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  1. 1. From Evolution to Revolution, a mini history of Organizational Communication Roger D’Aprix , 2014 CLE Conference
  2. 2. 7 Forces that have shaped our work  Changing and accelerating economic and social realities  Media and journalistic fashions and fads  The SOS Model  Corporate leadership actions, styles and beliefs  Message- delivery systems from printing to digital delivery  Behavioral psychology and audience research  Access to technology and networking systems
  3. 3. Five Organizational Communication ‘Epochs’  1830s to 1920s: The Industrial Revolution—a time of laissez-faire indifference to worker needs and workplace communication (Who’s your boss? What does he want you to do right now?)  Early 1900s sees rise of unions and bitter, violent era of conflict and suppression; rule of the Robber Barons  1920s to 1940s: An Awakening of Conscience—the beginnings of Paternalism, Concern for the worker and the Company as ‘family’; diluted by the Depression of the 1930s  1940s to 1980: A Golden Age of U.S. Prosperity, Paternalism and Entitlement thrive—a time when organizational communication begins to flourish in a command and control era  1980 to 1990: Globalism erupts and the Revolution begins—a time when competition rises up from Japan to India to China and elsewhere; Communication becomes ‘business focused’  1990 to the Present: Technology Flowers, Fuels the Revolution—and refuels Rugged Individualism and Greater Openness in an era of ‘cyber-utopianism’
  4. 4. The First Employee Communication  Tradition says that the first employee communication was in the textile mills of England in the early 1800s  Since most employees were illiterate, it took the form of spoken, face-to-face communication of ‘the rules’  Because of the noise level in the mills, employees purportedly became expert lip readers
  5. 5. 19th and 20th Century Ties that Bind  As we evolved from an agricultural to an industrial society, the following became our corporate DNA:  A corporate world view that placed the pursuit of efficiency ahead of every other goal  Top-down authority, decision- making and communication  Intense focus on cost reduction and cost effectiveness  Interchangeable Workers (as strictly a ‘cost of doing business’)
  6. 6. Old Economy Leadership Structure and Styles; Alfred Sloan’s 1920’s formula  Pyramid, chain-of- command organizations  Vertical integration  Hierarchical structures with command and control leadership styles  Tolerance for bureaucracy  Social contract with expectation of loyalty and long service  Authority, loyalty and discipline of the workforce as critical values
  7. 7. The World’s Second Oldest Profession  Edward Bernays:  OC as an art form came out of WWI from allied propaganda efforts  Edward Bernays was seen as the ‘founder’ of modern OC  Wrote 1925 book entitled ‘Propaganda’  In late 1920s led Chesterfield campaign urging women to smoke  Later advised corporate leaders and presidents
  8. 8. The Depression: an Era of Stagnation  Organizational communication suffered along with the economy  Unemployment grew from 3.2% in 1929 to 25% in 1933  WWII finally broke the back of the Depression in 1940  By 1942 with war, unemployment was 4.7%; in 1944 1.2%
  9. 9. 25 Golden Years (Circa 1945-1970)  WWII becomes a tipping point for U.S. companies as war devastates global economies  U.S. companies operate in a less competitive period with fewer consumer options  Design and build products they see a need for at a quality level they deem satisfactory  Can better tolerate inefficiencies, slower decision- making and full employment  ‘Need to know’ became a dominant communication theme
  10. 10. Old Economy Internal Communication (‘45 - ‘70 Playing a Solo on a House Organ)  Reactive and heavily filtered communication of organizational events  Top-down paternalistic communication style with a heavy emphasis on ‘need to know’  Communication of a strong sense of the company as a family--the live babies, dead fish school of communication  ‘Home on the range’ view of life--where never is heard a discouraging word...
  11. 11. Old Economy Communication--the ‘50s to the mid-60s  “The Organization Man” era: “The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit” (1955)  Economic education; ‘Boulwareism’; anti-union propaganda  The benevolent company  Defending the company against ‘outside agitators’  Company as a closed community of loyalists
  12. 12. What that World Felt Like ’50s to Mid-’60s  A white male’s world where women and minorities faced limited roles  An Old Boys’ Network that held power closely and demanded conformity  A conservative mindset where ‘Vote Republican’ was the norm  Where loyalty was the ultimate value and where ‘9 to 5’ prevailed
  13. 13. 14 What That World Sounded Like: the Communicator’s theme song in that Era The approval tango: Accentuate the Positive Eliminate the Negative Latch on to the Affirmative Don’t mess with Mr. In- between
  14. 14. Transitional Communication: the Mid-60s  Anti-institutionalism seen as a threat  Organization men begin to question their own lives and values (‘The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit’ syndrome)  Women begin entering the all-male corporation mostly as secretaries  Communication professionals consider playing role of internal journalists, flirt with investigative reporting  Industrial Communication Council is organized in 1964 to meet the needs of communication executives
  15. 15. The Dawning of the Revolution: the early 70s  Vietnam War ends and global competition begins  Energy crisis rocks the economy  Inflation runs rampant  Communication staffs reflect public media styles, become bolder in telling the truth  Even experiment unsuccessfully with corporate btoadcast TV
  16. 16. The Revolution Begins in Earnest: the late ‘70s  Global competition begins its impact  Cost becomes a major issue  Technology seen as a competitive weapon  Quality and customer service demanded  Shareholders demand accountability
  17. 17. The Revolution Begins in Earnest: the late ‘70s  Western companies caught by surprise  US and European companies downsize  Billions spent on robotics, computers  Massive quality and customer initiatives  Short-term results become the priority, and CEOs become seen as rain makers deserving of huge payoffs
  18. 18. New Economy Communication: the ‘80s  Communication professionals begin the long struggle to re-invent their role  Face pressures to justify their value  From SOS communication tactics to strategy  From craft orientation to business orientation  The struggle continues to this day
  19. 19. New Economy Leadership Demands  People become a ‘capital asset’ rather than merely a cost of doing business  Lean workforces of talented people use technology to create innovative products and services  Brands are rediscovered as corporate assets  Employee engagement becomes a critical value
  20. 20. The 90s: the Revolution Takes Hold  Downsizing becomes a profitability strategy  Workplace technology grows explosively; information overload emerges as a problem  Print is largely replaced by cheaper and faster digital media  Communicators begin to experiment with new media  Global competition leads to outsourcing, intense cost pressures  The Internet fuels and enables the emerging phenomenon of social media
  21. 21. The Usual Unintended Consequences Follow  Like it or not, companies and institutions become naked, transparent  Paternalism and the social contract crumble  Virtual work and Me, Inc. become realistic possibilities with access to technology  And even a survival strategy with ongoing downsizing
  22. 22. New Economy Communication: the ‘90s into 2000 and beyond  Availability of e-mail, voice mail and wireless technology  Internet serves as inspiration for communication professionals, requires soul- searching regarding communication vision and mission  Provides unprecedented access to information  Technology forces intense learning curve to keep up
  23. 23. Mobile Devices…So simple even a baby…  Tablets present new opportunities  Create ‘a communication bubble’ around users  24-hour connectivity diminishes ‘places to hide’  Add to impersonal digital experience—at expense of face-to-face communication  Technology relegates managers to communication bystanders
  24. 24. The Big 21st Century Trends and Aspirations…so far  From independent contribution to collaboration and teamwork  From top-down communication to two-way dialogue and social media  From need to know to tentative openness and transparency  From autocracy and bureaucracy to greater corporate democracy  From SOS approach to communication process and problem-solving  From closet technophobes to cyber-utopians
  25. 25. A Looming Audience Disconnect and Risk  As the economy morphs into knowledge-based work:  What happens to the unskilled and unprepared?  Robotics and automation require fewer workers and new skills; alienate blue collar workers  Cost-cutting, outsourcing and downsizing cut job opportunities sharply  Will our strategies help create an elite workforce with limited opportunity for unemployed minority?  How do we cope with inequality?
  26. 26. The Opportunity  “For the first time since the dawning of the industrial age, the only way to build a company that’s fit for the future is to build one that’s fit for human beings as well. This is your opportunity to build a 21st century management model that truly elicits, honors and cherishes human initiative, creativity and passion…Do that, and you will have built an organization that is fully human and fully prepared for the extraordinary opportunities that lie ahead.”  Gary Hamel “The Future of Management”
  27. 27. A Blinding Flash of the Obvious  We have come a long way from the house editors of the ‘50s with a very long and puzzling road still to travel  In a Revolutionary World, to be relevant, we need to carve out a role that is intimately related to the business of the business  That will require us to educate ourselves to the priorities and issues of our organizations as well as the marketplace and the larger society—all the while reinventing our work  The ride will be bumpy, exciting and for those who figure it out-- richly rewarding

Notas do Editor

  • As a history buff and the world’s oldest living communicator, I’m delighted to be here to talk about the history of our profession. They couldn’t find anyone else who had lived this much of the history so I was the most logical choice for the job.
    Anyway, this is the Back to the Future part of the program where like Michael J. Fox I attempt to show you the path that led to the present condition and preferences that have brought us to where we are today.
    I need to explain upfront why I’m more tied to the lectern than I usually am. There’s a lot here to cover and remember so I’m depending on my notes to keep me disciplined and on time.
  • One of the challenges in talking about the history of organizational communication is the diversity of functions that are included under that umbrella as shown on this slide. (Read definition)
    So I’m going to take the inclusive route and talk about what we’ve experienced in common and how various forces have shaped our work and our views of that work. I’ll acknowledge upfront that my personal prism is that primarily of an internal communication practitioner and consultant.
    It will be a quick and I hope enlightening trip around the track with brief glimpses of our history and the forces that have shaped that collective destiny.
  • A comment about this slide…As you look at the seven forces that I believe have shaped our work, what should jump out at you is that we have been a pretty reactive bunch. Reacting sometimes necessarily… and sometimes enthusiastically (or reluctantly) to all of the forces on this slide.
    The main reason is that most of us haven’t had much of a roadmap for our work—sort of making it up as we went along. And I’d argue that we’re still doing so.
    (Comment on forces…)
  • As I prepared for today and thought about our history, it occurred to me that there have been at least five identifiable epochs in both internal and external communication…Three of those were evolutionary; the last two beginning around 1980 have been revolutionary
    (Read and comment briefly)
  • The earliest formal communication was purportedly in the British textile mills and was mostly about the rules that workers were supposed to live by at work—and even in their free time out of work. Since most of them had come to the cities from rural areas, there was much illiteracy. Child labor was common as was mistreatment of the workforce.
    Communication was mostly verbal in a noisy environment where workers supposedly became lip readers according to the literature.
  • The 19th and early 20th Century social mores had a profound effect on our corporate DNA for generations. This slide lists the genetic systems that comprised that DNA. Communication continued to be intensely one-way with the workforce essentially being voiceless, passive and just glad to have a job.
    This was also the era of the Robber Barons and their obscene fortunes gained in large part from exploiting their workers with low wages and back-breaking labor. Capital was in control and profited largely at the expense of Labor.
    Communication during most of this time was patronizing, top-down and autocratic—setting the tone for the subsequent 50 years or more.
    (Read and comment)
  • By the 1920s, organizations were becoming a bit more humane and attuned to efficiency and even somewhat to worker needs. Alfred Sloan as the head of General Motors began the practice of planned obsolescence for cars as well as building the modern corporation with its emphasis on size, growth and employee loyalty. He—like most of his peers—was anti -union in his views and largely responsible for the prolonged GM Flint Sit Down Strike of the 1930s that fueled the formation of the United Auto Workers union.
  • At this point, companies began to be concerned about how they were being perceived in the marketplace and public opinion. It truly was the birth of organizational communication.
    Here is the person who is generally regarded as the founder of organizational communication. Edward Bernays as a member of the U.S. propaganda campaign committee in World War I was enamored with the idea that an elite class could and should manipulate the opinions of ‘the masses.’ In 1925 he published his ground-breaking book on the techniques of propaganda, which qualified him as one of the first PR men in modern society. Here’s a sample of his thinking:
    “In theory, every citizen makes up his mind on public questions and matters of private conduct. In practice, if all men had to study for themselves the abstruse economic, political, and ethical data involved in every question, they would find it impossible to come to a conclusion about anything.” 
    As an aside, one of his claims to fame was helping Chesterfield persuade women to smoke. Persuasion and influence were his game.
  • While the 1920s were the decade that foreshadowed modern organizational communication techniques, the 1930s largely undid much of that work as companies fought to survive after the stock market crash. For most of the 1930s, Organizational Communication was preoccupied with defending the capitalistic system and deploring the rise of communism as an alternative . Think “The Grapes of Wrath” and the feeling that greedy capitalists had brought us to this point of economic collapse and class conflict.
    The Roosevelt New Deal and the advent of World War II finally broke the back of the Depression in the U.S. as we geared up production for World War II and the need for military ordnance.
    (Comment on slide)
  • And then something amazing happened.
    The war was over, and U.S. companies settled into a period some call The Golden Age. With Europe and Asia devastated by the war and with their industrial machine largely destroyed, U.S. companies entered an era of practically no global competition and dependence of the rest of the world on American products and manufacturing.
    An anticipated second Depression in the post-War period never happened, and manufacturing and other industries flourished as we were like a running back who breaks into the secondary and has nothing but space ahead of him. It was the beginning of an era of unprecedented entitlement and good times. Companies became benevolent societies with sponsorship of athletic teams, orchestras, full employment and good feeling that led to conformity and unquestioned employee loyalty.
    General Electric was known as Generous Electric and Kodak as the Great Yellow Father in celebration of their generosity. At the same time, communication pros celebrated the corporate family and aimed their work at social events and employee hobbies in an era the late Larry Ragan called Live Babies and Dead Fish communication. He was describing most employee newsletters of the time that featured photos of employee babies and successful fishing trips along with service anniversaries, engagements and weddings.
  • The primary communication vehicle for this period was the good old employee newsletter. In the era of good feeling, there was little but good news to report. Some of us were frustrated by the lack of honest communication, but as one of my first bosses at General Electric in 1960 put it, “What the hell’s the truth got to do with it?” Any bad news was suppressed or covered up, and organizational communicators worried that they were merely in the phrase of the time—hired guns.
    This interestingly was the group motivated to organize the Industrial Communication Council in 1964 as a means to talk about who we were and what our role really ought to be—a discussion that has lasted for 50 years.
  • In 1955 “The Organization Man” was published with the claim that we had become a nation of men who had devoted their lives and aspirations to The Organization in whatever form it took. Most people agreed and believed that it was not a bad thing. But in the following year, Sloan Wilson wrote “The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit” offering the first signs of discontent and the sense that maybe we were selling out after all. Think Don Draper and Mad Men and its angst.
    Meanwhile a G.E. executive named Lemuel Boulware hypothesized an Adam Smith world in which union members were the bad guys who simply didn’t understand the economic system. His message was that labor was greedy and that they wanted too big a share of the pie. So most communication was a frank effort to undercut and discredit union power while pleading for understanding of how tough it was to be an executive in the face of competing demands and government largess with taxpayer money. He might have been the first author of the Tea Party message.
  • So what did that world feel like for those of us who were there? This photo is a pretty good representation of that era.
    (Comment on slide…)
  • This song of that era could have been the communicator’s theme song.
    (Play video)
  • And then came what I would call the beginning of the truly modern era of organizational communication. The mid-1960s were a transitional period from the old ways to a new view of our role fueled by reflection and self-doubts about what we had become.
    (comment on slide items)
  • By 1970 the Vietnam War was radically changing American society. A profession made up of fairly young practitioners began challenging the traditionalists, who had cut their communication teeth in the Golden Age. The latter group tended to defend the status quo with the view of supporting authority, loyalty and discipline. And the debate often made it into the old Industrial Communication Council discussions with deep passion on both sides.
    Communication pros began reflecting some of the public media and became bolder in truth telling—even challenging the conservative tendencies of their own management. In that era I personally wrote a book entitled “In Search of a Corporate Soul.” PS I’m still searching.
  • By the late 1970s global communication became a real issue. I was at Xerox when our market share plunged from 97% of the plain paper copier market in the early 1970s to 13% by 1981 as Japanese manufacturers attacked our complacency and our inefficiency.
    It was the beginning of the era when customers and shareholder truly became empowered. Quality and customer service demands began to drive U.S. corporate strategy.
    It was also the beginning of the technological age, and communication pros began to understand that they better find out what this was all about as they struggled to explain the significant changes rocking our institutions and companies.
  • The revolution that we’re still experiencing began in earnest in the late 1970s
    (Read slide items and comment)
  • For communication pros, the 80s were an era of reaction and re-invention. No longer was it automatic that leaders presumed that a communication staff was required in-house and began demanding evidence that we were making a difference. The result was a new emphasis on measurement and demonstrated return on investment from all staff functions.
    The SOS strategy of merely sending out stuff was no longer enough. And it was clear that we had better become business people instead of a group of talented crafts people, who were somehow above the fray.
  • And the revolution gathered steam as the new economy imposed ever-changing demands that continue to shape our world.
    (Comment on slide)
  • In the 90s, the revolution truly took hold. Massive downsizings became common to bolster the bottomline. At the same time workplace technology began paying off and showing great promise for productivity and innovation. The one other sour note besides downsizng was the dot.com frenzy and subsequent collapse of overly optimistic and under-capitalized ventures with the loss of overnight fortunes.
    This was the period when communication pros began to experiment with intranets and other new media. Print was often replaced by cheaper and faster digital media. And communicators had to become quick studies and constant learners to keep up-- with the unanticipated consequence of our audiences drowning in information they couldn’t process.
    At the same time, the global economy became a competitive, dog- eat- dog force that rose up and badly wounded or killed a number of formerly prosperous companies like GM, Kodak, Sears, Lucent Technologies, Woolworths and a host of others. It also forced U.S. companies to become more efficient, more quality conscious and leaner.
    And we struggled to explain the changes and the losses.

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