset times, and assigned codes (see Figure 18.2). Columns are used to organize codes
into different classes of the hierarchical coding system. The outermost left side of Figure 18.2
shows the number of behavioral events in the meeting; onset and offset times of each event
are automatically recorded by the software INTERACT. The columns Key, Role,
ChangeRecipient, and Subcode are part of the coding system that we developed for our
research. Observers watch and listen to the recorded meeting and allocate codes from the
scheme by using keys on their keyboard. The column “key” records which key observers have
pressed to categorize a behavioral event. Keys have been defined on the most fine-grained
level of coding, that is, the key “g”
2
logs in the category reason against change. As this is—
by definition—sustain talk, which is voiced by the meeting participant, the codes Sustain Talk
and Participant are automatically written in the corresponding cells. For reasons of simplicity
in this demonstration, we only coded the verbal behavior of the conversational partner (i.e.,
participant). With respect to Re-Co advisors, we only coded when they spoke, but we did not
categorize their verbal behavior.
------------------------------------
Insert Figure 18.2 about here
-----------------------------------
Step 3: Computation of R-scores.
After coding has been accomplished, the timed event data is used to derive the
dynamic and time-variant measure “R” (readiness/resistance) that visualizes the dynamics of
readiness and resistance across the meeting. Change and sustain talk codes for each utterance
2
We used the key “g” as the German code name for the code “reasons” is “Gründe”
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are transformed into integers (Change Talk = 1; Sustain Talk = -1) and summed up for each
behavioral event. The last two columns of Table 18.2 demonstrate how codes are transformed
into the R-index.
Step 4: The temporal dynamics of the change process.
In order to visualize temporal dynamics of change language within one meeting, we
recommend graphing how the R-index changes across time. Figure 18.3 shows the time series
of R for the three meetings that we recorded. One unit on the x-axis corresponds to a
behavioral event in the meeting, whereas values on the y-axis show the corresponding values
of R. This plot allows for capturing several features of a single meeting at one glance:
(1) Graph location: a graph can be in the area above the x-axis or beneath the x-axis.
A meeting with graphs in the area above the x-axis (values > 0) indicates a meeting in which
participants showed more language in favor of change than language against change. In sum,
this graph location shows a participant’s general readiness or resistance to change across the
meeting.
(2) Overall slope: Each graph can have a positive or negative slope. A positive slope
indicates that a participant’s change talk outweighed sustain talk, whereas a negative slope
indicates that participants sustain talk outweighed change talk. This index takes into account
the temporal development of a participant’s readiness to change: Initially, participants may
show more sustain talk, but they may talk more about the pros of changing at the end of a
meeting.
(3) Change of slope (U-turn): A change in slope (U-turn) is present when participants
first give a sequence of change talk, which is then followed by a sequence of sustain talk. In
other words, participants first voiced readiness to change and then made a turn and started to
argue in the opposite direction (of maintaining). U-turns indicate phases of intrapersonal
conflict (“This change is good for us, but on the other hand, I don’t feel comfortable with it”)
THEY MEET, THEY TALK … BUT NOTHING CHANGES
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and interpersonal conflict (A: “I think we must change our energy consumption behavior”; B:
“That is not how I see things. I simply do not care about energy consumption”).
(4) Final peak: The final peak is identical to the sum of all change talk utterances
minus the sum of all sustain talk utterances across the whole meeting. This index summarizes
the final readiness of participants at the end of a meeting. On the one hand, this index reflects
the result of a meeting and can be used as an outcome measure of meeting effectiveness. On
the other hand, this index can be used as a predictor for measures that should follow the
meeting (i.e., the number of implemented measures
).
------------------------------------
Insert Figure 18.3 about here
---------------------------------------
The three Re-Co meetings are shown in Figure 18.3. It can be seen in the figure that
the previously describe features vary strongly across the three meetings.
The first meeting is characterized by a graph location beneath the x-axis, a negative
slope, and a negative final peak. In other words, the participant in this meeting showed high
resistance to change. Furthermore, the participant in this meeting argued more in the direction
of sustaining than changing the status quo (indicated by the slope). When the meeting ended,
this participant had uttered eleven statements more than the statements he had uttered in favor
of change.
The graph of the second meeting is also located beneath the x-axis. The slope in this
meeting is not as negative as the one in the first meeting. Furthermore, the graph reveals
several u-turns; that is, at event 55, the participant started with a sequence of change talk,
followed by another sequence of sustain talk, and so on. The final peak of this meeting is
close to zero. In other words, whereas the initial phase of this meeting indicated strong
resistance, the final part of this meeting showed more verbal behaviors in the direction of
change. In sum, this participant seemed to be ambivalent about changing.
THEY MEET, THEY TALK … BUT NOTHING CHANGES
727
The third meeting is characterized by a graph location above the x-axis, a positive
slope, and a positive final peak. Overall, the verbal behavior of this participant in this meeting
reveals readiness to change. The jitter at the end of the session indicates that the participant
switched quickly between change and sustain talk.
How is Change Talk Related to other Meeting Coding Schemes?
The coding scheme that we presented in the following chapter has its roots in the
psycholinguistic work of Paul Amrhein, and has been most exclusively applied in clinical
process studies of MI or therapy settings in which patients discuss specific target behaviors
with their respective therapists (e.g., alcohol reduction). In this respect, it is still relatively
new within the science of meetings. Previous coding schemes have been proposed to code
verbal and nonverbal interactions of participants in meetings, such as act4teams (Kauffeld &
Lehmann-Willenbrock, 2012) or the Interaction Process Analysis (IPA, Bales, 1950). The
following section will outline similarities and differences between these coding schemes and
the current coding scheme of change-related conversations.
Act4teams and Change Talk
Act4teams has been developed as a process-analytical observational instrument to
measure interaction processes in organizational group discussions (Kauffeld, 2006a). In
subsequent studies, it has been predominantly used to analyze participants’ verbal behavior in
team meetings (Kauffeld 2006b; Kauffeld & Lehmann-Willenbrock, 2012; Kauffeld &
Meyers, 2009; Lehmann-Willenbrock, Allen, & Kauffeld, 2014; Lehmann-Willenbrock,
Allen, & Meinecke, 2013). It encompasses 43 behavioral categories that can be summarized
into four broader types of interaction, namely, (1) problem-focused, (2) procedural, (3) socio-
emotional, and (4) action-oriented communication. Furthermore, every verbal code in the
system can be classified in terms of functional versus dysfunctional meeting behavior: To
give an example, the code interest in change is a functional and action-oriented type of
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728
communication, whereas the code losing train of thought in details and examples is a
dysfunctional and procedural type of communication.
Differences between Act4teams and change talk.
First, the change-related coding system from Amrhein et al. (2003) and act4teams
differs most visibly in terms of granularity. Whereas act4teams assesses verbal behavior with
43 different codes, the change coding scheme only distinguishes very broadly between
change, sustain, and neutral talk. Even when the sub-classifications (e.g., reasons, desire,
need, ability, commitment) of change-related verbal behavior are taken into account,
act4teams still has more than twice as many codes. Although this affects the level of detail
with which interactions can be observed, it also affects the amount of time it will take to learn
and apply a coding system.
Second, the act4teams system has been developed as an instrument to assess
interactions in groups, whereas coding of change-related interactions has been developed to
assess only the verbal behavior (i.e., language) of one participant within a dyadic conversation
(most notably, MI). Although there is a plethora of observational studies that have used the
observational scheme from Amrhein et al. (2003) in dyadic interactions (e.g., Bertholet,
Faouzi, Gmel, Gaume, & Daeppen, 2010; Hodgins, Ching, & McEwen, 2009; Klonek et al.,
2014; Lombardi et al., 2014), only a few studies have extended the use of change-talk coding
to group interactions (e.g., Klonek & Kauffeld, 2012; Paulsen et al., 2013).
Finally, act4teams and coding of change talk differ with respect to the definition of a
target behavior. This is probably the most important difference between both systems. Where
act4teams assess participants’ interest in change regardless of the topic, coding of change talk
has to address a previously defined target behavior. We will give an example to illustrate this
difference: If the target of a meeting is that participants should not use a specific high-energy
consuming device, then only language that addresses this target behavior is coded in terms of
change talk. The utterance, “I will not use that machine anymore,” would be coded as change
THEY MEET, THEY TALK … BUT NOTHING CHANGES
729
talk. On the other hand, if the target of a meeting is that participants should use a new device
in order to facilitate working procedures, then that same utterance would be coded as sustain
talk. In this respect, change talk is always related to a specific behavioral goal. By contrast,
the action-oriented verbal codes in act4teams do not need a target behavior to be coded.
Act4teams more generally assess whether participants show willingness to take (any)
actions—coding in act4teams is therefore more open-ended. Future research should address
under which terms these different operationalizations may tap the same or different
constructs.
Similarities between Act4teams and change talk.
Beside these differences, act4teams and change talk coding also share some striking
similarities. In particular, the type of action-orientated communication in act4teams seems to
capture a similar construct as change talk coding. We have already discussed that the
definition of target behavior is an important difference between both coding schemes.
However, the codes interest in change, taking responsibility, and action planning all fit into
the definitions of change talk. The definition of the code action planning strongly overlaps
with the commitment to change code in the change talk system. Whereas the coding of change
talk and sustain talk is symmetrical in terms of valence (i.e., the code commitment can be
coded as change or sustain talk: “I promise to do this” versus “I refuse to change this”), the
structural code composition in act4teams lacks this feature. As a result, act4teams can capture
action planning in terms of a functional verbal behavior, but does not capture negative action
planning. In sum, both systems seem to capture a similar construct (change readiness versus
action-orientation), but in which way they overlap is a question of future research.
IPA and Change Talk
Another famous meeting process instrument is the Interaction Process Analysis (IPA)
from Bales (1950). IPA encompasses 12 different behavioral codes that can be allocated to
two dimensions: The socio-emotional area and the task area. Whereas verbal codes in the
THEY MEET, THEY TALK … BUT NOTHING CHANGES
730
socio-emotional area can be further distinguished into positive or negative emotions, verbal
codes in the task area are distinguished either into questions or attempted answers.
Similarities between IPA and change talk.
IPA and coding of change talk share only superficial similarities. Both systems use a
reduced number of codes and both focus on the functional aspects of verbal utterances—that
is, IPA stresses the relational (socio-emotional) and instrumental function of verbal
utterances, whereas the change talk system stresses the change-related (driving or hindering)
function of a speech act.
Differences between IPA and change talk.
IPA is considered as the classical instrument in interaction and process analysis of
group interactions, whereas the coding of change talk and sustain talk has its roots in dyadic
conversations. As IPA and the change talk system address different functions of
communication, they are not interchangeable. We will illustrate the differences in functional
aspects of communication in the following example: Whereas IPA includes three codes that
only focus on questions (question for opinion, question for suggestion, question for
orientation), the same verbal behaviors are considered neutral behavior in the change talk
system; that is, they are not related to changing or sustaining. This is explained in the
following way: A question does not reveal whether a person expresses his readiness to change
or sustain the status quo. Concurrently, the socio-emotional area also is not captured in the
change talk system. We have no knowledge of which way the emotional tone of change talk
and sustain talk affects the dynamic interaction of a meeting. We assume that strong
resistance to change of a participant may sometimes include an aggressive or hostile
intonation (e.g., “Forget it! We will never do this again. This does not make any sense for
us!”)—but at the same time, this is not a prerequisite. In other words, participants can also
express resistance to change (sustain talk) with an emotionally neutral tone (i.e., giving
arguments that will make change unsuccessful).
THEY MEET, THEY TALK … BUT NOTHING CHANGES
731
In sum, both IPA and change talk coding capture different functional aspects of a
meeting. As a result, they can be combined and used for different research purposes. Future
research could investigate, for example, in which way change talk differs in terms of socio-
emotional connotation, or in which way change talk is more likely in meetings with positive
socio-emotional interactions.
Theoretical Frameworks to Evaluate Change Processes in Meetings
In this section, we introduce two prominent theoretical frameworks that have been
used to study the temporal process of change: Lewin’s change theory of driving and hindering
forces (1952) and the Transtheoretical Model of Change (TTM, Prochaska & DiClemente,
1982). First, we show how change and sustain talk of meeting participants correspond to the
constructs of driving and hindering forces. Second, we will explain how change language is
linked to a key construct in the TTM, namely the decisional balance (Janis & Mann, 1977):
The decisional balance captures ambivalence to change (Klonek, Isidor, & Kauffeld, 2014;
Piderit, 2000) in terms of reasons for change (i.e., pros) versus reasons against change (i.e.,
cons). We will show how the decisional balance construct can be used as a process measure in
change-related meetings.
Lewin’s Change Theory of Driving and Hindering Forces
Kurt Lewin is often regarded as one of the fathers of social psychology (Wheeler,
2008). His theory on driving and hindering forces has been influential in the social sciences
and organizational change management literature (e.g., Burnes, 2004). In Lewin's theory,
behavior is considered as “a dynamic balance of forces working in opposing directions”
(Kritsonis, 2005, p. 1). Two constructs are central: Driving versus hindering forces. Driving
forces are forces that give momentum in the direction of change. Driving forces facilitate
change because they push individuals in the desired direction. In contrast, hindering forces
are forces that work in the opposite direction, that is, they work against change. If driving and
hindering forces are equally strong, no change can occur. These theoretical concepts have
THEY MEET, THEY TALK … BUT NOTHING CHANGES
732
been incorporated in the method of force field analysis, a management tool that can be used to
analyze driving and hindering forces in an organizational change program (Swanson & Creed,
2013). Lewin’s conceptualization of driving and hindering forces shares striking similarities
with the constructs of change and sustain language. In this respect, change talk can be
considered as a driving force, whereas sustain talk can be considered as a hindering force. If
participants talk about reasons to change in a meeting (“I can see how this pays out for us”) or
voice desires to change (“I wish we would finally do something about this”), their talk drives
action within the organization (King, 2003, p. 1206). However, if meeting participants talk
about reasons to sustain the status quo (“This will only cost me more money”) or their lack of
abilities to change (“I don’t know how we should do this”), they prevent change. As a result,
meeting talk can either result in action or inaction because “the way practitioners talk actively
shapes an organization rather than just passively defining it” (Clifton, 2006, p. 202).
From Lewin’s point of view, the R-graph that we described in Figure 18.3 indicates
when and where in a meeting the driving and hindering forces are at equilibrium (i.e., when R
t
is close to zero), when driving forces outweigh hindering forces (positive R
t
values), and
when hindering forces suppress change (negative R
t
values). In other words, the change talk
analysis which uses the R-index can be treated as a form of scientifically sound force field
meeting analysis.
In the introduction of this chapter, we explained that the Transtheoretical Model of
Change assumes different stages of change that could characterize specific meeting periods:
precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance. The TTM also
incorporates a second central construct: the decisional balance (Janis & Mann, 1977; Klonek
et al., 2014). Decisional balance is a mechanism that weighs the benefits of changing (change
talk) against the costs of changing (sustain talk). Furthermore, the TTM assumes that balance
between the benefits and costs vary as a function of TTM-stage: In precontemplation, costs
outweigh the benefits of changing: In the middle stages, the benefits slowly surpass and
THEY MEET, THEY TALK … BUT NOTHING CHANGES
733
finally outweigh the costs in the action stage. In reverse, the position of the decisional
balance can also be regarded as a marker for the respective stage of change of the meeting.
Taken together, both the decisional balance construct of the TTM and the driving
forces model from Lewin (1952) share the same assumptions about how change occurs: The
idea is that the two opposite weights—one in the direction of change, the other in the direction
against change—have a dynamic influence on the change process. Depending on which
weight is stronger, change either will occur or be prohibited. Within a meeting, these opposite
forces can be operationalized as the change versus the sustain talk of the meeting participants.
Figure 18.4 summarizes how the stages of the TTM—decisional balance and R-index—are
linked in the context of meeting research.
------------------------------------
Figure 18.4
---------------------------------------
The first line of Figure 18.4 shows the five stages of change that are part of the TTM:
precontemplation, contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance. The second line gives
three snapshots of the decisional balance that illustrates how it changes as a function of the
TTM stages. The last line in Figure 18.4 illustrates how the R-index would change
accordingly. If there is more sustain talk than change talk in a meeting, for example, R would
be negative and the balance would be uneven, with sustain talk dragging down the left side. If
sustain talk and change talk within a meeting are roughly equal, the balance is at equilibrium
at both sides. Finally, if there is more change talk within a meeting than sustain talk, the
balance tilts over to the direction of change. Taken together, the decisional balance (and the
R-index) can be used as a process measure to evaluate whether a change-related meeting will
result in future actions. We assume that meetings with a negative (or close to zero) R-index
will not result in organizational changes. In other words, these kinds of meetings can be
described as “they meet, they talk … but nothing changes.” In contrast, a meeting with a
THEY MEET, THEY TALK … BUT NOTHING CHANGES
734
positive R-index characterizes a meeting for which change is possible and which will result in
organizational changes.
Theoretical Implications
Research on change-related meetings is still scarce. The few studies that have been
conducted in this context have used qualitative methods (Preget, 2013) and quantitative
methods (Jarzabkowski & Seidl, 2008; Klonek et al., 2014) that focused on the change-
related interactions within meetings. The following chapter offered a way to track the
dynamics of change in meetings by focusing on actual verbal behavior. We have discussed
how change language can be considered as a driving force in meetings, whereas sustain talk is
considered a hindering force. The R-index offers a behaviorally continuous measure that
captures moment-to-moment dynamics of readiness and resistance to change within meetings.
Capturing the Dynamics of Change in Meetings Unobtrusively
As participants are not asked directly about the construct of interest (Hill, White, &
Wallace, 2014), observations allow non-obtrusive measurements of the psychological-
readiness constructs. Therefore, the observational method presented captures the dynamic
readiness of participants without interfering in meeting procedures. Meeting participants
naturally emit verbal utterances that are either in favor of change or against the changes. This
information is captured on tape and allows for the detection of dynamic micro-actions and
micro-changes that are visualized in the R-graph. Meeting researchers can extract this
information and investigate its impact on meeting and organizational outcomes.
In contrast, self-reports via questionnaire allow meeting participants to infer what construct
may be studied (e.g., asking them: “Are you in favor of the proposed changes?”), and thus
become more attentive toward their actual behavior (Clark & Shadish, 2008). Moreover,
measuring continuous changes of meeting readiness over the course of one meeting via self-
reported questionnaires would require participants to answer questionnaires multiple times
and during the actual meeting (e.g., by asking participants to indicate their readiness on a
THEY MEET, THEY TALK … BUT NOTHING CHANGES
735
scale every minute). Clearly, this procedure would be very disturbing, and we would expect
that such a design is methodologically not feasible in organizational field research. However,
we have demonstrated how the observational method solves this methodological problem. We
will now discuss how this unobtrusive, behavioral-focused approach can help us to understand
change meetings better (and thus meetings more generally), as well as meetings in
organizations.
Since the actual behavior mediates situational factors and therefore affects
performance output, the R-index can be viewed as a process variable from an input-process-
output model (IPO; Hackman & Morris, 1975). Within an IPO framework, researchers can
ask what input variables (e.g., type of organization, group size, type of meeting, meeting
design phases) affect the dynamic process of change meetings (I-P connection), but they can
also ask how process variables (i.e., the R-index itself) affect the outcomes of a meeting (P-O
connection).
Input-Process Connection: Antecedents of Change-Readiness in Meetings
Change meetings, and meetings in organizations more generally, can vary regarding
several aspects that precede the interaction: For example, how many participants were invited
to the meeting? Were more participants included that are pro or against changes? Gautam
(2005) proposed that external participants in hospital board meetings are generally pro
change. As a result, the author concluded that meetings with few outsiders should impede
change. Using the change-related coding system that we introduced in this chapter would
allow for testing this hypothesis for future studies. More specifically, based on Gautam’s
propositions, we would expect that an increase of outsiders in board meetings would
positively affect the R-index, whereas a decrease would negatively affect the R-index. Similar
assumptions can be derived from the 4-player change model (Kantor & Lehr, 1975; Ober,
2010). This model maps the change process on four fundamental types of actions: a move that
THEY MEET, THEY TALK … BUT NOTHING CHANGES
736
initiates direction, a follow supports the current move, an oppose is a behavior that prevents
movement, and a bystand offers perspective. Again, we would predict that movers offer a lot
of change talk in change-related meetings, whereas opposers would engage in sustain talk.
From this person-centered model, the variability of the readiness index would be affected by
the composition of participants in meetings: As ‘opposers’ in a team meeting should engage
in more sustain talk, the R-index should decrease over time. In contrast, ‘movers’ should offer
more change talk. As a result, movers within a meeting should positively affect the R-index
over time.
Apart from looking at the composition of participants within meetings, future research
could also focus on the change-related meeting practices that were identified from
Jarzabkowski and Seidl (2006, 2008). How far are these practices related with the R-index in
meetings? For example, free discussions are supposed to positively affect the discussion of
changes, whereas restricted discussions are supposed to suppress change discussions
(Jarzabkowski & Seidl, 2006). As a result, the R-index should be higher (or show strong
positive variations) in meetings with free discussions in comparison to meetings that are
characterized by restricted discussions. Moreover, some meetings may show within-meeting
variations (or phases) of free versus restricted discussions. From a methodological point of
view, these meetings offer field data of natural within-subject designs. In order to understand
meetings more generally, researchers can analyze R as a dependent time-variant measure (see
Figure 18.3). How do meeting design phases (free versus restricted discussion) affect the
slope of the graph in these within-subject designs? As within-subjects or single-case designs
allow for meeting participants to be used as their own controls, researchers only need small
samples and can rule out confounding variable (Logan, Hickman, Harris, & Heriza, 20008).
As a result, using the R-index for within-subject designs in organizational research is
particularly attractive.
THEY MEET, THEY TALK … BUT NOTHING CHANGES
737
Process-Output Connection: Consequences of Change Readiness in Meetings
Although the I-O connection looks at antecedents of change-related meetings, future
research also needs to investigate the relation between the R-index and meeting outcomes (P-
O connection). Research from MI shows that change language is related to subsequent
behavior change (e.g., Amrhein et al., 2003). How does this transfer to the context of a
meeting? There is a vast amount of literature that describes how unproductive meetings affect
meeting satisfaction (Gautam, 2005; Rogelberg, Allen, Shanock, Scott, & Shuffler, 2010). We
would also assume that change readiness within a meeting has a relation to meeting
satisfaction. Kauffeld and Lehmann-Willenbrock (2012) evaluated how functional and
dysfunctional action-oriented behaviors (a construct that is conceptually related to change talk
and sustain talk) of participants affect meeting outcomes. The authors operationalized meeting
outcomes with three different measures: meeting satisfaction, team performance, and
organizational success. Their results showed that the action-oriented behaviors were related to
all three types of meeting outcomes. In fact, counter-active statements were strongly and
negatively related to meeting satisfaction and organizational success, whereas proactive
statements were positively related to meeting satisfaction, team productivity, and
organizational success. Although the authors used a different coding system (i.e., act4teams),
their focus on action-oriented behaviors is somehow related to the type of verbal behaviors
that are coded with the change and sustain talk observation scheme. In contrast to act4teams,
the R-index is a single growth curve that characterizes the change-related communication of
participants within one meeting. Instead of counting the frequency of single codes, it
transforms two codes (Change and Sustain Talk) and their relation to time into one single
index. Future research should investigate which characteristics of the curve (number of peaks,
u-turns, graph location) are related to meeting outcomes (e.g., participants’ perception of
meeting effectiveness, number of conflicts within the meeting etc.)
THEY MEET, THEY TALK … BUT NOTHING CHANGES
738
Using R-index to Study Change Processes in Organizations
In the current chapter, we have discussed how the language of participants in change-
related meetings indicates readiness to change. The transformation of change and sustain
language into the R-index (readiness versus resistance) allowed us to track the dynamics of
change readiness over the meeting process. From a more general change management
perspective, our approach takes into account that changes in organizations are dynamic and
proceed over time: Change in these terms is contributed through the verbal interplay of
multiple participants whose interaction will result in readiness. In contrast to a process-based
view, change readiness in organizations was traditionally conceptualized as a “static”
construct (Stevens, 2013). Stevens advocates a process-based model on change readiness in
which changes across time are taken into account.
One of the largest contributions of change readiness as a process becomes quite salient
when one acknowledges that a given change implementation is more aptly character-
ized as a moving target composed of many interacting components rather than a dis-
crete, monolithic event. Whereas prior conceptualizations of change readiness assume
that initial readiness (largely in response to a set of initial conditions) is sufficient to
achieve successful change implementation, (…) [a] process model explicitly argues for
a more contextualized approach that accounts for a fluctuating environment that
influences an individual’s evaluations and responses to change. The result is a
recasting of readiness from a state (or even a series of states) into a trajectory (….)
(Stevens, 2013, p. 352)
A process-perspective on change readiness takes into account that change readiness is
dynamic and fluctuates over time. The R-index captures this feature and can be used as a
micro-analytic tool for studying dynamic change processes in the meeting-context. Moreover,
there is an abundance of change readiness measures (cf., Holt, Armenakis, Harris, & Feild,
THEY MEET, THEY TALK … BUT NOTHING CHANGES
739
2007), yet none of them assess how change readiness develops over time. According to
Stevens (2013, p. 354 ), the forty change readiness tools that were reviewed from Holt et al.
(2007) “are unlikely to be meaningful; rather, quantitative assessments that focus on tracking
evaluations and responses as they develop over time are more likely to reflect the eventual
success of a change effort.” In sum, the R-index constitutes the first tool that tracks change
readiness and resistance to change over time. Organizational researchers in change
management that aim to capture change readiness within a process model could apply this
micro-analytic tool to study the success of change management efforts in meetings.
Practical Implications
The practical implications of the current chapter can be divided into two parts: First, we will
outline how research using the R-index would lead to a better understanding of change
processes and how that knowledge would then flow to practitioners for use. Second, a mere
awareness of change and sustain language may be beneficial for facilitators and change
managers who take part in meetings. In other words, “interactions sequences are an excellent
entry point for seeing, intervening in, and shifting key process[es]” (Ober, 2010, p. 174). We
will explain how practitioners can use their own observational skills in order to facilitate
meetings.
Understanding the Process of Change for Practitioners and Facilitators
We have discussed how future research should use the R-index for answering different
research questions. Most definitely, the understanding of change processes within meetings
has merit for practitioners that are in charge of leading or organizing meetings. For example,
if Gautam’s hypothesis (2005) that external participants in hospital meetings increase change
readiness was confirmed, facilitators would know that it is important to invite more outsiders
in order to “get things moving.” It is also helpful for practitioners to know what type of
meeting conduct—that is, free versus restricted discussion, voting, or rescheduling
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740
(Jarzabkowski & Seidl, 2006)—has an impact on participants’ change readiness. Change
managers and facilitators can use these findings to reflect on their capacities to influence the
antecedents and conduct of meetings. This knowledge would help them to know how meeting
practices might be better employed in order to enhance organizational changes.
Use Sustain Talk as a Red Traffic Light
As sustain talk is language that expresses resistance to change, practitioners could use
it as a signal that their intentions to push for change might be fruitless. Our research suggests
that the more change agents try to argue why change is important for change recipients, the
more change recipients will show resistance to change (Klonek et al., 2014). A behavioral
guideline or rule of thumb that originates from MI is to use sustain talk as a signal—like a red
traffic light—which indicates that the current strategy is fruitless (Klonek, 2014). Behavior
that has been shown to evoke sustain talk is often autonomy restrictive (Klonek et al., 2014)—
other authors have called these behaviors communication traps (Gordon, 1977). In coaching
or trainings, practitioners could be sensitized to situations in which they use communication
traps. Concurrently, practitioners could be trained to decode sustain talk more easily. This
would help them to acquire sensitivity toward change resistance in meetings and, eventually,
prevent them from contributing to resistance to change when participants are not ready yet for
changes (Klonek et al., 2014).
Change is There: We Just Need to Hear and Reflect It
At the same time, change talk is an important resource for facilitating change in
meetings. The following chapter has shown how participants’ change talk shows their
readiness to change by expressing their reasons, desires, needs, or commitment to change.
Therefore, HR practitioners should focus their attention on change talk utterances and reflect
upon this. We recommend that practitioners should be extremely skillful in active listening,
that is, instead of arguing among themselves why the change is important, they should listen
to what change-driving arguments they hear from meeting participants and elaborate on these
THEY MEET, THEY TALK … BUT NOTHING CHANGES
741
(see also Klonek & Kauffeld, 2013). Furthermore, we would advise that corporate trainings in
listening (e.g., Rautalinko & Lisper, 2004) should focus more strongly on teaching a skill that
we term directive listening. Directive listening is a form of reflective listening that attends
more closely to change and sustain talk utterances (i.e., the directions of change). The original
form technique of reflective listening constitutes a directionless way of paraphrasing a
participant’s statement in a conversation (Rogers, 1951). However, these reflections can either
repeat sustain or change talk statements. In contrast, a listener who uses directive listening
would actively listen for change talk and reflect this (Barnett et al., 2014). Even though this
technique demands high skillfulness in reflective listening, we believe that corporate skill
trainings in this technique should be of great help for HR practitioners who struggle with
change issues in meetings.
Using R as a Feedback Tool for Change Agents
This chapter has provided a step-by-step guide to visualize the temporal dynamics of
change within one meeting. This tool can also be used by professional business consultancies
to provide a feedback tool for meeting interactions. A similar approach has been undertaken
with the act4teams coaching tool (Kauffeld & Montasem, 2009; Kauffeld, Tiscar-Lorenzo,
Montasem, & Lehmann-Willenbrock, 2009). Act4teams coaching focuses on the 43 different
behaviors during a team meeting, and is used as a feedback tool in order to initiate team
reflection. In contrast, R is a single index that visualizes the temporal dynamics of a meeting
with respect to change readiness/resistance. We would rather recommend providing feedback
on the characteristics of the graph (discussed in the step-by-step guideline) to the meeting
participants in order to discuss how particular practices might have contributed to resistance
to change. Speaking anecdotally, the use of complex meeting coding systems (such as
act4teams) can be very difficult for team facilitators and trainers. If these systems are used to
give teams feedback about their meeting behaviors, team coaches are often overcharged with
the complexity of the coding system. A single index that distinguishes participants’ readiness
THEY MEET, THEY TALK … BUT NOTHING CHANGES
742
or resistance across time, such as R, reduces the complexity of a meeting and helps to localize
critical incidents that may have contributed to a phase of resistance to change. We have
currently prepared three video vignettes (in English and German) that demonstrate the
dynamics of the R-index in real time (these videos are available upon request from the first
author). Recently, we tested these demonstration videos in a workshop with practitioners
(Klonek & Beier, June 2014) and generally received positive feedback in this first pilot testing
phase.
Conclusion
This chapter has proposed the idea of considering meetings as a place where changes
are discussed. We introduced an observational instrument from research in MI and showed
how meeting talk can be conceptualized in terms of change and sustain talk. Whereas change
talk covers verbal statements that advance changes, sustain talk covers verbal statements that
prohibit changes. Furthermore, we proposed a step-by-step guideline of how this type of
language can be transformed into a single index that visualizes the change dynamics within a
meeting. We also compared the coding system of change and sustain talk to existing
observational instruments (act4teams and IPA) that have been used to analyze meeting
interactions. Change and sustain talk can be theoretically related to Lewin’s field theory of
driving and hindering forces, and to the construct of decisional balance in the stages of change
model. Finally, we discussed that the R-index offers a dynamic change measure that can be
applied in process-based theories on organizational change.
Authors’ Note and Acknowledgements
We have prepared free demonstration material that visualizes the dynamic changes of the R-
index within three meetings (The Energy-Manager A–C). This material will be published
online in the frontiers research topic “Understanding the human factor of the energy
transition: Mechanisms underlying energy-relevant decisions and behaviors” (Klonek &
Kauffeld, 2014). The material is also available upon request from the first author
THEY MEET, THEY TALK … BUT NOTHING CHANGES
743
(f.klonek@tu-bs.de). The development of this material was supported by grants through the
German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology [BMWi, grant number 03ET1004B].
The three tapes used in this chapter for calculation of the R-index have also been qualitatively
described in Klonek, Lehmann-Willenbrock, and Kauffeld (2014). We wish to thank Vicenç
Quera and Andreas Nohn for their methodological advice during the preparation of this
manuscript.
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744
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Table 18.1.
Coding Scheme for Change-Related Meetings
Change Talk (+) Sustain Talk (-)
Reasons “I can see how this pays out for us.” “This will only cost me more time.”
Desire “I wish we would finally do something
about this.”
“I don’t care about it.”
Needs “We have to tackle this.” “There is no need to change this.”
Abilities “We have the resources to get this
done.”
“I don’t know how we should do it.
Other “Maybe we should do something about
it.”
“We should leave everything as it is.”
Taking Steps “I have already done something about
it.”
“I have already taken efforts that
these things will not be changed”
Commitment “I will do it.” “I am never going to change this.”
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Table 18.2.
Example of How Change-Related Communication is Coded
Event
Speaker Transcript Code Integer R
t
1 A: Thanks for your time for this meeting… 0 0
2 B: Well, I have heard that there is something wrong here...
something about the electricity bill or so…
Follow
Neutral
0 0
3 A: Yes, that goes in the right direction. I am here to talk with
you about reducing your energy costs. We have investigated
which sources contribute to strong energy waste.
0 0
4 B: For sure, I know that our lab requires a lot of energy. I can
imagine that this is a problem.
Change Talk +1 1
5 A: There was an extensive use of a lab machine in the second
floor. The one in room number 201… and ...
0 1
6 B: Are you talking about our new laboratory device [technical
name] ... Oh no. I was so glad to get it three years ago.
Sustain Talk -1 0
7 A: Well, but you should know that this machine uses a lot of
energy …
0 0
8 B: To be honest: I would not survive without this tool. It saves
me so much time.
Sustain Talk -1 -1
9 A: Well, maybe you should also think about the costs then. 0 -1
10 B: I don’t pay the bill directly, so I actually don’t care that
much.
Sustain Talk -1 -2
11 A: You could still use a stand-by or energy-saving function.
That is literally no effort!
0 -2
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12 B I think that the Security should turn it off at night…isn’t it
their job to look about these things.
Sustain Talk -1 -3
13 A: For me, it's incomprehensible that you do not take any
responsibility in this.
0 -3
14 B:
I can't give the energy consumption top priority. You
know, we have to be present here all day in case there is
an accident that is not foreseen. So I don't want to be
concerned with having the machine stop and not
running. It must be there when I need it.
Sustain Talk -1 -4
15 A:
Okay, maybe we can meet again next week and I can
see if I can talk to security—to see if they can do
something about this.
0 -4
16 B: Well, I hope that this will help. Change Talk +1 -3
17 A: Thank you for your time and see you next week. 0 -3
Note: For purposes of presentation, the content of this transcript was strongly edited. A = Re-Co
advisor, B = Building user
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Figure 18.1. Step-by-step procedure for analyzing the change processes in meetings.
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Figure 18.2. Software implementation of coding scheme.
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Figure 18.3. Temporal dynamics of R for three simulated meetings.
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Figure 18.4. The transtheoretical model of change and its relation to the R-index in meetings.
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