re: group construing

Robin Hill (BSRAH@TWP.AC.NZ)
Thu, 16 May 1996 11:22:59 +1300

I'm beginning to realise from some of these later postings that some
of the things I've been messing about with, presumably in a fairly
amateur way, possibly have more significance than I first thought.

For instance, I too, can report an episode of group construct
elicitation in an organisational setting. In this instance, I
was working as a Personnel Officer, and had been set the task for one
department, of "finding out what they actually do and why?" This
involved fairly traditional sorts of job analysis, but I sneaked in a
bit of Repertory Test and Laddering (purely out of self interest) to
see if I could gain an imprerssion of the core, agreed functions of
the department and the values underlying them.

The process involved individual repertory test etc. I had then
undertaken to try and make sense of the result. One group of five
field workers, attached to this department, operated from a town
which was two hours away from the main office. The company, being a
bit skinflint with this exercise, would only allow me a company car
for one day to visit this group, and wouldn't allow an overnight
stay. Hence I only had a few hours with them. Not enough time to
work with them as individuals.

I decided to attempt a group repertory test, and group laddering
(just to see if it worked). It required negotiation among group
members about the elements they were going to use. I asked each
member to elicit constructs individually. We then placed the
constructs on a whiteboard, and enough discussion ensued, to enable
members to agree that they had some similar constructs, and some that
were different. The group then agreed among themselves to select a
handful of these for laddering technique. During this procedure,
disagreements arose. But the procedure was particularly powerful for
exposing personal agenda and shared agenda among the members. It was
also powerful for exposing superordinate constructs that were virtually in opposition,
but which had a common subordinate construct. The usefulness of
this, was that the members of the group did _agree to disagree_ on
issues, while at the same time acknowledge where they did agree.

An example: The group (actually a work crew who made natural gas
pipe connections to domestic customers) agreed,
in turn, that it was important that they enhance the company's image,
in order to get more customers, so as to get income for the company.
They agreed that they were in the business of selling product to get income. They
disagreed (with some strength of feeling) as to _how much money should
be made_. Huge profits? Or just enough to keep servicing customers
adequately? As I imply above, after about ten minutes of animated
discussion the group, agreed to disagree - and moved onto the next
construct. They had moved a fair distnace in the process, however,
in terms of learning about one another.

I thought this sort of messing about with groups was probably fairly
standard among PCP practitioners. Hence I've thought very little about this.
However, is this kind of story publishable??? I've been sending copies of some
of the projects I've been involved in to various people round the
globe - never thinking that these projects would be of sufficient
interest to others to be publishable. I'm beginning to wonder
however, if in the area of organisational applications of PCP, we
could do with a publication of "case studies" describing PCP methods
at work. Simply describing what some of us have done.

Much of my work (and I admit there has not been much of it) has been
concerned with trying to determine the commonality of constructs (or
values) within organisational groups. Much of the power of the
process has however come from the sociality aspect, whereby the
procedures have exposed personal agenda, and resulted in (so far)
mature negotiation of these, and agreements to disagree on some
issues, and agreement to agree upon, and indeed confirm a group
policy, on other issues.

By the way - I understand that although my name is Robin, some of you
(especially in N. America) have assumed that I'm female. I am, in
fact, a male, married with three children, aged 16 through to 6 years old.

By the way, Bill Ramsay - I get the feeling you and I are on the same
wavelength on some of these issues.

Dr. Robin Hill

Senior Lecturer & Research Leader
Department of Business Studies
The Waikato Polytechnic
Private Bag 3036
Hamilton 2020
New Zealand