The Book

How do we create value for ourselves and others while at the same time participating in today’s free market economy?  How do we produce results while at the same time developing relationships where we take care of each other in the process? 

Today, instead of productively and joyfully engaging with broad networks of people, we are increasingly stressed by our working relationships. With networked technology, disconnecting is becoming increasingly more difficult.  In order to build productive and trusting relationships, we must learn skills that will enable us to build trust, coordinate our commitments more effectively, listen to each other and build networks of commitments for the sake of producing value for ourselves, for our families, for the organizations in which we participate, for our communities, and for our world as a whole. 

The essays in this collection offer a framework for developing more effective, productive relationships in the workplace or in any context where a person must coordinate with others to make something happen.  The essays describe how to effectively make commitments that allow us to create something of value. Describing Flores’ network of commitments/conversations for action framework, a framework that has been cited in more than three thousand books, the author paints a vivid view of language as action rather than just words that transfer information from one place (the speaker) to another (the listener).   When people engage in conversations, commitments are made, and spaces of possibilities are opened up. Therefore, the theme is of “instilling a culture of commitment” in our working relationships, allowing us to focus on what we are creating of value together rather than the ongoing stress of attempting to calculate tradeoffs of individual interests.

Edited by Maria Flores Letelier, Fernando’s daughter, mentee, and collaborative philosopher/management thinker, it was Maria’s mission to make available works that had rested as private papers in hard copy form only for twenty to thirty years. She selected and edited a group of essays and placed them in an effective order for the reader. 

She begins with, and give most importance to, the classic essay entitled Conversations for Action”, as this essay has influenced thousands since it was first written in the early ’90s. Many consider the essay to be “classic,” as it provides simple and effective distinctions for observing how we invent what we do together in conversations through certain basic speech acts. Indeed if one Googles “Conversations for Action” and “Commitment Based Management,” there are endless pages that come up with practitioners utilizing this framework in their work, many of them former students. Some are utilizing the work for organizational change, some for life coaching, and others for business process design. These former students and practioners provided inspiration for putting this collection together in one place.

Then there are a few essays that elaborate further on practical applications of the conversations for action framework. The first section ends with another classic, “Assessments and Assertions,” an essay that has allowed many to have more effective conversations regarding their observations of each other and the work being produced. The essays that follow elaborate more on all that is entailed in making effective assessments of others. The second section of the book introduces a series of essays that have the common theme of building commitment. They are about the connection between language, moods, and building trust.  Finally, the last section of the book provides an introduction to all that is in the “background” when people have conversations, listen to each other’s concerns, and rearticulate these in their work.