Yjrö Engeström: Analysing Expansive learning
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10 March 2010
Engestrom talking about the project: preventing social exlusion among the elderly in Home Care in the city of Helsinki
Building on last year’s talk on expansive learning by looking at the home care requirements of elderly in Helsinki. Work with practitioners to look for new solutions to the need to move people towards home care. The process produced a lot of data that has been reported in Finish else where.
The activity theory view highlights the contradiction between home care duties (routine based: medicine, meals, tidy, … ) and client view (bigger issues: life, loneliness, …). There are also management and implementation views.
Need to intertwine these views: e.g. change of focus on key issues such as mobility as a “mobility of agreement” offered as a “service palette” rather like a menu.
Data that they use to analyse include: video taped client session and video taped management discussions (transcribed). They look for:
- Discursive manifestations of contradictions in change interventions (tense, competitive, arguments but still productive outcome)
- Defensive and expansive micro-cycles in the implementation of new way of working (observe: successes and failures. Vicious circles v good cycles).
- Expansive concept formation and material anchoring. Combines 1 and 2. Turn into shared concepts.
Expanding on each section:
Written up and to appear in Journal of Organizational Change.
Misuse of contradiction:
- Equated to tension, inconsistency, dichotomy, conflict, paradox, dilemma.
- Contradictions seen as universal (bad v evil), Need to link with capitalism.
- Competing priorities and then solution is do both rather than or. No good.
Need to use the CHAT view so for:
- See as manifestations of contradiction
- Capitalism view as contradictions lie in the history between use value and exchange value.
- Creative approach to instead develop a third way and develop a new approach.
Manifestations of contradiction often expressed in talk – identified in this works as:
- Double bind: Helplessness, “we must”, “we have to”, “what can we do”. Solutions: practical transformation – go beyond words.
- Critical conflict: Personal issues, emotional. Solutions: negotiate new meaning.
- Conflict: No, I disagree, not true. Solutions: authority, compromise
- Dilemma: on the on hand, other had. Solutions: reformulate, smooth out.
Lead to a methodological onion – from linguistic cues “No”, “Narrative, metaphor”, “Rhetorical question”, “but” -> “Conflict”, “critical conflict”, “Double bind”, “Dilemma”.
Analysed 8 meetings of managers (length 116’ to 236’). In this data only 2 critical conflicts others appear quite often in particular double binds are fairly common.
Defensive and Expansive micro-cycles
Paper in progress.
Viscious circle or “defensive cycle” can be drawn out from before and after observation of both clients and works. OR a beneficial “expansive cycle” can come out showing improvement.
These can be seen as scripts and they can be in all combinations of matching or not cycles.
These are similar to the common knowledge approach cited by Anne Edwards. Anchoring in shared labels. In this example sharing the management view of a “Service Palette” and the client as a “Mobility Agreement” and exercise pack. This provides a shared anchor. This changed focus of home care for each side, and also recognition of need for other services.
Question: Why focus on managers and not workers.
Answer: Actually part of a bigger set of change laboratories. Managers felt need to work separately to "clean up their own mess". Researchers need to fit with the structure even though dynamic would have been different. In the end the implementation is mixed and separations have broken down.
Question: Is there another subject - the family adding complexity?
Answer: Yes - the community element in AT takes that into account but not explained in this talk. Can be treated as a further activity system - but need to recognise limits on capacity to expand in this way. In this case not such a key component - in other cases there is more involvement but not analysed in the same way.
Question: How much is the solution dynamic?
Answer: Yes. Everything will change - wonderful results for the time being.What is durable is that what you see is new forms of agency and relationships. E.g. the impact of mobility and change in decision structures will not easily fade away. Challenge to identify these aspects.
11:58 on 10 March 2010