Rhetoric and the Rise of Tribes: Using Organizational Alchemy (Part 3 of 3 in the Rhetoric Series)
21 Pages Posted: 4 Aug 2006
Date Written: August 4, 2006
Historically, rhetoric as an art has been considered both weak and nefarious. The authors, in a three part series on rhetoric, describe the 'lobotomization' of rhetoric, its true power, and its application with individuals and organizations. This third paper offers rhetorical applications to change organizations quickly and effectively. The article points out that one's 'character armor' (defined in the second article) is shaped, maintained and changed in a social group larger than the family but smaller than society, what we call a 'tribe.' An organization, then, is a special kind of tribe, or a tribe of tribes, (depending on its size) with each member acting out his or her character armor in an on-going drama. Some organizational tribes are 'lead'-slow to change, encumbered by politics, fearful, and stressed - with others are 'gold'-leadership-embracing, market-dominating, innovation-producing. By working with the entire tribe to determine its purpose (which 'is a world of meaning created through language' - our definition of rhetoric from the first paper in this series), and construct 'scenes' through which this purpose will resonate outside the tribe, people craft a new drama. From a rhetorical perspective, 'organizational alchemy' is replacing one drama with another, resulting in profound change. This process can only be accomplished by a leader (with or without formal authority) designing communication strategies (using all five canons of rhetoric) to move the organization to a more advanced cultural stage.
Keywords: corporate culture, rhetoric, leadership, management, organizational behavior, organizational change
JEL Classification: D23, M14
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation