MANAGEMENT AND COMMUNICATION IN THE OFFICE OF THE FUTURE BY CARLOS R FLORES L.
M a n a g e m e n t a n d Communication in the Office of the F u t u r e by Carlos F. Florcs L.
ÂŠ 1 9 8 2 , Carlos F. Floras L,
Preface Human beings need to be concerned with the truth; but as mortals, not gods, we are permanently immersed in a web of "prejudices", both practical and theoretical. T h e aim of this Preface is to reveal some of mine, how I was "born to" them and where they came from, thereby providing clues for the reader so that he can discover prejudices to which the author remains blind. The purpose of this dissertation is to examine once again the question: "What is management?" This question does not have a simple answer. It is like the questions: "What is law?" and "What is science?" Answering such questions with standard definitions or simple criteria for the correct use of the terms is not sufficient. These questions are like philosophical questions, continuously debated by successive generations of philosophers. Because of the modern tendency to identify knowledge with science, there is the temptation to dismiss such questions as irrelevant, or to attempt to locate them inside the domain secured by a scientific discipline. But perhaps the debate about these questions is not quite as sterile as the positivist legacy often leads us to suppose. Those who pose such questions do not remain unchanged; for better or worse, their understanding of themselves and the world is changed. Our task will be to clarify our understanding about management and communication and, at the same time, the phenomena of language, mind and understanding. The "Office of the Future" is the historical framework within which we have attempted to situate our inquiry. As implied in the title of this dissertation we shall attempt to offer a "unified approach" to the Office of the Future. We want to clarify this by making another claim. Contrary to ordinary usage, our use of the term "approach" is not arbitrary; rather it is intended to point to the experience of truthâ€”the experience in which something forgotten or misunderstood is illuminated. We do not believe that this implies that our results will be final in the form of clear and neat concepts. This is an idea we reject as, a prejudice, which belongs to the very realm of problems we investigate here, To this end, we have explored many different intellectual traditions, resolving finally to found our work on two of these: the philosophy of language in the tradition of Austin and Searle, and, Heidegger's hermeneutics of facticity, as interpreted by Hubert Dreyfus. Following Strawson and Searle, I would like to call this work an essay in the "descriptive metaphysics" of management. This metaphysics includes design and proposals for further research. I
In a broader perspective we are deeply involved in a debate about the nature of the relationship between man and language, and the search for a new grounding for rationality, free from the illusions of science and conceptualism. Reflections on language and reason have been a leitmotif winding their way into the most diverse and apparently antagonistic traditions, revealing a deep, common anxiety of our times. This dissertation does not intend to participate in this philosophical debate, nor will it give any detailed account of it. The goals of success which we have set ourselves involve the development of a new capacity for design, to produce concrete new ways for dealing with recurrent organizational problems and situations. We are being inundated by a flood of new devices, bringing with them new possibilities for human control for liberation); but these products are being introduced with little understanding for what is involved in the process of management and communication. In this sense, technological thinking is deeply irrational. Curiously, there are no established traditions of reflection on management as there are in law. In law, there are three clearly distinguished fields, viz., the philosophy of law, the discipline of jurisprudence, and the teaching of courses for new generations of practitioners in law. Management has been incorporated into many professions and disciplines and legions of different practitioners speak on its behalf, but we scarcely find anything in such disciplines that we might call a philosophy of management or a "management-prudence". Attempts have been made in such disciplines as systems theory, cybernetics, behavioral science, and economics to provide such foundations, but with meager and limited results. And if we look to philosophy for concern for these problems we shall find nothing similar to the relationship between philosophy and law in any of the major philosophical traditions. For example, only relatively recently in analytic philosophy have efforts been directed at investigating the notion of action, and with admittedly little concern for the complex interdependency of actions and social institutions. This state of affairs has generated, at least in part, the work done in this thesis. I want to conclude this preface on a personal note. My concern with management originated with my experience in the sixties as an industrial engineer and economic planner in my native and beloved Chile, where I was an executive of the state industrial development corporation in the government of President Allende, and later manager and policy-maker in dramatic circumstances serving as a member of the Cabinet of President Allende in the post of Economics and Finance. My theoretical interest was intensified by my involvement as a leader and organizer in one of the biggest cybernetics projects ever undertaken, known in the literature as Cybersyn, as well as by my reflection upon the tragedy of Chile, I shall not II
write about this experience here; I have only mentioned it to indicate that my interest in management has matured over a long period of time. Someday, I hope to write about my past experiences with the freshness of the new perspective developed here. Finally, I wish to acknowledge those to whom I owe a great debt of intellectual gratitude, moral support, and true friendship. From Stafford Beer, whose work has been crucial to the development of the tradition of management and cybernetics, I received my first lessons concerning the necessity of seeing management as a concern for actions as events taking place opportunely. I owe a lasting debt to Stafford and to my other friends of the Cybersyn project for their role in deepening my practical understanding. 1 see this thesis as a continuation of that pioneering effort, exploring the related issues of language and understanding. I came to realize the need for a more adequate interpretation of language and understanding through acquaintance with the biological work of my friends Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela. They have been working in one of the most difficult areas of intellectual exploration, on the frontiers of biology and cognition. Maturana has developed an interpretation of the circularity of life mechanisms and of the closure of the dynamics of state of the nervous system. Maturana and Varela together have developed a theory of biological phenomena in terms of the autonomy and self-referentiality in living beings. Without this biological interpretation it would have been very difficult for me to be receptive to the hermeneutical experience and the analytic of Dasein as developed by Heidegger in Being and Time. It was this background with its new understanding of language and experience that led to my interest in Heidegger. These issues will not be discussed in this dissertation. In a first attempt to understand this problem I have worked jointly with Terry Winograd on a forthcoming book entitled Understanding Computers and Cognition,1 And finally, I have been tremendously influenced by my involvement with the socialist and democratic movements in Chile, and by my acquaintance with many leaders coming from the Christian, Social-Democratic, and Marxist traditions in my country. From many of their best men, my friends during my three years as a political prisoner, I received deep and permanent lessons about what it is to be human.
Fernando Flores and Terry Winograd, Understanding Computers and Cognition. (Ablex Publishing Corporation, forthcoming).
Acknowledgements Many people have helped and supported me in the preparation of this thesis. I want here to particularly thank some of those many people and organizations that so generously contributed. John Searle and Hubert Dreyfus I acknowledge for their intellectual support, for their patience, and for their continual encouragement of this work. I particularly want to thank John Searle for his original ideas on the philosophy of language that have been important in this work. I thank Stuart Dreyfus for his support of this work generally, and for the discussions we had about management theory as I was preparing this. Ann Markussen I thank for her generous participation as a member of my doctoral examination committee. Terry Winograd I thank for his intellectual partnership, for his generous support throughout the time I have been working on this, and for his friendship. I thank Peter Stokoe for his intellectual contributions to this work. Parts of it come out of conversations together, and I cannot separate what were originally his ideas and what were mine. I thank Juan Ludlow for his many hours of collaboration in this work, and for his partnership in the creating of this work. Many people have supported in the preparation of this work, in typing, editing, and rewriting. I want particularly to thank Max Diaz and Christina Skarda for their marvellous editing and rewriting, and Chauncey Bell for his generous support in all of my activities during this period. I want also to acknowledge those friends who have provided important contributions to the intellectual space in which this work has been done, including Herman Schwember, Humberto Maturana, Francisco Varela, Raul Espejo, and Stafford Beer, I thank the Foundations that have provided partial support at different points in this work, The est Foundation, and the Ford Foundation. Finally, I acknowledge my wife, Gloria, and my children, who have generously and constantly supported me throughout the work. V
Contents Page Preface Acknowledgements Foreword Chapter 1. Management and communication 1.1 Formulation of questions and selection of approach 1.2 Management 1.3 Some relationships between communication and m a n a g e m e n t . . . . Chapter 2. Commitment, speaking and listening 2.1 Building a new framework for communication and action 2.1.1 Speech acts and commitments 126.96.36.199 Assertives 188.8.131.52 Directives 2.1.1-3 Commissives 184.108.40.206 Declaratives 220.127.116.11 Expressives 2.1.2 Listening and understanding 2.1.3 World and listening 18.104.22.168 Listening, requesting, and speech 2.2 Some further comments 2.2.1 Recurrence, breakdowns, and organization 2.2.2 Action 2 . 2 3 Rules and directives A definition of rule Rules and directives Rules and listeners Relative universality Rules of thumb General instructions Following rules and acting according to rules Linguistic rules 2.3 Linguistic and social breakdowns 2.3.1 Intelligibility 2.3.2 T r u t h 2.3.3 Sincerity 2.3.4 Legitimacy
I V XI 1 1 1 3 5 6 6 7 8 8 9 10 10 13 14 18 18 18 20 20 21 21 21 22 22 22 22 23 24 24 24 24 VII
2.4 T h e notion of discourse 2.4.1 Strategic interaction 2.5 Comparison with other approaches
25 25 26
Chapter 3. Guidelines for Design 3.1 Design as a discourse for dealing with recurrent breakdowns 3.2 Some guidelines for organizational design 3.2.1 Design as activity and its three domains 3.2.2 Communicative competence 3.2.3 Organizations as networks of conversations 3.2.4 Resolution versus decision-making 3.2.5 Blindness as a permanent danger 3.2.6 Responding to the concern about productivity 3.3 Economic evaluation of new equipment 3.3.1 Emergence of new business and conversational analysis 3.4 O u r answer to the original questions
29 29 31 31 31 32 34 36 37 38 39 41
Chapter 4. Design for the Office of the Future 4.1 T h e Office of the Future: a new domain of possibilities 4.1.1 Actual options 4.1.2 Provisional evaluation 4.2 Doing and speaking in the office 4.2.1 Answering a question 4.2.2 What do people do in an office? 22.214.171.124 O u r answer 4.2.3 What do managers do? 126.96.36.199 Resolution versus decision-making 188.8.131.52 An example of conversational analysis 184.108.40.206 Conversation as selection of possibilities 220.127.116.11 Our answer 4.3 Design 4.3.1 Some comments on the notation used 4.3.2 Conversations 18.104.22.168 Speech act model of conversations 22.214.171.124 Coordinated conversations 126.96.36.199 Secondary conversations 188.8.131.52 Refusals 184.108.40.206 Example 4.3.3 Utterances 4.3,3.1 A model for the production of utterances 4.3.4 Networks of conversations 4.3.5 Coordination 220.127.116.11 Delays in conversations
45 46 48 49 50 50 51 52 54 54 55 56 56 57 57 58 58 59 60 61 61 62 63 65 66 68
4.4 Tools for the Office of the Future 4.4.1 T h e question of feasibility 4.4.2 T h e question of characterization 4.4.3 Notes on the design of systems and organizations 4.5 Further discussion of coordination
69 71 73 74 75
Postscript 1 Basic research 1.1 A theory of intentionality 1.2 A theory of emotions and feelings 1.3 A theory of second-order conversations 1.4 A re-discovery of our present blindness 2 Applications 2.1 A theory of institutions 2.2 A theory of socialization 3 Individualization and self-transformation
79 79 79 80 80 80 81 81 81 81
Foreword The purpose of this dissertation is twofold; first, we shall attempt to reorganize the theory of management, making use of insights derived from the two philosophical traditions mentioned earlier. Secondly, we shall apply these insights to the practical design of products for the Office of the Future. The principal issues to be discussed in this thesis can be summarized in four propositions: 1. Technological and economic forces are converging to generate a new, revolutionary situation in the world of the office, bringing with them new possibilities and hopes as well as threats. 2.
No serious approach has been offered for analyzing the human practices in question, which might serve as a basis for evaluation or for the design of equipment. There is nothing in management science or even in the modern attempts at creating a ''science of complexity" which could claim to provide such an approach. It is fundamental to such an approach to see management and communication within a unified perspective, but in order to do this we need to abandon the misleading view that sees the essentials of management in the transmission and processing of information and in making decisions by merely choosing among alternatives.
A new approach is possible if we explore the domain of phenomena to which management, communication, and commitment belong. The essentials of the new approach may be summarized as follows. a.
T h e basic units of analysis in communication are speaking and commitments.
T h e general structures of the units of cooperative interaction we call "conversations for action".
T h e process of conversation takes place against a background of assumptions and practices that we call the ''background of listening and relevance".
It is possible to see organizations as networks of elementary "conversations" articulating a network of commitments.
Management and communication are indistinguishable in the actual articulation of this network. XI
It is possible to conceive of a new family of tools which we propose to call "coordinators", that will have a pivotal role in the design of the Office of the Future.
T h e theory we develop here is fundamentally different from those commonly used to study communication and management. We shall take a unified approach analyzing communication in terms of the commitments made in conversations, and management in terms of the creation of, responsibility for, and initiation of new commitments within organizations. This approach contrasts with the current tendency to analyze communication in terms of the transfer of information, equating management with decision-making. Our theory interprets organizations as institutional settings which predetermine the structure of commitments. We believe our approach is more closely related to the essential nature of management and communication. Keeping these assertions in mind, we shall divide our presentation into four chapters. Chapter one, "Management and Communication", initiates the discussion of the interrelationship between management and communication. The basic motivations of our search for a new intellectual foundation are argued in a preliminary way. In chapter two, "Commitment, Speaking and Listening," the core of our theory is presented. The introduction of the concept of commitment is inspired by the theory of speech acts, while the sections on listening and understanding are to be understood within the tradition of continental hermeneutics. T h e notion of "cooperative action" or "active conversation" is one of the products of the new framework. The chapter concludes with a discussion of several important topics including action, rule, breakdown, and strategic interaction. T h e third chapter, entitled "Guidelines for Design", discusses the theoretical notion of design and presents some guidelines for organizational design, Topics such as communicative competence, organization as a conversational network, resolution, and the application of the notion of conversation in evaluating equipment and business are studied. T h e last chapter, "Designing the Office of the Future", begins with a brief presentation of the issues involved in the design of the Office of the Future. T h e purpose of this chapter is to provide guidelines for the design of management and communication tools for the Office of the Future. It is an attempt to illustrate an alternative framework for design.
Management and communication 1.1 Formulation of questions and selection of approach We will initiate our reflection by defining the context within which the problems of management and communication arise. It is within this framework that we will seek to incorporate our theoretical developments.
1.2 Management The word "management" implies a sense of concern with action, especially with securing effective cooperative action, and at a higher level, with the generation of contexts in which effective action can consistently be realized. T h e main concern here is the problem of good and bad organization, although this is still considered to be more an art, a know-how, than a technical discipline. "Management" in the American sense of the word, differs from other traditions of management and administration, such as gestion in the French and in some of the Spanish-speaking countries. The French have a particularly strong tradition of "administration", as the repetitive application of norms, procedures or principles to particular kinds of cases or situations. In the Anglo-American tradition the concept of "management" originated within the context of private enterprise rather than public service. However, although private enterprise has exercised indisputable leadership over other branches of the economy in America, there is also a valuable tradition of management in the public sector, especially in the civil service. In this connection, although the terms "bureaucratic" and "bureaucracy" presently have a decidedly negative connotation, it would be a mistake to underestimate the importance of bureaucracy in social organization. Preoccupation with the allocation and use of resources in the public sector has driven many countries to expand administrative procedures and develop new modes of management suitable for Fields of public sector activity such as education, health, scientific and technological research, etc. Since the end of the last century, private and corporate activity has come under the control of administrative bodies. This provided an impetus for the creation of the modern schools of business administration, modelled after those at Stanford and Harvard. Since World War II a series of attempts have been made to foster a "scientific" investigation of the newly consolidated field of "management". We can roughly distinguish three different trends which have contributed to this development. 1
The first of these is "management science". Many, in disciplines with some degree of mathematical experience, have maintained that it is possible to establish a serious theoretical discipline of management just as medicine and engineering have been established and developed based on the theoretical support provided by the sciences of biology and physics, T h e goal of management science would be to produce a normative theory of decision-making and social conduct in organizations, based on systems theory, operational research, decision theory and other disciplines. This movement developed during the fifties and flourished in the sixties with the formation of new schools, among which there have been frequent and acrimonious methodological disputes. The second movement corresponds to the creation within American sociology of an autonomous field devoted to organizational study. This program, which has been developed both in America and abroad, attempts to provide a general theory of organizations based on studies of everything from small groups to the global social context, with bureaucracies and other types of organizations in between. A third movement has its origins in the work of Taylor and Fayol at the beginning of the century. A, P. Sloan's organization of a "decentralized federalism" for General Motors gave this movement its unique character, and new ways of attacking the problems of management have been developed by management consultants and creative managers, who like Sloan were faced with problems arising in concrete situations. Interestingly, however, there has always been an absence, even in the Anglo-American tradition, of serious philosophical reflection on management. T h e philosophy of action, a late but important chapter in analytic philosophy, has not given rise to a philosophy of management. On the continent there has also been a notable lack of philosophical reflection on the problem of management. Both the Marxist and phenomenologicalexistentialist schools show the same, or even greater, oversight in this respect even though practice and its relation to theory and human activity has always been an important issue within these traditions. At this point, we can make several provisional affirmations that will help us to define a context for our investigations. First, there is a rich tradition of management beginning with modern industrial manufacturing in England and further developed in the USA. Any practical reflection on management must seriously take this tradition into account. Its defining characteristic is its ability to cope with a permanent self-induced process of innovation. 9
There is also a tradition of bureaucratic administration, which originated with the administration of empires and churches and which is still present in modern society in the form of legal and administrative agency procedures. It is characteristic of this tradition to treat events as recurring instances of previously interpreted cases, all of which are to be resolved in a similar manner. Finally, we need to take into account at least three sources of reflection on management; (1) a discipline concerned with the technical problem of optimal decision-making; (2) a discipline seeking enrichment of the categories and quality of explanation for organizations and action in general; and (3) that stemming directly from concrete practice in attacking the problems of organization and efficiency. We can now summarize our position with respect to the present state of reflection about management. The two theoretical approaches, the traditional or management science approach and the sociological approach, are unable to offer an account of how to deal with organizational problems that inspires the same degree of confidence as that proffered by the practical school with its rich experiential background. This is due to the fact that there has never been an adequate theoretical account of human action, a fact that has hindered the development of the social sciences. This is particularly evident in the pervasive misunderstanding of the phenomenon of communication. Furthermore, it is not clear that we can extrapolate insights derived from these traditional approaches for application to different cultural contexts, although such insights could conceivably offer valuable reference points for avoiding mistakes already committed in the past, etc. This is the core of our position; we will explain it after we have completed the reflection on communication to which we now turn.
1.3 Some relationships between communication and management All the classical texts on administration and management have recognized the importance of the notion of communication, although it has sometimes been confused with the more limited notion of "information", e.g., that offered by the discipline of human relations. It has been used as a cornerstone in constructing different theories of social systems, and there have also been attempts to use the notion of "communication" in more technical disciplines, such as cybernetics or systems theory,1 As an example of this kind of approach we quote the definition given in a recent book.2 What is communication? We define "communication" as the process by which an idea is transferred from a source to a receiver with the intention of changing his or her behavior. 3
Such behavior may encompass a change in knowledge or attitude as well as in overt behavior. It should be noted that the kinds of acts considered by such approaches are limited to a few, such as message transmission, report execution, transmission of commands, etc., and that the use of language as an expression of commitment has not been considered, nor has the role played by interpretation in the process of communication been examined. The role of what is "said" is one problem which the classical, cybernetically-inspired model ignores. Furthermore, these "technical" models are, so to speak, direct descendants of many older attempts, e.g., the functional-structuralist approach, which attempted to interpret human nature in terms of concepts such as system, components, and equilibria. In addition, the growing importance of mass media and systems of communication using satellites and computers have made the term "communication" and others associated with it terms requiring serious consideration in many kinds of practical study. Our claim is that there is another approach to the phenomena of communication and human action on the basis of which it is possible to evaluate the previous theories. Our basic assumption may be stated in the following manner: We believe that today the conditions exist for developing a theory of language and action with which the problems of communication and management can be understood. We are going to explore the possibility of basing such a new approach on the philosophical tradition. What we need is a theory that can explain the dynamics of successful communicative action in a wide variety of contexts. Thus far, we have made some critical claims about aspects of some of the existing approaches, insisting that a new approach is possible while offering only very general statements about some of the requirements of the new approach. Our principal task in the rest of this dissertation will be to characterize this new approach and to show how it can explain some of the central problems of management. In the next chapter we will present the theoretical foundations of our approach.
'See, tor example, the works of A, Etzioni, Karl Deustch, W. Buckley, and S. Beer, Everett M. Rogers and Rekha A. Rogers, Communication in Organizations. (New York; The Free Press, 1976), p. 9.
Commitment, speaking and listening We have repeatedly emphasized the importance of the influence of the historical situation on our attempt to answer questions about management. T h u s , it seems appropriate to preface this chapter by mentioning the traditions that have influenced our new approach. First of all, we are indebted to the theory of speech acts, inspired by J. L. Austin and further developed by John R. Searle. Searle's work has been very influential, particularly his taxonomy of speech acts and the notion that when we speak we engage in a commitment. It is ironic that the tradition of analytic philosophy, despised as frivolous by self-professed "practical" people and as naively individualistic by the other continental traditions, has developed a fruit with such promising implications for social thought. In this connection, it is noteworthy that Juergen Habermas has realized the importance of speech act theory, attempting to use it to build what he has called a "universal pragmatics," the central core of his critical theory of society. We have greatly benefitted from Habermas's work. T h e Heideggerian tradition has also had a profound effect on our work. For our purposes, the most important contribution of Heideggerian philosophy is its conception of language and understanding. Language and speaking are no longer viewed as instruments; rather, they are a "revelation" phenomena that cannot be understood apart from living in the world, since world is what is revealed in language. The important point is that the phenomenon of understanding has been concealed by our tradition, which seeks to distinguish thinking and intuition, never recognizing their deeper unity. Recovery of this unity will be one of our central concerns. We have attempted to develop an integrated approach, on the basis of these two philosophical traditions, to questions about management and new tools for the design of the office. Our theory is organized around the central notions of "conversation" and "design". "Conversation" is the minimal unit of social interaction oriented toward the successful performance of actions. "Design" is our name for the interpretive practice of producing a discourse for dealing with the recurrent kinds of breakdown pervading h u m a n practices. Our approach contrasts sharply with that which aims at a correct conceptual representation of reality; we insist that only in a breakdown situation can answers be found which are more or less satisfactory. The presentation of our theory will be divided into two chapters; this chapter presents a framework for dealing with the phenomena of com5
munication and language and explores some of the consequences that this framework has for reflection on social action. We will begin with a short examination of some central notions, e.g., "commitment", "speaking", "taxonomy of commitment", "listening", "understanding", "moods", and "conversations" and proceed by broadening our framework on the basis of examples, but without providing detailed arguments and documentation. We believe this approach to be best for our purposes since our initial task is one of synthesis in an attempt to renew discourse about management and communication. We are not claiming that this thesis is a definitive Foundation for such a discourse. We see our work as a first seminal effort in this direction.
2.1 Building a new framework for communication and action In this section we shall attempt to fulfill the promise, made several times in the preceding pages, to offer a new approach to the phenomena underlying management and communication. 2.1.1 Speech acts and commitments Depending on the context, the utterance "I promise to see you tomorrow" could be an answer to a request or an expression of desire. In either case, the speaker's and hearer's primary concern is not with truth and falsity; the utterance expresses a commitment to future action, and the primary concern seems to be with the question of whether the promise will be kept or broken, etc. Austin called verbs like "promise", verbs used to perform some act, performative verbs and claimed that there were some 1000 such verbs (or verb phrases) in English. The utterance of a performative verb (present indicative) brings about a reorganization of the social relations which constitute the world of the participants in the dialogue. This can be put more tersely by saying that in all these expressions certain kinds of acts are performed and commitments are expressed. Another of Austin's fundamental insights is that utterances which have traditionally been analyzed as statements by prepositional logic and its variants also express commitments. By uttering "It is raining now in Firenze" in a normal conversation the speaker commits himself; he must be able to provide evidence should it be demanded, otherwise he risks being taken as insincere. This is an example of the kind of commitment normally made when uttering assertions or affirmations, but there is a whole spectrum of degrees of commitment corresponding to different kinds of speech acts, running the gamut from guesses to definite assurances and testimony. 6
Is it possible to find a framework of analysis for systematically determining different kinds of commitments? John Searle has attempted to answer this question, and in our opinion, his research allows us to successfully distinguish the basic dimensions of "world", in the sense of a space of social commitments generated in and through linguistic acts. Searle distinguishes five kinds of "illocutionary acts": assertives, directives, commissives, declaratives and expressives. Before analyzing the different kinds of commitments proper to each kind of illocutionary act, we need to warn the reader that the word "commitment", ordinarily used to refer to an obligation or responsibility for a future action, is here used in a somewhat extended sense. Our usage, however, does not radically break with the tradition. All we are saying is that, when speaking, a person commits himself to the intelligibility, truth, sincerity and appropriateness of what he says. These notions will gradually become clearer in what follows. 18.104.22.168 Assertives By uttering an assertion the speaker commits himself to the belief (or disbelief) that what is expressed (the "propositional content", in Searle's terminology) is justified and justifiable. In other words, the speaker is committed to something being the case, to the truth of the expressed proposition. Searle 1 says: All of the members of the assertive class are assessable on the dimension of assessments that includes true and false. For example, to say "There are canals in Venice" is more or less equivalent to saying "I assert that there are canals in Venice" or "I assure you that there are canals in Venice" or "It is true that there are canals in Venice." To say "1 testify to the fact that there are canals in Venice," is to undertake a further commitment to knowing this from one's own experience. Assurances, assertions and testimonies are all assertives because they all implicitly involve commitments to the fact that evidence or reasons could be given which would justify belief in what is assured, asserted, or testified to. Predictions, evaluations, and reports are also normally assertive acts, although in some contexts the illocutionary verbs "predict", "evaluate", and "report", may also involve other kinds of commitments. It should be noticed that it is quite possible for the illocutionary force of an utterance in a particular context to be clear, even if the utterance itself does not contain an illocutionary verb or other illocutionary force indicator. The utterance, "There are canals in Venice", is simply heard as an assertive; it is not necessary to utter the illocutionary verb "assert" as well. It is a characteristic quality of the expression of commitment or illocutionary 7
force that it is determined in "listening", a fact that has hindered it from being made available for reflective consideration. 22.214.171.124 Directives T h e distinguishing characteristic of directives is that they are attempts by the speaker to get the hearer to perform some future action. The future action is what is expressed or represented by the propositional content of the directive. In uttering a directive, a serious speaker is also expressing the desire that the action be performed. Once again, even when no illocutionary verb is explicitly uttered the directive is normally understood. While listening we distinguish various kinds of directives, e.g., between requests, petitions, orders, advice, commands, on the basis of the particular circumstances, tones of voice, etc. Temporality plays an obvious role in the successful utterance of directives. T h e action specified by the propositional content is one which is to be performed in the future. This is a lot more important than is generally assumed. Looking-forward to possibilities of "being" and "doing" is a fundamental characteristic of being human. Language as a social activity brings us these possibilities. This characteristic of language — as a manifestation of human concerns — has been overlooked by traditional interpretations of language, based as they were on a correspondence between subject and object. Directives play a very important role in this respect; they are crucial for a better understanding of the dynamics of conversation understood as social interaction involving commitment.
126.96.36.199 Commissives Searle uses the term "commissive" to denote that class of illocutionary acts in which the speaker commits himself to the performance of some future action. In the utterance of a commissive, e.g. a promise, the speaker commits himself to having the intention to perform the action represented by the propositional content of the utterance. Utterances which contain verbs such as swear, commit, vow, and pledge normally involve commitments of this kind. Commissives also share the remarkable temporal characteristic mentioned above. They bring about a reorganization of the world by introducing into the present moment a concern with a future action. Both of these kinds of speech acts have, as part of their illocutionary point, the attempt to get the future world to match the words — thus Searle's characterization of them as having "world-to-word" direction of fit. Asser¬ tives, on the other hand, have the "word-to-world" direction of fit. 8
There are two additional points which require comment. All utterances are commitments according to our theory. Normally the word "commitment" is associated only with what have here been called commissives, but this is an interpretation we are challenging. We believe that in conversation speakers necessarily express commitments which are heard by the audience. What is unique about the commissive class of illocutionary acts is the double self-referentiality of the commitment of the speaker in the present to the intention to perform the act, and the commitment to performing the act as such. A second interesting feature of commitment that deserves comment here is brought to light by commissives such as "Thou shall not kill". Even if we never explicitly promise not to kill another human being, we cannot use this fact as an acceptable excuse in our defence. This highlights the fact that we are always already committed in various ways to certain courses of action, even without or before explicitly uttering a commissive. We shall be concerned with these kinds of commitments as well as with those given explicit expression. 188.8.131.52 Declaratives T h e distinguishing feature of declaratives is that, when performed by a speaker, they bring about a change in the world such that a state of affairs in the world corresponds to that represented by the utterance. Successful performance of such an utterance guarantees that the propositioned content corresponds to the world solely in virtue of the performance of the declarative, The successful performance of a declarative brings about a reorganization of our entire social space, and determines the further course of discourse including the rights of others to question what is declared. For example, the utterance of the declarative, "I hereby appoint you president of the company", is effective if the speaker is chairman of the board and acting according to recognized procedures and law. As soon as this act is performed, the person to whom it was directed is entitled to perform acts reserved for the president, some of which include the privilege of performing certain other declaratives. The number and kinds of declaratives are dependent on extra-linguistic institutions. Today, constitutions mostly determine the range of declaratives, while in the past (and even today in some states) the arbitrary declarative acts of a king or dictator had final constitutive power. It is also true that the participants in a discourse can, within limits, generate an "institution" thereby lending authority to their declarative utterances, as is the case with clubs and revolutionary groups, or more simply in an amateur 9
soccer match among neighbors in which some people are made referees. Finally, language itself is a source of authority for uttering declaratives. In a conversation or textbook certain declarative operations, such as "define", "abbreviate" or "name" may be introduced. This is a case in which the constitutionality of a power to make a declarative is brought to bear on discourse itself. The institutional aspects of life are manifest most dramatically by declaratives, but the theory of speech acts reveals the ways in which these aspects are always present in discourse. For the study of organization and procedure in the world of the office this is particularly important.
184.108.40.206 Expressives In the performance of an expressive, e.g., "I apologize for not arriving on time", the speaker is committed to having the mood specified by the sincerity condition associated with the state of affairs represented by the propositional content of the utterance. "Mood" as it is understood here, is not to be equated with a psychological state; rather, moods are essentially social and reveal the ways in which we are open to our situation in the world from one moment to the next. In the course of a conversation moods find expression. Summarizing, we repeat that a speaker performing an utterance cannot avoid making commitments. Some of these have to do with the changing social relationship between the speaker and the hearer brought about by the speech act. Speech acts are directive, commissive, declarative, expressive, or assertive, depending on the type of social change they bring about. Other commitments concern the adequacy of the utterance, its ability to communicate that which the speaker is attempting to present as a matter of mutual concern, A successful utterance must articulate only what is not already obvious in the world of concern of the hearer.
2*1.2 Listening and understanding Thus far we have primarily considered the relations between commitment and speaking, but all along the notion of "world" has been presupposed in our discussion. Perhaps this is of its very nature. Now it shall be the focus of concern. We propose to study what happens in an office when workers are working together, dealing with various problems, and attending to the requests they receive. In the course of this discussion, we shall 10
present our own understanding of management and communication based on our interpretation of speech act theory and of hermeneutics a la Heidegger. T h e terminology of speech act theory has been retained, modified slightly with the introduction of the notions of commitment and listening which are of Heideggerian inspiration. Although our interpretation of Heidegger may not be completely faithful, it certainly preserves the spirit of his work. Consider the following office situation: You are asked to produce 10 copies of a document following certain instructions, instructions which are, of course, only partial specifications of what you have to do. Your work is an interpretation of the instructions. You are working with a computer terminal connected to a time-shared service. You are familiar with working at the terminal, writing and editing texts, using a program called an editor. You know how to log-in, viz,, how to be recognized as a user, and how to gain access to the files. You are not a computer expert; you cannot give an account of how your terminal and the computer really work. While working your hands are "transparent"; certain kinds of spelling mistakes are made and corrected automatically, you are not thinking about working with the editor or seeing, etc., until some disturbance arises. In our normal, successful dealing with the world we are there "as if in a dance"; the world is transparent unless focused by concern. Suddenly, the last ten characters you typed do not appear on the screen. You do not worry; from previous experience you expect it to be working again in five minutes. You decide to get a cup of coffee and go to the lounge. Ten minutes later you return to find that the system is still not responding and you decide to call the operator. T h e engineer says that this is an unusual failure, probably requiring replacement of a piece of hardware in an auxiliary computer called t h e K - l l . They are checking on it; it may take 4 hours to repair. You then decide to call your supervisor who works in a building far from your office. You explain what has happened and ask for instructions. Your supervisor says, "Please drive over to my office immediately. You can dictate the report to my secretary. It is important for the meeting tomorrow." You leave. In your car you have already forgotten about the computer; your only concern now is with the meeting that you have just learned is to take place tomorrow. O u r analysis of this example must begin with the phenomenon of breakdown. We have seen that the world is not constituted by things; it is "transparent" in the sense specified above. A breakdown makes us aware of this by thematizing our concernful interaction with equipment and people, revealing an underlying pre-understanding or pre-disposition. We shall speak of a pervasive "background of obviousness", rather than "presuppositions", because what we are referring to is prior to mental states with propositional contents. 11
Furthermore, a breakdown reveals the nexus of relations necessary for us to accomplish our task. In our example, the worker realized that his editorial work required the continuous operation of not only his computer but also of a computer called the K-ll. We will call this network of reference the "in order to", It is not equivalent to a set of causes nor is it something formalizable, it is simply what is revealed when a breakdown takes place; an already given chain of means and ends. This pre-underÂŹ stood network of relations along with the expectation of recurrent breakdowns made it possible for the worker to say that the breakdown was a failure of the computer and not in the line or in the terminal. He could be wrong, but even this is part of his pre-understanding. Along with this nexus of relations, the breakdown reveals our immediate equipment, and with the breakdown the related modes of concern appear as our proximal commitments. These commitments may be of the kind associated with the type of illocutionary act we have identified as a commissive, e.g., the promise to have the report in the hands of the supervisor tomorrow at noon; or, they could be implicit commitments based on the worker's interpretation of what he must do in order to satisfactorily complete his job. Using the terminology of the previous section it is possible to say that in a breakdown situation I become aware of ("listen to") my past commitments, be they implicitly or explicitly given. The worker's conversation with his supervisor also illustrates an important point about the nature of supervision. T h e supervisor responds immediately, offering the services of his secretary and equipment to finish the report, He did not have to evaluate all of the alternatives even though his decision required reorganization of the office. To be a supervisor is to have the capability to cope with breakdowns. But where does this capability come from? It comes from two sources. The first we will call understanding: the ability to anticipate in a way that allows one to see immediately what is possible, T h e second source we shall call "mood", or the particular way we have of being situated in the world. Mood is something that we are, that we create with our presence. Mood and understanding are two dimensions of the background where our interpretive listening dwells. This may sound metaphorical, but as yet we don't have a better way to explain how the background of practices works in every human act. Our concept of understanding may be illustrated by an example. You receive a call saying that there is a fire in your home. You panic, you don't know what to do. You call your supervisor. You would like to give an excuse for not finishing your work, but it sounds trivial. Your supervisor knows how to respond, he says that he can manage without your report. He 12
understands what it is to be a supervisor. It means he must help you, tree you from your immediate obligations on the job, even though your work may be very important to him. What kind of understanding is this? In the same way, when you experience a normal breakdown, your understanding of what it is to be an employee tells you that you should report your troubles to your supervisor. It is no excuse to say that you were never explicitly told to do so. Understanding rests on this background of possibilities,, of alternative courses of action and practices. These possibilities are your interpretation. This interpretation, however, is not something detached from you, something which you can contemplate. Interpretation is listening as it occurs in response to the question, "What is to be done now?" "Possibilities" are not the kinds of logical alternatives that an analyst may describe. There may be an infinite number of logical possibilities but they are not what we call possibilities. Possibilities, as we understand them, arise within an actual situation, they constitute our field of action (situation). For an understanding to make any sense, there must be some possibilities that are real possibilities and others which are not. In our fire example, resignation is not a real possibility something that would normally come to mind when the worker's promise concerning the report cannot be fulfilled on time. But to fire a subordinate for continually breaking promises is a possibility for a North American corporation. In a Japanese corporation, firing is not a possibility, nor is it possible for an employee to move to another firm; to be an employee is an engagement for life. All this is part of the background of practices in each case.2 Moods enter surreptitiously into our discourse. Why should we concern ourselves with them? A long tradition interprets them as purely psychological, something like a disturbance. Following Heidegger's interpretation in Being and Time, we challenge this way of looking at moods. Moods are a fundamental phenomenon together with understanding; a certain "tuning in" to our situation that opens us to certain possibilities and simultaneously closes us off from others. It is this "tuning in" in the sense of a disposition to be open to certain possibilities that we are calling mood. 3 Moods are intimately connected with the expressive class of speech acts and with the relationship between coherence of argumentation and sincerity, but this is something we shall only mention. 2.1.3 World and listening We are now in a position to summarize our position. "World" is not a collection or aggregate of things or persons. In all of our examples, world 13
has been inhabited by tools and instruments but it also includes all of our concerns. It is all thai is listened to in the commitments we make. It includes all of the forward-looking referentiality of our dealings with tools, and the immediate commitments of our work in the sense described in the previous section. "Listening" is our term for the integrated know-how of our concern with the world. It is not an act of will; rather, it is something that happens as we go about our everyday business in the world. The world is always already organized around some fundamental human project, it depends upon this project for its being and organization. We can see this in any office: without some project there would be no office, and if the project were different, the office would also be different. It is to this project with its background of possibilities that we listen.4 Thus, the world is encountered as something always already lived in, worked in, and acted upon. World as the background of obviousness is manifest in our everyday dealings as the familiarity that pervades our situation, and every possible utterance presupposes this. Listening for our possibilities in a world in which we already dwell allows us to speak and to elicit the cooperation of others in obtaining what we need. That which is not obvious to the observer of a breakdown is made manifest through language. Thus we return to language as our fundamental problem. 220.127.116.11 Listening, requesting and speech At the end of the first section we summarized our discoveries about the relationships between language and commitments by saying that it is unavoidable for a speaker to make commitments. One of these has to do with the changing social relationship between the speaker and the hearer brought about by listening to the commitment implicit in the utterance. T h e other commitment concerns the adequacy of the utterance, its power to reorient the hearer to that which the speaker is attempting to present as a matter of mutual concern. To be adequate, the utterance must articulate only what is not already obvious. In the previous section, we tried,to trace the structure of our dealings and concern with people and equipment. To the unified structure of understanding and mood we gave the name listening. We propose to reserve the word "listening" for this phenomenon. "Hearing" will be used as a general expression for the experience of hearing someone talking, hearing a telephone ring, etc. We are now going to attempt to explore the phenomenon of listening as a kind of understanding. To this end, we shall employ some of the insights gained from our summary of speech act theory, pursuing our interpretation of it as a theory of listening. We invite the reader to consider a simple example: a conversation between a pilot and copilot performing 14
the activity of landing an aircraft. For the crew this is an activity in a world of equipment and actions with which they have a familiarity through training and many hours of flying. The pilot says, for example, "Altitude!", or he asks for the wind velocity in San Jose; the copilot responds "2,000 feet" or "40 miles per hour" as the case may be. On the basis of this simple example we gain some interesting insights. First, illocutionary force is never given explicit expression; rather it is obvious from the situation. When the pilot calls "Altitude!", the copilot immediately replies "2,000 feet". Only what is not obvious is expressed in words. Nevertheless, the illocutionary force is listened to; it is part of the background of that which is obvious. Second, what the pilot expresses is triggered by a breakdown. His instruments don't tell him the altitude or the weather report is missing. Breakdowns are the source of requests, brought about in the hope of securing the cooperative action of others. (We are using the term "cooperation" in a very general sense; even a slave can cooperate in this sense.) The directive, implicit in the listening, solicits the action of the hearer in order to compensate for the breakdown. The request modifies the world to include the expectation for satisfaction by the future action of the hearer. This conversation illustrates a basic domain of interaction that we propose to call "active conversation", "cooperative conversation", or simply, "mutual cooperation". In our example, the speaker's initial utterance is a demand for mutual orientation, for recognition by the partner. The speaker and the hearer need to listen to this basic "request" in the utterance. If they do so, the sense of the conversation will be determined by the direction given by this request. We are talking at a very general level of analysis, where "request" and "petition" stand for the directive dimension of social interaction. It should be recalled that "directive" is not the name of a particular illocutionary force; it is a general name for a class of illocutionary acts. By "acceptance", we mean a positive commitment to the conditions of satisfaction or new state of world opened (represented) by the initial directive. This could be achieved by the utterance of a commissive, e.g., promising that these conditions will be fulfilled at a certain time in the future. The request could even be accepted by immediate performance. In the performance the time of the promise and the fulfillment are the same. Another example will further illustrate the structure of commitments in speaking and listening. Suppose that someone says "Let's go to the movies!" and his interlocutor replies "I have to study". The first utterance is listened to by both parties as a directive kind of commitment, viz., as "I invite you to go to the movies". The answer is listened to as "I decline 15
because I have to study", i.e., as saying that the stale of the world proposed in the directive is incompatible with other commitments, e.g., my obligation to study. It is interesting to note that assertives are also commitments. This is true because they are part of the speaker's "equipment" for dealing with a breakdown, in the same way as commissives. Commissives, however, have a double self-referentiality for the utterer, as we pointed out before. Are there possibilities for interaction other than that of accepting or declining? In a certain sense, yes. Some conversations involve a series of questions leading to still more questions, a process which lasts a certain period of time before arriving at a conclusion in the form of one of the previously discussed possibilities. It could also happen that the hearer promises to study the request, but delays making a decision until some future date. Or there may be no immediate answer, as is the case when the conversation is developed by mail. In contexts governed by commercial customs and contract law it is a socially accepted historical practice that silence usually means declining. Another possibility arises when, in the course of the interaction, the listening of the speaker and that of the hearer are different. In an extreme case of this, what one person listens to as an acceptance, the other listens to as a refusal of a directive. Frequently something that is experienced as a breakdown by one of the participants elicits a new petition, an excuse, or clarification. Another interesting issue is forgetfulness. In many conversations, the domain of the directive is changed before arriving at a satisfactory response, it simply disappears from the world of concern. This may happen for only one of the partners, while the other may interpret this as a refusal. Frequently the speaker's utterances are listened to in a way that he himself never listened to them. The whole phenomenon of interpretation is founded on this possibility, as is especially obvious for written texts. (However it is never possible to have language without listening; a listener or interpreter is essential, even though he may be silent.), Further issues are raised by monologues and announcements, including signs and signals in the world. In monologues the speaker still listens and his words are the result of his interpretation of the world. Road signs are listened to by the driver as directives announcing a certain kind of change in the world which is of immediate concern to the driver. Signs are particular kinds of "equipment" which prevent costly breakdowns by presenting an anticipatory directive, 16
It is clear that in our more harmonious and common ways of working with one another, when familiarity generates a background of practices which are obvious, our interactions become an uninterrupted series of successful transactions, like a series of dances. In such a situation, it is unnecessary to explicitly employ a performative verb as an expression of the proper commitment. Expressing the content of the action is the minimum requirement for bringing to light the necessary conditions for action. To conclude this review of cases illustrating the phenomenon of mutual cooperation, we want to offer our interpretation of indirect speech acts. Searle distinguishes "indirect" speech acts from "direct" speech acts. For Searle, an indirect speech act is one whose illocutionary force differs from that suggested by its literal meaning. According to our interpretation of the primordiality of listener and listening, this distinction does not hold at the level of what we have termed conversation. For example, the utterance "Would you like to help me with my bag?", would in ordinary circumstances be understood as a request for help from someone. This would clearly be the case if one were to say this in an American hotel, for example. However, the same utterance can also be interpreted as a question about the desires of the hearer. This same utterance in a Mexican hotel may trigger the bellboy to respond "Do you doubt my good will to help?" In the American context, what is listened to as a polite request, is listened to as question in Mexico, triggering the bellboy's perplexed mood. In the latter example, if neither party wants to understand the other, the conversation could enter into a series of mutual recriminations. The other possibility is to explain what interrupted the conversation: the bellboy will then help with the bag, and the speaker will have realized that this is not the way to ask for help in Mexico. We want to insist that the readiness of the speaker and hearer in the conversation is normally so deep that we may be tempted to say that it is "unconscious" However, we think that it is wrong to say this, because it is through talking that both partners discover their agreements and disagreements about the world. If asked about the commitments they have already made speakers will normally tell us what they have already uttered along with what was implied in these utterances. But there is a sense in which the notion of the unconscious is appropriate for the phenomenon of speaking; partners in a conversation do not normally "select" words with which they then "express ideas" drawn from a magic box called "mind". Normally they fall into conversation, discovering new senses as they speak and listen to what they are saying. This is possible because what is not said is also listened to in the conversation. Even future interpreters of the conversation listen to what is not said. 17
We can now summarize the principal points of this section: When two persons initiate a conversation, the first utterance is listened to as a directive, establishing a world of togetherness; the second utterance develops one of the possibilities of mutually cooperative conversation. There are cases in which both partners do not realize that their listening is different until an obvious breakdown takes place.
2.2 Some further comments In this section we are going to review certain topics in light of our previous discussion of commitment, language, and listening. In doing this we hope to extend some of the elements of our theory, and to forestall potential misinterpretations. 2.2.1 Recurrence, breakdowns, and organization Let us go back and reconsider how the phenomenon of breakdown reveals the equipmental totality and its nexus of connections. We can distinguish three kinds of breakdowns in successfully dealing with equipment. First, tools or instruments may deteriorate. In our case study, for example, a breakdown was due to the failure of a piece of hardware affecting a component of the computer, the K-11, Second, something may be missing. In the case study, the supervisor had to provide a whole set of missing artifacts. T h e third case is when something hinders us from successfully dealing with things. This typology of breakdown is useful, but it is very important to remember the deeper unity of the breakdown phenomenon: what has deteriorated, is missing, or obtruding, in the end, are our successful dealings with the world. It is here that one sees most clearly the role of design. 2.2.2 Action It seems useful to clarify the notion of action that we introduced earlier using the conversational approach outlined. The term "action" entered our account in discussing the directive and commissive commitments of a conversation. These two kinds of commitment were the main elements used for isolating the units of interaction that we called conversations; it is the shared breakdown of the directive as listened to that opens a space for conversation and maintains this space until the moment that the conversation is concluded. We are not asserting that the notion of action used in ordinary language is more fundamental. The notion of action highlighted by the questions "Who did it?", or "What am I doing?", is not the same as 18
that involved in a directive or commissive, because here what is requested is the performance of the action itself. The response will differ according to the (breakdown) context in which the conversation is situated. For example, as you are typing a book that you are writing, your phone rings and it is a colleague of yours. A dialog such as the following takes place: "What are you doing?" your colleague asks and you respond: "At the moment, I am writing a new version of chapter three," etc. The conversation comes to an end and you resume working; the phone rings again. It is your publisher in New York. The publisher asks, "What are you doing?" and this time you reply "I am teaching a course about mind, and writing two books about Intentionality, in which I propose a new notion that I believe will change the design of machines." After this conversation, you again return to your desk. Your wife arrives and says, "Sorry I'm late, the car broke down and I couldn't call you. I hope you're not angry." "It's OK, 1 was waiting but I was beginning to become concerned about you," you say. In all of these examples, you were actively involved in typing, but in each case when asked you were doing something different. Our thesis is that answers to the question "What are you doing?" differ depending on the kind of situation you find yourself in, but every answer for which you can provide acceptable evidence is true. We are not saying that such interpretations are acts of deliberation; rather, they are something that happens when speaking, when the speaker assumes responsibility for what he says. What you are doing is not some brute fact about the world, it is always an open question. Had a childhood friend whom you had not seen for thirty years called, your answer to the question would probably have been different from all the preceding ones, but nevertheless it would have been true and not misleading for your friend. On the basis of these considerations, it seems wrong to say that you have an ''intention in action", since this does not appear to take into account the total dimension of the question that triggers your answer. We need to accept the existence of several "intentions in action", some of which will remain potential. We want to emphasize the phenomenon of simultaneous participation in many conversations within which I can perform different true assertions about my actions. Each involves the self-ascription of responsibility within a particular situation. Intentions do not exist apart from the conversation and the assertive act which gives rise to it. Finally, even in your absence, e.g., when people are just talking about your being late for some appointment, intentionality is attributed to you. 19
You are intentionally late or involved with something else, etc. You could say that this is unfair, disputing the evidence for this attribution, or you might even accept the attributed intention as an "unconscious" intention. However, such interpretations are inevitable facts about our everyday getting along in the world. A person's actions extend beyond the limits of what he might assert he is doing or has done. They can also be differently interpreted by every potential speaker making reference to you. How much of this is fair or precise is not the point; the ascription of responsibility is part of the world. (Everywhere human beings are producing this "social memory" about themselves as interpreting agents.) The situation could be further extended to every potential interpreter of agents' actions, e.g., historians. Human actions are like texts: inscriptions interpretable by every potential reader from his own perspective. From this account it follows that a single answer to the question of what people do in an office cannot be offered. Many equally true interpretations can be given of a person's actions. In such interpretations the illocutionary acts of requesting, declining, and promising (in the terminology of conversational analysis) are particularly notable. T h e original encounter takes place in a breakdown, an encounter of the subjectivity of the speaker, the institutional framework, and the objectivity of the agent. Although the actions involved may be insincere, such an active conversation enjoys a primordiality over the other interpretations. We could call it the basic interpretation. The crucial mistake of many philosophical accounts of action is to reify the notion of action, attempting to analyze it as physical movement made more or less complex by the presence of some "mental states", In our opinion, all these accounts miss the central point: action is something deeply linguistic. 2-2-3 Rules and directives One of the topics we want to briefly discuss in anticipation of our discussion of management and organization is rules, A definition of rule In their book, How to Do Things with Rules, William Twining and David Miers wrote: 5 A typical rule . . .prescribes that in circumstances X behaviour of type Y ought, or ought not to be, or may be, indulged in by persons of class Z, Particular attention needs to be paid to three aspects of this formulation; a) A rule is prescriptive, that is to say it is concerned with ought (not), may 20
(not) or can (not), in relation to behaviour, rather than with factual description of behaviour, b) A rule is general in that it is concerned with types of behaviour in types of situations or circumstances; a prescription governing a unique event is not a rule, c) Rules guide behaviour, that is to say activities, acts or omissions. In the present context we are concerned solely with human behaviour. We shall o r g a n i z e o u r discussion as a c o m m e n t a r y on the p r e c e d i n g quotation. Rules a n d directives We m u s t realize that the "illocutionary point" of rules is the same as t h a t of directive c o m m i t m e n t s . T h e verb "prescribe", or the adjective "prescriptive", indicates an action to be p e r f o r m e d by the h e a r e r . Rules a n d listeners We recall h e r e the b a c k g r o u n d a n d relevance of every particular directive a n d the notion of general types of behavior a p p r o p r i a t e in different types of situation. T h e h e a r e r needs to recognize when to apply the rules since t h e s p e a k e r may not be p r e s e n t to specify (directly or indirectly) the place a n d t i m e of the utterance. T h e speaker is sometimes replaced by specific rules specifying these determinations, by adverbs (e.g., always, n e v e r ) or by a list of conditions of general applicability, identifying groups, places, or times, etc. Relative universality T h e n o t i o n of "relative universality", of a type of actor belonging to a c e r t a i n g r o u p , is not clearly developed by Twining a n d Miers, but it is generally a s s u m e d that t h e r e is a s t a n d a r d type of listener for any given rule. F o r e x a m p l e , a rule of cooking establishes a p r o c e d u r e for the h e a r e r in certain circumstances. T h e linguistic expression of the rule presupposes t h a t t h e h e a r e r has the capacity to p e r f o r m certain practices. Sometimes t h e h e a r e r will ask for further explanation or clarification, and it is possible t h a t m o r e detailed instructions need to be offered. But this example reveals an i m p o r t a n t feature of listening to rules. Because the speaker is not present, it is necessary for the h e a r e r to evoke or recognize the circumstances in which t h e rule applies. Sometimes this recognition is explicit, resulting f r o m l e a r n i n g how to act or follow the rules in a specific case. Paying taxes is an e x a m p l e of this. We read the instructions about deadlines for completing t h e forms, b u t in general we need great expertise to apply the tax laws to o u r particular case a n d we often prefer to give the j o b to a person specifically t r a i n e d in such matters.
Rules of thumb Rules of thumb are phenomena lying at the opposite extreme because here the recognition of the rule and acting on it take place simultaneously. We simply act without first reflecting on what we are going to do. Here the speaker and the motives for the existence of the rule disappear leaving only a vague feeling of satisfaction; we become aware of the rule only when a breakdown occurs. General instructions General instructions are very similar to rules. They frequently occur in organizations. One actor lays down rules for individuals, specifying certain genera! tasks and goals to be realized. These goals could be rates or quotas of production, weekly schedulings of work, etc. We want to distinguish general instructions because their conditions of satisfaction have a unique, recurring temporal structure. In all this, however, we need to be aware of the limitation of approaches which force definitions upon a variety of situations. Our purpose is only to illuminate certain dimensions of the phenomena for later discussion. Following rules and acting according to rules It is important to distinguish between following rules and acting according to rules. Following rules implies a capacity for answering questions about why we do something, e.g., following the rules of traffic. But there are other cases in which we are rarely aware that we are following a rule because the recommendation to act according to the rule is something universally accepted, e.g., "Don't kill." Only on rare occasions are these rules given explicit formulation, but we nevertheless act according to them; in other words, we would have to provide excuses if we failed to do so. Many of the latter type of rules are stated in a language of prohibitions. All basic moral rules share the features of being relevant, obvious and universal. Cases of acting according to a rule we may call "forms of life" or "lived interpretations". They are validated by practical involvements in a particular form of life. Linguistic rules What is the status of linguistic rules? In our opinion, they are among the most basic and pervasive kinds of rules. To talk about rules only makes sense if we are already successfully integrating our behavior with that of others. Such interaction requires minimal conditions of sincerity, legiti22
macy, truth, and practical efficacy. These conditions have generated behavioral rules. T h e child does not first learn rules, he simply learns how to speak, to express his desires, avoid punishment or pain, etc. In order to learn the rules (follow the rules) the child must already employ them in speaking. Yet these rules, although presupposed, must be expressable in a certain sense. We have already expressed them in our theory of active conversations. To summarize, we believe that rules are not a feature of language in the sense that it is a rule-following kind of behavior. Rather it is a case of acting according to rules, since the rules appear only when the subject is able to participate in conversations implying that, in a certain sense, he was already acting according to the rules. The child by learning to speak has already mastered a rule-governed behavior or form of life.
2.3 Linguistic and social breakdowns Until now, we have only explicitly dealt with one source of breakdowns, i.e., that which occurs when certain equipment we require breaks down. But we can extend our consideration to the social dimension of human conflict as well, within which we distinguish four sources of linguistic breakdown. All four are always already presupposed by partners as partners in conversation, i.e., they are part of the background of cooperative conversation. They are not rules followed by the participants, they are rules or norms according to which the dialogue unfolds. The four sources of potential linguistic breakdown are: (1) the previously discussed requirement for the intelligibility of the illocutionary act. This distinction presupposes that the other dimensions are not already in dispute. (2) The determined truth value of the state of affairs represented by the propositional content, including the existential status of particular entities. (3) The sincerity of the speaker making the utterance. And finally, (4) the presupposition that the utterance will "fit" a particular normative context, that it will represent shared norms and values. This is the kind of formulation argued for by Habermas in his study "What is Universal Pragmatics?" and it is very similar to what Searle calls the semantical rules for propositional content (truth) and the expressed psychological state (sincerity). However Searle's "essential condition" has been split in two: part has been incorporated within the intelligibility requirement pertaining to both illocutionary force and propositional content as a single dimension of linguistic intelligibility; another forms a background dimension for the illocutionary forces, belonging particularly to 23
directives, commissives and declaratives which have a world-to-word direction of fit. To explore each of these dimensions in more detail we shall summarize Thomas McCarthy's account of Habermas' work in his book, The Critical Theory of Jurgen Habermas. 6 2.3.1 Intelligibility At the most basic level, if the very comprehensibility of one's utterances is questioned, communication can succeed only if the misunderstanding is eliminated in the course of the conversation, e.g., by means of explanation, elucidation, paraphrase, translation. 2.3.2 Truth Assuming mutual comprehensibility, consensus is endangered if the truth of what one says is challenged. Such a challenge can be overcome within the context of interaction by providing evidence for (substantiating) one's claims, e.g., by pointing to relevant experiences, supplying information, citing recognized authorities, and the like. But it is possible for situations to arise in which the truth of what one says is challenged in so fundamental a way that communication either breaks off or is continued on a different level- that of theoretics] discourse, in which problematic truth claims, regarded now as hypothetical, are subjected to arguments and counterarguments. 2.3.3 Sincerity Consensus is also endangered if one party questions the intentions of another, for example, by accusing him of lying, misleading, or pretending. If communication is to continue, mutual trust must be restored and the good faith of each of the parties must be made apparent through assurances, consistency of action, readiness to draw, accept and act on conclusions, willingness to assume responsibility and to accept obligations, etc. 2.3.4 Legitimacy Finally, the basis of consent is disrupted if one party's right to perform certain illocutionary acts is called into question on the grounds, for example, that his role or status does not entitle him to do so, or that his acts violate accepted norms or conventions or are inconsistent with recognized values. This type of disturbance can be eliminated within the conversational context by appeal to recognized norms, values, or established authorities that were, perhaps, overlooked or misunderstood. It is also possi24
ble for situations to arise in which simple excuses or explanations do not bring the participants to agreement and mutual understanding. In such cases, conflict, certain kinds of competitive conduct, or discourse may result.
2.4 T h e notion of discourse Sometimes the etymology of a word gives us an indication of an original understanding which we want to recover. This is so in the case of the word "discourse". "Discourse" comes from the Latin verb discurrere, to run back and forth. This suggests an image of continually returning to and fleeing from the disputed background. (At this stage we will not enter into any detail concerning the issue of different kinds of discourse.) At least two senses of "discourse" have emerged in this work. It has been our intention to see how the notion of discourse arises as articulation. In discourse we circumscribe certain kinds of taken-for-granted assumptions concerning the truth of our assertions, the legitimacy of some action, or the nature of our obligations. In its second sense, the word discourse is an alternative name for the background of linguistic practices, which in particular historical periods allow certain kinds of events, relationships, excuses, and reasons to emerge while many others are silenced or forgotten. All this reveals the continual struggle for change and new possibilities underlying the established order of things. One of the aims of this dissertation is to reorganize discourse in order to offer a new answer to the questions, "What is management?" and "What is communication?" 2.4.1 Strategic interaction One way disputes concerning the truth and legitimacy of an act can endanger further cooperative interaction is by terminating the dialogue and, in limiting cases, by leading to war, or a struggle for domination. At the opposite extreme, such disputes can lead one party to surrender or to accept the superiority of the other. But there is a whole family of intermediate cases in which conflict, and not complete cooperation, prevails. Games of strategy like chess, poker, or bridge are good examples of this. T h e players are not always compelled to act according to declared intentions and beliefs, although such behavior can only go on within the particular context of a game with established and accepted rules. To shoot a player in a poker game is a crime, even though poker is a case of strategic behavior. The market offers another example of social behavior in which forms of strategic behavior are not only tolerated but fostered, regulated by social 25
institutions such as the law of contracts, etc. Here again limits are set by prohibitions and obligations expressly established to regulate this behavior. We said that the market fosters strategic behavior; this is because the participants are not encouraged to engage in cooperative behaviour at all times. They may hide information, refuse to sell, etc. It is postulated by market theoreticians that better general consequences will be achieved through this form of social organization. Without disputing the truth of these claims, we observe that such strategic behavior is extremely probable in a market with few participants and differential information. There are forms of ideological discourse which defend competitive conduct in markets and in the broader social arena, maintaining that competition among free individuals is an ideal of social organization which guarantees a maximum degree of freedom and welfare. We cannot deal with this claim here, but there are two points that we want to make. First, as we have seen, mutual cooperation is something embedded in the structure of language. Perhaps this reflects the primitive conditions for social life in which mutual cooperation is a necessity for the survival of all the members of a community. In this sense, then, cooperation is primary. Second, strategic interaction is costly because we are compelled to find ways to anticipate forms of conduct leading to undesirable future consequences thereby converting a potential partner into a permanent adversary. Life inside corporations and other kinds of organizations has been increasingly pervaded by certain kinds of destructive behavior. T h e present day world's problems derive in part from the pervasion of strategic forms of behavior to an extent that threatens other forms of life which foster peace, order, and justice in the world. We cannot pursue such a difficult topic here; we have only mentioned it because it is an important subject if one wants to explore different kinds of pragmatic intervention and the design of social institutions.
2.5 Comparison with other approaches We want to briefly answer a question which some readers may be asking at this point: "What is new about your approach?" There are already so many (perhaps too many) good books and treatises on language, organic zation, society, jurisprudence, and philosophy of law, that the reader has a right to be suspicious about the usefulness of yet another approach. We are in sympathy with this reaction; one of the reasons for the research leading to this thesis was dismay at the variety of theories offered as good characterizations of human beings. We want to characterize our approach as a reconstruction of the "discourse" about management and communication for the purpose of design. 26 26
In the course of our analyses we discovered that the question of language has become a central issue for philosophers of different traditions investigating man, thinking, and reason. The question about management is no different in this respect. But, as we have already noted, all of the investigations in which the question concerning language has assumed a central role exhibit a certain kind of blindness or forgetfulness of two issues that, in our judgment, are at the center of our troubles: the forgetfulness of commitment and speaking, and the forgetfulness of concerned listening, T h e first issue is a central concern of Searle's theory of speech acts. We have used the tools developed by this theory to understand, in a new way, social relationships as acts of self-referential commitment by the speaker. Sociologists have not taken due account of this, and even Max Weber, one of the founders of sociology who did so much to establish it as a discipline, which attempts to offer an interpretive understanding of social action, lacked understanding of this feature of social interaction. The power of the taxonomy lies in its provision for this self-referentiality of commitments as acts performed by the actors. Using this framework, it is possible to see a logic of commitments implicit in illocutionary acts embedded in language, which Allows us to talk about a universal pragmatics of commitments, and to explore the relationships between commitments as a set of logical interrelationships. Some of the dynamics of these relationships may be grasped in the notion of conversation. Some of the institutional ramifications have been explored by disciplines such as morals, law, and pure economics. However, the concrete life of language and human beings does not involve a pure reflection on this ideal world, nor is it an expression of it. Care or listening is the original phenomenon; listening is always already involved, articulating new interpretations. It is always ahead of who is interpreting, opening him to the world. It is not possible for the interpreter to get free of this, there is no detached consciousness with the "right understanding" of history or social system (to use more modern terminology). The consciousness of the interpreter cannot be detached from his actual finite situation in the historical social world. But what gives the speaker this pre-understanding is the phenomenon of concerned listening the insight into which we owe to the Heideggerian tradition. Listening, although concerned, nevertheless has the tendency to fall into habitual, customary forms of life unable to question themselves and the nature of their networks of commitments. In certain cases, such degeneration may give rise to pathological domains of social interaction. Certain of these forms of disintegration may have their roots in particular kinds of social interpretations for which a reflection in universal pragmatics might offer a welcome and successful alternative. Family therapy and certain kinds of political discussion are not so very different. They are both 27
oriented to the reconstruction of endangered self-interpretations, whose disintegration threatens some of the dwellers in this space, family members or social group. A third characteristic feature of our approach is our awareness of the hermeneutical aspects of our work. Thus we do not see our work as a "study" striving to realize an ideal of the "correct" conceptual representation on the basis of which all further action must be founded. We are far from such a position because we know how pervasive language and prejudice are in our quest. Instead, we look to historical beings participating in a discourse that is always already social for our understanding of the phenomenon of breakdown. We have a certain kind of anticipatory concern for breakdown situations, which is indicated by two dimensions of application; practical intervention and conflict resolution. A discussion of these will be presented in the next chapter.
Section 2.1.1 is based on the work of John R. Searle. The thesis about commitments and speech arts is one of the main topics of Searle's work with the logician Daniel Vanderveken: Foundations of Illocutionary Logic (in preparation). For further study and more rigorous treatment, a reading of this work is imperative. 'John R. Searle, "A Taxonomy of Illocutionary Acts," in K, Gunderson (ed.), Language, Mind a n d Knowledge. (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1976), p. 12. 2
Hubert Dreyfus nicely summarizes the Heideggerian notion of possibility that we have introduced here: "Thus the background of possibility necessary for there to be a particular choice can be viewed as a restriction of what is factically possible (situatedness), or it can equally be viewed as the self-definition of Dasein who is doing the choosing (understanding). SituatedÂŹ ness and understanding are two equiprimordial aspects of the there of Dasein as thrown projection." Hubert L. Dreyfus, Heidegger's Existential Phenomenology, lecture notes, University of California at Berkeley, 1977 (to be published by Johns Hopkins University Press). "'A more complete account may he offered when a theory of intentionality is integrated as part of a theory of discourse. See our postscript below. 4We have introduced the term "listening" to replace Heidegger's term Care (Sorge) in Being and Time. We have clone this because, for our purposes, it is important to show how this integrated know-how is always present in the simplest kinds of actions. The tradition of philosophic analysis, concentrating on the problems of reference, has generally ignored this phenomenon. 5William Twining and David Miers, How to Do Things with Rules (London; Weidenfeld and Nicolson,1976), chap. 2. 6Thomas McCarthy, The Critical Theory of Jurgen Habermas (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1978).
Guidelines for Design
Thus far our discussion has concentrated on the fundamental features of the relationship between commitment, speaking, and listening. We can now take advantage of the insights and notions we have developed to address questions about management. What we have to say on this topic is directly relevant to all work situations in which the communicative process plays an important role.
3.1 Design as a discourse for dealing with recurrent breakdowns In the course of this dissertation we have used the term "design" several times. We began with the insight that a breakdown is behind every genuine question. We saw how important the notion of "breakdown" was in generating a new appreciation of language, listening, and world. The claim was made that the answers to the questions generated by breakdowns would be offered by design. In this chapter we shall examine this more carefully. By examining our dealings with the world, tools, and other people, we became aware of the important role of prudence. If we want to anticipate breakdowns we need to be better equipped and organized to deal with conflicts. How can this be accomplished? Where can we gain the understanding to successfully do this? A primary source is the authority of tradition, where "authority" does not mean a coercive power, but rather a recognized source of directives providing skills or know-how for dealing with certain situations. In this sense, tradition is not something dead, it is the effective actualization of reproductive know-how in the practice of education. There are many methods for obtaining knowledge from a tradition; following Pierce, we can talk about learning by trial and error, hypothetical deduction or guessing, or by using the scientific method in which the criteria for validating claims are subjected to certain standards of cooperative evaluation. Education, then, is essentially a process resting on the authority of tradition, it goes without saying that the inability to provide this know-how would be grounds for questioning the legitimacy of the authority in question. We propose to use the term "design" to designate all of the practices whose purpose it is to anticipate breakdowns. Design is generated by pru-
dence, and prudence is born of a concern for anticipating what may come, of the capacity to value the future as a way that the present reinterprets itself. T h e human present is never a self-contained moment, it is already pervaded by an understanding of time and historicity, In this sense, many of the "discursive practices", e.g., management, economics, and law, are concerned with design. We want to comment on the "directive openness" of education. Traditional forms of education, scholarly texts, etc., have identified knowledge with correct descriptions or true propositions. But it is important to see that to educate someone to be a biologist, it is necessary to have laboratories in which the student can acquire certain manipulative skills. In the same way, one teaches law by converting the law student into a practitioner of law, e.g., a lawyer or judge. It is important also to insist that teaching rests on authority, and that the first step, consisting in the acquisition of a new language, inserts the student into a new tradition, a new discourse. This understanding of education as inserting a student into a new tradition, however, differs radically from the traditional interpretation which equates knowledge with the ability to make true statements. It is impossible to completely avoid breakdowns by means of design. What can be designed are aids for those who live in a particular domain of breakdowns. For this it is necessary to offer training, to develop the appropriate understanding of the terminology, skills and procedures needed to recognize what has broken down and how to cope with the situation, calling on the assistance of appropriate co-workers, Design effectiveness can be improved if a dynamic record is maintained in memory, or by means of commentaries made by past actors, that can be read by or transmitted to newcomers. Design, then, is something already existing in a living tradition. Its task is that of reorganizing the living forms or ways we have of dealing with things. It is a new way of articulating the space of distinctions, and it creates a new way of listening and language for the practitioners. What are the tasks for design in the domain of management? They must be derived from the new discourse that we have produced concerning communication and language, and they will find application as new ways of intervention. Thus, design will be the test of the validity of our new interpretation. (Here "test" does not mean something subjected to Popper's criteria of refutation. It is rather the test of whether what has been developed will be recognized as a new, illuminating practice and language, recognized by designers and the public in general)
3.2 Some guidelines for organizational design Our discussion is organized around a number of "guidelines" because although our understanding has advanced to a point where we are certain of the value of each for organizations, we are still in the process of exploring their interrelationships and scope. We have divided the presentation as follows; (1) Design for communication and its three domains, (2) Communicative competence, (3) Organization as networks of conversations, (4) Resolution versus decision-making, (5) Blindness as a permanent danger, (6) Responding to the concern about productivity. 3.2.1 Design as activity and its three domains We can distinguish three different domains of design for the purposes of improving the quality of life and work. "Organizational design" is concerned with the more efficient division of labor and tools to promote more fluent work and coordination. In "equipmental design" our primary concern is with equipment, in the sense of physical artifacts. Finally, if we can partially anticipate breakdown situations by noting their recurrence, we can provide people with the tools and procedures they need to cope with them. This is the concrete task of "Implementational Design". ImplementaÂŹ tional design has to do with developing communicative competence, norms and rules for the organization, and communication equipment, reflecting our anticipatory concern for breakdown situations. We are going to discuss each of these topics in more detail. The next two sections deal with communicative competence and organizational design, T h e issue of designing communicative equipment will be taken up in the next chapter. 3.2.2 Communicative competence We all have experience in communicating with others in various situations. Nevertheless, there are different levels of competence. Competence here does not mean correct grammatical usage or diction. Competence denotes an ability to successfully deal with the world, good managerial abilities, and responsibility and care for others. Communicative competence is the capacity to express one's intentions and to take responsibility for the network of commitments that utterances and their interpretations generate. There are always gaps in competence, which can be traced back, at least in part, to the particular history of the person. There is also such a 31
thing as a blindness for the connection between speaking and commitments. Consequently, there exists a need for education in communicative competence; a field concerned with certain general relationships between language and successful action. However, there is also such a thing as a kind of incompetence derived from one's cultural heritage. For example, a culture of shepherds and nomads does not have the kind of competence required to comprehend a modern petrochemical complex. Their relation to the world has not generated the kinds of equipment, actions, roles, etc., necessary for such competence. Their daily concerns do not encompass such possibilities. We could say that they are blind to the world that an urbanized mass culture sees as its everyday reality, Nevertheless, certain fundamental patterns of interactions, such as those demanded for successful cooperation, are shared by both cultures. What differs is the whole domain of equipment, the division of labor, and the institutional background necessary to realize the practices and to solve claims about conflicting actions. This extends to the domain of justification and to the excuses that people give and accept with respect to failures in implementation. T h e notion of justice itself may be different, and possibilities of expression in the two languages may even be different. On the basis of these considerations, our design recommendations are as follows. It is necessary to be concerned about the communicative competence of speakers. Efforts should be made to detect the gaps between organizational requirements and the cultural background in which it is situated. We believe that it is possible to design a "survival kit" for communicative competence that may be tested and taught in the native language of the people within an organization. Such a kit would be made up of two units. One unit must be designed to generate a renewed awareness of the commitments made when speaking, complete with exercises in reconstructing commitments as they are expressed in ordinary language. T h e second unit would help students learn how to listen to the linguistic tradition when they confront breakdowns and make excuses and justifications. 3.2.3 Organizations as networks of conversations Now that we have the background, we shall attempt to present a new framework for discussing organizations and the activity of designing them. T h e notions of commitment and listening will again play an important role. We use the term "business" for any organization which is concerned with survival and autonomy. A business is an organization which commits itself to fulfilling particular kinds of requests while coping with unpredict-
able circumstances and endeavoring to keep open possibilities for the future. A business can survive only as long as it can make and fulfill commitments, for which, in turn, it receives commitments concerning the resources it requires to fulfill its commitments. To survive, therefore, a business must be able to cope with unpredictable circumstances which endanger its ability to fulfill its commitments. Any activity which does not contribute to the fulfillment of its commitments is irrelevant to the survival of the business. Because it is always anticipating the conditions of fulfillment of the commitments it gives and receives, the business's future is determined. To avoid being overwhelmed by the demands of the future determined by the nature of its commitments, the business endeavors to keep open its possibilities for the future. In fulfilling the business's commitments, the personnel are involved in a network of conversations. This network includes requests and promises to fulfill commitments, and may also include reports on the conditions of fulfillment of commitments, reports on external circumstances, declarations of new policies, and so on. Special networks of conversations are generated for recurring conversations, directed at coping with recurring situations; offices are organized at the nodes of these networks. Clearly, businesses commonly encounter many requests, etc., with which they can deal by making commitments with conditions of satisfaction that are basically similar from the point of view of the business as a whole or of a large part of its organization. That is to say, these commitments can be fulfilled by the activation of certain special networks of recurrent conversations, where only certain details of the content of the conversations differ and not their general structure. These networks of recurrent conversations constitute the core of the organization; they are embodied as intercommunicating offices, each specializing in fulfilling certain kinds of commitments. We can analyze these conversations for the purposes of redesigning the conversations themselves and the communication systems which support them; in practice, these two approaches should be parallel and complementary. Analysis of conversational networks can reveal points susceptible to communicative failures, circuitous and unnecessarily indirect conversational links, critical delays, bottlenecks, and other diseconomies. These diseconomies can be removed, and the conversational network given firmer support, with the help of an appropriately designed computercommunication systems technology. Moreover, new conversational networks can be designed which give the organization the ability to recognize and realize new possibilities. An integral part of this organizational 33
renovation is the training of the personnel in basic communicative competence. There are surprisingly few basic conversational "building/blocks" (e.g., request/promise, offer/acceptance, and report/acknowledgement) which frequently recur in these networks; this means that the technological capability that we need to develop to be able to offer support systems for conversational networks can be modular in design. The central thesis may be stated briefly: Organizations exist as networks of directives and commissives, breakdowns will inevitably occur and the organization needs to be prepared. The whole process of division of labor has been created (as a cultural heritage) as a way to successfully anticipate breakdowns as a constant concern. Our central strategic recommendation for organizational design is: The process of communication should be designed to bring with it a significant awareness of the occurrence of breakdowns, and of the directives appropriate to them. The awareness of every organizational member of his participation in the network of commitments must be reinforced and developed.
3.2.4 Resolution versus decision-making Let us consider decision-making. It is a prevalent mistake in modern literature to uncritically identify decision-making with the central, definitive task of the management process, and to define decision-making as the process of rationally choosing among alternative means or courses of action in terms of their efficiency in obtaining the ends we desire. Many authors, following Simon,1 have talked about the bounded rationality of human beings and recommended types of action to deal with this "constraint", Simon has been widely celebrated for introducing this approach to organizational problems. Other scholars have tried to apply and further pursue his research. However, no one has attacked or even critically examined the understanding of rationality and the process of decision-making implicit in the classical approach. The a priori distinction between means and goals, the origins of alternatives considered, etc., are issues never considered, although they are sometimes given lip-service in brief comments about "the complexities of life". We would like to propose another account which we shall call "the process of reaching resolution". This process is characteristically initiated by some claim that generates a mood of irresolution. In general, there is dissatisfaction about "where things are going", more or less articulately 34
expressed in discourse or utterances about our actions and the ways we are doing them. Such claims may be of many different kinds and origins: a routine evaluation, some fact or contingency, a new proposal, etc. We do not want to give the impression that the notion of claim has a purely negative connotation: a claim presents us with the issue of our possibilities. These claims arise from certain kinds of breakdown where commitments are not settled. However, in spite of the hesitation and confusion, the process is always already oriented in the direction of listened to possibilities. From a descriptive point of view we could say that this pre-orientation that we listen to is like an exclusionary bias, but this is only a description and its validity is only in the domain of design. An example may be of some help. You need to buy a car, but since you haven't purchased one in many years, you ask around for suggestions. Slowly you become aware of many new kinds of considerations, e.g., gas mileage, prices, the condition of the American car. All this is illuminating when combined with certain budgetary constraints, etc. Finally, the field of possibilities narrowed, you are presented with certain concrete alternatives. At the same time a friend of yours buys a car, and you ask him, "Why did you buy this car?" He replies, "Because, I knew that a blue Volvo is what I ought to buy. Everyone in my situation buys this car," For him, the decision to buy this car is part of his self-interpretation, and a breakdown of irresolution never occurs as it did for you. We can go so far as to assert that the exclusion of indeterminancy is the essential feature of resolution. This element of exclusion sometimes gets articulated as reasons or arguments, but there is always more which is not articulated, i.e., contained in the background of the obvious. This kind of exclusionary commitments however, is present even in those situations where we do not experience irresolution; we simply act, order, promise, declare, or decline to commit ourselves to some things. Sometimes the application of some automatic rule of thumb or some order are sources of our commitment. It is very naive to conclude that decisions of the latter sort are not rational actions because the process of deliberation, in the sense of choosing among alternatives, is missing. We insist that it is commitment to an action which is the common feature of the processes that precede any speech act with world-to-word direction of fit. We propose to call the process of moving from irresolution to resolution "deliberation". It is characteristic of this process that it be guided by questions concerning how actions should be directed. We can give a brief description in the following terms. At some point in the process of evaluation, various proposals are discerned, e.g., different opinions, suggestions, disparagements, counter-offers, in which all distinctions concerning means 35
and ends are ignored in favor of an interest in possible causal links, potential results, and inconveniences. Eventually, the subject begins to form an opinion about possible causes of action; this is when the process called "choosing" begins. The term may be misleading because it gives the impression of algorithmic procedures for selecting a course of action. In practice, however, these algorithmic procedures are only part of the process of reaching resolution. Nothing guarantees that this process results in a happy resolution. We are only describing its structure in outline. Our claim is that we need such a description to free ourselves of the blindness of the "decisionist interpretation" and to begin to develop better methods of deliberation. At least this can help us avoid finding "good answers" to wrongly defined situations. It is not our intention to answer the question, "How may the process of resolution be improved?", rather we have attempted to begin to clear a space for new possibilities of design and education. Is it possible to have a theory of decision-making which transcends the limits of a theory of choosing in the classical form? We are inclined to answer in the affirmative, but not without some reservations. It is not clear that a theory of decision-making can be formulated independently, i.e., without taking into consideration the nature of the conversations in which the situation of irresolution arises. It is not clear that an a priori theory of resolution will be sufficient to explain the cases of decision-making in a court, a private corporation, a statement of public policy, a personal decision, etc. 3.2.5 Blindness as a permanent danger It might be helpful to consider the phenomenon of blindness already mentioned several times, and to examine how it constantly threatens to pervade the life of organizations. In our discussion of listening we saw that a certain pattern of recurrence inevitably pervades our life as breakdowns repeat themselves. By means of the division of labor an organization attempts to exploit this, to be ready to deal with a breakdown as something already known. This is good but it also brings with it the danger of inertia or blindness, which tends to narrow the field of possibilities. In organizations this is particularly true in the areas of products and services. This blindness takes on immense proportions when the survival of the organization is assured by some external resolution, as is the case with public bureaucracies or armies in peacetime. Here programs and projects are enacted and followed but with little thought for consequences and implica36
tions. This phenomenon also assumes enormous proportions inside productive units, particularly in support activities, e.g., maintenance, data processing, etc., for which commitments to certain goals or ultimate results are not of direct concern to the actual workers involved. In the modern factory and office the number of people involved in this kind of activity may approach 60% of the labor force; thus, the effects of bad performance in these areas can be very great. Such facts point out the importance of designing new tools for maintaining a connection between the two different flows of conversations: conversations in which requests are generated and conversations in which claims are answered. But there are other kinds of practices that need to be designed which we propose to call "orthogonal" or "heterodox practices". These consist in the permanent change and rotation of people, encouraging conversation with new people, incorporating outside consultants, reading books outside of the professional discipline, visiting other places, etc. Confrontation with different points of view is also recommended. But all this is, in a sense, absolutely superficial and will fail, if it is not combined with a willingness (openness) to listen and see in a new way, remembering that in the end everything depends on listening from within our historical situation as social persons. An information system dedicated to collecting data and answering predetermined questions, even if well-designed, may be disastrous if it is not complemented by heterodox practices and a permanent willingness to be open to listen. 3.2.6 Responding to the concern about productivity What can we now say about productivity? The notion of productivity is based on assumptions concerning the level of "output" that can be expected from a given level of "input", which in turn presupposes that cycles of recurrent situations can be identified as the basis for comparison. It is only by virtue of such a preunderstood recurrence that one can begin to talk about means and ends, possible substitutes, and potential innovations. Preunderstanding is ultimately part of what we have called listening- If there is dispute at this level, very little can be said. Assuming that this characterization is correct, we can again pose the question concerning the level of success that can be expected of techniques for evaluating productivity in the factory and office. In the factory, preunderstanding of the recurrent relations between means and ends is clearly maintained: each worker is involved in a relatively simple "dialogue" with a basic commitment to remain at a certain position in the chain of work, maintaining certain predetermined levels or 37
rates of production; breakdowns are expected and coped with through the execution of well-understood routines. The situation is very different where communicative activities are more integrated within the work process, where the next task depends on collective actions which are subject to uncertainties of different kinds, Procedures for scheduling, such as the critical path method, have been developed for dealing with situations of this kind in factories and large-scale projects. But of all work situations, the most complicated is the office where requests may appear at any moment, where implicit promises need to be taken into account, etc. In offices it is not easy to reconstruct the participation of the workers and manager, and the difficulty is increased by the failure to understand the phenomena of communication and work. Moreover, we are faced with the inadequacy of the techniques for coordination and control; records of the use of such techniques do not necessarily give us the means to reconstruct the actions which were coordinated. One preliminary recommendation concerning the problem of productivity would be to follow the input-output approach by looking at request-promise chains in an attempt to reconstruct the conversational network that constitutes the organization, It is important to develop a system for maintaining a record of the breakdowns in support and housekeeping activities, and for evaluating their effects on the principal chains of conversations. Once again, we limit ourselves to the practical domain in this discussion; problems of how to maintain the background of obviousness, the interplay between sincerity and strategic interaction with adversaries, as well as the legitimacy of authority and the coercive power of the organization remain.
3.3 Economic evaluation of new equipment T h e traditional way to analyze the comparative advantage of a new technology for communication has been to compare the costs of one process against the costs of another. Although apparently straightforward, this method turns out to be vague in practice, because it overlooks two important points: first, the units of the processes to be compared are frequently incommensurable, and second, profound modifications in the nature of the business can result by the introduction of new processes. Regarding the first point, consider the simple case of producing multiple copies of a document. Until relatively recently this was done using carbon paper to make carbon copies, a kind of technology whose quality and capabilities diminished with the number made. The machine copier 38
was developed as an alternative process. There is a point in the level of demand for duplication where the introduction of copiers is justified. But upon introduction, we find that the volume of copies increases beyond expectation. New opportunities arise and new things are done with copies. We copy sections of books to avoid buying them. People want more copies for their private use, as well as to provide a large audience with information. For good or bad, we are overwhelmed by a flood of paper. Attempts made by the administration to institute rigid rules for copying are quickly defeated. That's the success of Xerox and the copier industry. The explanation of this phenomenon is to be found in the nature of office and managerial work, the leading forces in selecting new combinations of equipment and tasks. In this environment considerations of the costs and preparation of pure media are marginal because the crucial consideration is the contribution of the media to the value of the business as a whole. In connection with the second point we observe that the nature of the business depends in part on our communicative abilities, which in turn depend on the equipment used. Courier express will be used at a significant cost if the certainty of prompt delivery offsets the costs. Furthermore, such a service might eliminate costly telephone bills or airline tickets. A number of other examples can be offered. The kind of services offered by airlines today have been structured by complex networks for making and confirming reservations, connecting travel agencies, different airlines, and ticket counters. Today, no airline can do without this technology, although different organizational systems are possible and constantly evolving. Furthermore, new kinds of communication networks for financial data connect different countries and local networks, making data accessible to different clients in their homes, offices, or portable teleterminals. Initially, being a subscriber to this service may have been optional, but sooner or later these services begin to become essential for carrying on business. At that point considerations concerning the costs of alternatives disappear and are replaced by new concerns, This kind of interpretation may be taken as a denial of the possibility of estimating the long-range value of office communication products. This is not our conclusion. Rather, we conclude that the evaluation of communication products is an integral part of the broader field of evaluating business opportunities. Certainty in evaluating the former is more or less dependent upon our certainty in evaluating the latter. We want now to examine the importance of evaluating communication for the business as a whole. 3*3,1 Emergence of new business and conversational analysis In this section we propose to examine an historical example; the emergence of a modern industrial sector in terms of the emergence of the 39
meat packing industry, as documented by Alfred Chandler. 2 We are interested in seeing the confluence of entrepreneurial abilities with new possibilities emerging coming from a new basic infrastructure which includes means of transportation and communication. We already know that every aspect of the managerial conversation may he interpreted as a network of commitments made in requests and promises, with legal, enforceable contracts determining the boundaries of this network. Chandler's work shows how the development of such a network was the key in the development of the meat-packing industry. Chandler, in our opinion, clearly sees the entrepreneurial contribution as the discovery of possibilities in an evolving world. This is clear in his discussion of G. F, Swift's role in the meat-packing industry. In an extensive survey of the historical development of that industry, Chandler observes; The refrigerator car, however, was not the reason Swift became the innovator in high-volume, year-round production of perishable products. He became the first modern meat packer because he was the first to appreciate the need for a distribution network to store meat and deliver it to the retailers. He was the first to build an integrated enterprise to coordinate the high-volume flow of meat from the purchasing of cattle through the slaughtering and disassembling process and through distribution to the retailer and ultimate consumer. Realizing a new business opportunity demands a new outlook, but it also involves the construction of new networks of articulated commitments, including the disposition of new equipment and new patterns of coordination. Once new possibilities are discovered they can lead to a whole series of transformations, e.g., in overcoming concrete difficulties whether technological (the absence of something like refrigerated cars) or political (opposition by those adversely affected by the development). Administrative coordination of a certain type arises because new kinds of effective managerial conversations or networks of requests, promises, and activities are possible. In this case, the comparative unit costs of the new methods are significantly lower than the existing methods, i.e., transportation of live cattle by railways to the East. People are now offered something that previously was prohibitively expensive or nonexistent. What are the lessons of this example for our theory of conversation as commitment? One lesson involves the importance of comparing the costbenefits of two networks of conversation. Such comparison is interpretive since we assume certain recurrences and certain relations between causes and effects. But the minimal units of analysis, particularly for new networks, must include the economies and diseconomies of all the relevant 40
preparatory conditions. Changes in the costs of preparing contracts and of litigation also need to be considered. According to Williamson, in his book Markets and Hierarchies, this difference in costs has been one of the determining factors behind concentration and mergers in the modern economy. Furthermore, we see that the evaluation of new costs for new media or for networks of transportation has to take into account the added value of the new process's benefits. Of course, when we are talking of new national networks of transportation or new means of communication only the marginal costs will appear in the economic evaluation. Finally, changes in the network of communication may alter the whole domain of possibilities for goods and services, volume, customs and habits, demographic rates, displacement and migration, etc. The conclusion is clear: T h e evaluation of new technologies for communication cannot be separated from the evaluation of the whole space of possibilities. The way to achieve such evaluation is by interpreting and comparing the economic contributions of the two competing networks of conversations, always with the caveat that an equivalence of provided services must be assumed.
3.4 Our answer to the original questions Now we can re-consider the questions, "What is management?" and "What is communication?" Can we justify our assertion that there is "a unified approach" to these two questions? Within the framework of descriptive metaphysics we have developed, the term management has been identified with the phenomena of listening and understanding as discussed in chapter two. In a narrower framework, the application of the term was restricted to a particular sector of business activities, e.g., industry, commerce, merchandising, and transportation. Nevertheless, there is an ever-present tendency to apply the scope of the term whenever the same kinds of procedures and styles of thinking are used. It may appear an over-simplification to view government, lawmaking, and administration of justice as varieties of management, but this is partly because today we distinguish activities which in the past were not clearly distinguished in ordinary language. The term "management" was applied when new forms of social organization for production on an unprecedented scale became possible. It is only recently that the term has been applied to practices such as education, social services, and the military arts, and this was possible because the same basic procedural form govern41
ing work and flow of materials pervades all of these practices. One must concentrate on this common feature if one wants to provide better design, criticism, or education; and it is here that the traditional discourse about management is inadequate. Traditionally, concepts such as planning, coordination, implementation, and operations were important in generating new orientations in the process of the division of labor, and new forms of administration and government. But these concepts are misleading if we want to design new organizations with new equipment and new forms of management, i.e., where the electronic office of the future is concerned. In such an office, transactions between partners working at enormous distances from one another call into question the economic advantage of centralized units of production situated in particular locations, such as a factory or an office. In the future it will be breakdowns in the kinds of relationships established by the new media between workers and clients located at remote distances from one another which will create the recurrent situations calling for design. This new situation gives rise to a new form of discourse, a new form of management. Management must be concerned with articulating and activating the network of commitments, primarily produced through promises and requests. Rut although this characterizes many of the managerial activities we nevertheless need to state its most essential responsibility; to be able to listen and to be the authority with which all of the activities and commitments in the network will deal. Given final formulation: Management is that process of openness, listening, and eliciting commitments, which includes a concern for the articulation and activation of the network of commitments, primarily produced through promises and requests, allowing for the autonomy of the productive units. (The problem of maintaining the autonomy may be different for different organizations. A particular administrative department of the government will not be concerned with the income of the government as a whole. Its concerns will be with getting its programs approved and with securing certain budgetary allocations. For private business, autonomy will depend on the resources obtained when comparing income and payments. In both cases, the process of securing autonomy will occur in a declarative space governing obligations and possibilities.) The crucial features of the activity of articulating commitments in conversation, i.e., management, are themselves articulated by answering the question: What is it possible to do? What will be the domain of projects, offers, and accepted solicitations in which we will engage? This activity requires a permanent reinterpretation of past activities, not as a mere collection of past requests, promises, and deeds in active conversations, but rather as an interpretation of the whole situation and its contingencies, while looking ahead to certain potential projects. Of course, 42
this interpretation takes into consideration not only pragmatic and technical possibilities, but also includes a kind of pre-interpretation of potential conflict and power and of the possibilities concerning acceptance, the abilities and skills of the different individuals and groups involved, etc. What, then, is communication in the new framework? The answer is that communication is all of the phenomena that we are studying: human beings entering into relationships via speech acts, always already living in a shared background of practices, sharing certain kinds of interpretive listening, and engaging in collective action, cooperation, discourse, and conflict. Communication is not a mere process of transmitting ideas or symbols. T h e inscription and reproduction of symbols may be a necessary condition for communication, but as far as communication is concerned this is a derivative phenomenon. The act of communication is the process of coupling illocutionary acts, produced as an event of listening or interpretation, T h e essence of communication rests in joining together intenÂŹ tionally as described under the notion of conversation. But conversations are generated by breakdowns and presuppose the background and the relevance of a previously shared world. In the end, management and communication are the same process: practical involvement in the world. But whereas the use of the term management has traditionally been restricted to pragmatic concerns, there are other social practices that we cannot subsume under the term management so understood, without violating their ordinary meanings. For these practices the term "communication" is better. It is not at all clear, for example, that insights in the ethical realm can be subsumed under the terms of managerial interpretations; this is a broader topic that cannot be pursued here. Nevertheless, underlying the different connotations of the terms in ordinary language is a deeper, common concern. A very important aspect of this unity is the subject of investigation in our next chapter.
1Herbert Simon, Administrative Behavior. Free Press, 3rd. edition, 1976. 2
Alfred Chandler. The Visible Hand, Harvard 1978.
Design for the Office of the Future
The Office of the Future will differ considerably from the offices of today. It will make its appearance in this decade with the introduction of computer communication networks and computer controlled devices. The major concern of the 1980's will not be that of merging data and word processing with communication, since this is already being accomplished; but rather, how organizations will use the new technologies and how office and managerial practices will evolve under their influence. The goal of this chapter is to provide guidelines for the design of management and communications tools for the Office of the Future. The design criteria are based upon the theoretical corpus elaborated in the previous two chapters. We believe that it is possible to conceive of a new family of products destined to become a central component of the equipment of management. These products, that we propose to call Coordinators, will have a pivotal role in the design of the Office of the Future. In the following analyses we shall develop a model on which the specification of programming structures and the functional capabilities of the Coordinator can be based. T h e introduction of this design framework is meant to serve two different purposes, The first is to provide guidelines for the analysis and design of the Office of the Future that diverge from the classical data processing approach and from more traditional methods of analysis and design, T h e second is to give a general characterization of the proposed family of tools that will embody the functional communications capabilities of the Office of the Future. This chapter, thus, presents a challenge to traditional and cherished notions about design and communication, two of which we wish to mention briefly here. T h e first is the common belief that design is determined by choices at the user, and consequently, that the best way to discover what the user wants is to ask questions, interview, observe, and study the user On this interpretation, criteria for design will evolve inductively in a process of trial and error based on very simple observations. We believe that this approach is wrong. The structures of interaction are not first chosen or agreed upon by the users; rather they reflect the structure of deeds performed, deeds that are in no way independent of language (and vice versa). The systems designer needs to understand the structure of interaction in this way before starting to design. Questions are important, but only if the researcher knows what to ask. 45
T h e second erroneous notion concerns the issue of communication. Although we agree with traditional approaches in viewing communication as the crucial element in the office, we disagree with the traditional interpretation of communication as a process of transmitting information or symbols. This interpretation is entirely inadequate as a design foundation for the Office of the Future, We propose to divide our study into five sections: (1) The Office of the Future: a new domain of possibilities. Technological and economic forces are converging to generate a new, revolutionary situation in the world of the office. In this section we will provide a glimpse into the possibilities, opportunities, and threats introduced by a constellation of new circumstances resulting principally from technological breakthroughs. This section maybe skipped by those already convinced that the Office of the Future is coming. (2) Doing and speaking in the office, In this section we analyze, from the perspective of design, the nature of office work. It is intended for those interested in a preliminary exploration of the basic notions of our approach. We shall look for answers to questions such as, "What do people do in an office?" and "What do managers do?" Finally we offer a simple characterization of the new tools we are proposing. (3) Design for conversations. In this section we shall again take up the issue of conversation and attempt to apply it to the problem of designing office communication tools. (4) Products for the Office of the Future. Having described the new kinds of tools that we envision, we shall try to characterize the Office of the Future. (5) Some final observations. We shall conclude with some observations intended to anticipate some potential misunderstandings.
4.1 T h e Office of the Future: a new domain of possibilities There is a growing consensus that continuing advances in computer technology are opening up a whole new range of possibilities for new forms and patterns of organization that will affect the work world in unpredictable ways. Paradoxically, however, the world of the office has resisted the general trend towards greater efficiency through technology; while at the same time productivity has become a hot issue in discussions concerning the origin of economic crisis. The cost per office worker has increased at a rate of about seven percent per year during the last decade. During the same period, the price of electronic equipment has fallen about 20 percent per year, and is expected to continue falling at this rate in the foreseeable future. Thus we can confidently assert that productivity in the office will be a central issue in the coming decades, 46
The same issues are raised by parallel developments in communication technology which allow reliable and inexpensive interaction at distances that the world economy demands today. With the advent of the mini- and microcomputer, reorganization in the design of data-processing equipment has already occurred. Following the rather hesitant introduction of word processing equipment, a whole new market for editing computers is quickly evolving. We predict that this market will be a battlefield for the big and medium-sized electronic companies in the future. The use of these machines will open new horizons for the electronics industry, and will simultaneously require a review of the division of labor in organizations as a whole, down to the level of the office as a unit. In this connection, voices arise from different quarters heralding the "post-industrial society" or "communication civilization" In one of his recent books, James Martin has said;1 The uses of telecommunications described in this book will change work patterns, leisure time, education, health care, and industry. The new media, the process of government, and the working of democracy could be fundamentally improved. The entire texture of society will be changed by telecommunications and related products.. .Whatever the limits to growth in other fields, there are no limits near in telecommunications and electronic technology. There are no limits in the consumption of information, the growth of culture, or the development of the human mind. T h u s , there is growing consensus concerning the important implications of electronics for the future; the claim is made that all this will deeply and permanently affect the whole of society. "Communication" seems to be the magic word and the issue around which many of these claims converge. There is, however, no consensus at all about what communication is and how to deal with it. Neither is there clear agreement that technological advances and their effects on human society are positive developments. We anticipate the resistance of workers and other sectors of society against transformations that change the nature of their work and, in many cases, threaten them with layoffs and unemployment. However, it is also possible to point to examples of improved working conditions produced by the new technology. We surely are not forced into choosing between over-zealous technocratism on the one hand, and a modern form of Luddism masquerading as humanism or radicalism. In our opinion, what is lacking is an adequate understanding of communication as a human linguistic phenomenon. What is needed is a theory of communication as a social activity. We hope that the theoretical framework constructed in the two previous chapters will be useful in this connection. 47
4.1.1 Actual options T h e possibilities and options tor the Office of the Future will emerge from the gradual integration of three different kinds of technology. The first is electronic data processing (EDP), a technology that is commonly associated with the computer revolution. However, for the past ten years EDP has seen a relative decline as new possibilities for its application are exhausted. For the large computer manufacturers this decline has been all the more dramatic, as much of the EDP business has been siphoned off by the highly competitive mini- and microcomputer market. After abortive attempts to create new fields for computer application, such as "management information systems", industry leaders now seem firmly committed to the strategy of the Office of the Future. Naturally, they hope to take advantage of their technological lead in EDP and large-scale computing in further defining the technological configuration of the Office of the Future. T h e second kind of technology, which is now seeing intense development and marketing, is word processing (WP), Word processing began with attempts to wed the computer capability for symbol storage and manipulation to the office typewriter and the purposes it serves, e.g., preparation of reports, letters, and other documents. With various degrees of sophistication, word processors make it possible to type a text into various kinds of memory devices, where they can be accessed for modification, and ultimately typed out automatically. More advanced word processing equipment, generally incorporating a CRT display,2 allows for the manipulation of non-textual material, such as diagrams, graphs, and tables. T h e third kind of technology presenting the most promising possibilities for the Office of the Future, is the electronic message system. The electronic message system permits the transmission of memos, data, texts, or any kind of electronic message between users of computer systems, whether they are connected to the same computer or to different computers connected via some kind of data network. Electronic message systems can also be integrated with other communication technologies to create various kinds of computer conferencing systems. But this certainly does not exhaust the possibilities. The potential of simple electronic mail systems has hardly been realized as yet because of a rather narrow conception of the role of written communication in the office. To an extent never required for EDP and WP alone, effective design and use of electronic message systems must take into account the nature of organizational communication as revealed in this essay, reflecting this understanding in the design of hardware, software, and management, 48
Along with these three major converging streams of technology, there are several minor trends that can also be expected to contribute to the Office of the Future. They include equipment augmenting office telephones, such as paging systems, devices for recording calls automatically, mini- and microcomputers for monitoring telephone use, and attachments for placing or returning calls automatically or redialing if the other party is not reached immediately. Another kind of device uses telephones to transmit facsimiles, allowing for the reproduction of documents in remote locations. And, of course, there is a vast array of equipment for printing and reproduction, which is gradually being supplanted by better and better xerographic units. In this work, however, we are not going to spend any more time describing or analyzing the new technology, We have included this brief account to give readers who are not already familiar with it an idea of the kinds of technological possibilities which confront the Office of the Future. 4.1.2 Provisional evaluation T h e issue of finding a systematic, rational approach to the Office of the Future has become the primary concern of many people working in the industry and in academia. It is not difficult to imagine a future when people have access to powerful home and office terminals, when immense networks of communication connect people with markets, financial services, news and research services, and entertainment. It is difficult, however, to anticipate the products which will actually be available and to design a strategy of options that can succeed. A major part of the problem is that it is nearly impossible to anticipate the effects of introducing a new technology. T h e task is made all the more difficult by the fact that much of society, including its leaders and political parties, is still unaware of this technology. T h e principal task is that of finding a proper way to analyze and design communication processes in an office. T h e design of specific equipment is a derivative part of this fundamental design task, although enormous and significant advances have been made in this field, e.g., in editing and document preparation. Yet, in spite of the vast resources which have been devoted to the task, there is still no accepted theory for anticipating the consequences of technological advances as they relate to productivity and the social world. Neither is it possible to draw clear lessons concerning potential implementation strategies from the present situation. In these circumstances, constant uncertainty about the definition of the product will continue to dominate, as producers face a kind of "guerrilla warfare" in the market place waged by a steady stream of newcomers to the industry. 49
Consumers of the new technologies will also be subject to uncertainty as they receive a flood of offers, and this confusion may spread throughout the organization as a whole. Consequently, there is a growing need for the creation of a social science concerned with systems. Do the elements of such a science exist or is it even possible? We subscribe neither to the Pollyannaish optimism of defenders of technology nor to the indifference of those who are content to divide the world into technological problems and social problems as two unrelated areas of concern. We believe that technological advances will affect the domain of labor as well as all other areas of society, including the role of bureaucracies, the relationship between the media, individuals, and political institutions, etc. We have avoided considering the implications in this wider social realm, so as to concentrate on the world of work. In our investigation the crucial question seems to be, "What is work?" One obvious answer at this point seems to be "communication", but the question then becomes a new question; "What is communication?" And, indeed, what kind of answer do we need and can we accept as relevant here? Answers to these questions have already been indicated in previous chapters, but we propose to continue our investigation in the next section.
4.2 Doing and speaking in the office In this section we shall answer the questions, "What do people do in an Office?" and "What do managers do?" But first we shall comment on the nature of questioning and answering. 4.2.1 Answering a question In general, in order to answer a question we need to know what the conditions of satisfaction are for an "acceptable" answer. But the question itself is asked because there is a breakdown, an interruption of our normal activity or way of life. If we want to explore the background of a question we need to ask: "What are the sources of concern?" "What are the problems?", "Where will the potential solutions come from?" "What new entities are revealed by the question?". Following the directions indicated by these questions, we can explore and clarify some possible answers to the original question. However it is not necessary to arrive at a conclusive answer in every case. Quite often we just emerge from the questioning procedure with a better understanding of what we have been asked, i.e., with an interpretation of the situation that triggered the question in the first place. When someone asks, e.g., "What is law?", the value of the inquiry will not consist merely in a simple uncontroversial answer; rather, it will initiate a 50
reorganization of prevailing ways of dealing with the subject. That's why we can say with a "better understanding". If the same question were asked during an examination for a university course, the result might not be the same since the instructor determines possible answers based on what he considers to be a valid answer within the context of his course. Our question, "What do people do in an office?", is asked against a background of concern with design and we therefore expect our answers to be determinants in the design of new tools. We are interested in producing directives for dealing with recurrent patterns of breakdowns. In this way we hope to improve the efficiency and way of life in offices for both workers and managers. Directives are not merely a particular kind of utterance, rather they also imply a reorganization of understanding: a new way to speak, new actions, new entities, and new workers. We used the term "reorganization" because a new understanding is always a new interpretation, a re-creation of previously existing approaches with an existing language and style embodied by an older generation of practitioners. 4.2.2 What do people do in an office? A normal answer to this question may be "Some people type, some answer the phone, the engineer does calculations, the salesman sells, and the manager discusses with someone the need to hire a new employee." Others, using modern jargon, may say: "Here we process information (we have a lot of computers and data bases), and our managers make decisions." If our purpose in asking the question is to satisfy the curiosity of a visitor, these answers may be satisfactory; however, if we want to participate in a discussion about buying a new copier, for example, the answer to the same question could be: "The people in this office make 5,000 copies per day, with peak periods of 10,000 copies." This answer is useful because it is a description of what people do in this office which may help in making a decision and in issuing subsequent orders. It is useful because it allows one to successfully pursue conversations as an effective way of dealing with the situation. We now repeat the question for the office of the Eighties in America. But, before attempting to give an answer we need to explore its historical background. There is sufficient evidence and consensus that the principal issue concerning the Office of the Future is that of declining productivity in America about which something must be done. T h e "Office of the Future" is proposed as a solution to the problem of low productivity, but no one bothers to define what he means by that term. Concurrently, new possibilities and new problems are emerging as a result of the availability of 51
the products of technological revolutions in semiconductors and electronic communication. We ask; How will the experts in these new fields provide answers to our question? T h e old answer would have been to provide more efficient tools to process information and make decisions, viz., "management information systems" based on a scientific systems analysis,3 On the other hand, the unanimous answer nowadays is that what people obviously do is communicate. 4 But when we ask what is understood by communication, the unanimity disappears, and we discover that many of the answers are not really very different from the old answer except that they now involve new devices such as computers and telecommunications5
18.104.22.168 O u r answer T h e questions, "What do people do in an office?" and "What is communication in an office?" are not really different if we examine the underlying issues. Our theory of commitment and conversation allows us to provide new guidelines for examining work in an office or organization. Organizations exist as networks of directives and commissives. Examples of directives include orders, requests, and offers; commissives include promises, acceptances, and denials. Breakdowns will inevitably occur and the organization needs to be prepared. Coping with breakdowns triggers whole new networks of directives and commissives, The whole process of division of labor has been created as a way to successfully cope with anticipated breakdowns. This has been the constant concern of managers. Let us present an example illustrating this. Consider a company that sells books by mail. Requests are of the form, "Please dispatch and charge to my account the book X, by the author such and such." If the business is well organized the client will be attended to in a short period of time and the company will make a profit. When the volume of requests is large several persons will do different parts of the work. Some will receive the requests, others will dispatch the books and invoices, send letters of acknowledgement, order books from the publishers, anticipate inventory levels, and so on. On the other hand, the .organization needs to predetermine the kind of orders it will receive through advertising and promotions: it would be fatal to receive hundreds of requests for cookbooks if the company specialized in scientific books. The possible kinds of breakdowns are determined by the concerns of each member of the organization. Many are already anticipated in the form of work specialization, standard forms,
rules for credit, policies about the levels of inventories, etc. In this sense the notion of breakdown extends beyond everyday notions such as perturbation or trouble. To be in business is to know how to deal with breakdowns, to anticipate them, and, in a sense, to determine their occurrence. The two forms of organization concern par excellence are the contract (mutual promise), and the managerial conversations within the organization. The flow in the network of action is generated by the organization's contractual relations which is linked to internal managerial relationships. These internal conversations may be supported, in turn, by other networks of action that appear to be only indirectly related. This is true, for example, of janitorial services. The janitors come every day at a certain hour. Their actions have been defined by a contract that (linguistically) specifies hours per day, rate per hour, fines for delays and absences, and so on. Talk about the products that the organization sells is not part of the "conversation" which constitutes the janitorial contract. However, at some point, someone may discover that the cause of the low quality of certain products is connected with the janitorial work, thus revealing the connection between these two networks of conversations. Our answer to the question, "What do people do in an office?" becomes clear in this context. They issue utterances, by speaking or writing, developing the conversations required by the organizational network. Our initial formulation showed that directives and commissives were a shorthand way to grasp the whole gamut of organizational conversations. But we may develop finer criteria of analysis in terms of which acts such as offers, requests for products, invitations, questions, orders, instructions, general regulations, etc., would be viewed as a subset of directives. Correlatively, the subset of commissives would include authorizations, approvals, appointments, contracts, etc. Returning now to our initial question, we would like to review our answer. People in an office create, participate in, and maintain a process of communication. At the heart of this process is the performance of linguistic acts that elicit different kinds of commitments. We are not, to be sure, asserting that people are always, aware of what they are doing; they simply work and speak more or less blind to the dimension of commitment. It is because of this that our recommendations for organizational design include the following. The process of communication must be designed to bring with it a significant degree of awareness about commitments. The awareness of every member of the organization of his participation in the network of commitments must be reinforced and developed. 53
4.2.3 What do managers do? It has been remarked by several observers6 that the managerial activities are not adequately represented by the stereotype of a solitary individual studying complex alternatives, a characterization that is presupposed when decision-making is identified with choosing. Rather, managers appear to be engaged in a series of short interactions, most of which last between two and twenty minutes, in which great preference is shown for oral communication by telephone or face-to-face. The descriptions of these interactions differ greatly from researcher to researcher, sometimes illuminating and sometimes concealing different features of the activity. Some of these descriptions assert that managers make decisions, while others claim that they process and disseminate information. 22.214.171.124 Resolution versus decision-making T h e commonsense, somewhat obvious observation is frequently made that the decision-making activity is important, but it is not clear what this activity is and how it is executed. If someone hires a new employee or signs a new contract, we can certainly say that "a resolution has been reached". We prefer the latter expression to "a decision has been made" because decision-making has too often been identified with the activity of choosing among alternatives. However, choosing among alternatives is only a particular instance of the process of resolution. The crucial point is that when a resolution has been reached different commitments can be expressed. In an organization the most important resolutions are those which involve directives or commissives with a declarative dimension. T h e crucial part of the process of resolution is the network of conversations in which many actors may participate. Sometimes the conditions Tor further inquiry needed to attain a resolution can be specified; and on other occasions the process will involve a more prolonged period of hesitation or debate. Only in some cases will a process of choosing among alternatives occur, and a process of ranking according to some standard or other may occur even less frequently. The tendency in management sciences to narrowly identify resolution with choosing among alternatives has amounted to a kind of blindness. It is not the purpose of this paper to explore the fascinating paths opened by a new perspective on the process of resolution. T h e r e are, however, two notions in the previous discussion that we find extremely relevant in connection with the phenomenon of resolution, viz., the notion of "commitment" and the notion of "conversation," which allows us to focus a little more closely on the phenomena of interaction.
4,2.3.2 An example of conversational analysis At this point, it seems appropriate to clarify the concept of conversation with an example. Let us imagine a conversation between a manager, My and a subordinate manager, S, taking place in a common office setting. M: I need your cost estimate of the Johnson construction bid early next Friday. S: O.K., you'll have it at noon. Is that all right? M: Yes. T h e first utterance is equivalent to the following: "I order you to give me your cost estimate for the Johnson construction bid early next Friday." We recognize it as an order (illocutionary force) belonging to the class of directives. The propositional content represents a future action requiring the subordinate to provide the manager with details about the bid. The "O. K." that follows first of all serves the function of recognizing what was listened to, heard, or understood. "Early next Friday" is the condition of time. The place is not mentioned explicitly, but is understood as something obvious, i.e., the office of the manager. The simple "O.K." is a promise that we can analyze in the following terms: "I promise that I will give you the cost estimate you want." T h e next utterance, viz,, "you'll have it at noon", may be understood as a polite request to be more precise than the somewhat vague u Early next Friday", and thereby as an attempt to specify the temporality of the action ordered by the manager, a general requirement for any action performed as a result of a directive. Another possibility is to analyze this as a counter-offer, a polite refusal to have the cost estimate ready by 8 a.m. For us the important point is that at the end of the conversation two commitments have been made. The manager has received a promise from S about the report, and he (M) has promised to accept the cost estimate at noon next Friday. In the lives of both persons two new concerns have emerged, i.e., concerns about potential commitments for future action. T h e series of acts originating in a directive and ending with some performance or a definitive rejection we propose to call a "conversation for action", or simply a "conversation". it should be noted that the problem of ambiguity in our analysis occurs only because we are not the actual speakers. There usually are no ambiguities in what we intend to say, nor do we need to ponder the significance of what we are doing. In the domain opened by questions about design we must be careful not to confuse features of conversation with features of (or introduced by) our analysis of conversation. 55
126.96.36.199 Conversation as selection of possibilities This is not the place to pursue an analysis of conversation. What is important is to understand that the development of a conversation requires a certain finite selection among possibilities defined by the opening directive and the actual conduct of the speaker, It is like a dance, giving some initiative to each partner in turn. T h e second observation is that, from the design point of view, the specification of a language to deal with all of these different situations may be achieved using a minimal number of distinctions, which will provide us with the capability to design very powerÂŹ ful tools. 188.8.131.52 Our answer We will now attempt to answer the question, "What do managers do?" O u r answer is that they create, take care of, and articulate (new) commitments within the organization. In other words: managers engage in conversations, One last question we would like to address is the following: Assuming one accepts the idea that what managers do has to do with the expression and articulation of commitments, this still seems to be a simplistic answer because, in fact, there are many things that managers do. For example, they negotiate, they speak in public, they are entrepreneurs. How do these activities figure in? Our answer is that, of course, managers do a lot of things, but when you want to understand what is common to all those acts, you will arrive at the kinds of commitments that we have been studying. T h e r e are still deeper questions, e.g., What kind of relationship exists between our commitment language and other kinds of descriptions of managerial activity? Can some kinds of design, instructional practices, etc. be better illuminated by these different descriptions? These are important questions, but questions we will not pursue in this paper. There are two other important issues we want to mention. The first is that managers, like other people, become immersed in conversations. The point is that we tend to ignore the rest of the world when we are in conversation, and that we need to exercise special attention in order to remain aware of the rest of the world. Yet, if we maintain that awareness we run the risk of being distracted from the actual conversation. The second point is that many conversations may be carried on in media that characterize conversations in special ways. If the conversation is in a letter, its success is dependent on the efficiency of the mail service, distance, etc. If we telephone a person his phone may be busy or he may not be there. If the 56
medium is not verbal we need many additional features to confirm that we are still carrying on the conversation. These features are important because, as we shall see later, the interpretation of silence is an important issue.
4.3 Design In this section our aim is to initiate the design of a prototype system that we shall call "Coordinator", or CrD for short. Within this framework a more detailed description of the structure of conversation and of networks of conversations will be offered. We shall proceed as follows. First we will describe the structure of conversations in terms of the illocutionary forces of the speech acts uttered. Then, we shall analyze how those speech acts are produced in the CrD, The aim of this analysis is to make explicit the mechanisms through which people interact in a conversation. Ordinarily we don't have to worry about such mechanisms, since in normal conversation they are simply part of the way we use our language. But the situation changes if we want to design tools for communication such as the ones we are proposing here. If we want to design tools that permit efficient and "transparent" conversation the mechanisms have to be well understood. Using utterances as the building blocks of conversations, we shall discover how networks of commitments are generated. 4.3.1 Some comments on the notation used We need to introduce notation to represent the sequence of speech acts in a conversation. For our current purposes the following notation will suffice. There are two participants A and B in the conversation, and the actions to be performed are denoted by the letters X, Y. Our model will be a finite state machine. The state of the machine corresponds to the state of the conversation at a given moment. A change of state in the machine occurs after the successful utterance of an illocutionary act. Utterances will be defined by specifying the speaker, the intended hearer, the illocutionary force, and the propositional content. For our purposes, we shall only consider directive, commissive, and assertive illocutionary forces. To simplify matters, commissives will be represented by the word "promise", directives by "request" and assertives by "assert" Since we are working at a very general level, it will not be necessary to distinguish between members of the same illocutionary force, e,g., "orders" and "commands." Thus, for example, the expression A : Request (DoX) = > B 57
is shorthand for, "The speaker, A, performs a speech act whose illocutionary force is that of a request (directive). The illocutionary point of A's request is to get B to perform the action X." When describing a conversation we sometimes need to refer to complete conversations and not just to single utterances. In such cases we use the notation: [A : Request (DoX) = > B] as a short hand for, "The conversation initiated by the successful utterance of A : Request(DoX) = > B."
4.3.2 Conversations T h e model presented here attempts to describe the dynamic flow of commitments as it occurs in conversation. For the present we will not explicitly mention time or the conditions of satisfaction of the expressed commitments. We shall do so later when, in connection with the concept of coordination, we present a detailed analysis of the breakdowns that can take place in conversation. The importance of our model is that it provides necessary rules for guiding the operation of the CrD by defining the options available to the user at any particular moment. At any given moment the state of a conversation is defined by the expressed commitments of the speakers. T h e conversational state changes with the successful performance of an illocutionary act. Therefore, it is important to have ways to denote success. 4.3,2.1 Speech act model of conversations O u r model has five states, ( )silence, (R)equest, (P)romise, (Successful, and (U)nsuccessfuL ( ) being the initial state, and (S) and (U) being two different final states for the conversation. A conversation finishes in the state (S) when the request that triggered the conversation has been satisfied. The way that the conversation normally reaches this state is by A's utterance of an assertion stating that his request has been satisfied by (B). State (U) is reached when A is in a position to assert that the action has not been carried out by B. This state is also reached when B refuses to do the action. The state (R) represents a situation in which A has requested something of or from B> The state (P) is reached when B commits himself to carry out the action requested by A. 58
184.108.40.206 Coordinated conversations It is important to note that in all cases the successful performance of a speech act by a speaker is, in this context, equivalent to a successful conversation initiated by the other actor in which he makes a request for the utterance of the speech act. For example, consider the case when a conversation is in state (R), and A is waiting for B to utter a promise. At this point, A can utter a request to B whose point is to have B utter the awaited promise. This conversation will terminate when A asserts the fact that B uttered the promise. These kinds of conversations will be called "Coordinated Conversations", for it is clear that they are triggered when a delay occurs at a crucial point for the success of the whole conversation. In such situations the speaker may need to urge the other actor to act. We shall see some examples of this later on. 59
It should be clear at this point that since in many cases actors can anticipate the possible delays in a conversation, it is an important part of the design of CrD to include functions for the recording of these anticipations and the actions (conversations to be initiated by the CrD on behalf or the speaker) to be performed when the appropriate time comes. Computers are very useful tools for scheduling such types of future actions and the CrD is distinguished by its capacity to trigger coordinated conversations. We shall continue to explore this topic in the section on coordination, 4,3,2.3 Secondary conversations We shall call those conversations concerned with the propositional content of the utterance made in conversation "secondary conversations". Specifically, secondary conversations are "conversations about the action to be performed" as determined by the propositional content. Their point is to further specify the conditions of satisfaction, i.e., to include new conditions of satisfaction that (for whatever reason) were not explicitly specified or contemplated before. In our model we have allowed for secondary conversations when a conversation is in the (R) or (P) states. When in the (R) state, for instance, B may need additional information about the action he is to perform, or A may want to provide more details (Ask (A'?)); or A or B may want to change some of the stated conditions of satisfaction (Request(Change X)). Secondary conversations can be further specified by considering the structure of the action to be performed. For example, when the request is a request to attend a meeting, we can safely assume that most secondary conversations will be about the place, the time, the participants, or the topic. Within an organization it may be important to reduce to a minimum the number of secondary conversations associated with recurrent conversations. This means that extra conditions for the utterance of speech acts of would be imposed, e.g., certain standard forms might have to be filled out by the person performing a speech act. Such forms represent a standardization of previous conversations about a specific request in the form of anticipations of possible breakdowns in the conversation. This observation is important, since it gives us clear criteria for designing conversations, and it points to a possible notion of conversational efficiency. T h e essential difference between secondary conversations in state (P) (i.e., cases in which a commitment to carry out an action already exists), and those in state (R) is that the claims that can arise in the two cases are different. For example, MB refuses to accept a proposed change in action, and as a result A requests B to cancel the action and B accepts, it is then 60
clear that A cannot later claim that B did not keep his commitments. It is possible to go into much more detail on these issues, but we shall not do so here. 220.127.116.11 Refusals A refusal can take place at any point in a conversation, that is, it occurs in the (R), the (P), or the (A) state. In a refusal B will not commit himself to perform the requested action. The simplest case is when B declines to carry out the action represented by the utterance B : Refuse (doX) = > A, but A can at any point also request B not to carry out the action or B can request A to free him from his commitment. As mentioned before the nature of the refusal will differ depending on whether B has or has not already promised to do the action. It is important to point out that refusals play an important role in the coordination of action. 18.104.22.168 Example To illustrate our model, consider the case in which two people are trying to set up a meeting. The conversation could be envisioned as follows: (1) A: Could you meet me tomorrow at 5? (2) B: Where? (3) A: At my office downtown. (4) B: OK, I'll be there. T h e next day B goes to A's office. (5) B; Hi! (6) A: Please come in. This example indicates several interesting features of our model, but first let us reconstruct the conversation in terms of the speech acts involved and their structure. In utterance (1) the speaker, A, "breaks the silence" by making a request. In (2), B does two things: first he acknowledges A's utterance and, second, he initiates a secondary conversation by making a request that A specify the place of the meeting. Utterance (3) is a complex one since in uttering it A achieves several things: (a) acknowledges B's request, (b) accepts B's request for more information, (c) carries out the requested action: the utterance of an assertion, (d) informs B of his doing so. In utterance (4), B recognizes A's answer with his assertion, thereby successfully finishing the secondary conversation he initiated. He also commits himself to carrying out the specified action. In utterance (5) B informs A of his presence. And in (6) A acknowledges this fact. The conversation concludes successfully. 61
It should be clear at this point that since in many cases actors can anticipate the possible delays in a conversation, it is an important part of the design of CrD to include functions for the recording of these anticipations and the actions (conversations to be initiated by the C r D on behalf of the speaker) to be performed when the appropriate time comes. Computers are very useful tools for scheduling such types of future actions and the CrD is distinguished by its capacity to trigger coordinated conversations. We shall continue to explore this topic in the section on coordination. 22.214.171.124 Secondary conversations We shall call those conversations concerned with the propositional content of the utterance made in conversation "secondary conversations'". Specifically, secondary conversations are "conversations about the action to be performed" as determined by the propositional content. Their point is to further specify the conditions of satisfaction, i.e., to include new conditions of satisfaction that (for whatever reason) were not explicitly specified or contemplated before. In our model we have allowed for secondary conversations when a conversation is in the (R) or (P) states. When in the (R) state, for instance, B may need additional information about the action he is to perform, or A may want to provide more details (Ask (X?)); or A or B may want to change some of the stated conditions of satisfaction (Request(Change X)). Secondary conversations can be further specified by considering the structure of the action to be performed. For example, when the request is a request to attend a meeting, we can safely assume that most secondary conversations will be about the place, the time, the participants, or the topic. Within an organization it may be important to reduce to a minimum the number of secondary conversations associated with recurrent conversations. This means that extra conditions for the utterance of speech acts of would be imposed, e.g., certain standard forms might have to be filled out by the person performing a speech act. Such forms represent a standardization of previous conversations about a specific request in the form of anticipations of possible breakdowns in the conversation. This observation is important, since it gives us clear criteria for designing conversations, and it points to a possible notion of conversational efficiency, T h e essential difference between secondary conversations in state (P) (i.e., cases in which a commitment to carry out an action already exists), and those in state (R) is that the claims that can arise in the two cases are different. For example, if B refuses to accept a proposed change in action, and as a result A requests B to cancel the action and B accepts, it is then 60
clear that A cannot later claim that B did not keep his commitments. It is possible to go into much more detail on these issues, but we shall not do so here. 126.96.36.199 Refusals A refusal can take place at any point in a conversation, that is, it occurs in the (R), the (P), or the (A) state. In a refusal B will not commit himself to perform the requested action. The simplest case is when B declines to carry out the action represented by the utterance B : Refuse (doX) = > A, but A can at any point also request B not to carry out the action or B can request A to free him from his commitment. As mentioned before the nature of the refusal will differ depending on whether B has or has not already promised to do the action. It is important to point out that refusals play an important role in the coordination of action. 188.8.131.52 Example To illustrate our model, consider the case in which two people are trying to set up a meeting. The conversation could be envisioned as follows: (1) A: Could you meet me tomorrow at 5? (2) B: Where? (3) A: At my office downtown. (4)B: OK, 111 be there. T h e next day B goes to A's office. (5) B: Hi! (6) A: Please come in. This example indicates several interesting features of our model, but first let us reconstruct the conversation in terms of the speech acts involved and their structure. In utterance (1) the speaker, A, "breaks the silence" by making a request. In (2), B does two things: first he acknowledges A's utterance and, second, he initiates a secondary conversation by making a request that A specify the place of the meeting. Utterance (3) is a complex one since in uttering it A achieves several things: (a) acknowledges B's request, (b) accepts B's request for more information, (c) carries out the requested action: the utterance of an assertion, (d) informs B of his doing so. In utterance (4), B recognizes A's answer with his assertion, thereby successfully finishing the secondary conversation he initiated. He also commits himself to carrying out the specified action. In utterance (5) B informs A of his presence. And in (6) A acknowledges this fact. The conversation concludes successfully. 61
It is important to note the incredible economy of face-to-face conversations, in which one simple utterance (e.g., (3)) achieves a number of illocutionary points. That is, in face-to-face conversations people take shortcuts; instead of "explicitly" specifying speaker meaning in all of their utterances, they rely on the context in which the conversation is taking place. T h u s , in terms of our analysis, the conversation above could be rewritten as follows: (1.1) (2.1) (2.2) (2.3) (2.4) (1.2)
A: B: A: A: B: B:
B, could you meet me tomorrow at 5? Please tell me where we are to meet. O.K. I'll tell you. Let's meet at my office downtown. That is an acceptable place. I'll be at your office downtown tomorrow at 5.
T h e next day, B goes to A's office. (1.3) B: Here I am. (1.4) A: Yes, indeed! (If the secondary conversation had not finished successfully, then although the original conversation would still be in state (R) after utterance (2.4), the conditions of satisfaction of A's request would not include the explicit specification of the place where the meeting will occur. 4.3.3 Utterances T h e successful performance of a speech act depends in part upon the listener's acknowledgement. In face-to-face conversation acknowledgement can be embedded in the hearer's reply, In a situation in which the hearer anticipates a long delay before his reply reaches the speaker, he must explicitly acknowledge the speaker's utterance, otherwise the speaker may believe that his utterance was not heard. Acknowledgement is, in this sense, an assertion that the listener has heard the speakers utterance. This is compatible with our model since we can always consider the speaker's utterance as a request to listen to the utterance. Of course, this would be a circular argument if we forgot that "we do in saying".7 The actual state of an utterance is defined by acknowledgements received in the context of the conversation. Now we need to formulate a number of rules that define what counts as an acknowledgement in different situations. Such rules must take into account the time delays introduced by the communication medium, uncertainty about the presence of the 62
hearer, etc. Examples of such rules are: (1) In a conversation every utterance must eventually be acknowledged. (2) If someone reads an utterance and he does not intend to continue the conversation, he should be asked whether he wants to send an acknowledgement to the originator of the utterance, (3) T h e performance of a speech act in (immediate) reply to another utterance counts as an acknowledgement. As a first approximation we assert that an utterance can be in any of the following states. Silence: No utterance has been made Produced: T h e speaker has generated the utterance Received: T h e utterance has been heard by the person to whom it was directed Acknowledged: The hearer has acknowledged the utterance Success: T h e speaker has heard the acknowledgement Failure: T h e utterance is somehow lost or frustrated
It is interesting to note how these states correspond to states of the conversation, This is due to the fact that we can interpret each utterance as a request in which the speaker asks the hearer to listen to him, The conditions under which changes in the state of the utterance occur are similar to those which govern the conversation as a whole. The difference is that, in general, the actions performed need not be confined to utterances, but can include other kinds of actions, e.g., in normal face-toface conversation, one usually makes some assenting movement of the head after hearing an utterance that counts as an acknowledgement. When using communication tools like the C r D one needs to provide specific instructions that acknowledgement be given to the speaker. Or the C r D may automatically take note of the speaker's utterance and respond accordingly. It is important to note that, in general, this automatic response does not count as an acknowledgement, but only as evidence that the hearer has received the utterance. 184.108.40.206 A model for the production of utterances As before, we shall describe the relationship between the various states of an utterance using a graph to represent a finite state machine. The vertices represent the states, and the labels on the edges represent actions that entail a change of state, 63
In this diagram we have again introduced a few primitives that must be explained. The first primitive, A: Generate(U), means that speaker, A, produces an utterance. This is done in the case of CrD by typing the text of the utterance. In other contexts this can be done by pressing buttons on a control panel. Once the utterance is generated the CrD keeps track of it in an attempt to decide whether it will be successful. At this point we say that the utterance has been produced and is in state (P). The next primitive, B; Read(U), represents the action reading or hearing A's utterance. Once this has been done the utterance will be in state (R). After reading the utterance, B must acknowledge it. This can be done in several ways: (a) by explicitly doing so using the C r D, or (b) by generating an utterance that in the context of the conversation counts as an implicit acknowledgement, Finally A must, again using the C r D, read B's acknowledgement. Upon completion of this sequence of events we say that the utterance has been successfully uttered by A. 64
On the other hand, A's utterance may not be properly transmitted or read by B and when the utterance is unsuccessful A must be informed of this fact. An important case is that of a timeout, i.e., cases in which A's utterance is not acknowledged. To handle this type of situation the CrD must be able to automatically perform some kind of corrective action, e.g., send B another copy of (U), or send A a reminder that his utterance has not yet been acknowledged. Let us briefly consider the role of reminders in the CrD. In the section about coordinated conversations, we mentioned those conversations that are initiated by an actor in order to elicit a response. What we have here is different: here we have utterances that are produced using an automatic mechanism that will remind the hearer of his commitment. These utterances are requests to perform some action and therefore are directives. Reminders are uttered by the speaker in anticipation, and often become obsolete in the further course of conversation. In terms of the C r D, this means that there must be a way to associate reminders with previous commitments. This could be done when the utterance is first made or afterwards. One important feature that must be present in the C r D is the ability to manipulate reminders. In summary, the CrD must have a number of primitive commands that perform the described actions: there must be a way to generate new utterances, there must be a way to read them, there must be ways to acknowledge utterances, and there must be a way to read those acknowledgements. 4.3.4 Networks of conversations In the course of satisfying a request, we usually initiate other conversations by making a number of related requests; we may make requests of ourselves or of other members of the organization or even of someone outside the organization. These requests have conditions of satisfaction that are associated by the speaker with the original request, i.e., for coordination purposes all these actions belong together. The important thing to note here is that the original request will be satisfied only if all of the related requests obtain satisfaction. There are many ways in which a request can be seen as dependent upon other requests (the most general sense in which this can be said to be the case is temporal dependence), and there are many kinds of situations in which the original request cannot be satisfied until all of the subordinate requests have been satisfied. For our purposes, we may consider conversation networks to be treelike structures. At the base of the tree is the original conversation, i.e., a 65
conversation of the form [A : Request(DoX) = > B]. At the next levels we find conversations that have been initiated by the hearer, B, and that are associated with the original request. It is important to note here that it is B's responsibility to be aware of the fact that all the conversations he initiates in order to satisfy the original request belong together in a network. B must also know the way in which the satisfaction of the original request depends on the conditions of satisfaction for the requests he makes. In our design of CD, we must provide a number of functions to describe and manipulate these dependencies. In some eases a speaker may want to initiate a conversation which is not directly related to the current request he is working on. He knows, however, that the current request is a good excuse for him to start this new conversation. Thus, we have two conversations which are linked in a network because one provides the excuse for initiating the other. Another kind of relationship between conversations is one in which a conversation is triggered by certain conditions. A simple example of this occurs when an inventory is being replenished. Thus, when someone is filling out an order for specific merchandise and discovers that a certain item is being rapidly depleted, he makes the appropriate request to reorder that item. A final important kind of relationship between conversations is that of requests that represent alternate courses of action. In such cases the speaker wants to have alternative plans to carry out an action, e.g., when asking for bids on a certain project. This is an important distinction, for it allows the speaker to better control the side effects of an unsuccessful conversation. In summary, the main design idea behind these observations has been to identify situations in which conversation networks are triggered by requests. We can formalize the structure of these networks using a tree structure with different kinds of links between conversations. These links are, dependent, alternative, triggered, and excuse, The CrD must include tools that can create, maintain, and analyse conversational networks. 4.3.5 Coordination As a first attempt to understand the idea of coordinated action let us consider an example, namely, an alarm clock. Suppose that you have committed yourself to a certain course of action. You know that in order to perform it successfully you must start at a certain time. Therefore, you take the immediate step of setting an alarm clock to ring at the appropriate time. When the alarm clock rings and interrupts you from whatever else you were doing, your commitment presents itself and you are compelled to act. 66
In some sense, computers are like alarm clocks. They are "extended" alarm clocks, in that they can also provide us with the possibility of having our commitments at hand, much like a date book does. On the other hand, using the communications capabilities of computer networks we can also set alarm clocks for others; or, by providing the appropriate rules, we can filter alarms within a network. The need for such clocks and filters is rooted in human finitude, in the fact that human beings have a limited capacity to deal with situations. We cannot deal with all that can be requested. In particular we are concerned with the problems human finitude raises for conversation. We must be absorbed in the present conversational network, but simultaneously we need to come back to conversations which are pending. At the same time we need to be protected from irrelevant demands and to be notified of those which are relevant, otherwise our absorption in the present conversation may be so complete, or the social filters that protect us may work so well, that crucial aspects of the network can be overlooked thereby frustrating the entire conversation. In one sentence, we need control by exception and at opportune moments. The critical point then is to have criteria for design. In an organization there will be a number of rules for coordination. For example, a rule may be established to remind people to hand in expense reports within a week of returning from a trip; In this case, coordination starts from the moment that the request for authorization of the trip is made, since such requests must provide certain information. In carrying out a complex action, such as planning a trip (that will, of course, be in compliance with a previous request), a number of members of the organization will need to participate in the conversation. A rather complex network of conversations will be generated and in each case some crucial delays are likely to occur. The fact that the trip must take place at a specific time imposes severe restrictions on those delays. Another important feature of coordination is illuminated in economics. Corporate expansion has occurred because administrative coordination is more effective than market coordination for dealing with unexpected contingencies. In this context the question "What is the network?" is critical for success and it must be included in design considerations, for clearly a network that includes many people and organizations requires more elaborate coordination than one in which management directly controls delays in the conversations involved. In summary, there are three basic dimensions along which coordination of action takes place, corresponding to three different moments in a 67
conversation. First, there are conversations about the action, i.e., conversations that further specify or modify the conditions of satisfaction of a request. These conversations anticipate a commitment, they are forwardlooking. Second, there are conversations triggered by a breakdown, or by an anticipated breakdown of the action. These conversations attempt to renew or renegotiate commitments that for some reason can no longer be kept. Finally, there are conversations that are triggered at crucial moments in the performance of the action. These conversations anticipate the actual satisfaction of a commitment. 220.127.116.11 Delays in conversations We shall now present a more detailed analysis of the delays involved in a conversation. In a successful conversation it is necessary to distinguish at least four types of delays. The first, Tr, is the time it takes for the hearer to recognize the request as such. T h e second, T p , is the time it takes for the hearer to respond. Similarly T a and T s are the delays created by the utterance of the relevant assertions. Upon closer inspection, however, we can see that these delays are of two basic kinds. One is the time it takes a speaker to actually produce the utterance, and the second concerns the time it takes for the utterance to be recognized as such. This distinction is one of the main reasons to introduce the analysis of utterances. It implies that at the conversation level only three time delays are involved; (1) the time required for a promise to be uttered (and recognized) or Tp; (2) the time required for B to assert that he will carry out the action, or TA; and finally, (3) the time it takes for A to make his assertion about the action, or Ts. These time delays are crucial to the action. In the example of the simple request given in section 18.104.22.168, Tp is never explicitly mentioned since the conversation was face-to-face and both actors were ready to agree about the action. We can say TP was zero. On the other hand, TA is the time delay between the occurrence of the present conversation and that which will take place the next day at five. Finally, the value Ts is also zero in this example. In the case of utterances, we see that there are also three critical moments, and therefore three corresponding kinds of delays involved, They arise in the process in which the hearer hears the requests and in which the speaker recognizes that the hearer heard the utterance. At first glance one may think that the delay from the ( ) to the (G) states belongs to the process of successfully producing an utterance. But it is one of the time delays of a conversation, not of an utterance. 68
Now we are in a better position to discuss what we mean by coordinated action. Coordination has to do with successfully terminating conversations. In terms of our model this means that all of the speech acts required have been successfully performed. Therefore, given that we have identified the critical moments in the conversation, we should have a clear idea of what coordinated actions are required. That is, we would like to initiate a coordinated conversation when anticipated delays are about to occur. In this sense, the Coordinator acts as an alarm clock that the speaker sets to go off when possible breakdowns in conversation are anticipated. To illustrate the coordination situation consider the following continuation of our previous example. Suppose that later that evening A finds out that it will be impossible for him to fulfill his promise to meet with B because something has come up unexpectedly. He wants to cancel the meeting, but he also wants to avoid upsetting B. If A finds a way to notify B and arrange a new appointment, we say that he has coordinated his world with B's. This will be easy if they live near one another, or if they are to meet for dinner, but the situation will be more difficult if they are far away from one another. In this case A will need a tool, such as a phone or telegram or perhaps a car, in order to contact B; or A could ask some other person to attend the meeting for him if they are a part of his resources, and if they will do it. In this example we see how coordination is accomplished through chains of conversations. The conditions for satisfaction of the original request will set constraints on all of these derived conversations, but the situation requiring coordination may change at different points in the conversation. When a promise is given, for example, the hearer may be affected by the promise in ways that the speaker does not anticipate. In the case in which the promise is not kept, doubts about the competence, concern, and sincerity of the speaker may arise requiring special coordination.
4.4 Tools for the Office of the Future This section is an attempt to provide answers to our previous questions about the design of tools for managers and office workers. What managers need are tools to produce illocutionary acts and to provide a collection of functions to deal with the complexity, absorption, and unrelenting pace of the corresponding commitments. At the same time, extensions of the same tools must be made available to other members of the organization who will be connected through these tools (with the preparatory conditions of their own utterances). Using these tools managers and other members of the organization will maintain a more acute awareness of their activities, improving their effectiveness and the quality of their interactions. Managers are continually faced with questions like the following: "What is missing?", 69
"What needs to be done?", "Where do I stand in terms of my obligations and opportunities?", "How do I communicate what I want to say?", "How do I avoid being overwhelmed by data and obvious details while maintaining accessibility and control?" At this point, these questions can be reformulated with functional capabilities as follows; "Which requests of me (directives) are still pending?", "Which of the requests I have made (directives) are pending?", "Which of the promises made to me are overdue?", and "Which of the promises I have made to others are overdue?" It will be possible to monitor the functional capabilities of requests, promises, and offers only if they have been previously recorded. However, this can take place at the moment when the communicative act occurs. All of the connections within the organization may be treated in a similar way. Filters can be designed to increase the transparency of mutual interactions in a way that avoids delays in the form of unwanted interactions, e.g. junk mail, and at the same time, insures that significant communication is facilitated. Indicators of failures can be provided automatically, and could be investigated routinely as part of the organizational analysis. These are some of the additional tools that are derived from our approach to management and communication. Although there are others, we are not going to discuss them here; rather, we shall discuss the notion of conversation from the perspective of design. The kinds of new tools that we envisage are devices embodied in the new digital technology of communication, physical entities such as a modern PBX connected to a hybrid device combining a telephone and computer terminal By using such devices managers may interact transparently by making the proper utterances. At the same time, forfeiting some degree of transparency, a manager can ask questions about his other commitments. In other words, besides being the vehicle of inscription and transmission of the inscription, these devices must be accessible for monitoring purposes. T h e r e is no doubt that a great transformation is taking place fuelled by technological innovations and the new products offered by the computer industry. Energy shortages, declines in productivity, and the growing cost of salaries will influence the scenario of the office in the next decade. The crucial problem will be one of organization and design. How can we design the equipment and the networks of computers to be effective tools, to cope with the difficulties? How is it possible to avoid being overcome by a legion of new technological gadgets that do nothing to improve life or human efficiency? These are difficult questions and must be dealt with. Initially, however, we want to address only two questions. One can be termed the question of feasibility: Is it possible to design new kinds of 70
products to assist managers in communicating effectively? The second question will be called the question of characterization: Can we characterize some of the features of these products? 4.4.1 T h e question of feasibility Drawing support from the theoretical analysis presented in previous sections and in other works, we strongly believe that it is possible to design new kinds of communications products. At the risk of being repetitive, we will review our principal findings using our new language. The organization develops its activity in a network of commitments, made both among its own members and to people outside the organization. These commitments form a deep structure of linguistic communication. In other words, they are the basic units of analysis for linguistic interactions. The dynamics of such interactions and the issuance of commitments can be reduced to a certain finite number of possible states and issuances. Based on these insights we maintain that it is possible to develop tools that are easy to learn and easy to use and that in a very important way, these tools will provide an intelligent answer to the question "What do I need to do?" Since we knowthat this question can be interpreted as: "What are the states of my engaged commitment?" "How are they going?", we see that these tools will provide simple but rich capabilities for monitoring and issuing commitments. A reasonable question at this point would be: Why will managers and office workers want to use these tools as opposed to accomplishing their tasks using the more traditional means such as face-to-face contacts, mail, or telephone? We are not saying that the use of these tools will be mandatory, Face-to-face contacts will continue to occur on many occasions; they are necessary and convenient. But we need to recognize the importance of distance as a factor in human work. Because of this barrier we need to use tools such as mail or the telephone. But although many tools to help overcome these problems have existed for a long time, it is not clear that they are convenient in the present situation. For example, we are all familiar with the annoying experience of using the phone and not reaching the person we want. Statistics report that the probability of making contact by phone is less than 30%. There is also the need for some filtering mechanism to protect people from being interrupted by phone calls. There is also concern about the adequacy of the tools that we are currently using. Mail is not a very effective method for quick coordination because the conversation is constrained by the scheduling of collection, classification, and delivery. However, the mail is relatively cheap and it enables one to reach people nationwide as well as worldwide. The telephone 71
is certainly more effective once the parties or people are connected, but it is significantly more expensive. How much the partners of a conversation will have to spend to gain access to each other is an important consideration for design, T h e notions of conversation and of networks of secondary and coordinated conversations will provide us with the basis for making such an analysis. T h e proponents of electronic mail have heralded its appearance as a solution to many of these problems, introducing new possibilities and an easy interface to data bases and text editing functions. But with the emergence of new possibilities, new problems are also emerging. The principal problem is the proliferation of unwanted interaction. For people already living in a world of electronic mail a new form of junk mail has appeared, Like copiers, electronic mail augments the possibility of excessive interaction by making it easy to bring new entities into existence and to initiate new interactions. As a result, the subtle mechanisms designed to control access begin to disintegrate. A return to the mechanisms of privacy and hierarchical control is necessary; however, this introduces new, additional costs in the form of underutilized systems. Another possible solution is to make evident the organizational hierarchy in the form of protocols for communication, but this has unfortunately bad consequences for the morale of the organization. Other problems come from the nature of the managerial conversations, which are, in general, short and intermittent. Usually they are "free form" in the sense that they are not part of the rulegoverned conversations of an organization. Managers need new ways to interact, they need new communication tools with simple and clear commands. They do not need a keyboard, particularly not a complex keyboard. They are neither scientists, typists, nor computer professionals.
This brings us to a final, very important question: Aren't we simply proposing a non-transparent solution to the problem of processing meaning by the methods of processing language similar to that proposed in artificial intelligence and language understanding? Not at all. We seriously doubt that many of the practitioners of A. I. are even dealing with language; instead they are dealing with a derivative phenomenon that emerges as a consequence of the inscription realized in the written word. In asserting this, we are not saying that all of the work in A. I. is useless, unrealistic, or wrong. We are only emphasizing that the essential feature of language and communication is not being grasped. A. I. has produced nice results in the domains of symbolic or algebraic manipulation, thereby extending human capabilities. 72
We have insisted that the unity of human communication consists in eliciting commitments by the issuance of utterances considered as events taking place in specific contexts. We maintain that it is impossible to find any kind of formal correspondence between the conventions of the written word and the structure of the commitments in a conversation. It is not possible by processing such inscriptions to reconstruct the structure of the commitments involved. This is because commitments do not belong to the domain of inscriptions, but rather to the domain of human interaction. What we propose is to make the CrD's user aware of some of the features of this structure and at the same time to provide him with tools that will connect him with different stages of commitments. Of course, the possibilities available to the user will be more restricted than in the use of the spoken conversation, but this is not necessarily bad. We are always subject to constraints imposed by the nature of the inscription and transmission media. Personal letters follow certain conventions, commercial letters follow additional ones, and even telephone conversations are different from normal, face-to-face conversations. The crucial point is to ask whether the new tools are ergonomical, viable, and economical. Ergonomic considerations concern the possibility of incorporating new tools into a normal individual's skilled behavior after simple training. Economic considerations deal with the requirement that new tools compensate for the increased costs in terms of increased efficiency, etc. We are very optimistic about all of these issues, but they will not be debated here. We have only been concerned with establishing the technological function of coordinators, 4.4.2 T h e question of characterization In this section we shall characterize the class of products or tools that we have called Coordinators. Although we shall point out features that clearly distinguish Coordinators from other similar tools, we shall not discuss their specific technological features and implementation. On the other hand it must be clear that the intention of this description is to make it possible to generate (given specific technological constraints) a concrete product. The Coordinator belongs to a class of products designed for the purpose of constructing and controlling conversational networks in the context of large electronic communication systems. The basic notion discussed in this essay is that of illocutionary act. This does not imply that in certain cases we could not introduce new distinctions at the level of illocutionary force. We may, for example, want to distinguish 73
a request for a budget from a request for sick-leave. Clearly the two requests have something in common, namely they both share the illocutionary point of requests, but they also depend on the particular context within which they are issued. We have said that illocutionary acts are the building blocks from which conversations and conversational networks are constructed and that they correspond to different kinds of commitments that people engage in while carrying out their daily activities. The crucial point is that behind every speech act there is at least one fundamental pair of commitments: one made by the speaker and the other made by the person addressed. Coordinators will manipulate illocutionary acts as their basic units, By performing certain illocutionary acts people interact in conversations and coordinate their actions. We say this because a basic feature of illocutionary acts is that they link commitments with action, human action, within a temporal framework. Time is a crucial element if coordination is to be achieved. So, the Coordinator must have simple and yet powerful ways to "perform" illocutionary acts including the related specification of the utterance, its illocutionary force, and associated features; namely, time, place, and propositional content. (It is important to note that in order to achieve successful coordination, the specification of time, place, actors, and commitments is required). In short, the discovery that certain types of conversations recur allows us to carry out an analysis of what the conditions for the successful performance of the illocutionary act in that conversation are and incorporate them at the level of performance in the Coordinator. To lend some concreteness to this presentation, imagine the following scenario. T h e basic hardware substrate, that is the transmission, storage, and control mediums, is provided by a timesharing system to which a number of stations have been attached. These stations are the means by which members of the organization have access to the services provided by the Coordinator. The stations are display terminals with a special keyboard which is divided into three main areas; one for a normal alphanumeric keyboard; one for keys that correspond to the basic kinds of illocutionary acts that have been distinguished; and one with keys to enter dates and times,7 T h e most important point about the keyboard's organization is that it must provide users with efficient ways to indicate the type of illocutionary act they want to perform including its illocutionary forces and propositional content. 4,4.3 Notes on the design of systems and organizations T h e practical consequence of our investigations for the design of organizations is that it is possible to have a theory which precedes the em74
pirical study of organizations. Today it is recognized that the power of empirical science is rooted in its presuppositions. In organizations what is taken for granted is their constitutive declarative space and the networks of commitments that may be observed. If the presence of this declarative space and network of commitments is taken into consideration then the analysis of actual interactions can be carried out. T h e discipline of systems analysis has focused on routine, structured processes, attacking the problems of volume and routine rather than the problem of communication. This discipline, although it has its limitations, is in the process of providing middle management systems for billing, payroll, accounting, inventory control, etc. Remaining problems are classified as non-structured; this is a classification that is rooted in certain preconceptions of the nature of structure. Against this, we assert that the structure of an organization is realized in the generation of structured conversations. We believe that commitment analysis will, in the future, become a dominant theory which will simultaneously shape the design of organizations and systems.
4.5 Further discussion of coordination It is important to note that the technical sense of the word "coordination" in the preceding discussion of the basic structure of communicative acts performed in every organization is not equivalent to a certain "naive" use of the term as it is commonly employed when talking about organizations. "Coordination" is used in this more general sense to denote a quality of a. good organization, e.g., as in the expressions, "In this organization there is a lack of coordination" and "We need to achieve better coordination in the coming year". A question we have not dealt with is how to cope with a problem of unsuccessful coordination. Of course, our first answer would be to analyze the network of commitments as they are articulated by the members of the orÂŹ ganization, particularly in directives and commissives. However such a general answer can only provide a "style" for dealing with organizational problems. Henry Mintzberg, in a book published in 1979, 9 lays down the two notions, division of labor and coordination, as the foundation stones for every organized activity. He writes: 75
Every organized human activityâ€”from the making of pots to the placing of a man on the moonâ€”gives rise to two fundamental and opposing requirements: the division of labor into various tasks to be performed and the coordination of these tasks to accomplish the activity. The structure of an organization can be defined simply as the sum total of the ways in which it divides its labor into distinct tasks and then achieves coordination among them. Some lines further we read: Five coordinating mechanisms seem to explain the fundamental ways in which organizations coordinate their work: mutual adjustment, direct supervision, standardization of work process, standardization of work outputs, and standardization of workers' skills. These should be considered the most basic elements of structure, the glue that holds organizations together. T h e definitions Mintzberg offers to characterize each of the five basic processes are not very clear. We are not interested in providing an in-depth criticism of Mintzberg's notions and framework, we have only mentioned his work here because it deals with several notions which are helpful in illuminating our own discussion. First, Mintzberg's discussion of managerial work focuses on the notion of coordination. But as we have seen a definition of the term coordination presupposes an understanding of the notion of communication. Unfortunately, Mintzberg has not seen this and his theory of coordination suffers because of this. But at least we find in his work an awareness of how the actual process of communication (commitment networks in our terminology) is linked with background processes, such as direct supervision and standardization. "Direct supervision" is the process in which procedures are established (by directives) to deal with anticipated breakdowns, conflicts of interest, or uses of resources. One organizational ideal would be to have preestablished procedures for issuing supervisory directives of the forms, "If it is the case that X, do Y" or "If it is the case that X, ask A such and such a question." T h e emergence of two kinds of devices in the "office of the future" can be anticipated along these lines. The first might be called the "supervisor as instructor". It would be a system for new kinds of operators, for giving instructions in the form of directives, and for outlining procedures and the forms for possible conversations. The second, or "supervisorsâ€” mailboxes for the emergence of novelty", would file messages, pro-
ducing records of breakdowns within evolving situations and ways of dealÂŹ ing with them that have not been previously registered or recognized as solutions. "Standardization" is interpreted as a (prior) discourse taking place in specialized departments and connected with the heritage of human relations in such a way as to provide a pre-orientation for human space and discourse in terms of possible actions, entities, events, and solutions. In effect, standardization reduces the necessity for human communication. Let us consider a specific example. A physician is trained over a period of years. Classes provide him with a framework and a language to prepare him to cope with a recurrent, dramatic set of circumstances, such as surgical procedures. In surgery, actions will be followed and requests satisfied in a smooth, pre-deÂŹ signed manner. Every action and every request is performed in a standard way and with a certainty that is the result of the many years of theoretical and practical training. But it is possible to imagine a less trained person without this background who has previously been provided with a communication link for asking questions and receiving instructions performing some of the tasks successfully, e.g., paramedics, dealing with emergencies, In such cases, standardized actions and requests play a crucial role. We may feel that the claim that standardization "reduces the necessity for human communication" is unfortunate because it seems to separate communication and action, but as we have said action is already pervaded by communication. With this we want to conclude our discussion of coordination. The purpose of this section has been to show how our ideas about commitment and understanding can be developed in relation to the broader discussion about organizations and their structures. However, the discussion of organization of a structure would require investigation of issues extending beyond the boundaries of management theories as they have traditionally been conceived. An outline of such an investigation is the aim of our Postscript,
James Martin, The Wired Society (Prentice-Hall, 1978), p.5,
cathode ray tube, i.e., television-type display,
H.L, Morgan, and J.U. Soden, "Understanding MIS Failures," Proceedings of the Wharton Conference on Research on Computers in Organizations, Database (New York: ACM, Vol. 5:2,3,4. 1973), pp. 157-171. 4 Everett M. Rogers and Rekha A, Rogers, Communication in Organizations, (New York: T h e Free Press, 1976) 5 James H. Bair, "Communication in the Office-of-the-Future: Where the Real Payoff May Be," Proceedings of the Fourth International Computer Communications Conference t Kyoto, Japan, August 1978.
Henry Mintzberg, The nature of managerial work (New York: Harper and Row Publishers, 1973)
John L. Austin, How to Do Things with Words. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1962).
Clearly this is not the only possibility, another one could include, perhaps, a pointing device, and so on. 9 Henry Mintzberg, The Structure of Organizations, (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, 1979).
Postscript One of the presuppositions shared by an author and his readers is that a certain coherence will govern the discourse. Continuity and coherence are constantly at stake in every conversation; every chapter and paragraph "is required" to follow "logically" and "in connection" with the previous ones. Perhaps this is one reason why writers often feel compelled to write entirely new books in order to be able to say something different or new. T h e postscript is an attempt to introduce a certain "incoherence", i.e., some thoughts about issues excluded by the very demand that this work be connected and continuous. In this postscript I want to present some ideas for future research and possible directions for theoretical development within the broader perspective of language, action, and understanding. The ideas presented here are intended more as hints and as means of self-reflection than as guidelines for a research program.
1 Basic research 1.1 A theory of intentionality Mental states are ascribed to persons; they are predicated of other people as well as of ourselves as we engage in discourse. But although we can characterize expressions such as "I'm concerned", "I'm angry", "he is valiant", "he is stupid", "he is in love" as assertions, this is not enough because in each case a "basic offer" or promise has been made to provide evidence for the presence of the appropriate sincerity conditions involved; such a promise can't be explained by ostensive definitions. It is rather the connection of the assertion with the rest of the discourse and ultimately with human Intentionality that is involved here. J o h n Searle (as well as many other contemporary thinkers) has been working on such a theory. Searle claims that many mental states can be interpreted as combinations of the two basic forms of Intentionality, viz., belief and desire. Although the theory is still in the process of being worked out we nevertheless hope that his and other efforts will provide important new contributions to the philosophy of mind and language, and simultaneously allow us to discover connections between the Intentionality of mental states and human commitments. 79
1.2 A theory of emotions and feelings It has been standard to separate the realm of feeling from that of reason, a separation strengthened by the cleavage between romantic and rationalistic perspectives. In our opinion we need to overcome this dichotomy which places feelings, emotions, and passions outside the sphere of rationality. To achieve this we need a theory of mental states as indicated in the previous subsection. Emotional states and moods are part of human discourse; they need to be understood as potential commitments and to be listened to as inherited possibilities and predispositions. They are important parts of human preunderstanding. Adopting a Heideggerian perspective as our point of departure, we need to go further employing a more elaborate linguistic phenomenology. Institutions and organizations must be examined as processes which give shape to emotional states and moods and thus are what might be called '"people-making" in an historical context. The asynchronical and historical aspects must be clarified. The works of Friedrich Nietzsche and the contemporary writings of Michel F o u c a u l t seem particularly relevant here. 1.3 A theory of second-order conversations We also see a need for further investigation of the processes of human interaction and language, In chapter three we discussed elements for such a theory drawn from the works of Austin and Searle, as well as from the work of Jurgen Habermas. Chapter three, however, contains insights that need to be pursued. Chief among these is the need to integrate the emotional and ethical aspects of human behavior as a foundation for more enlightened human practice and self-reflection. 1.4 A re-discovery of our present blindness Chapter two contained the claim that we have forgotten commitment and understanding. We include this subsection as a reminder that one of the most important purposes of any theoretical investigation is to provide a source of self-re flection and criticism. In the future efforts must be made to open a dialogue between the two different philosophical traditions presented in chapter two: the analytical tradition of speech acts and continental hermeneutics a la Heidegger. These are the three areas where I expect to concentrate my own interests in the next few years. In these ways I hope to deepen and expand the insights of Chapter two. 80
2 Applications Although the dividing line between theory and application is rather unclear, applications of the previous theoretical insights can be anticipated in several areas, 2.1 A theory of institutions Institutions are generated by human recognition and maintained by mutual respect and obligation. Traditionally, they have been studied mainly in legal, political, and economic terms. But understanding the way institutions are generated and maintained requires inquiry into the broader aspects of pragmatics and language. This is just beginning to be recognized, and as yet no place has been created for such studies within established disciplines. Furthermore, the connection between institutions and the full spectrum of social feelings has not been taken seriously, even though the classics and literature provide abundant and clear examples of their connection. The integration of theoretical frameworks, as we have previously characterized them, and the concrete design of institutions involving processes of participation may be an important area of application. We hope that a more serious theory of organizations win be one of the concrete results of this work. 2.2 A theory of socialization Socialization, interpreted as the process of gaining access to social skills and of acquiring a normatively functioning heritage, has been the traditional concern of sociology and social psychology. Recent years have seen a growing interest in the study of moral and ego development. We believe that these investigations require a better theoretical understanding of human nature, as based on historical being-in-the-world and the human expression of commitment. Such an approach to socialization seeks to understand "openness" and "blindness" as ever-present permanent historical phenomena, and not a standard, fixed culture. Yet, the concern for commitment and understanding must go hand in hand with an awareness of individual, group, and social processes: socialization needs to be looked at as both a social and individual process. Socialization within an organization must be looked at in the same way.
3 Individualization and self-transformation We want to conclude our work by mentioning an issue implicit throughout the text. Until now, we have been concerned with theoretical 81
and applied research. Now we want to focus upon the related possibility of human transformation. By "self-transformation" we mean a practice whose purpose is to enable us to assume more responsibility for the historical being we are or want to be. Human transformation is and has been a hope, promise, and aspiration of many religions and ideological groups. Glorious actions and heinous crimes have been committed on its behalf, while others have looked at it with suspicion. It is our belief that the theory offered in this thesis contains the seeds for individual and social transformation. We need to remember that psychoanalysis, for example, rests basically on the reconstruction of (hidden) meanings through conversations between the psychoanalyst and his patient. Other kinds of therapies such as group therapy and institutional analysis proceed in the same way. The difficulty with all of them in their present state is that they are founded on an inadequate understanding of language. We want to insist that the notion of selftransformation primarily concerns the development of abilities and skills and not conceptual understanding. Conceptual understanding is important, but when we are talking about transformation we are talking about how the individual's very form of existence is modified. We are concerned here with the individual's ability to better understand how to select directions of intervention for shaping and choosing the kind of historical being he is. There is no clearly mapped passage to a secure harbor in this connection; rather it is a risky venture to accept what we are destined to be, what we want to be, and what it is necessary to become for human survival.
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Published on Mar 10, 2018