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Thank you, Margaret, for another insightful post. I think you really hit the nail on the head in your sentence "To ensure a conversation will be fruitful, everyone needs to have a well-understood context as a reference."

I've seen several new initiatives and ventures to move an organization into uncharted, novel territory where there is no common understanding of by virtue of the fact that it is uncharted. Yet, many HR and Change Management professionals want to start with the tried-and-true employee focus groups. Ostensibly, they want to get the perspectives of employees to shape the path forward.

But, as you've said, if there is not a well-understood and common understanding of the future state, such conversations can actually stir up more anxiety. This is particularly true when employees raise more questions than management knows the answer to at the moment. In my mind, this is akin to asking Sony Walkman users what they wanted in an iPod, or a Nokia bar phone user what they wanted in an iPhone.

Sometimes, leadership means advancing into the wilderness without focus groups.

Hi Joe and thanks for sharing your thoughts. There's that "shoot then aim" thing again! I agree that early focus groups should be used very cautiously and mostly when you really don't have a regular source of listening. (Informal channels work, too.)

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