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Walden University

SCHOOL OF MANAGEMENT

This is to certify that the doctoral dissertation by


Cheryl M. Fliege
has been found to be complete and satisfactory in all respects,
and that any and all revisions required by
the review committee have been made.
Review Committee
Dr. Marcia Steinhauer, Committee Chairperson,
Applied Management and Decision Sciences Faculty
Dr. Duane Tway, Committee Member,
Applied Management and Decision Sciences Faculty
Dr. Joseph Barbeau, Committee Member,
Applied Management and Decision Sciences Faculty

Provost
Denise DeZolt, Ph.D.

Walden University
2007

UMI Number: 3245318

Copyright 2006 by
Fliege, Cheryl M.
All rights reserved.

UMI Microform 3245318


Copyright 2007 by ProQuest Information and Learning Company.
All rights reserved. This microform edition is protected against
unauthorized copying under Title 17, United States Code.

ProQuest Information and Learning Company


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ABSTRACT

Positive Organizational Results and Successful Communication Initiatives


Used By Exemplary Middle Manager Communicators

by
Cheryl M. Fliege

M.A., The University of Iowa, 1981


B.A., Valparaiso University, 1975

Dissertation Submitted in Partial Fulfillment


of the Requirements for the Degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
Applied Management and Decision Sciences
Leadership and Organizational Change

Walden University
February 2007

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ABSTRACT
Disasters such as the 1986 Challenger space shuttle explosion and the 2005 Hurricane
Katrina relief efforts demonstrated the negative results of organizational communication
failures. Few studies have investigated communication efforts that produced positive
results. This research was designed to investigate how managers communicate across
organizational layers to support effective organizational initiatives. Social constructivism
and appreciative inquiry formed the theoretical framework of the research. Senior
managers at a Fortune 500 company, effective middle managers, and key staff members
were interviewed on the communication processes contributing to the successful
deployment of a Six Sigma initiative. Data were analyzed using specialized software
allowing multidimensional coding. The results showed that successful communications
were heartfelt, aligned with organizational initiatives, formed as narratives, grounded in
leader commitment, and supportive of the staff. These findings suggest that enhancing
midlevel communication can be an important part of a successful organizational
initiative. In addition, the study demonstrated that appreciative inquiry offers a viable
alternative to traditional organizational problem-solving methods. Because appreciative
inquiry identifies positive activities, solutions are more likely to be affirming rather than
demeaning, creative rather than remedial, and rewarding rather than punitive.

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Positive Organizational Results and Successful Communication Initiatives
Used By Exemplary Middle Manager Communicators

by
Cheryl M. Fliege

M.A., The University of Iowa, 1981


B.A., Valparaiso University, 1975

Dissertation Submitted in Partial Fulfillment


of the Requirements for the Degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
Applied Management and Decision Sciences
Leadership and Organizational Change

Walden University
February 2007

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DEDICATION
In gratitude and deepest affection to my parents, Emily and William Miller, who
never told me that girls cant.
To my soul mate and most vociferous supporter, my husband Tom Fliege, who
revels in the opportunity for us to be addressed as Dr. and Mr. Fliege, and who never
told me that women cant.
To my daughter Abbey, who is the most courageous and caring person I know, in
the hopes that she knows that she can, too.
To my son, Andy, who deeply understands how words and writing create worlds,
in the hope that he will take his own gift and discover what a world created by his words,
writing, and wonder can do.
Non scholae sed vitae discimus.

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
I wish to acknowledge the invaluable help of my committee chair, Dr. Marcia
Steinhauer, who provided sage advice, humor and encouragement. I also thank committee
members Dr. Joseph Barbeau and Dr. Duane Tway who adjusted their schedules through
vacations, home floods, and illness to provide essential feedback and encouragement.
I am grateful to Timothy Elder, Alicia Johnson and Scott Johnson for their
assistance in securing the study site. I could not have completed this without the support
of my staff including Shirley Bowe, for her help with graphics, and especially Linda
Barth for her assistance and helping me maintain my composure. I especially thank Dr.
Vicky Stewart, friend and mentor. She provided an outstanding example to follow and
much-needed diversion. I am truly grateful to my friend and Walden colleague Kathy
Gronowick Johanson for sharing my angst and providing humor and encouragement.
Most important, I wish to thank my family. My husband Tom never complained
about the disruption our personal lives. My daughter Abbey, now a graduate student, and
my son Andy, an undergraduate student, made me do my homework!
Last, I would like to acknowledge Robert B. Cialdini, author of Influence: Science
and Practice; and Stephan Titscher, Michael Meyer, Ruth Wodak, and Eva Vetter,
authors of Methods of Text and Discourse Analysis for permission to use copyrighted
material in this text. I also would like to acknowledge the help of Dr. Sonia Ospina, for
advice on the appreciative inquiry and critical incident research methods. Full citations
for all appear in the text itself and the Reference section.
2006 by Cheryl M. Fliege. All rights reserved.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
List of Tables .................................................................................................................... vii
List of Figures .................................................................................................................. viii
CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION TO THE STUDY
Overview..............................................................................................................................1
Problem Statement ...............................................................................................................3
Purpose of the Study ............................................................................................................4
Nature of the Study ..............................................................................................................5
Research Questions..............................................................................................................7
Conceptual Framework........................................................................................................8
Operational Definitions........................................................................................................8
Assumptions, Limitations, and Scope................................................................................10
Significance of Study.........................................................................................................12
Significant Literature .........................................................................................................13
Summary............................................................................................................................14
CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW
Overview............................................................................................................................16
Substantive Literature Related to Research .......................................................................19
What is Organizational Communication?..............................................................19
How is Organizational Communication Linked to Success?.................................25
Who Are Middle Managers and What Is Their Role in Communication? ............29
Communication Tools and Techniques .................................................................40
Six Sigma as an Organizational Initiative..............................................................48
Summary of the Substantive Literature .................................................................50
Literature Review of the Options and Choice of Research Methodology .........................51
Validation of the Methods and Potential for New Information to Emerge............58
Summary............................................................................................................................64
CHAPTER 3: RESEARCH METHOD
Overview............................................................................................................................68
Research Questions............................................................................................................70
Theoretical and Strategy Choices ......................................................................................70
Qualitative Study ...................................................................................................70
Research Paradigm.................................................................................................71
Research Strategy...................................................................................................75
Summary of Theoretical and Strategy Choices .....................................................82
Methods and Procedures ....................................................................................................83
Selection of Research Sites and Organizational Context.......................................83
Selection of Research Participants.........................................................................85
Criteria for Selecting Participants..........................................................................92
Methods for Establishing a Researcher-Participant Working Relationship ..........93

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Rules ..................................................................................................................................95
The Role of the Researcher....................................................................................95
Validity and Reliability..........................................................................................97
Measures for Ethical Protection of Subjects........................................................100
Instrument ............................................................................................................101
Data Collection and Analysis...........................................................................................105
How and When Data Will Be Collected ..............................................................106
Procedures for Dealing with Discrepant Cases....................................................107
Data Analysis and Coding Procedures.................................................................108
Software ...............................................................................................................112
Summary..........................................................................................................................113
CHAPTER 4: RESULTS AND FINDINGS
Overview..........................................................................................................................115
Data Collection Process ...................................................................................................115
Data Tracking, Memo, and Catalog System ....................................................................119
Research Findings............................................................................................................122
Initial Coding .......................................................................................................122
Patterns, Relationships, and Themes ...............................................................................123
The Contextual Communication Process Category .............................................126
The Heartfelt Communication Process Category ................................................130
The Aligned Communication Process Category..................................................132
The Narrative Communication Process Category................................................134
The Grounded Communication Process Category...............................................138
The Elegant Communication Process Category ..................................................142
The Supportive Communication Process Category .............................................145
The Process Outcomes Matrix .............................................................................147
Methodology Findings .........................................................................................148
Discrepant and Nonconfirming Cases .............................................................................148
Unanticipated Findings ....................................................................................................154
Unanticipated Findings in the Collected Data .....................................................154
Unanticipated Methodology Findings..................................................................159
Evidence of Quality in the Study.....................................................................................160
Summary..........................................................................................................................168
CHAPTER 5: SUMMARY, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Overview..........................................................................................................................170
Summary of the Study .....................................................................................................171
Interpretation of the Research Findings ...........................................................................173
Interpretation of Research Findings Related to Subquestion 1............................173
Interpretation of Research Findings Related to Subquestion 2............................174
Interpretation of Research Findings Related to Subquestion 3............................175
The Seven Categories ..........................................................................................175
Interpretation of the Findings on Appreciative Inquiry .......................................183

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Boundaries of the Evidence .................................................................................185
Social Change ..................................................................................................................185
Recommendations for Action ..........................................................................................187
Recommendations for Specific Organizational Actions......................................188
Recommendations for Further Study...................................................................192
Reflections on the Research Experience..........................................................................194
Conclusion .......................................................................................................................196
REFERENCES ................................................................................................................199
APPENDIX A: Cover Letter Soliciting Participation .....................................................213
APPENDIX B: Explanation of Study..............................................................................215
APPENDIX C: Sample Letter of Cooperation ................................................................223
APPENDIX D: Letter to Study Subjects Inviting Participation ......................................225
APPENDIX E: Informed Consent Form..........................................................................227
APPENDIX F: Institutional Review Board Approval .....................................................230
APPENDIX G: Confidentiality Agreement.....................................................................233
APPENDIX H: Research Protocol for Senior Managers.................................................235
APPENDIX I: Research Protocol for Middle Managers: Individual Interview ..............241
APPENDIX J: Research Protocol for Staff: Individual Interview...................................247
APPENDIX K: Research Protocol for Middle Managers: Group Interview...................253
APPENDIX L: Research Protocol for Staff: Group Interview........................................258
APPENDIX M: Table M1: Relationship of Research Questions to Individual Interview
Questions..........................................................................................................................263
APPENDIX N: Table N1:Relationship of Research Questions to
Group Interview Questions ..............................................................................................267
APPENDIX O: Table O1: Coding Categories as Suggested by Questions .....................270
APPENDIX P: Excerpt from Interview Transcript .........................................................272

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APPENDIX Q: Table Q1: Process Outcomes Matrix .....................................................276
APPENDIX R: Permission to Use Figure 2 ....................................................................282
APPENDIX S: Permission to Summarize Cialdini .........................................................285
APPENDIX T: Permission to Use MAXqda Screenshots...............................................287
CURRICULUM VITAE..................................................................................................289

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LIST OF TABLES
Table 1: Cialdinis Sources of Influence ...........................................................................43
Table 2: Qualitative Research Approaches in the Interpretive Tradition ..........................57
Table 3: Criteria for Selecting Participants........................................................................93
Table 4: Interview Candidates by Division and Level.....................................................117
Table 5: Candidates by Gender and Locations ................................................................117
Table 6: Elements as Coded Segments ............................................................................123
Table 7: Contextual Categorys Activities and Communication Elements .....................127
Table 8: Heartfelt Categorys Activities and Communication Elements.........................130
Table 9: Aligned Categorys Activities and Communication Elements..........................132
Table 10: Narrative Categorys Activities and Communication Elements......................135
Table 11: Grounded Categorys Activities and Communication Elements.....................139
Table 12: Elegant Categorys Activities and Communication Elements.........................143
Table 13: Supportive Categorys Activities and Communication Elements ...................145
Table 14: Percent of Comments Showing Critical, Concerned, Slightly Concerned or
Positive View ...................................................................................................................152

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LIST OF FIGURES
Figure 1: Study sites.............................................................................................................6
Figure 2: Relationship of research question to literature review themes...........................17
Figure 3: From theory to the instruments of empirical research........................................68
Figure 4: Sampling methodology.......................................................................................92
Figure 5: MAXqda memo................................................................................................120
Figure 6: Code-Matrix Browser showing frequency of mention by code .......................121
Figure 7: Sorting process for coding comments ..............................................................125
Figure 8: Mentions by category .......................................................................................126
Figure 9: Negative comments by divisions......................................................................153
Figure 10: Sticky note logs ..............................................................................................167
Figure 11: Interrelationship diagraph...............................................................................177
Figure 12: Key drivers, means, and outputs in exemplary communication.................... 180

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CHAPTER 1:
INTRODUCTION TO THE STUDY
Overview
More than 15,000 evacuees from Hurricane Katrina subsisted without food, water,
power, medical attention, basic sanitation, or any kind of humanitarian help for 4 days in
sweltering conditions at the New Orleans Convention Center in late August of 2005.
They were surrounded by contaminated flood waters, looters, snipers, fallen power lines,
broken buildings, and decaying human and animal corpses. On September 1, 2005,
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) head Mike Brown blamed a total lack
of communication for the deplorable conditions the evacuees faced (CBS News,
September 2, 2005) and the New York Times reported that Nearly every emergency
worker told agonizing stories of communications failures, some of them most likely fatal
to victims (Shane, 2005, para. 22).
Almost 20 years earlier, in January of 1986, Morton Thiokol engineers presented
their managers with 13 charts and graphs documenting the likelihood of space shuttle Oring failure at cold temperature launches. The Morton Thiokol managers faxed NASA the
information and recommended a no launch for the upcoming mission, but NASA officials
argued that the information was inconclusive. In spite of the fact that Morton Thiokol
managers had been warned by their own staff about the O-rings, they changed their
recommendation and notified NASA that they approved the launch, even though
temperatures at liftoff were expected to be below freezing. Within moments after its
January 28, 1986 mission began, the space shuttle Challenger exploded, killing seven
astronauts and scrubbing space exploration for months to come (Tufte, 1997, pp. 38-39).

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The commission that studied the Challenger disaster found that the event was directly
linked to communication failure (Jabs, 2005, p. 267). Others suggested that it was the
lack of face-to-face communication that caused NASA to underestimate the likelihood of
the failure of the O-rings (Weick & Sutcliffe, 2001, p. 168). The failures of the Hurricane
Katrina relief efforts and Challenger launch provide in stark relief the problems and pain
that occur when communication fails across the levels of command within organizations.
The importance of good communication in achieving organizational effectiveness
and the problems poor communication can create have been investigated and well
documented in the literature (Kanter, Stein, & Jick, 1992, p. 388; Larkin & Larkin, 1994,
p. 5; Peters, 1992, p. 388; Rogers & Agarwala-Rogers, 1976, p. 7). Often middle
managers, or those between the front lines and the executive leaders, have been blamed
for communication failures (DeWitt, Trevino, & Mollica, 2003, p. 38; Hallier & James,
1997, p. 727; Larkin & Larkin, 1994, p. 19; Thomas & Linstead, 2002, p. 78; Valentino,
2004, p. 397). The topic that has not received broad-based attention is what occurs when
successful communication takes place in organizations. The communication practices
middle managers employ to create effective communication that motivates subordinates
to embrace senior level initiatives are less clearly understood. This study explored and
described what middle managers do, what tools they choose, and what conditions support
communication across the levels of organizations that result in successful outcomes as
defined by senior level management.
In the following pages of this chapter, the focus of successful communication is
refined in a brief discussion of the problem statement. Following this discussion, the

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purpose of the study is addressed. Next the nature of the study, including the specific
research questions that were asked and what objectives were sought to be achieved as a
result of this study, are described. The conceptual framework, which grounded the study
in the scholarly research, is detailed and operational definitions of relevant terminology
are given. Assumptions, limitations, and the scope of the study address unverified facts
that were assumed to be true for this study, weaknesses that might have been implicit in
the study, and questions or issues that were beyond the parameters of this study.

Problem Statement
As illustrated in the examples of the New Orleans relief delays and the
Challenger explosion, failures in communication across levels can result in disaster.
After the Challenger explosion, investigations were conducted regarding the
communications problems across organizational levels (Jabs, 2005; Tufte, 1997, pp. 3953). In a report issued by the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental
Affairs, a lack of coordination of communication, failure to have a clear vision of how to
respond to the disaster, failure to establish or use existing rescue protocols, failure to
plan, and intentional failure to communicate with appropriate government agencies by
FEMA Director Michael Brown were blamed for the extensive difficulties that followed
in the wake of Hurricane Katrina (Senate Committee on Homeland Security and
Government Affairs, 2006). Rarely have such investigations primarily focused on
identifying what worked well and then used this information to build on successes rather
than failures. In fact, newscasters during the New Orleans hurricane crisis chided

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government officials for focusing on efforts that had worked. Positive organizational
scholars have suggested that this predominantly negative means of inquiry limits problem
solving to remediation while ignoring the opportunity to create solutions by doing more
of the things that go well (Cameron, Dutton, & Quinn, 2003, p. 5). Middle manager
communication problems have been attributed to causing failure in reaching
organizational goals and objectives, but less is known about specifically what middle
managers do when initiatives succeed. For this study then, the problem that was
addressed is how middle managers can avoid disaster and ensure organizational success
in implementing organizational initiatives through their communication processes.

Purpose of the Study


The purpose of this study was to identify, explore, and describe exemplary
communication practices that middle managers used in creating successful organizational
initiatives. The central focus of the study was on how middle managers communicate to
produce the desired results. By identifying exemplary middle manager communicators
and documenting the stories of their successful communication efforts from their
superiors point of view, their subordinates point of view, and their own point of view,
practices of middle managers in creating successful organizational initiatives were
expected to emerge. This study sought to describe the practices that middle managers use
in communicating organizational initiatives so that these initiatives result in expected
positive results rather than unexpected disaster or rationalized failures.

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Nature of the Study
What causes failure in organizations has received attention in the literature. This
study sought to identify, explore, and describe how middle managers communicate to
achieve organizational goals or success. Specifically, the middle manager
communications role was investigated in the implementation of Six Sigma problem
solving techniques at three divisions of one umbrella organization, which is a Fortune
500 manufacturing company. Each of the divisions is located on a separate site, is led by
distinct management teams, and employs its own personnel. While all divisions are
distinct, they all successfully implemented the corporate-wide Six Sigma initiative, which
originated with the chief executive officer of the umbrella organization.
There were three study sites utilized for this research. The first site designs and
manufactures electric power-generating equipment. This study site is headquartered
locally, but has manufacturing locations world wide. This division is called Global
Manufacturing Division (GMD) for the purposes of this study. The second study site was
a sales and marketing division, which is headquartered in the same Midwestern
metropolitan statistical area, but provides sales, marketing, and dealer support to
locations across North America. While many of these employees reside in the local
metropolitan area, a good number of employees are scattered across the country, selling
equipment and financial services to clients in Canada, the United States, and Mexico.
This division is called the Regional Marketing Division (RMD). The third study site
provides global product support including new parts and product development, marketing
support, technical information, supporting training, and operational process improvement.

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It is headquartered in the Midwestern metropolitan area like the other divisions, but
provides services internationally. It is called the Global Support Division (GSD) for this
study. Figure 1 illustrates the corporate structure of the sites.

Umbrella Manufacturing
Organization

Study Site 1:
Global
Manufacturing
Division

Study Site 2:
Regional
Marketing
Division

Study Site 3:
Global
Support
Division

Not Included:
27 Other
World Wide
Divisions

Figure 1. Study sites.


This study explored what exemplary middle manager communicators do from
three viewpoints: senior managers, middle managers, and subordinates. An inside expert
in the umbrella organization who had responsibility for the continued deployment of Six
Sigma identified divisions that successfully implemented the initiative and senior
managers who oversaw this implementation. Senior managers were asked to identify
middle managers who have been highly successful in communicating the Six Sigma
approach to their direct reports and who have achieved the organizational goals in their
areas for Six Sigma. Senior managers were asked to describe how the middle managers
excelled in communicating and to what degree objectives were met. Next, those middle
managers themselves were interviewed regarding their communication practices in
implementing Six Sigma. The middle managers were asked to identify subordinates who
demonstrated the desired results from the Six Sigma program. The subordinates were

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asked to describe the middle managers communication practices that led to the
successful implementation. The descriptions from all three levels and from the different
organizations were analyzed and compared to identify recurrent themes.

Research Questions
Overall, this study intended to answer the question: How do middle managers
communicate across organizational layers so that senior management initiatives succeed
in organizations? Subquestions include:
1. What are the approaches exemplary middle manager communicators use to
create successful outcomes and why?
2. What are the channels exemplary middle manager communicators employ to
create successful outcomes and why?
3. What are the tools exemplary middle manager communicators employ to
create successful outcomes and why?
Through the exploration of exemplary middle manager communication, this study
sought to meet the following objectives:
1. Help organizational leaders better understand the positive communication
roles of middle managers in implementation strategies.
2. Help organizational leaders better leverage middle managers in
communicating implementation plans and expectations.
3. Provide middle managers, as a result of this investigation, with a clearer
picture of what works in organizational communication.

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4.

Suggest foundations for middle manager training and development in the

communication of organizational imperatives.


5. Decrease the failure rate of implementation of organizational initiatives.

Conceptual Framework
The research was grounded in the broad framework of positive organizational
scholarship and employed specific techniques associated with appreciative inquiry. The
emerging practice of positive organizational scholarship encourages the study of practices
and processes in organizations that illustrate things going right in the organization. The
concept of positive organizational scholarship is more fully discussed in chapter 2.
Within this conceptual framework lies a method of inquiry called appreciative inquiry.
Appreciative inquiry is a comprehensive approach to initiating change in organizations
that can be used as a method of organizational inquiry. It looks for abundance, positivity,
fullness, generosity, and other life-giving biases (Whitney & Trosten-Bloom, 2003, p. 1).
The rationale for this decidedly positive bias is explained in greater detail in both
chapters 2 and 3.

Operational Definitions
Accretive is defined as the point in time when revenues and savings generated by
Six Sigma efforts exceed the costs of investing in and maintaining Six Sigma.
Appreciative inquiry (AI) is defined as a cooperative search for the best in
people, their organizations, and the world around them. It involves systematic discovery

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of what gives a system life when it is most effective and capable in economic,
ecological, and human terms (Cooperrider, Whitney, & Stavros, 2003, p. 415).
Approach to communication refers to the individuals communication style and
preferences.
Channels are defined as intangible communication venues, such as meetings.
Equivocality refers to a lack of certainty or clarity about a program, situation, or
event that causes individuals in the organization to be confused, to ask questions, and/or
to seek meaning (Daft & Weick, 1984; Salmon & Joiner, 2005; Weick, 1979).
Equivocality cannot be solved by acquiring more information; it needs new
interpretations of old situations (van den Hooff, Groot, & de Jonge, 2005, p. 6).
Middle manager can incorporate a multitude of positions. For this study, however,
middle managers are defined as any managers two levels below the CEO and one level
above line workers and professionals (Huy, 2001, p. 73). The CEO is viewed as the
organizations chief executive officer or the head of a stand-alone division of the
organization (such as a regional branch or strategic business unit) or members of the
senior management team. Middle managers, for the purpose of this study, also must
supervise at least three other people.
Organizational goals are defined as statements that measure positive change in at
least one of the following attributes: (a) speed/time, (b) cost, (c) at or above specification
or quality levels, or (d) positive returns for stakeholders. The goals also must be stated in
terms that are specific, measurable, achievable and reasonably aggressive, relevant, and
time-bound (Smith, 1999).

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Organizational success is defined as meeting the organizational goals, particularly
becoming accretive, in the implementation of Six Sigma as set by senior management.
Positive organizational scholarship (POS) refers to research approaches that
develop rigorous, systematic and theory-based foundations for phenomena and have
an emphasis on positive phenomena (Cameron et al., 2003, p. 6).
Process refers to the sequence of steps involved in communicating. An example
of a process is the steps involved in setting up a meeting and conducting it. It may
describe the way that communication tools are used, for example.
Six Sigma is fundamentally a quantitative and analytic approach to quality
improvement (Does, van den Heuvel, de Mast, & Bisgaard, 2002, p. 177) that was
developed and originally marketed by Motorola (London, 2003).
Tools refer to concrete communication devices, such as memos, e-mails,
PowerPoint presentations, video clips, audio recordings and the like.
Uncertainty refers to problematic situations that can be solved by gaining more
information (van den Hooff et al., 2005, p. 6).

Assumptions, Limitations, and Scope


Several facts were assumed to be true but have not been proven in this study. It
was assumed that:
1. The implementation of Six Sigma according to organizational goals accurately
defined successful implementation of organizational goals.

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2. The narratives that members of the organization share accurately represented
stories of successful communication.
3. Using positive organizational scholarship, specifically techniques from
appreciative inquiry, provides a richer evaluation of middle manager communication and
new knowledge than traditional communication assessment models, described later in
this dissertation.
4. Middle managers do indeed play the pivotal role in organizational success and
communication ascribed to them in the literature.
5. Senior management initiatives were consistent with the best interests of all
levels and groups within the organization.
The study also had several limitations. Although the study generated new insights
into middle manager communication and organizational success, the study employed a
relatively new form of inquiry, appreciative inquiry that has not yet been widely
accepted. Because of the method of inquiry, the number of organizations and people who
could have been interviewed was limited. Additionally, this study, by design, restricted
its focus to people within a single organization headquartered in the Midwest. Thus, the
ability to generalize to broader populations is limited.
The scope of the study was limited to the exploration and description of
exemplary communication practices of middle managers in the successful
implementation of Six Sigma programs in select divisions of a manufacturing
organization in the Midwest. It purposely selected successful Six Sigma outcomes. There
probably are unsuccessful Six Sigma outcomes. This is acknowledged, but was not

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studied. The study does not provide an explanation or theory and does not attempt to
predict. The study also did not specifically explore the effects of organizational structure
or culture per se. The study did not specifically explore or define successful senior
manager or frontline worker communication, nor did it explore deficits or problems in
communication. Instead this investigation focused on only what works. Because the study
centered on communication during a deliberate organizational program initiative, it did
not address successful routine or emergency communication across layers of
management.

Significance of the Study


The knowledge generated has significance for the practice of middle managers.
These managers often have been seen as barriers to implementation of organizational
initiatives. The research addressed concerns about middle managers roles in these
initiatives and their ability to communicate. Ultimately, the practice of middle
management will be enhanced by describing new knowledge related to organizational
communication. The knowledge generated from this study may be applied by changing
the practice of middle management during implementation of initiatives. As a result of
this investigation, new ways of training middle managers for change, enhancing and
supporting their communication, and monitoring the implementation process are
suggested. Middle managers make up about 10% of the American workforce (United
States Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2004). Improving their management practice may

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improve job satisfaction, retention rates, and other quality of life factors associated with
work.
But understanding exemplary communication techniques for middle managers
may result in even broader social change. Developing exemplary middle management
communication practices may help organizations stave off disasters like the Challenger
explosion or the New Orleans neglect. As new means for communicating emerge, like
text messaging and other Internet-based channels, the need to define how and when to
use these tools effectively will continue to increase. At the same time, the workforce
continues to become more diverse. This change may mean that a basic understanding of
what creates positive links between workers and executives will become even more vital
to American managers who will not only face the challenges of organizational
hierarchical differences, but most likely ethnic, racial, and cultural differences. Finally, if
the positive organizational scholars are right, learning to inquire using techniques like
appreciative inquiry may lead to a greater emphasis on what works well among people
with less attention to those things that divide them.

Significant Literature
The review of the scholarly literature, which is covered in depth in chapter 2,
covers two broad areas of interest. These are the substantive literature relating to the
research question and the literature associated with the research method. Within the
substantive literature associated with the research question, several more precise topics
are discussed. These include discussions of (a) what organizational communication is, (b)

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how organizational communication is linked to organizational success, (c) the
philosophical foundations of organizational communication, (d) middle managers and
who they are and how they communicate in organizations, (e) communication tools
middle managers use, and (f) Six Sigma as an organizational initiative. In the review of
the research methodology literature, means of studying organizational communication are
investigated. Specifically, appreciative inquiry and critical incident technique are detailed
as methodologies. Last, the literature is summarized as the foundation for the research.

Summary
In this section, the impact of two failed organizational communication efforts has
been demonstrated. The plan for reviewing the successful outcomes included addressing
research that answered three conceptual questions and two definitional questions. The
three conceptual questions are: (a) What is organizational communication? (b) How has
effective communication been linked to organizational success? and (c) Who are middle
managers and what is their communication role in implementation of organizational
initiatives? The two definitional questions are: (a) What is Six Sigma? and (b) What is
appreciative inquiry? The methods literature review was developed around the
appreciative inquiry as a method of research.
The problem that was addressed, how middle managers can avoid disaster and
ensure organizational success in implementing organizational initiatives through their
communication processes, provided the guiding direction for identifying exemplary
middle manager communicators. Their stories, and the stories of their superiors and

15
subordinates, provided the data needed to explore and describe communication practices
of middle managers supporting successful organizational initiatives. The execution of this
study was based in the theoretical framework of the appreciative inquiry methodology.
This research is significant because it adds to the emerging body of knowledge associated
with positive organizational scholarship, enhances the practice of middle management,
offers new insights into middle management, and provides the groundwork for building
new techniques of communication to bridge diverse populations across the typical layers
found in organizations.
In chapter 2, the five topic clusters of the substantive research and research
associated with positive organizational scholarship and appreciative inquiry are explored.
Chapter 3 provides information on the methodology, including the overall research
strategy, rationale, study population, researchers role, data collection, management and
analysis methods, and the ethical protection of participants. Chapter 4 presents the
findings from the research and summarizes data collection and analysis. Chapter 5
interprets the findings and makes recommendations for further study, specific actions,
and social change.

16
CHAPTER 2:
LITERATURE REVIEW
Overview
In developing any research project, the investigation should link to the scholarly
literature by showing how the work closes gaps in previous works, expands on theoretical
frameworks or paradigms, reconfigures current thinking, and ultimately contributes to the
existing body of knowledge on a topic (Marshall & Rossman, 1999, p. 35). The content
and organization of this review were built around the research question: How do middle
managers communicate across organizational layers so that organizational initiatives
succeed? This chapter has three major sections: (a) a review of the substantive literature,
(b) a review of the methodology literature, and (c) a summary of the chapter. In the
review of the substantive literature, four clusters are reviewed: (a) what organizational
communication is, (b) who middle managers are and what their roles are, (c)
communication tools and techniques, and (d) Six Sigma as an organizational initiative.
Once the substantive literature has been explored, literature regarding the
methodology for this study is considered. This part of the review validated the theoretical
framework for the study, discussed the options for and choice of methodology for the
investigation, and explored potential themes through the literature that might have
emerged during the course of the study. Finally, a summary of the substantive literature
review and the methods review is given, setting the stage for the discussion of the
methodology in chapter 3.

17
In creating a literature review strategy for this project, the research question was
used to frame the review approach. The researcher diagrammed the research question to
provide a way to visually identify key components of the question that needed
exploration. This diagram appears as Figure 2. The literature review had to link to the
research question in five separate but related areas, four of these deal with the substantive
literature, one with the methodology literature. The first theme, what organizational
communication is, provided the broad-based view of the research question. The second
theme, how organizational communication links to success, served to validate the
relationship between communication and organizational success.

Figure 2. Relationship of research question to literature review themes.


The third theme, who middle managers are and what their role is, explored what
has been previously discovered about this group of people in the implementation of

18
successful organizational initiatives. The fourth theme defined the organizational
initiative chosen for this study and how successful implementation is defined. These four
themes comprised the substantive literature review. The last theme, appreciative inquiry,
placed the research question within the context of the methodology literature.
The research strategies employed for this study included enlisting the help of the
Walden University and Illinois Central College research librarians. Searches of the
literature using the EBSCOhost, CSA, and ProQuest electronic search databases, and
relevant library book catalogs, were conducted using key terms that included
organizational communication, organizational discourse, organizational effectiveness,
middle managers, Six Sigma, and appreciative inquiry. Journals from the disciplines of
management, psychology, communications and linguistics, sociology, technology, health
care, and education were included, providing a broad view of the literature. Classic works
were chosen based on mentions in the reviewed literature and on texts used within the
Walden University curriculum. Online bookstores databases were scanned to find any
practitioner books that have been written exclusively about or for middle managers.
Finally, the dissertation author contacted Steven Floyd, one of the authors who had
written multiple works about middle managers, for supplemental advice on other sources
to review and used a bibliography on positive organizational scholarship provided by
University of Michigan faculty member Kim Cameron at a presentation he made for the
Consortium of Community Colleges. Ellen Schall, of New York University, also was
contacted about using an appreciative inquiry methodology.

19
In the following pages, four substantive literature themes are explored: (a) what
organizational communication is, (b) how organizational communication links to success,
(c) who middle managers are and what their communication role is, and (d) what Six
Sigma is and how it is successfully implemented. Following that exploration, the
literature regarding methodology is reviewed. Key points of the literature review are
highlighted at the end of this chapter.

Substantive Literature Related to Research Question


What is Organizational Communication?
In this section, the definition of organizational communication is explored. First,
the history of the study of organizational communication is briefly overviewed. Then
several current theoretical frameworks of organizational communication are considered
and critiqued, leading to the description of the overarching communication theoretical
framework for this study. This discussion set the stage for a discussion on how
organizational communication is linked to success.

History of Organizational Communication


The importance of organizational communication in achieving desired
organizational outcomes is well documented in the literature (Clampitt, DeKoch, &
Cashman, 2000; Duck, 2001; Gilsdorf, 1999; Kanter, 1983; Kotter, 1996; Tourish &
Robson, 2003). Yet how organizational communication is defined has changed since
early organizational investigators like Henri Fayol and Mary Parker Follet first noted its

20
importance in the 1920s (Pietri, 1974). Early communication theorists believed that
organizational communication was necessary only for the exchange of information and
the clarification of ideas (Hay, 1974). As behavioral theory took hold in the 1950s,
human motivation, particularly on the part of managers, became part of the analyses of
organizational communication (Tomkins & Wanca-Thibault, 2001; Van Voorhis, 1974).
With the advent of systems theory and cybernetics, beginning in the 1960s, models such
as the Shannon-Weaver mathematical model of communication (Porterfield, 1974)
defined communication as a process with an information source, message, transmitter,
receiver, and destination. Noise, or interruptions or distortions, could interfere with the
fidelity of the message (Shannon & Weaver, 1972, p. 7). As organizations and
communication became more complex, greater emphasis was placed on the philosophical
underpinnings of communication (Tomkins & Wanca-Thibault, 2001).

Philosophical Foundations of Organizational Communication


Recent scholars have broadened the philosophical scope of organizational
communication investigation to include theory from the areas of sociology, linguistics,
semiotics, and psychology (Thatchkenkery, 2001; Wodilla, 1998). This represents what
has been called the interpretive turn in communication research, which began in the early
1980s (Lindlof & Taylor, 2002). To describe all of the philosophical approaches
associated with the interpretive turn is well beyond the scope of this investigation, but a
brief overview of some of the key traditions is helpful. Deetz (2001) suggested that the
appropriate means to understanding organizational communication was not to try to

21
provide a definition of organizational communication but to ask, What do we see or
what are we able to do if we think of organizational communication in one way versus
another? (p. 4). To help answer this question, Deetz categorized the main conceptual
frameworks of communication research into four broad categories: (a) normative, (b)
critical, (c) interpretive, and (d) dialogic traditions.
Applying Deetzs own question, each category can be seen as supporting a unique
goal in understanding what organizational communication is. The normative tradition
defined organizational communication in terms of causal relationships among
communication variables, patterns of actions or behaviors in organizational interchanges,
and how organizational members can best learn communication skills (Deetz, 2001, pp.
19-23). Critical studies viewed organizational communication as the interaction of
conflicting or oppressive organizational ideologies or as pathologies in the process of
communication. This view is based in the belief that Western hegemonic traditions often
oppress, subjugate, and invalidate ideas, peoples, and cultures (Deetz, pp. 25-31; Ogbor,
2001). Interpretive studies characterized communication as an influencer of cultures and
social groups (Deetz, p. 25) while dialogic studies defined organizational communication
as a manifestation of conflicts and struggles among groups. Dialogic communication
studies assumed that individuals have conflicted identities, that reality is constructed
through language, that no universal understanding of the world or master hegemony
exists, and that knowledge, as expressed through language, often grants power (Deetz,
pp. 30-36). Within all of these traditions, language and its use play a fundamental role.

22
Other ways of categorizing the traditions of understanding organizational
communication also have been suggested. Rooted in Aristotelian traditions, the rhetorical
school characterized organizational communication as premised in the act of persuasion
(Cheney, 2005). Postmodern communication theorists rejected the rigid empiricism that
defined the world only through direct observation, hierarchical ordering, and
predictability and saw language and communication as essential in framing what is real
(Taylor, 2005, p. 115). Structuration theory asserts that reality is determined by existing
social practices, assumed identities, and how language either supports or changes these
practices and identities (Heracleous & Hendry, 2000; Poole & McPhee, 2005), while
domain theory described communication as the means that allowed people with similar
interests or concerns to evolve into collectivities (Selsky & Spicer, 2003).
Like those described by Deetz (2001), these traditions also incorporate the
concept of the use of language as integral to communication. Normative and rhetorical
traditions focused more intently on how to use language to communicate, while traditions
like structuration, dialogic, and critical investigated how language is used to oppress or
marginalize people in organizations. Recently, scholars have conceptualized this use of
language as organizational discourse (Grant, Keenoy, & Oswick, 2001; Hardy, 2001).
According to Hardy (2001), discourse refers to the practices of talking and writing (p.
26). Other definitions of discourse also have been offered. Gee (1999) for example, saw
discourse as the gatherings of thoughts, verbiage, and values that make up social
identities (p. 13). For this study on organizational communication, however, Hardys

23
more restrictive view of discourse is used simply because the psychological analysis
associated with individual identities is well beyond the abilities of this researcher.
Any of these communication research traditions would have provided an
interesting and worthwhile frame for the study of organizational communication or
discourse, but none fit particularly well with the focus of this study. The traditions that
revolve around causality, building communicative skills, or developing rhetorical
excellence failed to provide a foundation that determines what occurs when
communication across layers in organizations works. Interpretive, critical, dialogic,
structuration, and even domain traditions concentrated too heavily on pathologies,
oppressions, conflicts, and communication as a negative state. The predisposition to look
for communication problems necessarily excluded these frameworks from use in this
investigation, which employed an appreciative inquiry approach. Appreciative inquiry
focuses on what is working in an organization or group (Thatchkenkery, 2001, p. 120).
There were components of some of the traditions that were compatible with the
direction of this study. The concept that discourse creates reality (social constructionism;
Berger & Luckmann, 1967; Searle, 1995), which is found in the dialogic, structuration,
critical, and some interpretive studies, coincided with the appreciative inquiry approach
considered for this study. Appreciative inquirers assert that discourse, through words, has
the ability to create reality within organizations and characterize this assertion as a central
premise of appreciative inquiry (Cooperrider & Avital, 2004; Cooperrider et al., 2003;
Hammond, 1998). Thus for this study, organizational communication was construed as
discourse that creates a social reality.

24
How does discourse create shared realities? Mills (2002) noted that
communication provides the means by which organizational members collaboratively
create their organizational realities; that is, their experience of the world of work (p.
288). The exchange of ideas through writing or talking helps people determine what is
socially correct, what is right and wrong within the organization, and what approaches
are most efficient and effective (Gilsdorf, 1999; Palenchar & Heath, 2002). Discourse
helps people make sense out of confusing situations (Daft & Weick, 1984), drives people
to actions and new interpretations of organizational situations (Cooren, 2004), provides
policies, procedures, behaviors, and conversations that help employees understand
organizational expectations (Gilsdorf, 1999) and clarifies organizational obligations,
incentives, punishable actions, and areas of choice (Sillence, 1999).
Discourse transforms organizations (Cooren, 2004) and through conversation,
literally creates change (Ford & Ford, 1995). All of these activities are part of
communication events that occur and then end (Searle, 1970). But even though the
communicative event ends, the meaning of the discourse continues within the
organization beyond the event (Thatchkenkery, 2001). These meanings frame the
interpretation of routine organizational actions, but also are drawn upon to help clarify
new situations that emerge (Phillips, Lawrence, & Hardy, 2004; Weick, 1979).
Organizational members who act outside of the bounds of these shared meanings may
face sanctions (Phillips et al., 2004). Phillips et al. also said that discourses that have this
sticking power are embedded in the organization.

25
The concept that discourse creates organizational reality changes how
organizational communication is viewed. Typically the word organizational acts as an
adjective that describes communication that occurs in a specific entitythe adjective is
derived from a noun, organization. However, if communication as discourse creates
reality, then organizational communication can be defined in terms of how discourse
organizes reality. Thus, the adjective derives not from a noun (organization), but from the
verb, organize. In this sense organizational communication assumes a more active role in
organizational life. Weick (1995) applied a similar view of organizational sensemaking.
The focus of inquiry thus narrowed on how people within the organization
communicate to organize new realities. This focus was especially important in
understanding what middle managers do in communicating organizational initiatives to
create a socially constructed reality that allows the initiative to succeed. But before
exploring what middle managers do, first it is necessary to understand how
communication results in success for organizations.

How Is Organizational Communication Linked to Success?


Organizational studies describe a number of instances in which effective
organizational communication produced organizational success. Organizational
researchers have demonstrated the role of effective communication in increasing
organizational productivity and efficiency, lowering costs, improving morale, and
decreasing turnover (Clampitt et al., 2000). Effective communication has been found to
enhance accuracy in financial statements, reduce plant shutdowns, and stave off loss of

26
business (Gilsdorf, 1999). Upward feedback in organizations has been described as
essential for good managerial decision making (Tourish & Robson, 2003) while
communication with outside groups has been shown to improve quality, turnaround time,
and operation within budget and intragroup communication was found to develop trust
and cohesiveness (Keller, 2001). Evidence clearly supports the concept that good
communication links to success in certain organizations. What is less clear is exactly
what happens in communication that leads to success.
When communication is assumed to generate organizational reality, success can
be defined as the creation of realities consistent with an organizational initiative that
become embedded in the company (Phillips et al., 2004). In other words, through
organizational discourse the anticipated outcome occurs. How this reality is created has
been characterized in a number of ways by organizational discourse theorists.
Communicative rules or mental models between groups or layers need to be the same for
successful outcomes (Bronn & Bronn, 2003; Jabs, 2005). When different groups use
different communicative rules, for example managers communicate in writing but
employees prefer verbal communication, only those with authority or influence can
mitigate these differences (Maitlis & Lawrence, 2003). The study by Phillips et al. noted
that embeddedness occurs under three conditions: (a) the person communicating has the
authority or power to enforce the new reality (discursive legitimacy), (b) the person
occupies a position in the organization where there are many opportunities to contact and
communicate with others, and (c) the person can make messages memorable. The
location in the midst of a network as a means for effective communication has been noted

27
in both the scholarly and practitioner literature (Duck, 2001; Gladwell, 2002; Rogers,
1995; Rogers & Argarwala-Rogers, 1976). The concept of developing sticky or
memorable messages as a means for effective communication has been noted in
practitioner literature (Gladwell, 2002; Richardson & Thayer, 1993).
Other theorists suggested that the laws of influence (Cialdini, 2001b),
organizational story telling, (Denning, 2001; Gabriel, 2000; Luhman & Boje, 2001) or
specific speech acts (Ford & Ford, 1995; Kezar & Eckel, 2002) create organizational
realties. Cooren (2004) noted that speech acts can assert, guarantee or promise, direct, or
express (pp. 380-385) and in doing so create different actions, responses, and realities.
Some scholars suggested the very questions that are asked result in new social
constructions (Adams, Schiller, & Cooperrider, 2004), while others (Duck, 2001; Kotter,
1996; Williams, 2001) found that planned organizational campaigns can manipulate
people into accepting a new reality. Shocks to the organization (Morrison, 2002) may
force people into a new reality or freeze them in disbelief. Positive emotions, like hope,
also can influence what organizational realities are created (Luthans, 2002). Finally the
communication channel and how it is used and the physical location of people also
impact how organizational realities are socially constructed (Salmon & Joiner, 2005).
Hamel (2000) suggested that middle managers have a unique opportunity to
create new organizational realities. While senior managers are invested in maintaining the
operational status quo, middle managers are positioned to offer different and sometimes
opposing views of the senior level hegemony. However, middle managers must become
activists primarily through using both innovative and revolutionary communication

28
approaches (Hamel, 2000, p. 187). Key to innovation and revolution is the ability to
communicate rapidly and widely. Hamel offered several tactics to developing these
abilities, including (a) coalescing an individual point of view, (b) developing a case
statement or manifesto that includes a course of action and appeals to emotions as well as
reason, (c) creating loyalty among the masses, (d) capitalizing on opportunities to
evangelize or sell the middle manager point of view, (e) identifying common interests
that will overcome objections, (f) speaking in understandable language, (g) achieving
early and quick wins that support the point of view, and (h) diffusing ideas as soon as
they are formed through proof (pp.188-203). Hamel noted that middle managers must be
honest, compassionate, humble, pragmatic, and fearless to be effective as activists (pp.
204-5).
Given the definition of organizational success used for this study (meeting
organizational goals), there is support in the literature for the link between this success
and effective communication. Clampitt et al. (2000), Gilsdorf (1999), Keller (2001), and
Tourish and Robson (2003) all reported findings linking strong communication to a
variety of organizational goals as described in the preceding paragraphs. Conversation
and social interaction appear to be crucial. Networks, how messages are crafted, physical
proximity and the shock value of the message also seem to come into play. Even the
choice of the medium appears to affect whether communication efforts will be successful.
While the literature provides a general idea of how communication links to successful
outcomes through the social construction of reality, how middle managers contribute to

29
that social construction required investigation. To understand their contribution, it is
necessary to understand who middle managers are.

Who Are Middle Managers and What is Their Role in Communication?


In this section, middle managers are described and defined. The impact of their
presence in organizations is analyzed and the general functions they provide for the
organization are discussed. These discussions provide the grounding for a more specific
discussion on their role in organizational communication. The challenges and
opportunities of middle manager communication roles also are discussed.

Who are middle managers?


One layer that many organizations have consists of midlevel leaders. Often called
middle management, these individuals are located hierarchically between the senior level
decision-makers and those who perform frontline operational activities (Hallier & James,
1997, p. 706). For this study, the definition of middle managers provided by Huy (2001)
is used. Huy (2001) described middle managers as managers two levels below the CEO
and one level above line workers and professionals (p. 73). Regardless of the precise
definition, middle managers exist in a unique world that requires them to balance the
wants and needs of those in charge with the wants and needs of those who do the
organizations work (Currie, 1999; Floyd & Lane, 2000; Oshry, 1994; Sims, 2003;
Thomas & Linstead, 2002; Turnbull, 2001).

30
Middle managers are a large organizational force in American business and
industry. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, managers and
supervisors who were not chief executive officers comprised about 9.46% or 6.7 million
members of the total workforce as of May, 2004 (United States Bureau of Labor
Statistics, 2004), while chief executive officers numbered only 346,590 or 0.27% (United
States Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2004) of the 128 million workers in the United States
(United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2004). That means that managers and
supervisors outnumber chief executive officers by a ratio of 35:1 and all other employees
outnumber chief executive officers by a ratio of 334:1. At the same time, the ratio of
managers and supervisors to all other employees is roughly 1:10. While these numbers
are aggregate estimates, they support Huys (2002) contention that middle managers and
supervisors enjoy a much smaller workforce with whom to communicate than CEOs
(Huy, 2002). Huy (2002) also asserted that in most organizational hierarchies, middle
managers are closer to frontline workers than senior leaders. Besides the sheer number of
middle managers, Statt (2000) suggested that executive leadership explains only 10% of
organizational performance (p. 115), which leaves most influence in organizations within
the hands of others. Consequently it seems likely that middle managers, because of their
large numbers, also must wield influence within the organization. Yet Williams (2001)
noted that middle management represents one of the most overlooked, ignored resources
in most organizations strategic change efforts (p. i).
Depending on the organization, middle managers specific duties will vary.
Traditional schools of thought categorized the work of managers around Henri Fayols

31
interpretation of managerial work as planning, organizing, commanding, coordinating,
and controlling (Carroll & Gillen, 1987, p. 38). Current management theorists also have
identified a number of broad-based duties for which middle managers are typically
responsible. Mintzberg (2004), for example, noted that managers need to demonstrate the
ability to deal with the stresses of their personal life, be able to work well with people in
directing and organizing work, transmit and analyze information, and be able to
troubleshoot, delegate, and plan (p. 260). Like Mintzberg, Whetton and Cameron (2002)
found that managers need skills in prioritizing work and time, leading, motivating, and
influencing others, solving problems on the run, encouraging creativity and innovation,
team building, and communicating effectively (p. 16). Van der Velde, Jansen, and
Vinckenburg (1999) characterized middle management work as communication,
traditional management, networking behavior, and human resource management (p.
162) and Floyd and Lane (2000) defined middle managers as a nexus for information
flows within the organization (p. 157). Whether implicit in the classic role of
commanding or more explicitly stated as a duty by modern theorists, communication
remains as a key middle manager responsibility. Within the framework of this study,
middle managers thus occupy a central role in managing organizational discourse and in
helping organizations implement new initiatives. (Balogun, 2003; Valentino, 2004).

The Role of Middle Managers in Communication


The need for middle managers to participate in organizational communication to
effect changes that lead to the implementation of successful organizational initiatives is

32
well documented in the literature (Balogun, 2003; Duck, 2001; Floyd & Lane, 2000;
Kanter, 1983; Kotter, 1996; Mills, 2002; Neelankavil, Mathur, & Zhang, 2000; Piderit,
2000; Valentino, 2004; Weenig, 1999). In spite of this recognition, middle managers have
been demonized as barriers to change, recalcitrant members of the organization, selfserving and devious, and as the ultimate problem for all organizational ills (Balogun;
Huy, 2002; Peters, 1992; Thomas & Linstead, 2002). According to Peters, Middle
management has not added value to most firms in recent times. Middle management
layers are worse than useless: they destroy value (p. 154). The disenchantment with
middle management was well expressed by Gosling and Mintzberg (2003) who noted,
Nobody aspires to be a good manager anymore; everyone wants to be a great leader (p.
54). Although the need for good communication is recognized while the need for middle
managers may not be, the literature regarding middle management, their roles, and their
future in organizations has been characterized as thin (Beckwith, Glenzer, & Fowler,
2002, p. 412), mixed (Nair, 2003, p. 389), contradictory, confusing and
inconclusive (Thomas & Linstead, p. 72). Thus the further study of middle managers
and their roles seemed warranted.
Four broad-based themes emerged in the literature regarding the communicative
role middle managers take. Middle managers are seen as interpreters of organizational
imperatives, as lone leaders who are isolated between two camps with distinct
communication needs, as arbitrators between multiple audiences and two distinct sides,
and as a network hub or nexus in the organization. Huy (2001) used similar categories for
classifying middle management functions, but lumped all communication work into one

33
category called communicator. However, within each of Huys categories,
communication functions can be found. In the entrepreneur role, middle managers must
build support through persuasion and lobbying (Huy, 2001, p. 74); in the therapist role,
middle managers coach and counsel staff who are experiencing difficulties with the stress
of new initiatives (Huy, 2001, p. 78); and in the tightrope artist role middle managers
used discussion, championing behaviors and even pressure to help staff work between old
and new ways of doing things (Huy, 2001, p. 79). Huy (2001) characterized the
communicator role as creating messages, brokering ideas, leveraging social networks,
and linking new ideas to staff skills (p. 76). The categories used for this discussion
incorporate the functions of Huys (2001) noncommunicator roles, but provide a richer
look into communicator activities. In this section the four communicator functions are
reviewed. The section concludes with a brief discussion on the communicator tools that
middle managers may use in these roles.
Interpreters of organizational imperatives. Middle managers face multiple
audiences as they communicate with senior managers, their own peers (who also may be
their competitors), and frontline managers (Sims, 2003). Middle managers incorporate a
variety of communication roles for various audiences, including acting as emissaries of
others, extensions of others, negotiators for others, and buffers for others (Oshry, 1994, p.
15). The fact that middle managers communicate across various levels complicates these
roles. As Williams (2001) noted, different groups in organizations use different words,
have different practices in using language, and emphasize different concepts and ideas.
The middle manager acts almost in the same manner as a translator between two

34
countries. Middle managers must speak both languages well enough to help senior level
and frontline employees understand each other (Williams, p. 149).
This role of translator is tenuous. In crafting organizational stories, middle
managers face the real possibility that stories that are crafted to convey senior
management initiatives may be negated or preempted by senior level staff (Sims, 2003).
In such cases, middle managers often loose their credibility (Sims). To be effective as a
translator, middle managers need to understand stakeholder needs (Bronn & Bronn,
2003), as well as partake in day-to-day interaction with stakeholders (Balogun, 2003).
Floyd and Lane (2000) noted that all middle management functions require
communicating between operating and top levels of management (p. 158). Operating
between the levels also means that middle managers must reconcile differences in both
the message and its interpretation by frontline and senior level employees (Valentino,
2004). In executing both the interpretation of messages and reconciling conflicting
interests, middle managers as translators of organizational initiatives hold significant
influence (Rotemberg & Saloner, 2000).
Good communicators know that messages are best received when tailored to the
audience (Kounalakis, Banks, & Daus, 1999). Maxham and Netemeyer (2003) noted that
even the behaviors middle managers exhibit send a message to subordinates and that
subordinates actions will mirror those of their supervisor. Huy (2001) suggested that
middle managers not only communicate basic information to subordinates, but also
provide entrepreneurial messages and therapeutic messages to staff during change (p. 72).

35
As translators, middle managers must assume multiple roles that require different
identities (Thomas & Linstead, 2002). Middle managers may be told by senior managers
to instigate change, but frontline workers may expect their middle managers to act as a
predictable force in the face of change (Floyd & Lane, 2000). At the same time, middle
managers may be sought out by peers as a sounding board to help make sense of an
impending change (Huy, 2002; Pappas & Wooldridge, 2002). Middle managers also may
be the target of change themselves and have the same emotional and communication
needs as others (Balogun, 2003) or may feel open to change, aloof from change, opposed
to change, or indifferent about the change effort (Turnbull, 2001). In each of these cases,
the middle manager must assume a different position with the organizational message.
During change, middle managers may be expected to initiate it, interpret its impact,
provide leadership, help people learn needed new skills, execute change plans, or adapt
new technologies (Higgs & Rowland, 2001).
Lone leaders between two camps. Middle managers often feel isolated in
organizations, not part of senior management and not part of frontline workers (Oshry,
1994). Middle managers straddle the worlds of technical competence on the operational
side of the business and in-depth understanding of broad-based goals on the policy and
strategic side of the business (Floyd & Lane, 2000). Because middle managers often
occupy functional roles, they may identify more with professionals outside of the
organization who share the same duties than with peers within the organization who have
different functional duties (Daniels, Johnson, & de Chernatony, 2002). Valentino (2004)
noted that this separation can create problems synthesizing senior level messages into

36
operational information for frontline workers. The isolation does not merely exist on
hierarchical lines. The level of knowledge and skill of subordinates can exacerbate this
isolation. For example, in areas where the middle manager supervises expert workers, the
middle managers own expertise will be less impressive to subordinates than in situations
where frontline workers are not required to have expert knowledge (Yagil, 2002).
Middle managers, as leaders, also must adapt senior level initiatives, even when
those initiatives will not work well in their areas (Rotemberg & Saloner, 2000). To accept
initiatives, middle managers may have to change their own mental models (Farrell, 2000)
or may need to resort to issue-selling techniques (Dutton, Ashford, ONeill, & Lawrence,
2001) to convince senior managers of needed changes in implementation of strategic
objectives. Hamel (2000) asserted that middle managers may have to use activist
techniques to get senior level managers to notice different perspectives in the
implementation of new ideas or different perspectives that may support disruption of the
status quo.
As organizational initiatives are implemented, middle managers are faced with the
need to lead the change on behalf of their superiors (Duck, 2001; Kanter, 1983) and
provide feedback on the initiatives progress. The likelihood of the middle manager
providing honest, open feedback can depend on whether their direct supervisor holds
strongly to ideological beliefs about the initiative (Rotemberg & Saloner, 2000). When
senior managers are deeply tied to a strategy, the middle manager is less apt to report bad
news or suggest changes in the implementation process (Rotemberg & Saloner). This can
further isolate the middle manager. Finally, because middle managers often compete with

37
each other for scarce resources, they may not develop lateral relationships (Oshry, 1996).
Without peer relationships, the middle manager may not develop the coalitions needed to
lead initiatives to success. Oshry (1994) and Hamel (2000) suggested that middle
managers need to develop lateral relationships to build power and influence within the
middle level. Once this power is established, middle managers can participate in more
potent communication and influence.
Arbitrators between multiple layers. The very fact that middle managers exist
between two layers requires them to be able to arbitrate different interests and positions
between senior management and frontline workers. In any senior management initiative,
middle managers must sort out what procedures, policies, behaviors and attitudes can stay
and what new ones must be implemented (Huy, 2002). In the course of implementation,
middle managers must assure that new staff and organizational competencies are
developed while maintaining operational stability (Floyd & Lane, 2000). This means that
they have to support both senior management as strategic directors and staff they
supervise as operational executors (DeWitt et al., 2003). Sometimes, the middle manager
will actually be the catalyst for change while also being its target (Furnham, 2002).
Middle managers must arbitrate beyond the old way of doing things and the new
way. Change of any kind evokes certain emotions and middle managers, because of their
proximity to staff, must manage the emotions that accompany change initiatives (Huy,
2002). Not only must middle managers deal with the emotional turmoil of their staff, they
also face their own conflicts in role (Floyd & Lane, 2000). Balogun (2003) explained that
middle managers are involved in undertaking personal change, helping others through

38
change, implementing necessary changes in their departments and keeping the business
going during any initiative (p. 70). Dealing with the emotional side of new initiatives
can be taxing. Huy (2002) explained that middle managers must be involved with
alleviating anxiety, individual listening, demonstrating empathy, assisting with staffs
personal concerns, mourning the loss of old ways, identifying what old attitudes and
behaviors can be kept, providing general information on the initiatives progress, while at
the same time moving forward with the initiative (p. 59). Thus, middle managers not only
arbitrate the operational challenges, but the emotional ones as well.
Young (2000) pointed out that middle managers face broader based arbitration
issues than those that occur locally within their immediate areas. Changes in
organizations, including downsizing, increasing power of senior level managers, mergers
and acquisitions, and heightened expectations for profits have distanced middle managers
from traditional involvement in organizational decision making. In addition, greater
emphasis on outcome measures, outsourcing, substituting workers with minimal skills for
highly trained workers, and reducing workforces have created even greater challenges in
communication for middle managers as they try to meet performance goals and motivate
less skilled and fewer staff members. Organizations also have developed a stronger
customer focus, which impacts the work middle managers do (Young, 2000, pp. 377378). All of this has led to middle manager activity that has been characterized as hypereffective rather than more effective (Belasen, Benke, DiPadova, & Fortunato, 1996).
It is clear to see from the literature that middle managers are expected to arbitrate
between senior and frontline staff on a multitude of fronts. They are expected to reach a

39
balance between old practices and new. They often must be both catalyst and target of
change initiatives, requiring a change of mental models and consequently the discourse
they use with staff. Senior managers expect them to be forthcoming with information on
the progress of initiatives, but often create conscious or unconscious barriers for them.
Middle managers also are expected to manage the emotional well-being of staff during
change and to deal with larger issues such as downsizing, outsourcing, or merger.
Connectors of levels. Middle managers, by nature of their hierarchical position,
connect top management to frontline workers. However, middle managers who
maintained ties both within and outside of their departments were more likely to have
their messages diffused in the organization (Weenig, 1999). These connections were
often important to supplement formal communication initiatives, particularly when
middle managers engaged in casual conversations with other organizational members
(Piderit, 2000). This networking behavior has been found to be a characteristic of
successful managers (Van der Velde et al., 1999). Pappas and Wooldridge (2002)
reported that both bridging and connecting behaviors were needed for managers to
perform well. Diffusion theorists like Gladwell (2002) and Rogers (1995), as well as
management theorists like Duck (2001), noted the importance of connectivity among
people in spreading ideas and innovations. Middle managers, by their placement in the
organizational hierarchy, are well positioned to make connections and through those
connections, manage organizational communication.
Middle managers can be characterized as providing four key communicative
functions in organizations. They translate strategic language of senior management into

40
the action language of frontline workers. They speak out as leaders, representing opinions
and options that senior levels and staff may miss. They negotiate and arbitrate the
competing needs of strategic initiative and operational routine and they act as connectors
between top and bottom layers and among their peers. To accomplish these activities,
middle managers, like all communicators, rely on a wealth of communication tools and
techniques. Communication tools, in this study, refer to tangible devices while techniques
are characterized as approaches middle managers may take in communicating. Both of
these are discussed briefly before considering the Six Sigma literature.

Communication Tools and Techniques


Middle managers, as most employees do, have a variety of communication tools
at their disposal. Typically these tools will include electronic devices, like telephones,
facsimile machines, and e-mail programs. Other forms of communication include written
reports, memos, policy books, and other corporate information; meetings, including
videoconferences, online computer conferences, and telephone conferences; and face-toface personal communication.
Several theories have been advanced on why managers choose certain media over
others. The media richness model, developed by Daft and Lengel (1986) suggested that
the choice of media rests on the need for richness in the communication. Richness is
characterized by differing capacities to resolve ambiguity (Fulk & Boyd, 1991, p. 409).
Media are chosen for richness based on two dimensions: (a) the paucity of information or
uncertainty of information, and (b) the lack of easily or clearly understandable

41
information or the equivocality of information (van den Hooff et al., 2005, p. 6). The
structure of how the organization transmits information formally also will affect whether
communication includes uncertain or equivocal information (Daft & Lengel).
Organizations that routinely hold group meetings, who have people in positions whose
job it is to connect departments and data, that encourage open and direct communication,
that engage in planning, that share financial information readily and have well-defined
policies and procedures reduce both uncertainty and equivocality (Daft & Lengel).
According to Daft and Lengel, uncertain situations are those where a solution is at hand if
the information is available, but equivocal situations have no existing answer and need to
be contemplated and thought through by multiple people for resolution.
Daft and Lengel (1986) suggested that the richest medium was face-to-face
communication, followed by telephone conversations, personal correspondence, and
reports and data documents (p. 560). Draft and Lengel proposed their model before email and other electronic communication tools, such as instant messaging, were in use.
While the original media richness theory is fairly straightforward, it recently has been
criticized for failing to contemplate new technologies or incorporate individual
preferences (Fulk & Boyd, 1991). The study of Van den Hooff et al. (2005) suggested
that not only is a medium chosen based on the need for richness and personal preference,
but also based on a strong fit between the purpose of the communication and the
functionality of the medium and the actual situation in which the communication occurs.
While media richness theory suggests that a face-to-face meeting would be best under
equivocal situations, situational characteristics such as distance between the manager and

42
intended audience and the managers personality type may cause the manager to select email instead (van den Hooff et al.). It appears that there is no hard and fast rule for why
middle managers choose or should choose certain media. However, the literature seems
to indicate that the character of the message in terms of uncertainty and equivocality, the
managers personal preferences, structural characteristics of the organization, and the
immediate situation all impact medium choice and use.
While individual managers can use many tools, Whetton and Cameron (2002)
noted that 80% of a managers work requires verbal communication (p. 216). Verbal
communication occurs at three levels: tool talk, frame talk, and mythopoetic talk
(Marshak, 1998, p. 22). Tool talk is literal, conscious, and intentionally objective while
frame talk is symbolic, conscious, pre-conscious and contextually subjective and
mythopoetic talk is mythic and metaphorical; conscious, pre-conscious, and
unconscious; and intuitive and mythical (Marshak, p. 22). Organizational
communication also has been described as instrumental (delivering facts, directions or
technical knowledge and associated with procedures) or expressive (emotive language
dealing with values, vision, mission, broad-based goals, policy, appreciation; Etzioni,
1975, pp. 242, 233). While change initiatives may involve tool talk or instrumental
communication (e.g., explaining how process steps will change), communication evoking
change required in new initiatives most likely will be frame and mythopoetic talk and
will involve more expressive than instrumental language. Two techniques, issue-selling
and storytelling, are particular useful for both (Dutton et al., 2001.)

43
Using influence involves the communicator evoking judgmental heuristics in the
receiver (Cialdini, 2001b, p. 8). Judgmental heuristics are simply mental shortcuts that
people take in processing information (Cialdini, 2001b, p. 8). Cialdini outlined six ways
people are influenced. These principles include (a) reciprocity, (b) commitment and
consistency, (c) social truth, (d) liking, (e) authority, and (f) scarcity. Table1 illustrates
each of these principles and how they work.
Table 1
Cialdinis Sources of Influence
Principle Name

Effect

Rule of Reciprocation (chap.


2) and Rejection-then-Retreat
(p. 38)

People feel obligated to repay favors; they will concede


a smaller favor after rejecting a larger one, but only if
the offer is reasonable.

Commitment and Consistency


(chap. 3)

People prefer to remain consistent with what they have


said in the past, especially if it is active, public,
effortful, and fully chosen (p. 67).

Social Truth (chap. 4)

People look to others to determine what behaviors are


correct, especially under ambiguous situations and when
viewing people who are similar to them (p. 119).

Liking (chap. 5)

People like physically attractive people, those who are


similar to them, and those with whom they have worked
together cooperatively. However, getting to know
someone under unpleasant conditions leads to less
liking (p. 152). Association of a person with an
unpleasant thing creates less liking (p. 162).

Authority (chap. 6)

People respond to both real and perceived authority or


expertise.

Scarcity (chap. 7)

People value scarce items more than commodities.

Note: Cialdinis (2001b) Sources of Influence. Summarized from Influence: Science and Practice (4th ed.)
by R. B. Cialdini, R. B. (2001). Copyright 2001 by Allyn and Bacon. Adapted with permission.

44
Cialdinis principles provide broad-based guidelines for getting people to think in
a certain way. For example, to invoke the principle of reciprocity, Cialdini suggested that
in response to anyone saying thank you, individuals respond by saying You would
have done the same for me (Cialdini, 2001a). Each of these principles can be used to
influence the thought processes of individuals. Whether or not middle managers are
aware of these practices may influence their abilities to successfully and skillfully
implement new initiatives.
Dutton et al. (2001) studied how middle managers influence decisions. They
found that managers used packaging moves, involvement moves, and process moves to
persuade their supervisors and others. Packaging moves consist of presentation moves
and bundling moves (Dutton et al., p. 721). Presentation moves involve developing the
logic and business case for an idea, formatting it in an acceptable organizational manner,
and then presenting it to the appropriate audiences. These presentations included financial
benefits, charts and graphs, and data analysis, but most important, used language that was
consistent with current organizational imperatives (Dutton et al., pp. 721-722). Bundling,
according to Dutton et al., employs attaching the issue to a widely accepted
organizational goal ( p. 723). While presentation approaches were described by middle
managers in both successful and unsuccessful attempts to sell their point of view,
bundling was mentioned only regarding successful approaches (Dutton et al., p. 723).
Involvement moves were those in which coalitions of supporters were developed
and require the middle manager to understand if it is normative to involve others
formally in a given context and having the right social connections and knowledge of

45
whom to involve and when to involve them (Dutton et al., 2001, p. 725). Last, process
moves require a good sense of timing, intense preparation of the argument, and following
established processes within the organization (Dutton et al., pp. 725-726). Within all of
these approaches, Dutton et al. asserted that understanding the context of the issue was
paramount (p. 727). Issues require knowledge on three levels: (a) relational, (b)
normative, and (c) strategic. (Dutton et al., p. 727). Relational contexts require the issueseller to understand stakeholder needs and reactions, political and power realities, and
supporters and opposition to the idea (Dutton et al., p. 727). Normative concerns center
on what is acceptable in the organization, what organizational customs are, and what the
appropriate approach to making a case is (Dutton et al., p. 727). Finally, Dutton et al.
noted that strategic context centers on what is most important to the organization in
reaching future goals (p. 727).
While influence and issue-selling explain the underlying thought process behind
communication, storytelling and narrative explain the packaging of information in
understandable ways that help people make sense of new or different situations (Patriotta,
2003). McGregor and Holmes (1999) suggested that stories provide a shorthand means
for remembering key lessons about organizations. Other theorists provide different
interpretations of stories. Clandinin and Connelly (2000) loosely defined story as lived
experience (p. 20), while Riessman (1993) used Aristotelian principles to define stories as
narrative with a beginning, middle, and end (p. 17) that provide a framework for
understanding the world (p. 19). Czarniawska (1999), perhaps one of the most
recognizable management theorists who uses stories as a frame of analysis, characterized

46
stories in terms of literary devices and genres (p. 11) while Boje (2001) defined stories in
terms of tales of everyday life.
Stories are an integral part of organizational life. As Sims (2003) noted, We live,
move and have our being marinated in our own stories (p. 1196). In organizations there
are official corporate stories that are usually countered by antistory (Boje, 2001;
Snowden, 2000). Swap, Leonard, Shields, and Abrams (2001) identified several types of
stories that occur in organizations, including stories about (a) breaking company rules, (b)
whether the boss exhibits human compassion, (c) underdog achievement, (d) how the
organization treats mistakes, (e) the disposition of employees during layoffs, (f)
organizational breakthrough, and (g) individuals overcoming organizational barriers.
Often the stories told are negative or in opposition to the official corporate story and
Swap et al. estimated that 90 percent of all employees tell negative stories about their
organizations (p. 105). Gabriel (2000) has suggested that organizational stories express
the conflict and pain of the organization and in doing so allow employees to vent deeply
held resentments against the organization. Denning (2001) noted that not all stories had
the same inherent ability to help individuals understand the complexity of organizational
change. Denning suggested that springboard stories, which pit a protagonist against a
situation that must be changed, provide the most effective way of developing
comprehension throughout organizations of needed or expected change (p. xix).
Regardless of how stories have been specifically defined, middle managers use
stories to help make sense of new initiatives (Balogun, 2003). The stories that middle
managers tell to their subordinates and the stories the subordinates recount are ways to

47
develop focus on what is important and how areas choose to solve problems and make
sense out of new situations (Patriotta, 2003). The telling of an unsolicited story, in and of
itself, signals a disruption in the normal routine of life (Robichaud, Girous, & Taylor,
2004). However, middle managers, because of their position between senior management
and frontline workers, constantly put the stories they tell at risk (Sims, 2003). Senior
managers may preempt the middle managers story by claiming it as their own or may
discredit the middle managers story. At the same time, subordinates may create
antistories in response to the middle managers story (Sims). To be successful, stories
need to engage the audience, appropriately include details that are memorable to the
audience, and provide a kicker or gist that is the point of the story (McGregor & Holmes,
1999). While story telling provides middle managers with a good communicative
technique, the execution of telling a good story and having it widely accepted is fraught
with challenges.
Middle managers have been identified as important participants in communicating
new organizational initiatives. Successful implementation of these initiatives has been
linked in the literature to the communication activities of middle managers. Within these
communication activities, middle managers have been found to play multiple roles,
which require them to use a variety of communication techniques and tools. The choice
of role, communication technique, or communication tool is complex. How middle
managers effectively combine their roles, techniques, and tools to communicate in a way
to attain organizational goals is not widely documented. Consequently, this study tried to

48
fill some of this gap by investigating what middle managers did as they communicated to
create a successful outcome.

Six Sigma as an Organizational Initiative


For the purposes of this study, the outcome was the successful implementation of
Six Sigma. Six Sigma has been described as a means to gain a competitive edge in the
marketplace, creating an organization of excellence (Thawani, 2004). The methodology,
which was initiated in the early 1980s at Motorola, has been credited in the practitioner
literature with increasing profits, improving customer satisfaction, reducing costs, and
improving overall quality (Rudisill & Clary, 2004). It has been estimated that more than
one quarter of all Fortune 200 companies are using Six Sigma, including companies such
as GE, Allied Signal, Gillette, Johnson Control, Johnson & Johnson, Caterpillar, and
American Express (Thawani, 2004, p. 656). Six Sigma is fundamentally a quantitative
and analytic approach to quality improvement (Does et al., 2002, p. 177). While
primarily used in manufacturing, Six Sigma also has been accepted in some areas of
health care, finance, sales, and marketing (Brewer & Eighme, 2005; Clancy & Krieg,
2005; Simmons-Trau, Cenek, Counterman, Hockenbury, & Litwiller, 2004).
Six Sigma emanates from early total quality management approaches and is
geared toward keeping companies successful (Pande, Neuman, & Cavanagh, 2000).
Although technically the words six sigma have a statistical definition of 3.4 defects per
million opportunities for error (Hammer, 2002, p. 29), Six Sigma is a disciplined
approach to analyzing processes and reducing defects (Anthony, Kumar, & Tiwari, 2005)

49
that was initiated and originally marketed by Motorola (London, 2003). One popular
form of Six Sigma employs five phases to analyze processes: (a) define, (b) measure, (c)
analyze, (d) improve, and (e) control (Anthony et al., 2005; Pande et al., 2000). These
five phases are known by the acronym, DMAIC, and are present in all Six Sigma
approaches, but may be named differently. In addition to this problem-solving approach,
Six Sigma also is characterized by several organizational responsibilities or
commitments. Typically, Six Sigma requires a top level commitment, the use of highly
trained, full-time Black Belts to lead process improvement teams, is driven by data and
analysis, concentrates on meeting customer requirements, and ultimately seeks to reduce
defects or errors to the highest sigma possible (Anthony et al., 2005; Pande et al., 2000).
Sigma is a statistical measure of defects and can be described in terms of yield in which a
Six Sigma level represents 99.9997% perfection (Pande et al., p. 44). Because of this
reliance on statistical measurement, the outcomes of using the Six Sigma approach are
possible to calculate.
For this study, however, the results of the teams who employ the Six Sigma
approach were not the main concern. Instead, the study looked at organizational
initiatives that have been successfully implemented. Six Sigma approaches use a specific
accomplishment, accretion, as a proxy measure for successful implementation. Accretion
has been defined as the point in time when the hard cost savings and real new revenue
generated from using the Six Sigma approach exceed the cost of training and staffing for
Six Sigma (Caterpillar Inc., 2004). Thus in this study, how middle managers have helped

50
embed Six Sigma into organizational discourse and what roles in communicating the Six
Sigma initiative were of interest.

Summary of the Substantive Literature


The substantive literature provides a variety of ways to view organizational
communication from a simple exchange of information to a representation of the struggle
between labor and management. A key characteristic of most views of organizational
communication is the role of language, speaking, story telling and other speech acts.
While not all communication investigative traditions incorporate language as a means to
construct a social reality, many of the more recent interpretations of organizational
communication do. In this sense, the adjective, organizational, when used with
communication, refers to the active verb organize rather than the noun organization. For
the purposes of this study, then, organizational communication is defined in terms of
discourses that organize the realities in business and industry. The literature clearly
supports the notion that good organizational communication is required for the
implementation of successful corporate initiatives. Likewise, the literature also
recognizes the importance of middle managers in communicating these initiatives, even
though some theorists and researchers characterize middle managers as obstructionists.
Middle managers themselves play four key roles in organizational
communication. They translate, they lead, they arbitrate, and they network within the
organization to embed the reality of new initiatives in the corporate entity. Middle
managers may employ a variety of communication channels and that choice may be

51
based on personal preferences, organizational context, and the uncertainty or equivocality
of the issue. Within this study, the investigation sought to determine how middle
managers use both their communication techniques and tools to implement a successful
organizational initiative.
For the purposes of this study, the achievement of an accretive state for Six Sigma
initiatives constituted a successful initiative. Unlike other investigations, however, this
investigation was decidedly biased toward the positive side of implementation or the
things that middle managers did right in communicating the new initiative to make it
successful. The methodology that was used to do this is a form of appreciative inquiry.

Literature Review of the Options and Choice of Research Methodology


The substantive literature review explored key components of the research
question. In this section, the review describes possible options for the research
methodology, validates the use of appreciative inquiry for the study, and explores
potential themes that were expected to emerge during the course of the study. To validate
the use of appreciative inquiry, gaps in current approaches were explored while the use of
narrative inquiry and critical incident technique to create an acceptable research
procedure are discussed. The methodology literature review also explored what new or
different information was thought likely to emerge as a result of an appreciative inquiry.
Finally, the themes that were thought likely to emerge from the investigation are
described based on the substantive literature findings.

52
Earlier in this chapter, a brief history of organizational communication research
was explored. This history can be divided into two key approaches to communication
research: the functional or positivist approach, which also has been called the
hypothetico-deductive approach (Gunter, 2004), and the interpretivist tradition (WertGray, Center, Brashers, & Meyers, 1991). Each tradition lends itself to different research
options. The positivist approach incorporates primarily quantitative study methodologies,
while the interpretivist approach generally involves qualitative investigation.
The positivist tradition, which enjoyed its heyday between 1940 and 1980,
(Tomkins & Wanca-Thibault, 2001) used methods to gather data that would help
organizational investigators understand the correlations between communication
variables and assign causality. According to Gunter (2004), the positivist approach seeks
to identify links between individuals behaviors and their experiences with
communication and media (p. 209). The functional or positivist approach employed
research methods such as written surveys, content analysis, and network analysis. These
techniques, as well as a qualitative approach called the critical incident technique, have
collectively been referred to as organizational communication audit tools (Downs &
Adrian, 2004). In some cases, as Gunter noted, experimental approaches, in which
communication variables are manipulated, also have been used.
Written surveys, according to Downs and Adrian (2004) can be used to identify
correlations or causality among and between organizational communication variables,
such as the frequency of communication and job satisfaction. Unlike experiments,
surveys do not test causal relationships among variables, but seek to document

53
relationships and the degree of the variables influence in the relationship after the fact
(Gunter, 2004). Often these surveys use Likert or similar scales to record respondents
opinions. The Downs-Hazen Communication Satisfaction Questionnaire (CSQ) is a
typical representation of this kind of research approach. According to Downs and Adrian,
the CSQ was developed to identify what factors contributed to employee satisfaction with
organizational communication and the degree to which employees were satisfied with the
communication.
The instrument has been found to be both reliable and valid (Gray & Laidlaw,
2004) and provides a picture of the degree to which communication is working well in an
organization. However, the CSQ does not provide information on the process that causes
communication to work well. According to Downs and Adrian (2004), surveys are
particularly useful for diagnosing organizational problems and providing an assessment
of organizational communication strengths and weaknesses. However, these surveys have
not been used to answer how communication occurs, which was the focus of this study.
Thus, survey methods such as the CSQ did not provide the kind of information required
for the research question in this study.
Another technique that has been used for communication research is content
analysis. Content analysis has been characterized both as a quantitative technique
(Neuendorf, 2002) and as a qualitative approach (Downs & Adrian, 2004). Titscher,
Meyer, Wodak, and Vetter (2000) noted that the term has become ambiguous, describing
both the quantification of the frequency of a message or word as it occurs in text as well
the coding of textual verbiage used in ethnography and grounded theory. Content analysis

54
has been used since the 1930s (Titscher et al.) and originally was used to quantify
message characteristics for analysis (Neuendorf, p. 1). In its original form, content
analysis displayed two key characteristics (Neuendorf) that run counter to the intent of
this study. It is based in a positivist approach and rejects social construction of reality. It
incorporates the testing of a priori design and deduction. As such, hypotheses, coding
procedures, and variables must be defined prior to the beginning of the study of text. The
intent is to count and analyze message characteristics, such as the repetition of a key
phrase, after the communication occurs (Neuendorf). Like survey methods, this form of
content analysis did not provide the means for understanding how the process of middle
manager communication works well.
Content analysis, however, also has been characterized in terms of qualitative
research (Downs & Adrian, 2004; Titscher et al., 2000). In this vein, content analysis is
applied to explain and summarize communication text (Titscher et al.). The context of the
text, which is unimportant in the original form of content analysis, is recognized and
becomes part of the interpretation. Like the original form, the qualitative form of content
analysis defines coding categories before the text is read and analyzed by the researcher
(Titscher et al). Thus, induction is not a component of content analysis. Qualitative
content analysis, because of the presupposition of categories, conflicted with the social
constructionism research paradigm of this study.
A third investigative technique, communication network analysis, focuses on how
organizational messages travel from person to person, group to group (Downs & Adrian,
2004). This type of analysis was used extensively by Rogers & Argarwala-Rogers (1976)

55
in the study of organizational communication and by Rogers (1995) in the study of the
diffusion of innovations. Network analysis, according to Boje (2001), determines the
dynamics of storytelling, (p. 62), as well as the degree to which the message or story
stays consistent throughout the telling (p. 63). Network analysis allows the researcher to
identify which members of the organization have influence and power in terms of
controlling and disseminating messages, which members have the credibility to interpret
and judge the message, and which members have the ability to connect with others in
discussing the message (Rogers & Argarwala-Rogers). This type of analysis recently has
been popularized in Gladwells book, The Tipping Point (2002). However, for this study
the interest was not in how the message spreads through the organization, but how middle
managers facilitate that diffusion.
The last communication audit technique to be considered was the critical incident
technique (CIT). CIT was developed by John C. Flanagan in the 1940s to identify
behaviors of Air Force pilots that led to successful or unsuccessful missions (Downs &
Adrian, 2004). Flanagan (1954) described the approach as a set of procedures for
collecting human behavior in such a way as to facilitate their potential in solving practical
problems and developing broad psychological principles (p. 327). Essentially, study
subjects are asked to recall a critical incident and then describe the behaviors associated
with that critical incident, including what they saw, felt, heard, and experienced
(Flanagan, p. 329). Once the recollections of participants have been documented, an
inductive process is used to code the various behaviors that have been mentioned relating

56
to the critical incident. Critical incidents can be framed in positive experiences (for
example, effective work), negative experiences or both.
CIT has been used in studies in the fields of political science, journalism,
education, psychology, nursing, human resource management, counseling, social work,
communication, and marketing (Bitner, Booms, & Tetreault, 1990; Butterfield, Borgen,
Amundson & Maglio, 2005). The technique is structured around an incident or an
observable human activity that is complete enough in itself to permit inferences and
predictions to be made about the person performing the act (Bitner et al., p. 73). A
critical incident is defined as one that contributes to or detracts from the general aim of
the activity in a significant way (Bitner et al., p. 73). The words revelatory and
significant have been substituted for critical in some studies to avoid the negative
connotation of the word critical (Keatinge, 2002). Questions for CIT require the
participant to think of an extreme situation (negative or positive), recall specific
behaviors exhibited by key players, explain why the behaviors related to the situation,
and detail other demographic or situational attributes, such as the place the incident
occurred (Flanagan, 1954). What is important to note about CIT for this study is that it
relies on the recounting of stories of extreme, not routine, cases.
A number of qualitative communication research methods have been described in
the interpretive tradition. These include Bojes (2001) review of eight methodologies, as
well as approaches espoused by individuals like Czarniawska (1999) and Gabriel (2002).
Bojes eight approaches are detailed in Table 2, along with those of others.

57
Table 2
Qualitative Research Approaches in the Interpretive Tradition
Source

Name

Approach

Boje (2001)

Deconstruction
analysis

Reconstituting, restructuring, resituating the communication story


to gain different perspectives

Boje (2001)

Grand narrative
analysis

Reviewing communication vis--vis dominant historic or


organizational hegemony, such as post-modern industrialism

Boje (2001)

Microstoria
analysis

Exploration of oppositional stories of oppressed, marginalized, or


underprivileged groups and how the group survived in face of the
dominant hegemony

Boje (2001)

Intertextuality
analysis

Exploration of the consistency of message across time and different


groups or audiences

Boje (2001)

Causality
analysis

Investigation of how causality is assigned retrospectively through


story

Boje (2001)

Plot analysis

Literary interpretation of communication in terms of plot creation


and development, action, character

Boje (2001)

Theme analysis

Investigation of how various audiences or groups co-construct


themes in shared stories

Gabriel (2000)

Organizational
storytelling

Investigation of the hidden pain or struggle emanating from


employee stories

Czarniawska
(1999)

Narrative
analysis per
Czarniawska

Investigation of organizational stories and narratives within the


framework of literary interpretation

Titscher et al.
(2000)

Conversation
analysis

Exploration of the interaction of at least two organizational


members and the sequencing, structure, and control mechanisms in
the exchange

Titscher et al
(2000)

Narrative
semiotics

Exploration of the structures within narration that create meaning

Titscher et al.
(2000)

Critical
discourse
analysis

Exploration of communicative identities and the power struggles


identities create or mitigate; deals primarily with social issues

Putnam &
Fairhurst (2001)

Discourse
analysis (broad
definition)

Investigation of words and signifiers, including the form or


structure of these words, the use of language in contexts, and the
meanings or interpretations of discursive practices (p. 79)

58
The list is by no means exhaustive, but demonstrates the breadth of interpretive
approaches to organizational communication. Many of these, such as microstoria analysis
and desconstruction analysis, seek to ferret out problems or conflicts within
organizations. Others, like narrative semiotics, plot analysis, or causality analysis,
investigate structures and structural relationships. Still others, like theme analysis and the
broad definition of discourse analysis, offer the researcher a wide berth in defining and
operationalizing the research approach itself. With the exception of customizing the
broadly defined methodologies to this study, none of the interpretive qualitative
approaches provided a mechanism for identifying the how of exemplary middle manager
communication.

Validation of the Methods and Potential for New Information to Emerge


As demonstrated from the previous discussion, communication research has
employed multiple traditions over the years. Traditional organizational research methods
have been criticized for focusing too much on what is wrong with organizations rather
than what is right (Barrett & Fry, 2002; Cameron et al., 2003; Cooperrider & Avital,
2004; Luthans, 2002). Although theorists like Kotter (1996) suggested that organizations
must create crises or gaps if none exists in order to create change and organizational
success, Dutton (2003) argued that the study of peak experiences in organizations can
help identify positive attitudes and work habits that lead to organizational effectiveness.
Luthans noted that, on average, more optimistic managers were more effective that those
who were pessimistic and that identification and fostering positive emotional states could

59
increase organizational effectiveness. The use of appreciative inquiry has been
demonstrated to enhance the organizations ability to be effective by creating positive
energy within organizations, groups, units, or departments (Johnson & Leavitt, 2001;
Mantel & Ludema, 2004; Miller, Fitzgerald, & Murrell, 2002; Powley, Fry, Barrett, &
Bright, 2004; Walker & Carr-Stewart, 2004; Yoder, 2005). More recently, appreciative
inquiry techniques have been adapted not just for promulgating organizational change,
but as a viable method for research (Schall, Ospina, Godsoe, & Dodge, 2004).
Before appreciative inquiry (AI) can be understood as a research methodology,
the basic assumptions of AI first must be discussed. From a review of the AI literature,
several characteristics of AI can be identified:
1. The world is socially constructed through the words that are used and the
questions that are asked (Barrett & Peterson, 2003; Cooperrider & Avital, 2004; Sorensen
& Yaeger, 2004).
2. Conversations, the focus of conversations, and the tendency of past
conversations to affect current talk and future visions are the means through which
realities in organizations are created. Multiple realities exist, because multiple
conversations are constantly in play (Cooperrider et al., 2003; Hammond, 1998; Whitney
& Trosten-Bloom, 2003).
3. Hope, aspiration, and the embracing of positive states create better, more
effective organizations and work environments (Barrett & Peterson, 2003; Bernstein,
2003; Cooperrider & Avital, 2004; Mantel & Ludema, 2004; Miller et al., 2002; Sorensen
& Yaeger, 2004).

60
4. Pockets of excellence or positive deviance exist in even mediocre
organizations, which are not always recognized or valued by organizations as a means to
enhance performance (Bernstein, 2003; Dutton, 2003).
5. When looking to the future, it is important to bridge to the past. Positive
remembrances of the past will generate positive views of the future (Cooperrider, et al.,
2003; Hammond, 1998; Whitney & Trosten-Bloom, 2003).
As can be seen by these characteristics, AI relies heavily on language in the form
of questions and stories as a means to discover how organizations work well. Cooperrider
and et al. (2003) explained that AI is:
deliberate in its life-centric search. Carefully constructed inquiries allow the
practitioners to affirm the symbolic capacities of imagination and mind as
well as the social capacity for conscious choice and cultural evolution. The art
of appreciation is the art of discovering and valuing those factors that give life
to a group or organization. The process involves interviewing and storytelling
to draw out the best of the past and set the stage for effective visualization of
the future (pp. 3-4).
Because organizational communication has been defined as a social construction and
because the substantive literature has been less than laudatory on the roles and
effectiveness of middle managers in organizational communication, an appreciative
inquiry lens in investigating the phenomenon offered opportunity for new insights.
However, others cautioned that too much emphasis on positive aspects of
organizations may create complacency that can have tragic results (Weick, 2003;
Weick & Sutcliffe, 2001).While this Pollyannaish concern is real, studies have shown
that a balance of five positive interactions to one negative interaction will avoid too
high of a positive bias (Cameron, Dutton, Quinn, & Wrzesniewski, 2003, p. 363) and

61
appreciative inquirers suggest minimizing negative discourse not eliminating it
(Cooperrider et al., pp. 21-22).
Schall et al. (2004) developed a means to apply appreciative inquiry in a research
investigation regarding leadership. Within this methodology were three prongs,
ethnographic inquiry, narrative inquiry, and cooperative inquiry (Schall et al., p. 150).
For the purposes of this study, the methodology employed for narrative inquiry served as
the foundation for exploration of the research question.
Schall et al. (2004) suggested that if leadership is about meaning making, then it
is inevitably relational and collective, and therefore, more about the experience people
have as they try to make sense of their work and less about individual traits or behaviors
(p. 148). Like leadership, middle management also involves relationships and
collectivities and involves developing shared meanings through interactions with
subordinates and superiors (Thomas & Linstead, 2002). Communication, as defined
earlier in this chapter, involves the interplay between at least two people in developing
some sort of meaning. Therefore, communication also can be construed as primarily a
social construction (Weick, 1979). In taking a social constructionist approach, Schall et
al. involved the leaders, the direct subjects of the study, as well as those who were led in
investigating what the experience of leadership actually is.
Schall et al. (2004) noted that choosing a means of investigation has implications
for both what is studied and who defines what is important and does the research (p.
148). In taking a social constructionist approach, multiple voices must be heard because,
by its very nature, social construction involves more than one person (Berger &

62
Luckmann, 1967; Searle, 1995). The researchers reported that choosing social
construction through narrative methods as a means of inquiry allowed them to focus on
the relational, shared and meaning making aspects of the work (Schall et al., p. 157).
In choosing appreciative inquiry, Schall et al. (2004) found that the approach
provided a means to overcome challenges generally faced by researchers. First of all, the
stance that the questions would be positive helped the team build trust with the
participants of their study. Second, the approach allowed Schall et al. to see leadership in
a different, more insightful way. Schall et al. reported that the data they were collecting
and the leadership phenomena they were observing provided a different feel from other
research traditions we have used in the past, because it is built on valuing (p. 155).
The research of Schall et al. (2004) blended multiple traditions of narrative
inquiry within the context of appreciative inquiry. Neuendorf (2002) identified several
approaches to analyzing narrative, text, or discourse. But her list was not exhaustive.
Titscher et al. (2000) identified ten approaches. Boje (2001) identified eight approaches,
and other researchers like Czarniawska (1999), Gee (1999), Clandinin and Connelly
(2000), and Gabriel (2000) created their own approaches to narrative analysis. Clandinin
and Connelly described narrative analysis in terms of a broad-based observation of a long
term phenomenon and produced a narrative account of the observation. While the stories
participants told were important, this type of narrative inquiry is more focused on
amalgamating the experience of both the participants and the researcher into one grand
narrative.

63
Czarniawska (1999) and Riessman (1993) concentrated more on the story as it
was told and the literary or poetic devices that were employed in using narrative inquiry
methodology. The Boje (2001) form of analysis maintains the researcher as observer, but
focuses on how stories that are told represent different viewpoints and conflicting
hegemonies, while Gabriel (2000) looked for an expression of pain or conflict caused by
the organization as retold by the research participants. Gee (1999) focused on creating
poetic stanzas from conversation and then ascribing meaning to them. But Ochs (1997)
characterized narrative inquiry as the investigation of the interplay between teller, hearer,
and reteller and sought to map the interrelationships between various people. Although
Ochs emphasized how such interactions limit the power of individuals, by applying an
appreciative inquiry lens, it is not a leap of logic to assert that these stories also might
show how power is shared and expanded. Regardless of the specific narrative
methodology, the use of narrative in conducting qualitative research has been accepted as
a legitimate qualitative approach (Coffey & Atkinson, 1996; Denzin & Lincoln, 2000;
Grant, Keenoy, & Oswick, 2001; Marshall & Rossman, 1999).
As seen from this literature review, the use of appreciative inquiry or a search for
life-generating organizational phenomena continues to gain momentum as a research
approach. The approach offers promise in uncovering new insights into organizational
behaviors, as well as increasing positive states in the organization (Adams et al., 2004;
Barrett & Peterson, 2003; Cameron et al., 2003; Schall et al., 2004) . The literature also
provides support for the use of narrative inquiry as an appropriate qualitative
investigative methodology. Combining these two, as Schall et al. suggested, holds

64
promise for identifying behaviors and attitudes that are not usually discerned in typical
organizational research. Dutton (2003) noted that such inquiries not only discover new
competencies in organizations, but benefit the researcher as well. She explained, We are
what we do and how we do it. How we conduct our work as organizational researchers,
teachers, and administrators breathes or depletes life from our scholarship (p. 5).

Summary
This literature review has examined a wide range of communicative possibilities
and middle manager predilections. In addition, it has provided a brief overview of
communication tools, Six Sigma, appreciative inquiry, and the use of narrative analysis.
At the same time, this study was decidedly a qualitative endeavor and did not seek to
establish causality between one variable or another. In fact, Denzin and Lincoln (2000)
likened the qualitative researcher to a bricoleur or do-it-yourself person (p. 4) who
would not or should not engage in contemplating what themes may emerge as a result of
research. However, Denzin and Lincoln also noted:
Qualitative researchers stress the socially constructed nature of reality, the
intimate relationship between the researcher and what is studied, and the
situational constraints that shape inquiry. Such researchers emphasize the
value-laden nature of inquiry. They seek answers to how social experience is
created and given meaning. (p. 8)
Because this study employed appreciative inquiry, it was value laden toward a
positive, life-affirming lens (Schall et al., 2004). Based on the review of the literature,
one possible theme that was expected to emerge included a further validation of
Huys (2001, 2002) affirmation of the role of middle managers in holding

65
organizations together and leading them through new initiatives through the human
relationships they develop.
Relative to Huys (2001, 2002) position, information that demonstrated how
middle managers used media channels and information-sharing techniques tailored to
the unique audience needs to create the desired social reality also were thought likely
to emerge and did. The degree of intertextuality of story (the repetitiveness of words
and ideas) among senior, middle, and frontline levels, was contemplated as likely to
surface as an indicator of the health and progress of a successful organizational
initiative and did. Six Sigmas creation of a language that is spoken universally from
top to bottom in the organization was thought likely to play an important role in
helping middle managers successfully communicate and was found to have this
effect. Finally, this investigation also held promise to reinforce what Adams et al.
(2004) suggested, that the questions that are asked, not the answers that are given,
create realities. The implication was, then, that middle managers need to learn more
about asking questions than supplying answers. This expectation did not emerge in
the data analysis. These themes were only guesses before the study was conducted at
what new insights might develop. While some of these expectations were met, other
unanticipated findings were generated. These are discussed thoroughly in chapter 4.
In this chapter organizational communication was investigated and defined as a
phenomenon that occurs as individuals interact to create a new vision or social reality of
the organization. Rather than thinking of organizational communication as events that
occur in corporate entities, it was suggested that communication as a means for

66
organizing would be a more appropriate interpretation for this study. Second, the linkage
between organizational success and active communication was investigated. Clearly, the
literature demonstrated that communication does help achieve organizational success.
However, there are multiple ways that communication is associated with this
achievement. Middle managers, who exist between the layers of top corporate officials
and frontline workers, were shown to have a wide range of responsibilities, many of
which involve balancing countervailing interests. The literature, although sometimes
characterized as limited, showed middle managers as both essential to the success of
organizational initiatives and as hindrances to this success.
According to the literature, middle managers have multiple communication
channels at their disposal. Their choice of these tools depends on a variety of factors,
from personal preference to organizational capacity. Middle managers also may use
communication techniques such as issue-selling, persuasion, or story telling to convey
information to others. Even in telling organizational stories, however, middle managers
often face conflict.
Six Sigma was investigated as an initiative that organizations undertake to
improve performance. It was demonstrated that Six Sigma has a natural measurement,
accretion, for judging whether the initiative was successful. Finally, appreciative inquiry
and the use of narrative analysis were discussed as the framework for the methodology of
this study. Appreciative inquiry provided data that may help close the gap between
deficit-based research and positive organizational scholarship. The collection of
narratives from all levels of those involved provided the lens that Schall et al. (2004)

67
suggested was necessary for understanding organizational experiences such as middle
manager communication. Themes that emerged from this research were, as expected,
positive, life-affirming insights. Through the discussion of the literature that supports the
research question, how do middle managers communicate across organizational layers so
that organizational initiatives succeed, the foundation for the method of inquiry was laid.

68
CHAPTER 3:
RESEARCH METHOD
Overview
In this chapter the methodology that was used to explore the research questions is
discussed. The framework of Titscher et al. for developing research organizes the
discussion in this section. This framework appears below as Figure 3.

Figure 3. From theory to the instruments of empirical research. From Methods of Text and Discourse
Analysis by S. Titscher, M. Meyer, R. Wodak, and E. Vetter, p. 10. Copyright 2000 by Stefan Titscher,
Michael Meyer, Ruth Wodak, and Eva Vetter. Reprinted with permission of the publisher.

To provide the context for the application of the framework, first the research
questions are reviewed. This sets the stage for a discussion of the theoretical and research
strategy decisions, including why the qualitative approach was taken and what research

69
paradigm works best with the research questions. The discussion on theoretical and
research strategies also includes a discussion of the discovery goals of the study, the level
of involvement the researcher had with the subjects, what other techniques and studies
helped form the research approach, and the time constraints of the study. All of these
discussions are summarized to show the connection between the research questions and
the theoretical approach and research strategies.
Following this discussion, the methods and procedures for the study are
detailed. This includes consideration of four components of the research project: (a)
selection of the research site and organizational context, (b) selection of research
participants, (c) criteria for selecting participants, and (d) methods for establishing a
researcher-participant working relationship.
Next the rules of the research are detailed. This includes a discussion of the role
of the researcher, as well as consideration of validity and reliability. Measures for the
ethical protection of subjects are explored. Following this discussion, the interview
instrument is explained. Finally, data collection and data analysis are described. The
exploration includes (a) what data was collected, (b) what the unit of analysis was, (c)
how the data were recorded, (d) how the data were analyzed, (e) the procedure for
dealing with discrepant cases, (f) how coding was done, and (g) how computer software
was used. Lastly, a summary of this chapter is presented.

70
Research Questions
Overall, this study sought to answer the question: How do middle
managers communicate across organizational layers so that senior management initiatives
succeed in organizations? Subquestions included:
1. What are the approaches exemplary middle manager communicators use to
create successful outcomes and why?
2. What are the channels exemplary middle manager communicators employ to
create successful outcomes and why?
3. What are the tools exemplary middle manager communicators employ to
create successful outcomes and why?
The problem to be solved by this study was how middle managers can avoid
disaster and ensure organizational success in implementing organizational initiatives
through their communication processes. The purpose of the study was to identify,
explore, and describe the exemplary communication practices that middle managers use
in creating successful organizational initiatives.

Theoretical and Strategy Choices


Qualitative Study
Before addressing the choice of the research paradigm, the rationale of the choice
of qualitative research instead of quantitative research is explored. While quantitative
research typically deals with measuring, counting, causality and controlled environments,
qualitative research seeks to uncover meanings within the natural environment of the

71
research focus (Patton, 2002). In the case of middle manager communication, while
counting or measuring how often middle managers communicate may provide insights
into the effects of frequency on success, it fails to contemplate how communication
efforts through the use of techniques like issue-selling (Dutton et al., 2001), influence
(Cialdini, 2001b), or story telling (Boje, 2001; Denning, 2001; Gabriel, 2000) create
shared realities. The intent of this study was to shed light on how these efforts work in an
organization, not to quantify them. Inquiry that seeks to create a better understanding of
the phenomena like exemplary middle manager communication is precisely what
Marshall and Rossman (1999) described as appropriate for qualitative study. The research
question itself phrases the direction of the study as a how does something happen type of
question. Creswell (1998) noted that qualitative research focuses on how something
occurs, while quantitative research focuses on why a phenomenon occurs (p. 17). Thus
the nature of the research question itself supported the qualitative choice for this
investigation.

Research Paradigm
The research paradigm for any study has been characterized as the net that
contains the researchers epistemological, ontological, and methodological premises
(Denzin & Lincoln, 2000, p. 19). To be clear on what is expected in such an
identification, Denzin and Lincoln noted that four concepts are critical to this definition:
(a) ethics (axiology), (b) epistemology, (c) ontology, and (d) methodology (Denzin &
Lincoln, p. 157). According to the authors, ethics revolve around maintaining morality in

72
conducting research and the values that the researcher brings to the investigation.
Epistemology refers to how individuals come to understand the world; ontology captures
the essence of the reality of the world; and methodology is the means by which the
essence of the world comes to be understood. According to Denzin and Lincoln, four key
qualitative research paradigms exist: (a) positivist and post-positivist, (b) constructivistinterpretive, (c) critical, and (d) feminist and postructuralist (p. 20).
The choice of the research paradigm affected not only how the research was
conducted, but what beliefs the researcher brought to the investigation. While an in-depth
discussion of each of these paradigms is well beyond this paper, a basic understanding of
the characteristics of the four major paradigms is important in understanding the
paradigm choice for this investigation. The positivist tradition seeks an objective or near
objective stance as its axiology; acknowledges that a real world exists that may be
universally understood in its ontology; characterizes knowledge as true or untrue in its
epistemology; and uses experimentation as its methodology for developing knowledge
(Lincoln & Guba, 2001). Lincoln and Guba noted that post-positivists accept these
premises as probabilities, rather than as absolutes.
Constructivist-interpretive paradigms see reality as an interpreted event in its
ontology, located within contexts and situations (Lincoln & Guba, 2001; Schwandt,
2000). Within the constructivist-interpretive axiology, values, ethics, beliefs, and biases
are accepted as influencers of knowledge. Its epistemology revolves around knowledge
development as the result of subjective interpretation (Lincoln & Guba). The
methodology for generating knowledge involves induction, hermeneutics, and dialectics

73
(Lincoln & Guba). Thus experimentation is not expected to generate new knowledge,
while comparisons, contrasts, discussions, and synthesis do create new understandings.
The critical paradigm frames the real world as a reality created out of conflict,
oppression, and struggle in which the axiology of different groups plays a significant role
(Deetz, 2005; Lincoln & Guba, 2001). Thus values, beliefs, hegemonies, microstoria,
ethnicity, gender, and religion all are part of the interplay of reality, with the dominant
group usually determining what reality is. The ontology of the critical frame lies in how
history has progressed to shape current interpretations. Consequently, the way knowledge
is generated, or the epistemology of the critical paradigm, depends largely on the grand
narrative or overwhelming hegemony of the period (Lincoln & Guba). The methodology
for the critical framework involves pitting opposing views against each other to unearth
conflicts and struggles that shape reality (Lincoln & Guba). Feminist and poststructuralist paradigms accept virtually all of the same premises of the critical framework,
but provide specific perspectives. Feminism, for example, emphasizes the struggle of
gender in the analysis of conflict (Lincoln & Guba).
These four paradigms, according to Lincoln and Guba (2001) have consequences
for research strategy, the role of the researcher, and data analysis and reporting processes.
Positivism and post-positivism rely on the scientific method to generate knowledge, with
the researcher acting as an unbiased and distant observer. Data are collected and analyzed
deductively using mathematical and statistical approaches; validity and reliability are
defined in traditional ways (Lincoln & Guba). Critical, feminist, and post-structuralist
paradigms characterize the researcher as an activist. The research strategy aims to reveal

74
conflicts and relieve oppression; validity and reliability are judged according to the
ability to create change or social justice (Lincoln & Guba). Finally, social constructivism
defines the researcher as someone who participates in the study and helps develop the
construction of reality. The research strategy seeks to develop understanding, rather than
radical change, although change may develop as a result of understanding. Lincoln and
Guba elaborated that emphasis is not on traditional definitions of validity and reliability
but rather on trustworthiness and authenticity of the representation of the data the
researcher provides.
Based on the research questions, the problem to be addressed, and the aim of this
research endeavor, the constructivist paradigm provided the best fit. Communication, in
this study, was assumed to have the ability to generate shared understandings or
interpretations of reality. This alone precluded the positivist and the post-positivist
paradigms. The research lens, appreciative inquiry, moved the research away from the
concentration on oppression and conflict found in the critical and feminist and poststructuralist paradigms. The constructivist paradigm also has been called social
constructionism or social constructivism (Berger & Luckmann, 1967; Patton, 2002. p. 79;
Thomas & Linstead, 2002; Searle, 1995). Although some scholars distinguish between
social constructionism and social constructivism, others use the terms interchangeably
(Patton). This was the case in this study, but constructionism was the preferred term.
Social constructionism is one of several theoretical orientations that Patton identified as
useful in qualitative research and was the paradigm of choice for this study.

75
Research Strategy
Effective research design emanates from the research questions and problem
statement (Marshall & Rossman, 1999). Titscher et al. (2000) noted that all research
begins with researcher decisions. These decisions are made based on four strategic
questions:
1. What does the researcher wish to find out or discover?
2. What is the level of involvement the researcher will have with study
participants?
3. To what degree will the researcher rely on previous studies and techniques?
4. Will the research report information that represents a moment in time or will it
look at changes over time? (Titscher et al., 2000, pp. 7-8)

What the Study Seeks to Discover


In this study, the overall research question that was investigated was: How do
middle managers communicate across organizational layers so that senior management
initiatives succeed in organizations? The research strategy needed to help identify,
explore, and describe exemplary communication practices of middle managers, as well as
generate knowledge that may help middle managers avoid disaster and create positive
outcomes as they communicate.

76
Level of Involvement of the Researcher
To discover successful means of middle managers communicating, the researcher
needed to find out what occurs in communicating successful initiatives. This necessitated
contact with middle managers, but also with those who may have provided them with
messages (senior managers) and those who received messages (subordinates). Contact for
this study was made through face-to-face or telephone interviews with participants. How
and the extent of this contact is described in more depth in the Methods and Procedures
section of this chapter. The role of the researcher is discussed under the Rules section of
this chapter.

Other Studies and Techniques


Titschers et al. (2000) third question determines the use of other studies and
techniques in the research project. This research relied on Schalls et al. appreciative
inquiry study (2004), the techniques of an appreciative inquiry, and techniques found in
CIT.
Appreciative inquiry. Appreciative inquiry primarily has been used as a means to
create organizational change (Ludema, Whitney, Mohr, & Griffin, 2003). The approach
was developed to counterbalance gap or deficit-based methodologies (Ludema et al.).
Appreciative inquirers have argued that traditional organizational research places too
much focus on what is wrong with organizations rather than what is working well
(Barrett & Fry, 2002; Cameron et al., 2003; Cooperrider & Avital, 2004; Luthans, 2002).
Positive states, such as hope, have been linked to organizational effectiveness within

77
work groups and organizations (Johnson & Leavitt, 2001; Mantel & Ludema, 2004;
Miller et al., 2002; Powley et al., 2004; Walker & Carr-Stewart, 2004; Yoder, 2005). This
study sought to identify exemplary communication practices, which represent a positive
state within organizations. Thus it was necessary that the investigator employed a
research approach that captured descriptions of positive states in organizations.
Schall et al. (2004) have developed an appreciative inquiry methodology as a
viable research approach. According to Schall et al., an organizational phenomenon like
leadership is not created by the leader per se, but by the interactions of multiple voices
who socially construct the reality of what leadership means. Like leadership, effective
middle management communication can be seen as a social construction of many voices,
including senior managers, who expect organizational initiatives to be successfully
implemented, middle managers, who interpret and transmit the information associated
with the initiative, and middle management subordinates, who must interpret and apply
the communication of their superiors. Appreciative inquiry provides a way to identify the
factors that lead to the most positive experiences of middle manager communication.
Appreciative inquiry, according to Schall et al. (2004), enhances research that
investigates phenomena like communication through the use of interviews with multiple
participants who occupy various roles and represent different perspectives. Because
appreciative inquiry research focuses on what succeeds rather than what fails, it builds
rapport and trust with research participants from the onset of the study (Schall et al.).
Appreciative inquiry revolves around valuing rather than criticizing, which Schall et al.
noted provided opportunities for new insights and gave the research a different feel (p.

78
155). Others have observed that the use of appreciative inquiry questions generates
positive feelings among research participants, which in turn, positively affect others in
the organization (Ludema et al., 2003). While appreciative inquiry as a research
technique may be relatively new, there have been calls for further exploration of this
technique to document its promise and effectiveness (Cameron et al., 2003; Patton, 2002;
Schall et al.).
Some have argued that the decidedly positive focus may actually restrict inquiry
(Golembiewski, 2000) or may cause investigators to miss negative phenomena that may
be dangerous to the organization (Weick, 2003; Weick & Sutcliffe, 2001). While these
pitfalls represent legitimate concerns about using the lens of appreciative inquiry, studies
have demonstrated that a ratio of five positive interactions to one negative interaction will
avoid an overemphasis of the positive (Cameron et al., 2003, p. 363). Additionally,
appreciative inquiry does not eliminate the incorporation of negative data into research; it
seeks to minimize it in order to discover what supports positive states in organizations
(Cooperrider et al., 2003, pp. 21-22).
In spite of the criticisms of appreciative inquiry, the lens held promise for this
research study. First, it provided a means to elicit responses of exemplary
communication. Second, it eased the tension between study participants and researchers
by building trust from the very beginning. Third, it forced the researcher to look at what
is right and valued in an organization, not what is wrong, which provided the potential for
new insights. Finally, it provided the researcher in this study to test a relatively recently

79
developed research methodology. All of these advantages supported the goal of
generating new knowledge through the dissertation process.
Critical incident technique. CIT was used to supplement appreciative inquiry in
the development of questions and the analysis of data. CIT, like appreciative inquiry,
relies on the recollection of extreme experiences and the feelings, behaviors, attitudes,
and situations associated with them as data (Flanagan, 1954). The recalled incidents can
be framed as highly positive or highly negative. For the purposes of this study, only the
highly positive incidents were considered. CIT and how its questions dovetail with
traditional appreciative inquiry questions are discussed further as part of the development
of the questionnaire instrument. According to Ospina, a member of the Schall (Schall et
al., 2004) research team, appreciative inquiry differs from CIT primarily in its generative
approach but it is possible to use critical incident methodology with an appreciative
twist, which means that you combine the best of both methodologies (S. Ospina,
personal communication, December 20, 2005). For this study, the positive tenor of
appreciative inquiry directed the means of framing questions that are found in CIT.
Narrative analysis. Narrative analysis, along with CIT, was used in interpreting
the data. Patton (2002) provided 16 different means for data interpretation. Several of
these were considered as potential techniques for inclusion in this project. The
amalgamation of various methodologies into blurred genres or overlapping methods is
not atypical of qualitative research (Denzin & Lincoln, 2000). Besides narrative inquiry,
phenomenology and ethnomethodology techniques were considered. Both were
dismissed based on the lack of alignment between what each offers in terms of data

80
interpretation and the purpose of this study. Patton provided foundational questions
which serve as a means to assess research techniques. These questions were used to
determine the fit of each technique with this study.
The foundational question for phenomenology is, What is the meaning, structure,
and essence of the lived experience of this phenomenon for this person or group of
people? (Patton, 2002, p. 104). Marshall and Rossman (1999) characterized the purpose
of phenomenology as describing the meaning of a concept or phenomenon that several
individuals share (p. 112). This study sought to understand the how of middle manager
communication in creating a shared reality, not what the meaning of that shared reality is.
Thus, if the study had been focused on what the meaning of middle manager
communication is rather than on how middle manager communication creates shared
realities that lead to organizational success, phenomenology would have been a
reasonable choice for an interpretive frame.
Ethnomethodology answers the foundational question, How do people make
sense of their everyday activities so as to behave in socially acceptable ways? (Patton,
2002, p. 110). Within this methodology, the researcher seeks to discern what a complete
stranger would have to learn to become a routinely functioning member of a group, a
program, or a culture (Patton, p. 111). Part of the research protocol includes
experimental or disruptive activities to generate data on the mundane sense making
activities of members of a social group (Patton). Ethnomethodology employs in-depth
interviews and observation of group sense making behaviors (Patton). Like
phenomenology, ethnomethodology offered some attraction for this study. For example,

81
this study focused on what works within groups to help them make sense, particularly as
the communications of middle managers are concerned. This study sought out exemplary,
not mundane, behaviors and did not engage in activities to disrupt or experiment with
middle manager communication. Consequently, ethnomethodology was not a good fit for
this project.
The foundational questions for the narrative analysis approach include:
What does this narrative or story reveal about the person and the world
from which it came? How can this narrative be interpreted so that it
provides an understanding of and illuminates the life and culture that
created it? (Patton, 2002, p. 115)
Like phenomenology, narrative analysis emphasizes the importance of the lived
experience (Boje, 2001; Clandinin & Connelly, 2000). Narrative analysis has multiple
forms (Boje); however, regardless of the precise approach, all narrative analytical
approaches honor the significance of the story. The story is assumed to provide
representations that will lead to insights into human behaviors and actions.
Narrative analysis as a context for interpretation made sense for this study. The
assumption that organizational stories can provide key insights into the organizational
beliefs and behaviors was central to this study. The researcher asked participants to
recount the experience of middle manager communication. In essence, this is a telling of
a story. Tools of narrative analysis, such as judging intertextuality or the universality of
certain salient concepts, were helpful in determining how middle manager
communication helps to create a shared reality.

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Time Constraints
The last strategic question revolves around whether the study is a snapshot of a
given timeframe or whether the research reviews changes over time. Appreciative
inquiry, CIT, and narrative analysis all involve retrospective sensemaking. Thus for this
study, the study involved a description of a given timeframe rather than an assessment of
change based on multiple interviews over time. However, the retrospective narratives did
trace changes in attitudes, behaviors, and activities over time.

Summary of Theoretical and Strategy Choices


In the preceding paragraphs, the choice of the research paradigm was discussed.
Based on the research questions and objectives, quantitative methods did not provide the
richness of data needed to answer the research question, nor did it support the research
lens of appreciative inquiry. Of the four traditional qualitative paradigms (Lincoln &
Guba, 2001), constructivism provided the best fit for this study. It was consistent with the
appreciative inquiry lens that was used. Constructivism also avoided the negative focus
that are typically found in critical, feminist, and post-structuralist paradigms. The
research strategy included the discovery of exemplary communication practices of middle
managers across levels through appreciative inquiry, critical incident technique, and
narrative analysis. The researcher had face-to-face contact with respondents as part of the
appreciative inquiry/CIT approach. The research did not assess change by conducting
before and after interviews, but did capture comments about change over time.

83
Methods and Procedures
According to Titscher et al. (2000), Methodological procedures for the collection
of data organize observation (p. 6). This section discusses a number of procedural issues
in sequence, from the choosing of study sites to the procedures that were used to collect
data. The research method for this project mimics the methodologies prescribed in the
protocols that Schall et al. (2004) used in their investigation of leadership. Because the
scope of this study is much smaller than that of the Schall et al. leadership study, the
design was more compact and involved fewer interviews. The research focused on
exemplary middle manager communication and the factors that occur within this
communication as the units of analysis. Senior and frontline managers were used to
triangulate information provided by the middle managers. In this section, four key
clusters are discussed: (a) selection of research sites and organizational context, (b)
selection of research participants, (c) criteria for selecting participants, and (d) methods
of establishing a researcher-participant relationship.

Selection of Research Sites and Organizational Context


As already stated, research design needs to connect with the research question
(Marshall & Rossman, 1999). Initial criteria for site selection included size and success.
The organization needed to be large enough to have a layer of middle managers and had
to have evidence of successfully implementation of a senior manager initiative. While
determining whether middle managers were present was a simple task, defining both
what an initiative was and what made it successful was less clear.

84
Several possibilities were contemplated, including successful reorganization and
restructuring, successful accreditation attempts, and successful implementation of process
management approaches. The researcher determined the criteria for successful initiatives
was twofold: (a) the initiative went beyond basic compliance requirements, such as
achieving routine accreditation or certification with little or no requirement to change
typical organizational routines; and (b) the initiative had specific measures to determine
when it had met organizational goals. Six Sigma, a process management technique
designed to save money and time, met both criteria. Accretion, or the point where savings
and revenues generated from Six Sigma exceed expenses, was used to determine
implementation success. One organization within reasonable geographic distance of the
researcher had accomplished this goal. The study site, a Fortune 500 manufacturing
company, consists of 30 divisions including research and development, finance,
manufacturing, sales and marketing, logistics, information technology, and human
resource functions. The $36 billion company has a global presence with 85,000
employees scattered across the world. Headquarters are located in the Midwest. The
company adopted Six Sigma in December 2000. For the purposes of nomenclature, this
firm is called the umbrella manufacturing organization.
The organization was contacted by the researcher by mail. The request for
participation included a cover letter and detailed information about the study to allow
executives to make an informed decision on participation. These appear in Appendixes A
and B. Follow-up calls were made by the researcher to the corporate leader of the Six
Sigma initiative as recommended by a corporate vice president, who was the initial

85
contact. The corporate Six Sigma leader agreed, on behalf of the umbrella manufacturing
organization, to participate in the study. The Six Sigma leader also assumed the
responsibility of identifying appropriate study sites for the research for the umbrella
manufacturing organization. The Six Sigma leader signed a letter of cooperation for the
study. A sample of the letter appears in Appendix C. To assure confidentiality,
identifying information from the letter has been redacted out.

Selection of Research Participants


Patton (2002) noted that, The key issue in selecting and making decisions about
the appropriate unit of analysis is to decide what it is you want to be able to say
something about at the end of the study (p. 229). In this study the transcripts of
interviews of senior managers, middle managers, and subordinates were analyzed to
identify the activities of middle manager communication that led to the successful
implementation of Six Sigma. McClintock, Brannon, and Maynard-Moody (1979)
suggested that choosing the appropriate unit of analysis for qualitative studies can
enhance both the thick descriptions desired by qualitative researchers and the ability to
generalize desired by quantitative researchers. McClintock et al. developed a process for
identifying units of analysis that is linked with sampling techniques called the case
cluster method. A brief discussion of McClintocks approach sets the stage for the
sampling discussion.
According to McClintock et al. (1979), qualitative studies that occur within a
single organization (or case), typically designate the individual as the unit of analysis.

86
McClintock at al. asserted that such designation reduces the degrees of freedom within
the study that a quantitative researcher would demand. Instead, McClintock et al. argued
that it would often make more theoretical sense to view individuals as clusters of skills,
motivations, tasks, interdependencies, and the like, and to representatively sample these
attributes instead of the persons in which they may be unevenly distributed (p. 614).
McClintock et al. then explained that in defining a unit of analysis, the definition must
have enough detail to it to remain relatively stable over time to allow for replicable
coding, while, at the same time, offer the flexibility associated with qualitative research.
To develop an appropriate N, McClintock et al. (1979) noted that using
individuals as units of analysis often produces too few individuals. This was precisely the
challenge in this study. Exemplary, by definition, is superlative. Exemplary
communicators, therefore, cannot be assumed to emerge from a statistical sampling of the
general population because they cannot be assumed to be evenly distributed in the
general population. This problem, according to McClintock et al., can be overcome by
choosing a unit of analysis that is more numerous than staff size (p. 616). This case
cluster sampling approach challenges the researcher to develop a reasonable number of
theoretically meaningful units of analysis within the case (p. 616). While qualitative
research generally eschews the imposition of a priori theorizing, it has been
acknowledged that researchers do hold preconceived notions (Babbie, 2001; Marshall &
Rossman, 1999; Patton, 2002; Strauss & Corbin, 1998). These preconceived notions,
called cause maps and assembly rules by Weick (1979), have been discussed as part of
social constructionism, but also are a very real part of conducting research.

87
McClintock et al. (1979) suggested that these existing notions are linked to the
researchers questions and can be defined as units of analysis for a study as well as used
for designating categories that emerge from studying the research data. The emergent
units of analysis are acceptable, as long as they are ultimately defined to provide stability
from coding event to coding event. The a priori units of analysis should be evident from
the questions that the qualitative researcher asks. Once the units of analysis have been
defined, they drive the sampling approach so that the investigation gathers information
from representative individuals across the spectrum of interest. This approach,
particularly for dissertation work, makes sense because the investigator has invested
significant time in reviewing the literature of previous studies and theories. The literature
review serves the purpose of sorting out what existing knowledge is relevant and
applicable to the proposed study. It follows, then, that the literature review exerts
influence on the choices the researcher makes in framing questions, choosing samples,
and analyzing data. The McClintock et al. method allows the investigator to acknowledge
this predisposition in defining units of analysis.
That being said, the interest in the case or the umbrella manufacturing
organization in this study, is exemplary middle management communication of
organizational initiatives. Based on literature review of this study, the chosen
methodology, the research paradigm, and the research lens (appreciative inquiry),
research questions have been developed. Within these questions reside the underpinnings
for the units of analysis that McClintock et al. (1979) suggest be used. The research
questions are discussed separately, but from those questions, several units of analysis, as

88
defined by the case cluster method (McClintock et al.) emerged. These included: (a)
perceived value of the initiative that is the subject of the communication; (b) perceived
contribution of the communicated initiative to the organization; (c) organizational factors
and forces that contribute to communication approach success; (d) communication tools
that contribute to communication success; (e) communication channels that contribute to
communication success; (f) perceived role in communicating organizational initiatives;
(g) organizational structure, systems, contexts, and people that support exemplary
communication; (h) organizational climate and culture factors that contribute to
exemplary communication; and (i) human feelings and memories about organizational
communication.
All of these contribute to a communication event that involves several people. To
provide greater opportunities for generalization, McClintock et al. (1979) suggested that
the sampling methods must provide not for statistically representative samples, but for
samples that will cut across organizational hierarchy to identify those who can provide
valuable and in-depth insights into these units of analysis. The goal is not to generate a
statistically representative random sample of the population, but to assure that appropriate
stakeholders in the event, in this case exemplary middle management communication, are
represented (McClintock et al.). Thus the precise number of individuals in each
stakeholder group is less important than the fact that individuals who can provide rich
information to the research question and who can provide data for the units of analysis
are represented (Devers & Frankel, 2000; Higginbottom, 2004; Patton 2002). This
approach fulfills the proscription of McClintock et al., that one needs to seek units of

89
analysis that represent the events, attributes, and activities of theoretical interest, and to
focus on multiple perspectives on these units (p. 625). The way to generate multiple
perspectives, according to McClintock et al., is to employ both purposeful sampling and
snowball sampling.
.

Patton (2002) defined purposeful sampling as the deliberate inclusion of

individuals in a study who represent information-rich cases (p. 230). These are cases
from which one can learn a great deal about issues of central importance to the purpose
of the study and that provide insights and in-depth understanding rather than empirical
generalizations (Patton, p. 230). Extreme or deviant case sampling involves choosing
cases because they are unusual or special in some way, such as outstanding successes or
notable failures (Patton, p. 231). Patton observed that intensity sampling involves the
same logic as extreme case sampling but with less emphasis on the extremes. An
intensity sample consists of information-rich cases that manifest the phenomenon of
interest intensely (but not extremely) (p. 232).
Organizational initiatives generally emanate from top management and then are
handed off to middle managers for implementation (Floyd & Lane, 2000; Huy, 2002;
Williams, 2001). Consequently, it is senior managers who judge whether initiatives have
been implemented according to their expectations. Senior managers do not represent
extreme cases of exemplary middle manager communicators (extreme cases), but should
be able to provide in-depth information on the Six Sigma initiative and expectations for
success (intense cases).

90
Senior managers were asked to identify middle managers who, in their opinions,
were particularly effective in communicating the Six Sigma initiative. As the middle
managers were interviewed, they also were asked to identify people who responded
particularly well to their communications in implementing the Six Sigma initiatives. In
both cases exemplars, or extreme cases, made up the sample. This reliance on informants
themselves to generate the sample by recommendation is also known snowball sampling
because the sample size increases in the same way a snowball gains girth by rolling down
a snow-packed hill (Patton, 2002, p. 237).
Patton (2002) noted that there are no universal rules for the number of study
participants, but suggested that the sample size depends on the level of detail desired
from the study, the human resources available for the study, the timeframe of the study,
and abilities of the researcher (p. 245). Ideally, the sample size should be such that it
reaches a point of redundancy (Lincoln & Guba, 1985, p. 202). While it is hard to predict
at what point such redundancy would occur, in this study, redundancy began to occur
around the twentieth interview.
Although the umbrella manufacturing organization has more than 85,000
employees and 30 divisions globally, about 14,000 are employed in the Midwestern city
and its environs where the study took place. Three divisions were identified for
investigation by the Six Sigma corporate leader, who provided inside expert counsel to
this study. The first study site designs and manufactures electric power equipment. This
manufacturing division represents a local presence, with personnel living and working
within the medium-sized metropolitan area, but with manufacturing sites in Northern

91
Ireland, Brazil, and China. This division, called Global Manufacturing Division (GMD),
has approximately 2,800 employees, with 10 senior level managers and about 250 middle
managers. The remainder of employees represent frontline and professional staff.
The second study site is a sales and marketing division, which is headquartered in
the same Midwestern metropolitan area, but provides sales, marketing, and dealer support
to locations across the North American continent. While many employees reside in the
local metropolitan area, a good number of employees are scattered across the country,
selling equipment and financial services to clients in Canada, the United States, and
Mexico. This division, called the Regional Sales Division (RSD), has roughly 480
employees, with 10 senior level managers and about 60 middle managers. The remainder
of employees are nonunion field staff, clerical, and administrative staff.
The final study site, provides marketing, training, and support for the
implementation of corporate initiatives like Six Sigma. It is headquartered in the
Midwestern metropolitan area like the other divisions, but has a global presence. Called
the Global Support Division (GSD), this division has roughly 2,800 employees, most of
whom are involved in white-collar, information processing activities. This division has
14 senior level managers and about 100 middle managers. The remainder of the
employees can be considered staff and frontline employees. These three divisions were
chosen based on the expertise of Six Sigma corporate leader for successfully
implementing Six Sigma and demonstrating exemplary communication within the
organization. The methodology for drawing the sample is detailed in Figure 4.

Global manufacturing

Middle manager selects


three exemplary responders

Staff

Staff

Staff

Middle manager selects


three exemplary responders

Staff

Staff

Staff

Middle manager selects


three exemplary responders

Staff

Staff

Staff

Senior
manager
identifies
three
exemplary
middle
managers

Middle manager selects


three exemplary responders

Staff

Staff

Staff

Regional sales

Inside
expert
identifies
division
sites and
senior
managers
for initial
interview

Senior
manager
identifies
three
exemplary
middle
managers

Middle manager selects


three exemplary responders

Staff

Staff

Staff

Middle manager selects


three exemplary responders

Staff

Staff

Staff

Global support

92

Senior
manager
identifies
three
exemplary
middle
managers

Middle manager selects


three exemplary responders

Staff

Staff

Staff

Middle manager selects


three exemplary responders

Staff

Staff

Staff

Middle manager selects


three exemplary responders

Staff

Staff

Staff

Figure 4. Sampling methodology.


Criteria for Selecting Participants
As described, this study employs purposeful sampling and snowball, intensity and
extreme case sampling in order to identify information rich cases for interview. The
criteria for selecting participants are listed in Table 3.

93
Table 3
Criteria for Selecting Participants
Level
Organizational

Senior Manager

Middle Manager

Subordinate

Criteria
1.

Large enough to have middle manager layer

2.

Located in reasonable proximity to the researcher

3.

Accretive state in Six Sigma

1.

Uses Six Sigma

2.

Has had oversight of at least two Six Sigma teams

3.

Has reached accretive state of Six Sigma

4.

Willing to identify exemplars

1.

Identified as exemplary communicators in the Six Sigma initiative


by senior level managers

2.

Has Six Sigma experience

3.

Willing to identify strong respondents to organizational messages

1.

Identified as strong respondents to the organizational message

2.

Has Six Sigma experience

Methods of Establishing a Researcher-Participant Working Relationship


The study site was pleased with the work they have accomplished through Six
Sigma and was willing to document their accomplishments. The fact that the research
highlighted positive states about the organization was appealing to the umbrella
organization. Thus, the first means of establishing a researcher-participant working
relationship was the endorsement of senior level members of the organization on behalf

94
of the three divisions in this study. The researcher signed a confidentiality agreement
with the organization to further ensure a positive working relationship.
As important as establishing a working relationship with the organizations was to
gain initial access, the establishment of the relationship with participants was more
important. The researcher sent a letter of invitation and the Walden University participant
informed consent form to invite participation and explain the research. These appear as
Appendixes D and E. Participants were asked to read the consent form and to agree either
verbally or in writing to the terms of the study. Participants were provided an e-mail
address and phone numbers for questions regarding the study.
Before the interview, participants received a copy of the consent form. Consent
was documented via the actual form, faxes, e-mails, or digital verbal recordings. During
the interviews, the researcher followed a research protocol that reinforced the information
that had been communicated. Interviewees had access to the researcher through telephone
and e-mail if they have questions or concerns.
Blair (2001) reported that the appreciative inquirer needs to be flexible in the
language and manner in which the inquiry is approached. Different appreciative inquiry
catch phrases, such as life-giving, may present problems. Alternative words were
substituted when necessary to make the participants feel more comfortable (Blair, p.
202). Occasionally questions were simplified at the request of the interviewee.

95
Rules
The Role of the Researcher
Within the constructivist research paradigm, the researcher is described as a
facilitator of multivoice reconstruction (Lincoln & Guba, 2000, p. 166). The role of the
researcher in this study is to elicit stories that provided insights into how middle
managers communicate across organizational layers that results in the successful
implementation of organizational initiatives. As such, the researcher served as the sole
interviewer of researcher participants. Having the researcher as the interviewer provided
distinct advantages. The researcher, who has written and is intimately familiar with the
research question, research protocol, and interview questions, was able to clarify
questions, probe responses, and answer any questions the participant had about the use of
the study data (Babbie, 2001). Interviews were conducted primarily in person, but some
were conducted over the phone. Babbie also said the researcher in both cases had a
responsibility to adhere to the parameters of the research project as described to the
participants and the participating organizations, maintain confidentiality, project a
professional appearance, represent the questions in the spirit of appreciative inquiry, and
abstain from influencing answers.
When appreciative inquiry is used as a lens for conducting qualitative research,
the researcher has a less neutral and more active role than in other types of inquiry,
according to Schall et al. (2002). In their study, Schall et al. found that appreciative
inquiry offers a unique opportunity to join with leaders as co-researchers and to reflect
on and learn from their experiences with leadership, thus revealing how they make sense

96
of that experience (p. 149). Likewise, appreciative inquiry offered this researcher the
opportunity to join with communicators as coresearchers and to collectively reflect on
and learn from their experiences with communication, particularly through the sharing of
stories crafted from management interviews and from the group interviews themselves.
This approach also required the researcher to avoid asking about the topic of study
directly (Schall et al., p. 153). Instead, the researcher asked about stories and experiences
relating to communication, not communication itself.
As already discussed in this chapter, appreciative inquiry is effective when the
participants in the inquiry share stories elicited through the asking of positive questions.
Because these questions are intentionally positive, the notion of the authors objectivity
in the study may be of concern. Strauss and Corbin (1998) explained the difficulty of
objectivity in qualitative studies:
Objectivity does not mean controlling the variables. Rather, it means
openness, a willingness to listen and to give voice to respondents, be
they individuals or organizations. It means hearing what others have to
say, seeing what others do, and representing these as accurately as
possible. It means having an understanding, while recognizing that
researchers understanding often are based on the values, culture, training,
and experiences that they bring to the research situations and that these
might be quite different from those of their respondents. (p. 43)
Strauss and Corbin (1998) then suggested several ways to mitigate the interview
bias. They suggested that the researcher think comparatively. This meant looking at the
data within the contexts of the actual data collection, the organization itself, and what the
literature has reported to provoke different ways of looking at the data. It is important to
note that any of these contexts do not define the interpretation of data, but provoke
thoughtful consideration. In addition to viewing the contexts, Strauss and Corbin also

97
suggested that different groups of people are interviewed, written and other materials are
considered in the data collection, and that the researcher himself remain skeptical.
To adhere to Strauss and Corbins (1998) suggestion that the researcher be aware
of the understandings he or she brings to the research project, it is important here to
reveal this researchers own biases and assumptions. First and foremost, this researcher
accepted the premise that words can and do create realities for individuals and
organizations. This assumption is based on more than 20 years of marketing, public
relations, and advertising experience in which the researcher has observed first hand how
words can change realities. Second, this researcher has spent virtually all of her
coursework developing a greater understanding of middle managers and believes that
middle manager talents and abilities have not been adequately leveraged. In other words,
this author rejects the notion of Tom Peters (1992) that middle managers are the main
problem for organizations. Finally, although this researcher has chosen appreciative
inquiry as the lens for this study, she remained skeptical of its ability to elicit the deep
information required to create a better understanding of middle management
communication. Nonetheless, she was hopeful that because appreciative inquiry is based
on valuing positive states and in eliciting recall of peak experience, new knowledge
would emerge.

Validity and Reliability


Kirk and Miller (1986) posited that qualitative research should be objective and
objectivity emanates from research being both valid and reliable (p. 13). Objectivity in

98
the positivist tradition assumes that knowledge of the real world can be observed without
personal bias and is separate from individual knowing (Lincoln & Guba, 2000).
Objectivity, in the positivist sense, also has been described as knowledge that is accepted
by the majority of scholars and, as a result, has become recognized as true by the general
public (Lincoln & Guba). However, in qualitative research, objectivity has been defined
as meticulous methodology (Lincoln & Guba) with guarantees of validity and reliability
within the method (Kirk & Miller, 1986). Reliability, or the ability to generate the same
responses over and over again using the same methodology, is typically a requirement of
validity for quantitative studies (Lincoln & Guba). But reliability in qualitative studies is
not the same as in quantitative studies. Lincoln and Guba noted that quantitative studies
that use one observer, use questions that are framed ideologically as appreciative inquiry
is, or that have an inherent bias may not meet the test of objectivity through reliability
and validity (p. 291). These requirements would render this study invalid and unreliable
from the onset.
These definitions of reliability and validity are based on an empiricist view of
objectivity and assume causality (Lincoln & Guba, 1985). Instead of judging qualitative
research on conventional definitions of objectivity, Lincoln and Guba suggested that
trustworthiness of the study was a better approach. Objectivity, framed in the empiricist
tradition, asserts that there is a one-to-one correspondence between the observed and real
world (Lincoln & Guba, p. 295). The research paradigm for this study is social
constructionism, which rejects this kind of isomorphistic approach and embraces the
concept of multiple interpretations of reality. Thus in qualitative research, the test of

99
objectivity is not whether the researcher has chosen the correct or true reality among the
many possibilities, but whether the researcher has:
represented those multiple constructions adequately, that is, that the
reconstructions (for the finding and interpretations are also constructions, it
should never be forgotten) that have been arrived at via the inquiry are credible to
the constructors of the original multiple realities. (Lincoln & Guba, p. 296)
[emphasis original]
Lincoln and Guba encouraged the researcher to create credibility by implementing the
research protocol in a manner that elicits honest responses that represent the participants
own sense of reality and by verifying the researchers interpretation of that reality with
the participant. Because appreciative inquiry evokes a greater sense of trust with
participants (Schall et al., 2004), this aspect of credibility, which Lincoln and Guba
equate with internal validity, is met. As far as external reliability, or the ability to
generalize knowledge from a qualitative study to other populations, Lincoln and Guba
flatly reject this premise as integral to qualitative research. Instead, it is the responsibility
of the researcher to provide sufficient descriptive data to make such similarity
judgments possible (Lincoln & Guba, p. 298).
Lincoln and Guba (1985) also asserted that the question of reliability, or the
ability to make repetitious measures resulting in consistent measurements, also emanates
from the assumption of one true reality. Again, in this study, the research paradigm
stipulates that multiple interpretations of reality are present and hence it is virtually
impossible to prove one true reality. The traditional threats to reliability should be
considered by the researchers as potential problems in generating data and interpreting
results. However, the researcher can overcome some of these threats and render a

100
dependable methodology through accurate and detailed records of the raw data,
consistent coding of the data, appropriate data analysis, and inclusion of other materials
such as introductory letters that were used in the research project (Lincoln & Guba, 1985,
pp. 319-320).
Finally, confirmability is the preferred measure of objectivity for qualitative study
(Lincoln & Guba, 1985, p. 300). Rather than relying on the absence of subjectivity to
prove objectivity, Lincoln and Guba suggested that the participants confirmation that the
data is accurate provides evidence of the credibility of the study. Thus, in constructing the
research protocol and the questions for this study, it was important that the questions and
protocol provided the means for participants to provide data that represented their true
interpretation of realities; for multiple realities to be documented accurately; for
descriptions that allow outsiders to judge the transferability of the data; and for the
participants to have had opportunities to confirm their data as accurate.

Measures for Ethical Protection of the Subjects


Because of the nature of this study, the opportunity for ethical breech was very
limited. This study focused on positive states, on what works well, and on peak
experiences. It was unlikely that harmful or risky circumstances would arise from this
study. No trade secrets were revealed during the course of interviews although in two
cases, confidential information was thought to possibly be disclosed by the interviewees
after reading their transcripts. This information was removed from interview transcripts.

101
To conform to federal standards, this study was reviewed by the Walden
University Institutional Review Board, approval number 03-28-06-0104848, which
determined that adequate measures were in place to protect the participants. The approval
notification appears in Appendix F. As already discussed, each participant was asked to
read and affirm an informed consent form, which guaranteed the confidentiality of data
gathering and reporting. Additionally, an agreement of confidentiality was given to each
participant. This agreement appears as Appendix G. Finally, participants and the study
sites had the opportunity to opt out of the study at any time.
In the reporting of data, particularly verbatim data, the researcher exercised
caution and care in using any quotations that would identify the participant. The
researcher did not share any of the data with outside parties to the study. The researcher
herself did not intentionally distort the data, nor did she deceive participants in eliciting
information. Discussions about the data were limited to the organizational liaisons and
their designees, the research participants, and the researchers dissertation committee.
These measures ensured the ethical protection of both the individual participants and the
organizations who participated.

Instrument
While this study did not employ a traditional survey instrument, it did use a set of
interview questions. The appreciative inquiry research methodology requires a specific
structuring of interview questions. To elicit the answers to the research questions through

102
an appreciative inquiry lens, it was necessary to embed the research questions into the
interviews while keeping true to the appreciative approach.
Appreciative inquiry research begins by building trust between the interviewee
and the researcher by informing the participant about the decidedly positive focus of the
study. This relieves the tension of fault finding or blaming that may be undercurrents of
less positively inclined interviewing (Schall et al., 2004). Once the project was explained
and the participants reassured, three kinds of questions were asked (Cooperrider,
Whitney, & Stavros, 2003). These questions include: (a) opening questions that focus on
a positive experience in the organization to set the tone and gather contextual
information; (b) questions revolving around affirmative topics, which, in this case, was
exemplary middle manager communication; and (c) concluding questions that summarize
factors that contribute to positive states in the organization and elicit hopes for even
better positive states (Cooperrider et al., p. 89).
Opening questions have specific characteristics, according to Cooperrider et al.
(2003). They engage interviewees to discuss a peak experience and they elicit them to
talk about what their work is and what the organization values (Cooperrider et al., p. 89).
This approach is consistent with CIT (Flanagan, 1954). The second set of questions,
which Cooperrider et al. call topic questions (p. 90), are constructed to develop positive
answers. Although the questions need to be formed to elicit positive answers, it was
possible for participants to answer negatively. Cooperrider et al. suggest that these
answers be noted but that the interviewer use postponing, empathetic listening, or
redirecting techniques (p. 95). Postponing encourages the person to cover the negative

103
aspect later in the interview during the last section, in which hopes for the future are
elicited. By framing the question in a future hopes query, the negative answer can be
reframed as something that would change. Empathetic listening requires the interviewer
to allow the individual to vent negative feelings. No action is taken on the negative
comment, but the interviewer needs to listen appreciatively and move back to the main
questions. Moving back to the main question involves redirecting, in which the
interviewer restates some of the negative comments and tries to reframe them into a
positive query (Cooperrider et al., p. 95). This rarely occurred in the interview process.
Concluding questions, according to Cooperrider et al. (2003) should incorporate
two foundational questions. One involves causing the interviewee to project into the
future and imagine what would happen if the positive states just explored continued to
gain momentum and grow. The second involves determining what the smallest change
the division made that had the most significant impact (Cooperrider et al., p. 91).
In asking any of the questions, Cooperrider et al. (2003) urged the interviewer to
frame questions to elicit a story from the participant. They note that the interview should
not simply revolve around documenting behaviors, but that the goal is to learn not only
what the person did (behavior), but also what the person thought or felt (values) while he
or she was doing it (Cooperrider et al. p. 96). The interviewer is also instructed to listen
for information about what the structure was like, as well as the systems, and rewards
(Cooperrider et al., p. 96) and for a theme, an idea, or a concept presented or defined in
the stories being told in the interview (Cooperrider et al., p. 96). This emphasis on

104
details, including behaviors and feelings, is an integral part of CIT (Flanagan). Seven
themes emerged from this listening and are discussed in chapter 4.
Because this project involved a filtering process that began with senior managers,
the interview instrument was fundamentally the same in each layer but reflected different
perspectives through the layers. In the study conducted by Schall et al. (2004) through
New York University, stories that were collected during the first round of interviews
were used to set the stage for the second level of interviews (Robert F. Wagner Graduate
School of Public Service, 2002). Although Schalls et al. study involved identifying
leaders and using their stories to provoke thought among those that were led, the
approach was employed but had limited success in this study. Since senior managers
create the initiative that needs communication and judge its effectiveness, their stories
about successful midlevel communication parallel leaders stories about leadership and
were helpful in framing the communication activities of middle managers, but were not
effective in eliciting new information.
At the third level, both the stories from senior and middle managers were shared
with a group of managers and a group of direct reports. Communication, like leadership
in the New York University study, was assumed to be a socially constructed concept. The
sharing of the stories was thought to have the potential to provide a means of
triangulation. Reactions, additions, corrections, embellishments, and revisions to the
senior and middle manager stories were thought to have the ability to demonstrate the
degree to which the communication process is seen and accepted consistently across the

105
organization. However, the group interviews did not work as well within this study as in
Schalls. This is discussed further in chapters 4 and 5.
Patton (2002) noted that for qualitative studies, triangulation may involve mixing
different types of purposeful samples (p. 248). In this study, intensity and extreme case
samples were mixed. Additionally, as participants mentioned organizational materials or
the researcher found corporate information that was made available to the public, these
materials also were used for triangulation. The researcher also looked at governmental
filings from the umbrella organization.
The research protocol and the questions were based on both suggestions from the
appreciative inquiry literature and from the Schall study (Schall et al., 2004). The
questions for the research project appear in the research protocol descriptions in
Appendixes H through L. The opening, topic, and closing questions, as well as the use of
summarized management stories reflected the overall research question and subquestions
while, at the same time, met the structural requirements of the appreciative inquiry lens.
All of this was set within the research paradigm of social constructionism.

Data Collection and Analysis


Data was collected through face-to-face or telephone interviews. The interviews
were conducted exclusively by the author of this study. As a researcher, this author has
extensive interview experience, having worked in marketing research and consulting for
more than 20 years. This experience includes conducting focus groups, facilitating group
discussions and meetings, and interviewing individual members of organizations on a

106
variety of issues. Additionally, this researcher began her career as a journalist, which
included developing interview rapport, and has been certified in the quality function
deployment method, which involves gathering data through a process known as voice of
the customer. The researcher also has extensive training in Six Sigma, including Yellow
Belt and Green Belt training. This training was provided through the same source
organization that the study site used in implementing Six Sigma. Consequently, the
interviewer has been exposed to basically the same Six Sigma philosophy, tools, and
approaches as the study sites. Thus, this researcher brought to interview process a strong
background with well developed skills.

How and When Data Were Collected


Data were collected directly during the interviews using audio recording. The
collection medium was digital, allowing for the data to be stored in computer files.
Participants were informed of the recording. Sound checks, as appropriate, were
conducted to assure the quality of the recording. Data were transcribed by the author.
Transcripts were checked for accuracy by the researcher.
Rubin and Rubin (2005) explained that in collecting data investigators cannot
simply ask participants the broad research question and expect to receive meaningful
answers. Instead, the researcher must produce interview questions that distill the broad
research questions and subquestions into interview questions that not only are
understandable, but allow the participant to draw from his or her own personal experience
to provide answers (Rubin & Rubin). Likewise, appreciative inquiry requires that the

107
questioning technique primes the interview so that the participants thoughts are directed
toward positive experiences rather than negative ones (Cooperrider et al., 2003). For this
study, the research questions and subquestions have been distilled using the methods of
appreciative inquiry. The logic of the interview questions vis--vis the research questions
is detailed in Tables M1 and N1 in Appendixes M and N.

Procedures for Dealing with Discrepant Cases


This study was designed to identify, explore, and describe exemplary middle
manager communication using an appreciative inquiry lens. The exemplars were defined
by their supervisors. Since exemplars were determined by the senior managers, by
definition there cannot be any discrepant cases per se through this identification.
However, within appreciative inquiry, the possibility of negative, rather than affirming,
stories and interviews may occur. For this study, negative responses were not
automatically considered discrepant.
Techniques for dealing with negative cases have already been described as part of
the interview process. Cooperrider et al. (2002) have suggested that postponing the
discussion to a latter portion of the interview, listening empathetically, and reframing the
question are legitimate ways in appreciative inquiry to deal with discrepant cases. Blair
(2001), in applying appreciative inquiry methods to a planning process, found that
discrepant cases could be used as the means to juxtapose exemplary practices and plans
for the future against problems and complaints. In other words, the inclusion of
discrepant cases provided a means for further comparison.

108
Data Analysis and Coding Procedures
According to Marshall and Rossman (1999), Data analysis is the process of
bringing order, structure, and interpretation to the mass of collected data (p. 150). It
includes: (a) organizing the data; (b) generating categories, themes, and patterns; (c)
coding the data; (d) testing the emergent understandings; and (e) searching for alternative
explanations (Marshall & Rossman, p. 152). The focus of this study was essentially the
process of middle manager communication, that is, how do middle managers
communicate across layers of the organization to support the successful implementation
of organizational initiatives. The organization of the data should help develop the means
to identify, explore, and describe how effective middle managers communicate. The
question of how is specifically a question of process (Creswell, 1998) not of causality.
Thus the analysis of data for this study should bring meaning to what happens in middle
manager communication to bring about outcomes that lead to implementation of
organizational initiatives. Within this query lie two areas of interests: (a) the process, and
(b) the outcomes.
The premise of the constructionist paradigm is that reality is created through the
interaction of individuals. What occurs in this social interaction or (communication, in
this study) represents the process. The literature has suggested a variety of processes that
might occur in during communication, from issue-selling (Dutton et al., 2001) to
sensemaking (Weick, 1979) to leveraging political connections (Gee, 1999). Style and
media also contribute to the communication process. Inherent in understanding the
process is what happened as a result of using the process. This is expressed as the

109
outcome of the process. Consequently, the data analysis procedures should help bring
understanding to the process and outcome of middle manager communication.

Organizing the Data


The data were organized first by converting recorded transcripts into text. These
transcripts were identified by study site, level in the organization (senior manager, middle
manager, subordinate), individual or group interview and date. Two copies of the initial
transcripts were made: one as a working copy and one as an archival copy. Both were
electronic files. Transcripts were formatted according to Walden University guidelines.

Generating Themes, Patterns, and Categories and Coding the Data


The individual interviews of the senior managers and the middle managers were
initially used to generate summary stories of peak communication experiences that were
used in group interviews. Summary stories are very broad-based descriptions of the
communication experience. While these stories were important in stimulating
conversation, they were not thick descriptions of the communication experience.
However, the transcripts of all individual interviews (senior, middle, and subordinate
staff) and the transcripts of group interviews were coded using principles of narrative
analysis, but interviews of senior and middle managers also served as the grist to create
the summary stories.
Coding of the text was flexible and inductive, as is the custom in the CIT
(Flanagan, 1954). In coding, the researcher looked first for text that specifies precisely

110
what is necessary to do and not to do if participation in the activity is to be judged
successful or effective (Flanagan, p. 336). Some of these codes have already been
suggested by the research questions themselves. Consistent with the coding procedure for
grounded theory outlined by Strauss and Corbin (1998), open coding in the constant
comparative approach was used to create additional categories as they emerged.
Patton (2002) suggested a method for open coding to develop categories. As the
researcher becomes familiar with the data, common areas are identified. As the areas of
commonality are determined, Patton offered that these processes should be described
using a verb form and a noun phrase. For example, in the communication process, one
process category might be expressed as understanding the interests of the audience.
Understanding is the verb and the interests of the audience is the noun phrase. After the
initial determination of categories, Patton encouraged the researcher to test the categories
against the data to make sure the categories present an accurate representation. In
selecting the categories, several issues are of concern. First, the categories need to be
internally convergent or represent common ideas within the category (Patton). Second,
the categories need to be externally divergent or as mutually exclusive as possible
(Patton). In the process of reviewing divergence, discrepant cases can be noted.
Convergence and divergence assisted in generating consistency in analyzing the data
(Patton). As already noted, Appendix O, Table O1 illustrates this principle based on the
research questions and the unit of analysis categories they suggest.
Once all of the categories were established, the researcher loosely followed the
process known as axial coding (Corbin & Strauss, 1998). In this process, the researcher

111
identifies a single category as the central phenomenon of interest and begins exploring
the interrelationship of categories (Creswell, 1998, p. 151). The key in axial coding is to
discern relationships between and among categories (Corbin & Strauss). Considerations
in determining categorical relationships include causal conditions, context, intervening
conditions, consequences, and what strategies the subject uses in dealing with the
phenomenon described by the category (Creswell, p. 151). This was accomplished using
the interrelationship diagraph. The coding approach suggested by Corbin and Strauss is
the precursor toward developing a theory. However, the purpose of this study is to
identify, explore, and describe successful middle manager communication. No attempt
was made to generate a theory, but through data coding and analysis, the category
definitions became more stable and a better understanding of the elements of successful
communication emerged. The codes themselves generated multiple levels of detail and
are discussed in depth in chapter 4.
Patton (2002) suggested that one way to create such an understanding is to use a
methodology that links processes and outcomes through a matrix (p. 474). Such a matrix
lists the processes involved in middle manager communication in far left column and the
outcomes in the top rows. Within each cell of the matrix are described the linkages
expressed as themes, patterns, quotations, program that connect the process to the
outcome (Patton, p. 474). This type of data organization allows the researcher to capture
different contexts, circumstances, or desired outcomes of communication, characterize
them in terms of processes and outcomes, and identify the activities, behaviors, attitudes,
and media middle managers used to communicate. Such a matrix was generated for this

112
study and is discussed more thoroughly in chapter 4. The generation of this matrix
followed the process described below.
According to Patton (2002), Identifying and conceptualizing program outcomes
and impacts can involve induction, deduction, and/or logical analysis (p. 476). The
coding process not only identified processes and outcomes, but patterns of behavior and
activities that link the two. Inductively, the researcher needed to look for patterns of
change from one state to another in the interview data, according to Patton. Deductively,
the researcher looked for track records of successful communication in the literature or
other areas of the organization that support the interview data. Finally, logical analysis
involved reviewing the inductive and deductive analysis for holes in the data or other
explanations (Patton).

Software
The researcher used software to transcribe and code data. Transcription data
available for the coding includes Dragon Naturally Speaking. This program asserts the
ability to translate digitally recorded interviews into segmented transcripts. However, the
program could not recognize interviewee voices. The researcher used the voice
recognition to transcribe interviews by first listening to the digital audio file and then
repeating it into the dictation/transcription software.
For coding the text the researcher used MAXqda (2004) software. The software
allowed for coding on multiple levels and weighting of codes to identify positive and
negative states. The program allowed the researcher to keep accurate and detailed records

113
of the raw data, the process of coding and reducing the data, and notes on how the data
were analyzed. These bookkeeping activities are essential to maintaining the authenticity
and trustworthiness of qualitative data (Lincoln & Guba, 1985, pp. 319-320).
To summarize, data were collected via in-person interviews, recorded digitally,
and stored electronically. Analysis was inductive, following the open coding procedures
suggested by Corbin and Strauss (1998) that are consistent with CIT. Pattons (2002)
nomenclature approach to categories was used, combining a verb form with a noun
phrase in naming categories. Axial coding via the interrelationship diagraph helped
identify relationships among the categories. These categories were incorporated into
matrix framework suggested by Patton to provide insights into middle manager activities
that lead to successful outcomes for organizational initiatives.

Summary
In this chapter the research questions were reviewed. The theoretical and strategic
choices for this project were explored, including the choices of qualitative research as an
approach and the constructionist paradigm. Goals of the study were reviewed, as well as
the level of involvement that the researcher would have with study subjects. Appreciative
inquiry, critical incident technique, and narrative analysis were identified as research
techniques that would be incorporated in this study. The research sites were discussed
and the criteria for selecting the sites as well as the research participants were reviewed.
The means for establishing working relationships with the research participants and the
role of the researcher were detailed. Issues of reliability and validity and how study

114
participants would be ethically protected were addressed. The logic behind the
development of the interview instrument was reviewed. Finally the data collection and
analysis procedures were detailed.
In the next two chapters, the results of the implementation of the research
methodology are described. In chapter 4, the findings of the study are detailed and
reported. In chapter 5, the data is interpreted and recommendations for the application of
this research are made.

115
CHAPTER 4
RESULTS AND FINDINGS
Overview
This chapter describes the results of the study. First, the process by which data
were generated, gathered and recorded is discussed. Following this description, the data
tracking systems, memo system, and catalog system are explained. These systems
provided the framework for generating the findings, which are elaborated on next. After
this discussion, discrepant cases and nonconfirming data are reported. Then the patterns,
relationships, and themes that the findings generated are introduced and linked to the
data. Unexpected findings also are described. Next, evidence of the quality of the study is
illustrated, demonstrating the accuracy and trustworthiness of the study. Lastly, a
summary of results is provided.

Data Collection Process


As described in the methodology in chapter 3, data were generated through
interviews with senior managers, middle managers, and their direct reports at three
different divisions of the umbrella organization. The researcher conducted interviews
over four months, starting June 12, 2006 and concluding in September 30, 2006 using the
questionnaires identified in Appendixes H through L. To assure the timely completion of
the research, interviewing was restricted to these 4 months. Where feasible, interviews
were conducted in person. In cases where interviewee schedules did not permit or
interviewees lived too far away for face-to-face interviews to be practical, phone

116
interviews were conducted and recorded digitally. Out of 35 interviews, 20 were
conducted in person and 15 were completed via phone.
Thirty-three individuals agreed to be interviewed resulting in 33 individual
interviews and 2 group interviews. Thirty-nine candidates were invited to participate in
the individual interview process. Local and domestic candidates were contacted multiple
times through e-mail and United States postal service, and via phone calls. International
candidates were contacted via e-mail. Additionally, the senior managers who had selected
the middle managers were also contacted when candidates were nonresponsive to
invitations. These senior level managers encouraged participation. If candidates did not
return e-mail, phone, or mail requests by September 30, 2006, they were considered
nonrespondent. Since the study was voluntary, senior and middle managers were not
expected to use coercive power or punitive sanctions to coax participation. Of the six that
did not participate, one refused to participate because she did not like the questions and
five never responded to multiple attempts to schedule interviews. Information on
respondents appears in Tables 4 and 5. Interviewees represented two states in the United
States and two international countries.

117
Table 4
Interview Candidates by Division and Level
Number Invited
Divisions

Number Interviewed

Senior

Middle

Reports

Senior

Middle

Reports

Global Manufacturing Div.

Global Support Div.

Regional Marketing Div.

Total

27

21

Table 5
Candidates by Gender and Location
Gender

Location

Male

Female

Local

Out of town
or state

International

Global Manufacturing
Div.

Global Support Div.

13

Regional Marketing Div.

11

10

Total

28

24

Divisions

118
When the study was conceived, the approach was designed for a company where
middle managers and direct reports were located in close proximity to the researchers
home. However, the study sites have managers located throughout the world. Some
candidates resided beyond the immediate metropolitan area of the study site headquarters
and the researchers home. Consequently candidates included: (a) employees within the
immediate area of the researcher; (b) employees from the home state of the company, but
located beyond 100 miles from the headquarters and the researchers home; (c)
employees within the United States, but located 1,000 miles beyond the headquarters and
from the researchers home; and (d) employees from Brazil, China, and Northern Ireland.
While the inclusion of domestic and international employees allowed the
researcher the potential for a broader understanding of exemplary middle manager
communication in a global world, the costs and logistics of arranging video conferencing
across the United States and internationally made group interviews very expensive to
schedule. Because this study is self-funded by the researcher, the cost of conducting some
group interviews was prohibitive and the technology to do so was not immediately or
easily available. As already noted, with the approval of the committee, the group
interviews were excluded from this study but were conducted in two circumstances,
where costs and schedules permitted. The yield of the group interviews was not
particularly rich, nor did it uncover ideas or concepts that varied greatly from the
individual interviews. The effectiveness of the appreciative inquiry methodology,
including the group interview technique, is discussed in chapter 5.

119
Data were gathered through the use of digital voice recording either in person or
via phone. All interviewees were alerted to and asked to consent to recording.
Participants had received copies of the consent form and were asked affirm consent via
the taping, as well as in writing when practical. Consent was acknowledged in all
interviews. Data were electronically downloaded into digital sound files and were
transcribed into text documents by the researcher. Nearly 14 hours of interviews were
recorded and documented, yielding 350 pages of transcripts and more than 125,000
words. The audio files and the transcripts were burned on CDs, and stored in a locked
file. An excerpt of a transcribed interview appears as Appendix P.
Individuals were assigned code names to preserve confidentiality. The code
identifiers linked to the respondents levels, to whom they report, and their division. Only
the researcher knows the keys to the codes. Full codes are not used for attribution in this
paper because elements of each code could identify the division, which might breach
anonymity.

Data Tracking, Memo, and Catalog Systems


Once recorded and transcribed, data were downloaded into the text analysis
program MAXqda (2004). MAXqda is a robust analytical software that allowed
simultaneous coding and memo generation. In the first reading of the transcripts, data
were labeled with preexisting codes generated discussed in the research methodology
(Appendix O, Table O1). MAXqda (2004) also allowed real time or in vivo coding. As
emerging thoughts surfaced, the researcher created memos both explaining the new in

120
vivo codes and memos describing thoughts and questions about the data. MAXqda
(2004) annotates the text for quick retrieval of notes and memos. A memo sample
appears in Figure 5.

Figure 5. MAXqda memo. From MAXqda, Qualitative Analysis Software, Version 2,


Berlin, Germany 2004; www.maxqda.com. Reprinted with permission from the
publisher.
As the verbatim texts were coded, the researcher contemplated how the codes
related and compared the categories. When patterns emerged and new relationships
surfaced, MAXqda (2004) allowed the researcher to recategorize coded data by applying
new descriptors and/or by assigning different color codes to categories or different
numerical weights to the comment. Patterns in the verbatim comments were discerned
visually by using MAXqdas Code Matrix Browser. This browser graphs coded
comments by category, visually displaying the patterns of category information. The
graphic display of textual information is shown as a screen shot in Figure 6. Other
evidence of intertextuality within the company and the divisions was assessed by using

121
MAXqdas Text Search as a cross check for the visual tools and is discussed later in this
chapter.

Figure 6. Code-Matrix Browser showing frequency of mention by code. From MAXqda,


Qualitative Analysis Software, Version 2, Berlin, Germany 2004; www.maxqda.com.
Reprinted with permission from the publisher.
The coding of the information was a melding of open coding and conditional
coding as described by Creswell (1998, p. 57) representing a well established tradition in
data analysis. Using the methodology described by Patton (2002), the researcher
developed a matrix of processes and outcomes to assist in coding. This matrix of
processes and outcomes is discussed later in this chapter.

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Research Findings
The research question for this investigation was: How do middle managers
communicate across organizational layers so that senior management initiatives succeed
in organizations? The intent was to identify the approaches, channels, and tools middle
managers use to create successful outcomes for senior level initiatives. As the interviews
unfolded, processes that middle managers used to communicate emerged. Two other
forces, one related to organizational leadership and one related to the Six Sigma initiative
itself, also emerged. These forces help to explain not only how middle managers
communicate but how they were able to communicate successfully.

Initial Coding
All verbatim comments were read and segments from the comments coded. The
comments were reread several times and five different iterations of the code list were
completed. In completing the iterations, the researcher analyzed the codes on several
levels, including their relationship to the actual interview questions, the specific research
questions, each other, and how they contributed to the process of communication of
organizational initiatives. Colors were used to distinguish comments associated with
middle managers style, channel, and tools and the processes associated with
organizational leadership and the Six Sigma initiative in the MAXqda (2004) database.
This allowed the researcher to maintain the link to the research subquestions and keep
track of the activities related to the organizational leadership and Six Sigma
communication processes. Comments related to style or approach, communication

123
channels, tools, organizational leadership, and Six Sigma were color coded. One
additional group of comments citing evidence of the success of the Six Sigma initiative
also was coded. The number of comments associated with each color coded category
appears in Table 6.

Table 6
Elements as Coded Segments
Subquestion

Number of mentions

Subquestion 1: Communication approach

312

Subquestion 2: Communication channels

355

Subquestion 3: Communication tools

73

Organizational leadership

175

Six Sigma initiative

143

Total

1,058

These five groups will be labeled elements for the purpose of further discussion. Other
themes that emerged from the analysis provide a deeper look into the answer to the
overall research question and are discussed next.

Patterns, Relationships, and Themes


The premise of this study is that all realities are socially constructed.
Consequently, the reality of the success of Six Sigma at the umbrella organization is
assumed to have been constructed through social interactions on a variety of levels. The

124
study focuses on how middle managers communicate across organizational layers so that
senior management initiatives succeed. As the more than 1,000 verbatim comments were
coded, several themes, patterns, and relationships emerged. The researcher coalesced data
in two ways. First, the categories were reviewed and clustered in groups that aligned
processes and outcomes of organizational communication. Second, the researcher
reviewed all codes and comments and organized the main themes using a mnemonic.
The researcher used affinity sorting, which sorts codes that have a similar feel into
groups. Patton (2002) included this self reflective and intuitive grouping as part of the
qualitative coding process. From the affinity, the researcher identified seven key
communication processes using the noun/object structure suggested in chapter 3. The
categories of communication processes include: (a) making sense out of equivocal or
uncertain circumstances; (b) relating to people on human terms; (c) aligning departmental
work to the enterprise; (d) using the tools and elements of story to communicate; (e)
anchoring the initiative firmly in organizational prerogatives; (f) crafting messages that
are effective, efficient, and appropriate; and (g) providing support to people in their work
and lives. To create a shorthand method of referring to the process categories and a
means of quickly recalling these categories, the researcher chose to shorten each to a
summary adjective that described the nature of the process. The process categories were
named contextual, heartfelt, aligned, narrative, grounded, elegant, and supportive to
create the mnemonic word changes. The mnemonic was chosen to aid in recalling the
seven categories. Within each process are specific communication activities.

125
Communication elements, discussed earlier, support the activities within each
process. Figure 7 shows how the sorting was accomplished on two levels. The multiple
shapes at the top represent verbatim comments. The comments are sorted into two kinds
of groupings, elements and processes. Elements have already been discussed and include
approach, channel, tools, organizational leadership, and Six Sigma. The process
categories are contextual, heartfelt, aligned, narrative, grounded, elegant, and supportive.
Comments were thus coded as both element and process categories.

Process Category

Contextual
Heartfelt
Aligned
Narrative
Grounded
Elegant
Supportive

Figure 7. Sorting process for coding comments.

126
Figure 8 shows the seven process categories and the number of mentions each
received. For the most part, the frequency of mention in each category was relatively
consistent across study sites. The findings for each process category will be discussed in
the next section.

25.00%

Percent of mentions

20.00%

15.00%

10.00%

5.00%

0.00%

Contextual

Heartfelt

Aligned

Narrative

Grounded

Elegant

Supportive

All

17.77%

13.61%

6.99%

15.60%

GMD

20.08%

7.53%

6.69%

19.25%

19.85%

9.64%

16.54%

21.76%

10.88%

13.81%

GSD

15.30%

16.38%

7.54%

RMD

19.44%

14.08%

6.48%

14.22%

18.53%

9.48%

18.53%

14.93%

20.28%

9.01%

15.77%

Figure 8. Mentions by process category for Global Manufacturing Division (GMD),


Global Support Division (GSD), and Regional Marketing Division (RMD).
The Contextual Communication Process Category
The contextual communication process category represents how exemplary
middle managers made sense out of equivocal or uncertain circumstances to help

127
implement the Six Sigma initiative. Table 7 lists the communication activities and
elements associated with this process category.
Table 7
Contextual Activities and Communication Elements

Elements
Activity

Creating context

Approach

Channel

Six Sigma

Org.
Leadership

51

Tailoring the message to the


audience

Total

51
48

48

Generating interest, buy-in,


enthusiasm

36

36

Teaching and coaching

32

32

Generating interest, buy-in,


enthusiasm

11

Leveraging existing predilections

Generating interest, buy-in,


enthusiasm
Total

8
2

119

56

11

2
11

188

This category included communication activities that involved helping people see
the enterprise view or big picture and how individual work related to the whole (r240.7).
Exemplary middle managers interpreted messages and tailored them to specific
audiences. Direct reports mentioned that their managers often abridged or customized
organizational presentation materials to meet the direct reports needs. Personalizing
corporate messages was especially important for international audiences who had
different cultures. A staff member from Brazil elaborated, The information is prepared

128
for each different audience to better fit its culture, its statutes, and so on (r060.1). A
middle manager from the Northern Ireland branch of his division shaped his
communication message by adapting the message to help each direct report understand
how he or she fit in to the Six Sigma initiative. Middle managers also leveraged
individual predilections in communicating Six Sigma. One middle manager described his
staff as being more process oriented, very analytical, and very passionate (m220.2)
about the organization. He demonstrated that Six Sigma provided tools that supported
these predilections.
Other activities in the contextual process category included generating interest,
enthusiasm and buy-in. Middle managers who were active in the Six Sigma methodology
helped build employee engagement. A direct report described this activity:
If you have somebody who is active in their sponsorship and has been
active in communication at both the informal and formal levels, I think
thats where youre going to start driving that speed to market . . . in
building employee engagement. (r240.2)
The Six Sigma process itself helped generate a sense of inclusion among staff. One direct
report explained:
I think you also, on the softer side, you get a sense of empowerment.
People probably see that they can actually change things, make things
work better than they had in the past. We really didnt have a method for
doing that (r240.3).
Another contextual communication process activity was teaching and coaching
people. In the umbrella organization, teaching, coaching, and facilitating learning is
unequivocally defined as a managerial accountability. Training materials noted, True
learning will only take place when the leader acts as a teacher and invests the time and

129
emotional energy required to engage those around him or her in a dialogue that results in
mutual understanding (2005, p. 1, confidential corporate training materials). Exemplary
middle managers were seen as good teachers by direct reports.
Through the contextual communication process, middle manager communicators
were able to reduce equivocality and uncertainty (Weick, 1979) regarding the Six Sigma
initiative and generate a new organizational sense that Six Sigma was going to become
part of the organizational modus operandi. By generating this context for subordinates,
new organizational realities were created (Cooren, 2004; Phillips et al., 2004). Tailoring
messages to specific audience needs allowed middle managers to increase the likelihood
of the reception of messages linked to Six Sigma (Cialdini, 2001b; Kounalakis et al.,
1999; Piderit, 2000).
By generating interest buy-in and enthusiasm, middle managers were able to
leverage collaboration to communicate Six Sigma (Mills, 2004; Piderit, 2000). As a
byproduct of this collaboration, more people came to know and understand the potential
of Six Sigma. As more employees bought into Six Sigma, influence through social proof
became stronger (Cialdini, 2001b). Middle managers also used teaching and coaching to
specifically change opinions. Their management positions provided them with discursive
legitimacy (Phillips, 2004), which allowed them to establish Six Sigma through
managerial authority. The organization itself and the initiative itself helped create
enthusiasm by involving people, giving voice to their concerns, and allowing them to
participate in the solution of problems.

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The Heartfelt Communication Process Category
Exemplary middle managers used the heartfelt communication process of relating
to people on human terms to implement the Six Sigma initiative. Table 8 lists the
activities associated with this category and the one element associated with this category.

Table 8
Heartfelt Activities and Communication Elements

Element
Activities

Approach

Total

Being informal, open, easy-to-approach

50

50

Building trust (general activities)

36

36

Believing in the initiative

31

31

Developing knowledge that helps

22

22

Embracing change

144

144

Total

Weick (1979) asserted that organizing communication occurs through human


interaction called the double interact. Exemplary middle managers build trust, are open
and easy to approach, and embrace change. A direct report explained:
Hes very appreciative, hes very people oriented and sincere. I mean his
communications are sincere, hell stop and talk to you, hes not the type
thats all writing and no talking. His focus is on you and he is very
effective that way. He will always try to take the high road . . . . He always
tries to see things from the other divisions point of view. (r150.1)

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Middle managers recognized the need to exhibit personal belief to garner
credibility for the initiative. They knew that as soon as you dont do what you said, not
only do you lose your respect for Six Sigma, but your credibility for anything you said is
going to be challenged (m220.2). Direct reports echoed this requirement for credibility
and trust, If youre in the factory floor environment and youre working on a production
line, your exposure to Six Sigma and your attitude towards it is probably going to be
reflective of what your supervisors approach is (r340.1). Staff also assessed whether
their managers were guarded or concealing information and whether they were willing to
say what they really thought (r.240.1).
Direct reports and senior managers both noted that exemplary middle manager
communicators believed in the initiative themselves. They showed people they were
excited about Six Sigma, as one staff member described:
If you work for a dull boss, its kind of hard to get excited about work
every day. If you work for guy whos a little more fired up and he comes
in and even if hes a little bit borderline lunatic fringe, it does make things
a little more interesting, exciting when you come in. (r240.1)
Additionally, these middle manager communicators actively developed expertise and
knowledge. Direct reports were impressed when middle managers not only talked about
Six Sigma, but were fluent in the initiative and could answer questions intelligently
(r050.1). The fact that middle managers would take the time to deeply understand Six
Sigma appeared to reinforce that middle managers sincerely believed in the initiative.
Middle managers engaged in heartfelt communication processes in establishing
Six Sigma. In terms of influence, by building trust and expertise, middle managers

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enhanced their influence through increased liking, commitment and consistency, and
authority (Cialdini, 2001b). By believing in the initiative themselves, middle managers
established the behaviors that their direct reports could see and mirror (Maxham &
Netemeyer, 2003).

The Aligned Communication Process Category


Exemplary middle managers used the aligned communication process to
coordinate departmental work with enterprise goals and objectives to implement the Six
Sigma initiative. Table 9 lists the activities and elements associated with this process.

Table 9
Aligned Activities and Communication Elements
Elements
Activities

Approach

Channel

Generating collaboration
Identifying, creating linkages to organizational goals
Maintaining consistency

Total

23

23

15

15

15

Prioritizing work, planning, setting goals


Total

Six
Sigma

15

15
20

21

35

24

74

Middle managers benefited by the Six Sigma structure, which promotes


collaboration across functional areas. One middle manager explained how Six Sigma had

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changed the way areas worked together, I think another element is the cross-functional
teams. In the past, everybody would do their own thing, now were pulling in all the
affected disciplines so theres teamwork in the data-driven decisions (m080.1). The
initiatives structure has helped middle managers communicate across and through layers.
Middle managers who engage in the aligned communication process recognized
the importance of setting goals via Six Sigma to achieve results. This comment illustrates
a typical attitude:
People are motivated by goals. Now if you can get the goals in there, if
you can get the team in there, you can get some really good energy;
creative energy starts going and you start seeing a lot of momentum.
(m180.2)
Direct reports noted that it was important for the goals to align with other organizational
goals to assure that members of the department, from the top to the bottom, are working
together toward the same end (r340.1).
Finally, aligned communication processes required middle managers to be
consistent. This consistency was important in word and deed, but also in maintaining
alignment with the organization. An example of how pervasive and important the notion
of consistency was is well illustrated by this direct reports comments:
First word that pops into my mind is consistency. My kids hate it when
Im always shifting on them, they want to know where Im going to come
from on an issue, if Im serious, if Im just messing around, you know just
having fun with them. I think its that communication message when you
talk to different people about whatever, that they are on the same message
all the time so you understand where theyre going to come from. And I
suppose as you look at a leadership group, they are all pushing for the
same things. (r240.1)

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Through these aligned communication processes, middle managers reinforced
behaviors and attitudes to be mirrored, demonstrated their dedication to Six Sigma, and
directed departmental activities effectively by using influence harbored in authority,
commitment, and consistency (Cialdini, 2001b). The cross functional structures and
language of the Six Sigma initiative allowed middle managers to use discursive
legitimacy to create greater alignment purpose and process among disparate departments,
areas, and divisions (Phillips, 2004). Exemplary middle manager communicators were
aligned with organizational messages, personal activities, and the Six Sigma initiative
and used collaboration to help embed the new Six Sigma reality (Mills, 2004).

The Narrative Communication Process Category


Exemplary middle managers used the narrative communication process by
employing the tools and elements of story to facilitate communication in implementing
the Six Sigma initiative. Table 10 lists the activities and elements associated with this
category.

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Table 10
Narrative Activities and Communication Elements
Elements

Activities

Channels

Causing the use of same language, approach to problem

Six
Sigma

42
33

Easing communication through common language

33

24

24

15

15

Using PowerPoint
Creating understanding through stories and examples

Total

42

Using E-mail

Drawing and sketching for understanding

Tools

12

12

11

11

Using Six Sigma Storyboards

Using the telephone

Using corporate tools

Using formal gate reviews and such

Using available tools to support messages

Using newsletter

Using E-tracker

73

165

Total

26

66

A number of authorities including Denning (2001), Boje (2001), Czarniawska


(1999), and Gabriel (2000) have emphasized the significance of narrative within the
organization. In general, stories told by the interviewees did not follow the traditional
form of having an engaging beginning, multiple details and a kicker or gist that
summarizes the story (McGregorn & Holmes, 1999). These stories also did not follow the

136
persuasive structure found in Dennings springboard form. Rather they resembled the
short bursts of information that Gabriel noted, but were not stories of conflict and pain.
However, these stories did juxtapose pre- and post-Six Sigma observations. Respondents
also were aware that Six Sigma itself created story through its process known as DMAIC
(define, measure, analyze, implement, control). The combination of the ability to tell a
story well and the Six Sigma DMAIC process was recognized as helpful, as explained by
this direct report:
He was a good communicator and a good storyteller. Every presentation at
the gate review was like telling a story, this is where we started, this is
where we left off last time, this is where we have gone, this is where we
think were going to go, so its sort of like a five act play and this is the
middle. So he was good setting that story up beginning to end and having
a kind of flow. (r050.1)
The organization itself recently has emphasized the importance of story by training all
leaders, regardless of level, in the teachable point of view. The teachable point of view
uses stories and personal examples to help people understand organizational strategies
and initiatives. The approach was developed by Noel Tichy (2004). All managers and
supervisors were trained in this approach before communicating the new vision (2004,
confidential corporate training materials). Managers now are expected to create their own
teachable points of view for corporate initiatives, which include the crafting of personal
stories or examples (Tichy). While this particular narrative method was not used
specifically for the Six Sigma rollout, managers did mention it as an effective way of
crafting organizational messages.
As already mentioned, Six Sigma itself incorporates a common approach to
problems through the DMAIC process and by using universal terms. For example,

137
respondents mentioned the VOC, which in Six Sigma terms stands for the voice of the
customer, the VOB, or voice of the business, and accretive, which means the initiative
generated dollars beyond its investment. Black Belt, Green Belt, Yellow Belt, DC
(deployment or division champion), six pack (a graphic that helps visual the elements of
a Six Sigma charter) and process partner were all Six Sigma words that were used
comfortably and easily by respondents. This common language was inculcated in the
organization through the Six Sigma initiative and eased cross-functional communication:
The language is common and the processes are common in how we solve
problems or how we are going to achieve results. Everyone approaches it
in a similar manner and when you talk about certain places where youre
at in your particular project, everyone kind of understands the
terminology: Were in define phase, were in measure phase, were doing
a root cause analysis. (m180.2)
Middle managers used a number of different ways to tell the story of Six Sigma.
One method that was used fairly consistently was sketching or drawing on a white board,
flip chart, or pad of paper. While this may not appear to have the typical elements of
story telling, sketching and drawing was used to help individuals better understand
information, problems, relationships, or directions. Middle managers supported Six
Sigma communication with a variety of other communication tools, including e-mail,
PowerPoint presentations, and the use of corporate materials, as noted in Table 13.
Through the narrative communication process, middle managers were able to
increase reception to messages (Kounalakis et al., 1999), create new realities through
illustration (Luhman & Boje, 2001), create memorable messages through the use of
stories and examples (Denning, 2001; Gladwell 2002; Phillips, 2004), establish

138
communicative rules based on the narrative features of Six Sigma (Bronn & Bronn, 2003;
Jabs, 2005), and leverage communication tools based on the appropriateness of the media
to the communication challenge (Daft & Lengal, 1986).

The Grounded Communication Process Category


Exemplary middle managers used the grounded communication process to anchor
the initiative firmly in organizational prerogatives to facilitate communication in
implementing the Six Sigma initiative. Table 11 lists the activities and elements
associated with this process.

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Table 11
Grounded Activities and Communication Elements

Elements

Activities

Style

Generating results

Six
Sigma

Org.
Leadership

67

Total
67

Demonstrating unwavering leadership commitment

43

43

Investing resources in communication and


implementation

32

32

Creating expectation for strategic alignment

25

25

Setting expectations for consistent implementation

12

12

Recognizing link between communication and results

11

11

Linking to career path

Prioritizing projects

Expecting goals to be set


Total

11

83

116

210

The Six Sigma initiative was implemented to reverse the business losses
and to make the company profitable again (2001, confidential corporate
materials). Both the Six Sigma initiative and the organizational senior leadership
made these goals clear. The focus on results and the subsequent evidence that Six
Sigma had delivered results assisted middle managers in communicating the Six
Sigma initiative.
The grounded communication process was firmly anchored in leaderships visible
commitment to the initiative and the evident generous investment in implementing the

140
initiative. The umbrella organization reported expending $30 million in 2001 for training
and deployment (2002, SEC Form 8-K for umbrella company). The deployment did not
just include training and financial rewards, but allocating human and other resources to
the initiative. This was noticeable by both middle managers and direct reports, as
reflected by this representative comment:
Weve got high level commitment. Theyve kept the focus on this. They
keep reinforcing the fact that its important, its in our bonus calculations
at the end of the year, its always in there somewhere. Theyre pulling
back on paying individual incentives, which is fine. I think everyone is
beyond that. The monetary reward is nice in the short term, the real reward
is when you can cut your work day from eleven hours to ten to nine-and-ahalf to something manageable through these process improvements and
things that Six Sigma drives. (m220.1)
Leadership of the umbrella organization was determined that Six Sigma would
succeed. In a forceful fashion, the executive management created the universal
expectations that middle managers would align their work to organizational strategies and
that Six Sigma would be consistently implemented throughout all divisions, including
setting goals related to Six Sigma. This approach was surprising to some employees, and
in some cases intimidating (m080.3). Nonetheless, the approach brought energy and
emotion to the initiative and, as a result, provided a certain power in its release (m080.3).
Managers recognized that they had an obligation to participate and deliver results
through the initiative. Several interviewees mentioned that they were told to find
something they liked about Six Sigma because it would not go away. The CEO himself
told senior level managers that the train was leaving the station and they had best be on

141
board (confidential umbrella corporate materials). The comment following is typical of
how the release of Six Sigma was described:
You had no option. That was probably the other aspect of it, you know,
everyone was included, like it or not. Within [the organization] there are a
lot of different divisions and a lot of different people all doing things a lot
of different ways, especially at that time, so no one had a choice, you were
all on. (m080.2)
In support of these rigid expectations, executive leadership was highly visible and
highly vocal in supporting the Six Sigma effort. The CEO made all division vice
presidents publicly state what they would do to assure Six Sigma was implemented. A
senior level manager described the legendary act of the CEO in establishing Six Sigma:
They showed us a video of it in Black Belt class. The CEO standing there
and each vice president having to walk up, face to face with the CEO and
explain how they were supporting it and why. Every one of them, 26 or 28
of them at the time did that and we saw that commitment and several of
them came to our classes and talked about it as well. (s190.1)
The anchoring of the Six Sigma initiative firmly in organizational prerogatives
assisted exemplary middle manager communicators in disseminating the Six Sigma story.
For middle managers to successfully implement the Six Sigma initiative, they needed to
value and recognize the link between communication and results. One middle manager
explained:
Its all very well having a good strategy and good planning and everything
else, but if its not communicated, it kind of falls apart. And the fact that
youre going through this process, Cheryl, probably reinforces that it
really is as important as we think it is. (m080.3)
Much of this link was created through example by the organization and by the
initiative. The structure of the initiative provided middle managers with a data driven way
to prioritize projects. This in turn led to the generation of results that were important to

142
the organization. In addition to this, the organization itself established a clear association
between participation in the Six Sigma initiative, specifically becoming a Black Belt, and
future career advancement. One direct report noted, It is the financial piece but its also
saying, when Six Sigma was first deployed, the Six Sigma Black Belts are our
management pool of the future so its providing a career path (r080.3).
This high level commitment was specifically designed to support those who were
expected to implement Six Sigma. The high level of leadership commitment leveraged
influence in areas of authority and social proof (Cialdini, 2001b). Consequently, middle
managers who grounded their communication in Six Sigma invoked the authority behind
its deployment. This provided the means for both memorable messages and rapid
diffusion (Gladwell, 2002; Hamel, 2000). The fact that leadership told employees that Six
Sigma training would be linked to future promotions also triggered the influence
principle of scarcity (Cialdini, 2001b). Last, the language and symbols that were used by
senior management contributed to a new reality in the organization that was grounded in
the leaders discursive legitimacy (Phillips, 2004).

The Elegant Communication Process Category


Exemplary middle managers used the elegant communication process to craft
messages that were effective, efficient and appropriate to facilitate communication in
implementing the Six Sigma initiative. Table 12 lists the activities and elements
associated with this process.

143
Table 12
Elegant Activities and Communication Elements
Elements

Activities

Channel

Org.
Leadership

Total

Holding regular meetings

27

27

Crafting concise, effective communication

23

23

Cascading information

16

16

Finding time to communicate (not booked)

14

14

Communicating frequently

12

12

Keeping staff up to date

Documenting and passing on knowledge

Total

86

16

102

Successful middle manager communicators recognized the scarcity of time in


todays organizational world and were able to develop elegant messages. The term
elegant is used here in the sense that it is used in physics, that is, the most efficient,
effective use of energy (Wheatley, 1004, p. 5). Exemplary middle managers found ways
to make regular communication routine. They chose staff meetings, individual meetings,
coaching sessions, and other face-to-face meetings to develop acceptance of
organizational initiatives like Six Sigma. They were able to compact communication into
short, effective messages. This ability was valued by many directs reports, I like his
communication in that hes very concise. Hell have a paragraph or two, get to the point
and get out, so it doesnt take a lot of time or a lot of brainpower (r230.2).

144
Within the organization, exemplary middle managers employed an
organizationally developed tool called the communication cascade. This is a formal
structure of passing on knowledge from senior level throughout the organization. An
important part of this cascade includes developing the teachable point of view (Tichy,
2004) and accepting that leaders have the responsibility of teaching others. The cascade
provides middle managers with relevant information which can be tailored to divisions
and augmented with personal stories and examples.
Exemplary middle managers were spontaneous, found time to communicate, and
kept staff up to date. One direct report described how his manager leveraged walking
from his office to another to foster communication:
Its frequent, stick his head in, and give you a quick thirty second
download and move on, not formal, no PowerPoint presentations, its just
good communications and even when he does communicate like that he
can still follow up or will still follow up in an e-mail if we need additional
details or things like that. (r150.1)
Middle managers were also aware of the need to document existing knowledge to
expedite the orientation of new people to positions and divisions. Younger members of
the organization were concerned about the lack of documented knowledge (r230.2), but
exemplary middle managers used Six Sigma to close that gap by formally documenting
processes and capturing the experience of longer tenured employees in process maps and
procedure manuals (m220.1).
Through the elegant communication process, middle managers were able to
increase the speed and breadth of the diffusion of ideas (Duck, 2001; Hamel, 2000;
Phillips et al. 2004); reduce uncertainty and equivocality through frequent and expected

145
contact (Daft & Weick, 1984); improve the reception of messages (Kounalakis et al.;
1999); and leverage existing hierarchical networks in the diffusion of organizational
initiatives through the cascade (Duck, 2001; Rogers, 1995; Weenig, 1999).

The Supportive Communication Process Category


Exemplary middle managers used the supportive communication process to
provide support to their people in their work and in their lives. Table 13 lists activities
and elements associated with this category.

Table 13
Supportive Activities and Communication Elements
Elements
Code

Approach

Channel

Total

Facilitating and selling solutions

46

46

Encouraging discussion and feedback

35

35

Meeting face to face in groups, not formal

21

21

Helping people achieve goals through focus, monitoring

18

18

Recognizing good efforts (nonmonetary)

17

17

Meeting one on one

15

15

Valuing people

15

15

Creating a safe environment

Total

23

152

175

146
Exemplary middle managers advocated for their staff, troubleshot problems,
brokered solutions on behalf of their staff, and acquired resources for staff as they
worked in the Six Sigma process (r250.3). Exemplary middle managers also sought and
encouraged feedback and discussion. They sought understanding of how staff worked and
what challenges staff faced day to day, as explained by this direct report:
I think his communication style is really his willingness to participate in
the different levels of the job, to learn what our guys, the feet on the street,
machine sales territory analysis, what theyre really about and really gain
an appreciation for what theyre doing. (r150.3)
This interest in people translated into a finding ways to meet with people face to
face, which was preferred and appreciated by direct reports.
Recognition beyond the monetary incentives promised by the organization and the
Six Sigma initiative was also an important communication process for exemplary Six
Sigma managers. Brief notes, personal contacts, small gifts with the Six Sigma logo on it
were all activities in which exemplary middle managers participated. The important
aspect to this recognition was that it was personal, heartfelt, immediate, and documented.
Recognition went hand in glove with valuing people. One direct report explained the
importance of valuing people:
[My manager] definitely sees people as his number one tool, its really not
the computer, its not the data that [the enterprise] has, its the wisdom and
knowledge of all the different people in the division that he pulls off of
and weve got a lot of good people, and I think thats the right way to do
it. (r150.1)
Others appreciated the fact that their manager provided emotional support, [My
managers] always reassuring, telling us this is the right thing to do, and were

147
managing this properly (r250.2). Exemplary middle managers provided a safe
environment for discussion, disagreement, questions, and ideas.
Through the supportive communication process, exemplary middle managers
created reciprocal relationships (Cialdini, 2001b), reduced anxiety in emotional situations
(Huy, 2002), and enhanced their own influence by creating affinity or liking (Cialdini,
2001b) between themselves and those they supervise. Their use of informal, spontaneous
means helped increase the velocity of diffusion of ideas for contacts (Duck, 2001; Hamel,
2000; Rogers, 1995; Weenig, 1999). While the heartfelt communication process speaks to
the middle managers personal integrity and development, the supportive communication
process speaks to the managers respect for people, their interest in them and willingness
to help them.
The contextual, heartfelt, aligned, narrative, grounded, elegant, and supportive
communication processes created the bridge between the concept of Six Sigma as
contemplated by senior management and the successful implementation of Six Sigma. In
answering the question, how do middle managers communicate across organizational
layers, the data indicate that exemplary middle managers abilities to leverage processes
must be combined with a good initiative and senior management support to succeed.

The Process Outcomes Matrix


In the preceding discussions, references to the literature reviewed in chapter 3
were made for each communication process. These references are summarized in the
process outcome matrix that appears as Table Q1 in Appendix Q. The process and

148
outcomes matrix allowed the researcher to identify processes of communication and then
analyze what outcomes these processes produced. The information appearing in this
matrix has been cited in supporting the finding discussed in the previous section.

Methodology Findings
In addition to how exemplary middle managers communicate, the appreciative
inquiry methodology was being scrutinized. Although the methodology was unfamiliar to
most participants, they generally found that appreciative inquiry offered them a new
perspective to solving problems and understanding communication and provided them a
means of self-reflection. As the researcher was being escorted through the study site
locations, often the respondents would engage in casual conversation regarding the
research methodology. It was not unusual for the respondents to suggest that while they
were used to looking at what went wrong as part of problem solving, it was unusual to
look exclusively at what worked. Thus, the overall the research methodology was well
accepted by respondents and provided the potential for new insights. The implications of
using the appreciative inquiry methodology are discussed in chapter 5.

Discrepant Cases and Nonconfirming Data


Because this study was designed around extreme case and snowball sampling, all
participants were considered as the senior managers of exemplars, as exemplary middle
manager communicators, or as reporting to exemplary middle manager communicators.
Thus by strict definition, discrepant cases did not exist for this study, unless those who

149
failed to respond or who refused to participate are considered discrepant. As discussed
before, all of the candidates were contacted multiple times by both the researcher and
their supervisors and were invited to participate. All received a brief description of the
study and the consent form. With the exception of the one nominee who refused to
participate based on the interview questions, it was not possible to discover why
interview candidates chose not to respond.
The approach to this study was an appreciative inquiry. By its very nature, this
process seeks out positive answers but does allow for minimal criticism or limited
negative responses. None of the respondents viewed the middle manager communicator
who had been identified for the study as not an exemplary communicator. However,
some respondents no longer were supervised by the middle manager. In these cases, they
were asked to recall what it was like working for that particular supervisor. Two
interviewees had worked with the exemplar for fewer than six months. One chose to
interview based on both the best middle manager he had experienced and on his current
experience with his new manager. The information this respondent provided was
consistent both with what others had said about his current supervisor and what others
had said about exemplary middle manager communicators in general. Thus, his data was
not considered disconfirming and he was not considered a discrepant case.
The second nominee also had only worked for his exemplary communicator for a
short time. However, he had known the exemplar for many years and was able to
comment on both his own experiences in dealing with the exemplar and on how this

150
middle manager had communicated in the past. Again, his answers were consistent with
the comments of others and thus the data he generated was not considered disconfirming.
If interviewees had made comments that Six Sigma was not successful in their
organization, these comments would be considered disconfirming data. However, in none
of the interviews did individuals assert that Six Sigma had failed. In fact, in a text search
of words related to the generation of positive business results, including results, process
improvement, bottom line, cost savings, effectiveness, cost reduction, efficient, and
efficiencies, 115 references in 25 separate interviews specifically used these terms to
describe the success of the initiative. This intertextuality, in which about 70% of the
interviews had specific references to the success of Six Sigma, provides confirming data
that Six Sigma was perceived as successful in the umbrella organization. Eighteen
comments were coded in an evidence category supporting the success of Six Sigma.
Interviewees did mention concerns for the future of Six Sigma. One
middle manager believed that Six Sigma was dissipating through lack of
consistency among his peers (m220.1) and a direct report described the need for
better communication across areas to assure Six Sigma continued to thrive
(r250.3). Another middle manager voiced concerns about the organization
becoming complacent with the Six Sigma initiative (m220.2).
As described in the methodology section, two questions were created to allow
interviewees to express negative ideas or views. These questions included a three wishes
question and a open ended question asking for additional stories or information. Watkins
and Mohr (2001) noted that negative comments should be expected and are likely to

151
express negative thoughts in an appreciative inquiry, but these thoughts represent a desire
for something positive. For example, in this complaint the respondent expresses a
negative thought about missed meetings. However, this negative thought reaffirms the
positive state of the desire to have regular meetings with the manager:
That would be my only complaint with [manager] is that he has to be in so
many meetings that hes very busy so sometimes we have had to
reschedule our staff meetings or our one-on-ones. And then those things
we put in place cant come to fruition, you know, like time for talking
about development or direction on projects. (r230.2)
Thus, the presence of negative comments can indicate positive or desirable states.
When using appreciative inquiry, it is up to the researcher to determine whether
negative comments are truly critical comments or expressions of the flip side to a
positive state. This duality in method means that each negative comment needs to
be scrutinized for expressions of positive states. In the coding for this study, the
positive state was coded as the category, but the degree of negativity was coded
by weighting the comment numerically.
In answers to the three wishes question, interviewees mentioned negative
aspects of the current organization. However, very often these comments were
expressions of frustration with the pace of modern organizations. These wishes
included things like more time to meet face to face or one on one with
supervisors, less e-mail, fewer meetings, clearer prioritizations, and the like.
Table 14 describes all comments in terms of their positive or negative nature.

152
Table 14
Percent of Comments Showing Critical, Concerned, Slightly Concerned, or Positive View
Critical

Concerned

Slight Concern

Positive

GMD

2.88%

1.65%

0.41%

95.06%

GSD

6.14%

1.48%

0.64%

91.74%

RMD

3.93%

1.69%

1.12%

93.26%

All Divisions

4.67%

1.59%

0.75%

93.00%

While Cameron et al. (2003) suggested that 20% of content should be negative to avoid
bias in positive organizational scholarship, appreciative inquiry researchers insist that
good interviewers will channel negative answers into positive responses (Cooperrider et
al, 2003; Watkins & Mohr, 2001). The number of negative comments in this study is
more consistent with the general appreciative inquiry approach than with a ratio Cameron
et al. (2003) proposed. Given that this study focused specifically on the openly positive
approach of appreciative inquiry, the low percentage of negative responses appears to be
congruent with the intent of the research methodology. Figure 9 compares the number of
negative comments among divisions and in the aggregate.

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7.00%

% of total mentions

6.00%
5.00%
4.00%
3.00%
2.00%
1.00%
0.00%

Concerned

Slightly critical

Critical

All

1.61%

0.76%

4.63%

GMD

1.67%

0.42%

2.93%

GSD

1.51%

0.65%

6.25%

RMD

1.69%

1.13%

3.66%

Tone

Figure 9. Negative comments by division for Global Manufacturing Division (GMD),


Global Support Division (GSD), and Regional Marketing Division (RMD).
In the aggregate, positive comments made up 93% of all comments. Positive comments
represented 95% of the Global Manufacturing Divisions comments; 92% of the Global
Support Divisions comments; and 94% of the Regional Support Divisions comments.
Although the Global Support Division had a slightly higher percentage of critical
comments, overall it expressed roughly the same percentage of positive comments as the
other two divisions. Thus this researcher does not consider the slight disparity among
divisions in level of negative or positive comments as discrepant or disconfirming.

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Unanticipated Findings
Unanticipated Findings in the Collected Data
The literature review identified many examples of middle manager
communication approaches and use of channels and tools. Because the umbrella
organization is an international manufacturing organization with great technological
capability, the researcher expected to find a strong reliance on new media, or
technologies like Web conferencing, short text messaging, instant messaging and e-mail.
Second, because the literature often characterizes middle managers as in conflict with
senior management or in conflict with their direct reports, the researcher expected to find
that middle managers would have developed extensive coping tools to deal with these
two conflicts. Third, the literature noted that senior level commitment was required to
implement new initiatives. Thus, the researcher expected to find some evidence of these
three concepts in the data.

Aversion to E-mail and Preference for Human Interaction


In a world enamored with technology and in an organization firmly grounded in
engineering and technology, it was surprising to find that there was an aversion to e-mail
and a preference for human, face to face, or at least ear to ear through phone calls,
communication. People within the organization found that e-mail was too easy to use,
dissipated accountability, was easily misinterpreted, and took an inordinate amount of
time both to compose and to read. The sheer volume of e-mails received on any given
day imposed time constraints on all individuals and was blamed for taking time away

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from operational activities in human interaction. In some cases, e-mail was seen almost
as a gauche method for generating discussion, problem solving, or any type of
communication that involved more than just a simple transmission of data from one
person to another. This was especially true with the Six Sigma initiative. Individuals said
that they used e-mail in situations where a telephone call or a face-to-face meeting would
have been better, but this generally was not the case with issues involving Six Sigma.
The almost unanimous preference for human interaction was unexpected. Written
communication was seen as necessary to back up ideas, concepts, and discussions, but
was also seen as a poor substitute for face-to-face, one-on-one interaction. One direct
report explained:
I dont talk to [to my manager] on the phone, you know, I go downstairs
and talk to him. For me its face to face and it might be something just
walking past each other in the hallway or more of a phone call, Ive got
some time can you talk about something so thats kind of how he and I
communicate. Its more face to face. (r240.1)
Respondents preferred human contact. Even within the Six Sigma initiative, where
formal means for communicating exist, people still sought face-to-face contact for
making sense out of uncertainty (r250.3, r080.1). This preference for face-to-face
communication was unanticipated in a company known for its technological and
engineering prowess.

Lack of Expected Middle Manager Hierarchical Conflicts


In reviewing the data, there was no surprise in terms of the variety of tools,
approaches, and channels that middle managers use. What was surprising, however, was

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the lack of conflict between middle managers and their superiors and middle managers
and their direct reports in implementing the Six Sigma initiative. As discussed earlier,
senior management commitment in the Six Sigma initiative provided a harmonious line
of sight from senior levels to front line workers. This well coordinated line of sight
appears to have mitigated much of the level-to-level conflict that appears in the literature.
Respondents did not complain or mention conflicts between levels.

Strength of the Six Sigma Initiative and Leadership Commitment


Related to this lack of conflict, was the unexpected strength of the influence of the
leadership commitment in the Six Sigma initiative itself. From the data collected in the
interviews, it was clear that senior level commitment and the initiative itself aided middle
manager communication. A number of comments by respondents illustrated this
relationship. The following comment illustrates the general tone of these:
I can say that I have the complete support of my leadership and without
that this would be a very, very challenging and unrewarding position to be
in . . . to be championing something that you didnt feel you had the full
commitment of your leadership. And I do and that makes it a very
rewarding position. (s190.1)
The initiative itself seemed to create impetus and structure that allowed it to
succeed. Financial and other incentives created participation, which provided positive
results for the business and rewards for those involved in Six Sigma. The strength of
these organizational incentives was not expected to have the power that it did. Now that
the initiative has become almost second nature in the company, these incentives are often
taken for granted. But upon reflection, division members recognized the impact these

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incentives had as metaphors for the importance and value of implementing Six Sigma.
Without the attention to detail in the implementation of Six Sigma, including providing
good equipment, compensation incentives, and technology, communication would have
been seen as ineffective and meaningless (r080.2). One direct report noted that good
communication was not the reason Six Sigma was successful. Instead, he suggested, it
was because the initiative produced business results:
So what makes communication important? Nothing. What makes the
business results important is why were here . . . .The business results that
were the target were the real issue. Communication was just one of the
many elements to it. Is communication the objective? No. Good
communication is not the objective, good business results are the objective
and good communication is just one of the elements. (r80.2)
The structure of the Six Sigma initiative supported enhanced communication by
creating a common language and by forcing cross-functional communication. The
initiative essentially established communicative rules (Bronn & Bronn, 2003; Jabs, 2005)
for the Six Sigma initiative. The communication structures within the initiative combined
with the solid backing of the organization behind the initiative expedited middle manager
communication processes across and through layers (Hamel, 2000; Oshry, 1994).
Furthermore, the Six Sigma initiative depended on communicators known as Deployment
Champions and key facilitators/teachers known as Master Black Belts, Black Belts, and
Green Belts to help communicate the initiative. Deployment Champions assured the
initiative was diffused. In fact, one respondent who served as a Master Black Belt,
attributed the Six Sigma initiatives success to the dispersion of Deployment Champions
throughout the organization (m220.2).

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Others noted that the connection of Black Belts to management positions and the
placement of Black Belts provided linkages to both influential positions or hubs (Weenig,
1999) and access to multiple networks. Freelance Black Belts, as they were called in the
organization, were internal consultants who were brought in to areas as needed. As a
result, they were able to assist with the cross-pollination of ideas that diffusion theorists
claim are essential (Duck, 2001; Gladwell 2002; Rogers 1995; Weenig, 1999.)
Although the literature attests that leadership commitment is essential to any
change management effort (e.g., Duck, 2001; Kotter, 1996) the results from this inquiry
demonstrate that commitment must be exhibited beyond simple voicing of the intent to
make an initiative stick. In the umbrella organization senior management did more than
just pay lip service to the Six Sigma initiative. Senior management was actively engaged
in allocating human and financial resources in support of the Six Sigma initiative.
Beyond that, they engaged in creating the appropriate pressures necessary to develop
commitment within the ranks. This included extensive communications planning,
participation in diffusing the message, and being present for meetings, discussions, and
formal Six Sigma reviews.
Although much of the data that was gathered and analyzed was supported
previous studies, some of the findings were unexpected, especially for this large, Fortune
500 manufacturing behemoth. The aversion for e-mail and the preference for human
interaction, the lack of conflict among levels, and the strength of the initiative and senior
management support all were somewhat unanticipated by the researcher.

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Unanticipated Methodology Findings
Overall the organization embraced appreciative inquiry as a viable and interesting
methodology for inquiry. Individuals found it refreshing to concentrate on the positive
rather than what goes wrong. As part of this study, group interviews were to be
conducted and expected to generate positive feelings and new ideas or concepts regarding
the research problem. Two of these interviews were conducted. One consisted of three
direct reports and the other consisted of a senior manager and two middle managers. In
the case of the direct reports, the participants were already comfortable and collegial with
each other and appeared to enjoy each others company. While their interview was
upbeat, no new ideas were generated as a result of the group interaction.
In the management group interview, the conversation provided reinforcement of
earlier concepts but also generated concerns for the future by juxtaposing a positive past
with a more mundane present. The group recalled the excitement and enthusiasm for the
initiative when it began. Now that the initiative had been firmly established in the day-today operations, particularly in the exemplary divisions, the management group tended to
express more concern about sustaining the initiative than generating hopeful ideas for the
future. Whether it was the result of the researchers inexperience with the appreciative
methodology, or the stark reality that the initiative was no longer novel, this group
interview failed to generate the type of hopeful, energetic response that has been
associated with this methodology (Schall et al., 2004).

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Evidence of Quality in the Study
All research studies require means or measures to assure the quality of gathering
data and completion of analysis. For this study the measures that were outlined in chapter
3 are used to assess the evidence of quality in the study. Five main areas are discussed:
(a) objectivity, (b) validity and reliability, (c) ethical protection of subjects, (d) the
interview instruments, and (e) notes regarding the analysis used in executing the study.
Strauss and Corbin (1998) suggested that objectivity in qualitative studies is
achieved by giving voice to those who are interviewed (p. 43). They suggest four ways to
think comparatively about the data to improve objectivity, (a) looking at the data in
context, (b) comparing the data within the interviewees organization, (c) looking at the
data vis--vis the literature reviewed, and (d) interviewing different people (Strauss &
Corbin, p. 43). All four of these approaches were accomplished in this study.
The data were put into context by comparing the comments of three different
levels of employees within the umbrella organization. Much of this comparison was
accomplished by using the tools associated with the software MAXqda (2004). This
software allowed the researcher to conduct intertextuality studies that provide a general
sense of the uniformity of understanding across levels and divisions. Data were exported
from MAXqda into spreadsheet software which facilitated comparisons between
divisions, managers, levels, categories, and the tone of the comments. For example,
virtually all respondents mentioned Black Belts in their interviews. Out of 33 individuals
and 35 interviews, 857 mentions of Black Belts occurred in 31 interviews. These

161
comparisons not only put the interviewee comments in context to each other, but also
provided context for the comments within the organization.
The researcher also spent extensive time reviewing the comments in light of the
literature review. These linkages have already been discussed in depth in this chapter.
Nonetheless this exercise in linking communication processes that were described in the
interviews to outcomes that were described in the literature review satisfies the need to
comparatively think about the gathered data and the existing body of literature.
Finally, objectivity can be guaranteed interviewing different people and reviewing
different materials. The researcher interviewed 33 different people who resided in three
different divisions. These interviewees were located in eight different places, with one
located in Brazil, four located in Northern Ireland, three located in a Southern state
distant from the home organizations headquarters, and one located about 100 miles north
of the organizations headquarters. The variety of managerial level, division of
employment, and national and international location can be seen as satisfying the need to
interview different people.
The researcher also made a point of reading the umbrella organizations literature
regarding Six Sigma and organizational communication. This included such things as
PowerPoint presentations, training manuals, newsletters, website information, Security
and Exchange Commission filings, annual reports, and three books written especially
through corporate offices to document the journey of Six Sigma at the umbrella
organization. In comparing these materials to interviewee verbatim responses, the
researcher found strong consistency in understanding and expression for the value of the

162
Six Sigma initiative. This activity satisfied the fourth requirement that Strauss and Corbin
(1998) asserted was necessary to document quality.
This study was a qualitative study and, as a result, does not rely on traditional
empirical conceptualizations of objectivity, validity, and reliability. Lincoln and Guba
(1985) asserted that validity and reliability in qualitative studies is demonstrated by
careful attention to the details of the research methodology. They suggested that rather
than looking for the traditional evidence of validity and reliability, qualitative researchers
look for trustworthiness in the study (Lincoln & Guba, p. 295). Trustworthiness includes
eliciting honest answers to questions and making sure that the reconstruction of these
comments are accurate and credible (Lincoln & Guba, p. 295).
Ways of assuring accuracy includes provoking honest answers and keeping good
records. The appreciative inquiry approach, by its very nature, increases the likelihood of
eliciting honest answers by its decidedly positive focus. According to Schall et al. (2004),
the focus on what goes well rather than what goes wrong releases the tension and conflict
of interviewing which may require participants to blame others or find fault. In this study,
even the questions that could have elicited negative answers were framed in a positive
tone. Only two questions actually provided openings for negative answers. One of these
questions sought to determine what things the interviewee would change about the
organization. Rather than asking the interviewee what needed to be fixed or what needed
to be changed, the interviewer asked what the participant would wish for if given three
wishes. One interviewee described how framing this question actually evoked positive,
not negative responses on his part:

163
For me its probably thinking about the three wishes, of what I would wish
for to be honest with you. I mean its just a different perspective that you
dont often think about and when you think about what three things are
most important, from my point of view, what I wish for I think are things
that would have both impact on the people and impact on the performance
of the company. Just thinking through that, the selection of the three things
that you think are the important things is a fruitful exercise for me
personally. (r070.1)
The other question was an open ended question that allowed participants to provide the
researcher with any other stories or information that they thought was important to the
study. In answering both of these questions, interviewees seemed comfortable and open.
It seems likely then that the answers given by those interviewed were honest and could be
deemed accurate.
The interviewee records consisted of both digital media and text media. The
digital media consisted of the recorded interviews of the 33 participants. The equipment
that was used to gather to get the data was a high quality digital voice recorder. This
recorder was sensitive enough to easily and accurately record the voice of respondents
even in noisy conditions, which occurred in one interview, or in situations with white
noise background, which occurred frequently. In addition, a highly sensitive telephone
recording microphone was used to capture verbatim data when respondents were
interviewed over the phone. The digital files were downloaded directly from the
transcription device to a laptop computer, where transcription software resided. Because
the transfer of data involved only one step, it eliminated the possibility of the
degeneration of the audio quality of the file through multiple download iteration.
The transcription of the verbatim data was accomplished by the researcher herself
and about one third of the interviews were transcribed by the researcher through the

164
process of listening and then keyboarding the verbatim comments into a word processing
program. This is a typical transcription process. The other two thirds of the interviews
were transcribed using voice recognition program. In this process, the interviewer
listened to the comments of the respondents and then repeated them into the voice
recognition software. According to a transcription class instructor, voice recognition
software is estimated to be anywhere from 80% to 90% accurate (J. Spengler, personal
communication, September 21, 2006). To compensate for the potential of error in
transcription, the researcher read through all transcripts and listened to the original voice
data to make corrections. The corrected transcripts were then formatted and sent either
through courier or regular mail as hard copy or sent via e-mail as an electronic file to the
interviewee. Consistent with Lincoln and Gubas (1985) admonition that accuracy of
qualitative data should be confirmed by the participants, the researcher elicited changes,
corrections, or additions to the transcripts from each interviewee for each interview in
which they participated.
In six cases, participants notified the researcher and asked for changes. In two
cases, the interviewees felt that the verbatim transcription of the spoken word looked
convoluted and unclear. In spite of the fact that both participants had been told that the
transcripts would not be viewed as a whole but rather as clips of short expressions
regarding the themes that would emerge from the research, the participants chose to
rewrite the entire transcript. A comparison of the transcripts and the rewritten material by
the researcher showed that for all intents and purposes the content expressed the same
concepts and ideas. In two cases, the interviewee asked for corrections of grammar

165
punctuation and spelling. These changes were made in the transcripts that were used for
analysis. In two different cases, interviewees asked for sections to be redacted because
they felt the information could be proprietary and should not be shared. These requests,
which were consistent with the confidentiality agreement, were honored. Thus through
these practices the researcher not only guaranteed that the materials and transcripts were
accurate by having each individual view the transcript, but the researcher also complied
with the terms of confidentiality and the informed consent.
The third area that provides evidence of the quality of the study includes strict
adherence to the ethical protection of participants. This protection has been evident in this
study from beginning to end. The study began with the signing of a confidentiality
agreement with the umbrella organization, which guaranteed that the research would not
reveal the identification of the organization or release information that would identify it
without the permission of the umbrella organization. The researcher has adhered to this
agreement. Each participant was provided with an informed consent form and often,
either through telephone calls or e-mail, clarified the terms of the consent form. In other
words, participants were keenly aware of the parameters of the form and willingly
participated in the study. The fact that six candidates did not participate in the study is
evidence that no coercive force was applied to make candidates participate and that
participation was indeed voluntary by the respondents.
To further protect the confidentiality of each of the participants, the researcher
developed an elaborate coding structure to provide identifiers that could not be easily
linked to any participant. All text files, audio files, spreadsheet files, and MAXqda (2004)

166
files reside in protected computer files where no one but the researcher has access to the
files. The only exception to this storage system is that each participant received either a
hard copy or electronic copy of his or her own transcripts. If they so chose, they could
share these transcripts with others. Such a breach of confidentiality is beyond the ability
of the researcher to control and certainly resides within the rights of those who
participated.
Another means of demonstrating the quality of the research lies in the
development and use of the instrument. The interview protocols, which comprised the
test instrument, were developed based on the work of Schall et al. (2004) and the work of
Cooperrider et al. (2003). The dissertation committee for this research project approved
the research protocols. The research protocols were followed in all interviews and in
many interviews, the candidates had an opportunity to review and clarify the questions
before the interview. In some cases this resulted in a simplified asking of the research
question to better help the interviewee respond. However in none of the cases was the
core of the interview question changed.
Samples of notes used during the execution of the study provide the last type of
evidence to demonstrate quality in research. Earlier in this chapter, the researcher
included memo samples from MAXqda software (2004) used to keep track of ideas as
they emerged during verbatim comment analysis. The researcher also included
MAXqdas Code Matrix Browser screenshot, which assisted the researcher in identifying
broad-based support in the comments for various categories. In addition to these

167
electronic tools, the researcher used traditional tools, such as sketching in a notebook and
using sticky notes sort ideas and coalesce thoughts. An illustration appears in Figure 10.

Figure 10. Sticky note logs.

Throughout the study the researcher was careful to adhere to the principles that
would guarantee the quality of this research project. By placing comments in context,
viewing data within the confines of the umbrella organization, linking findings to the
literature, interviewing different people, and reviewing a multitude of materials
associated with the Six Sigma initiative, the researcher has protected objectivity as
described by Strauss and Corbin (1998). Likewise, the researcher has met the test of
trustworthiness that was described by Lincoln in Guba (1985) by being attentive to the

168
research methodology, eliciting honest and accurate responses, keeping good records, and
obtaining confirmation from participants.
The researcher also maintained the ethical protection of participants to the
confidentiality agreement, informed consent forms, and the coding and storage of data.
The test instrument was developed based on previous work of appreciative inquiry
researchers and was approved by the dissertation committee. While the instrument itself
was not modified, the group interview questions were only employed twice, most likely
without any adverse impact to the findings of the study. Last, the researcher has provided
samples of transcripts in Appendix P, and evidence of other logging activities in Figure
10. Through this discussion, the research conducted for this study can be seen as
satisfying the need to provide evidence of the quality of the research project.

Summary
In this chapter the data collection process was discussed. The data tracking,
memo, and catalog systems were explained. The qualitative analysis software, MAXqda
(2004), and how it was used to analyze the data was explained. The research findings
were reported. In these findings seven categories of communication processes were
identified. These included: (a) making sense out of equivocal or uncertain circumstances;
(b) relating to people on human terms; (c) aligning departmental work to the enterprise;
(d) using the tools and elements of story to communicate; (e) anchoring the initiative
firmly in organizational prerogatives; (f) crafting messages that are effective, efficient,
and appropriate; and (g) providing support to people in their work and lives. The

169
activities that support these codes were described in verbatim comments were quoted to
illustrate the activities.
Discrepant cases and disconfirming data were explored, but were found to have
no impact on how the data was analyzed or interpreted. Unanticipated findings were
described and included: (a) the disenchantment with e-mail, (b) the overwhelming
preference for human interaction over other forms of communication, (c) the lack of
hierarchical conflicts usually associated with middle managers, (d) the strength of senior
management commitment for middle manager communication processes, and (e) the
disappointing results of the group interview in the appreciative inquiry methodology. The
quality of evidence was investigated and its integrity was assured. The reporting of the
data and assurance of the data integrity creates a foundation for the next chapter, in which
study findings are interpreted and actions as a result of the study are suggested.

170
CHAPTER 5
SUMMARY, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Overview
In this final chapter, the study is summarized, conclusions are described and
recommendations for further study and social change are made. This summary includes
an explanation of why the study was done, how the study was completed, and a brief
review of the findings from chapter 4. The summary sheds light on the answers that
emerged through the investigation to the research question: How do middle managers
communicate across organizational layers so that senior management initiatives succeed
in organizations?
Second, the research findings from chapter 4 are interpreted based on the research
questions. This interpretation includes a description of the boundaries of the data and the
relationship of the findings to the theoretical framework and the literature. The
conclusions that were drawn as a result of data analysis are delineated.
Following the discussion on conclusions, recommendations are made. This
includes how the study might effect social change and possible means for disseminating
the findings of this study. The researcher also describes the research experience,
including sources of potential bias, effects the researcher might have had on the
participants, and changes in thinking the researcher experienced. Recommendations for
further study are addressed.

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Summary of the Study
This study was an appreciative inquiry on how middle manager communication
generates positive organizational results. Appreciative inquiry focuses on what works
well in implementing an initiative and downplays problems or failures. This study sought
to identify, explore, and describe how middle managers communicate to achieve
successful organizational outcomes. Often middle managers have been blamed for the
failure of organizational initiatives or for poor outcomes. Thus, the study held the
potential to shed light on communication practices that could enhance organizational
performance.
Between June and September 2006, interviews on communication practices
relating to Six Sigma were conducted at a Fortune 500 manufacturing company. The
research question was: How do middle managers communicate across organizational
layers so that senior management initiatives succeed in organizations? Subquestions
included:
1. What are the approaches exemplary middle manager communicators use to
create successful outcomes and why?
2. What are the channels exemplary middle managers communicators employ to
create successful outcomes and why?
3. What are the tools exemplary middle manager communicators employ to
create successful outcomes and why?
Thirty-five interviews of 33 individuals were completed at three study sites. Two
of these interviews were group interviews; all others were individual interviews.

172
Specifically, the researcher investigated the style or approach, channels, and tools middle
managers used to communicate successfully. More than 13 hours and 350 pages of
verbatim interviews were transcribed and analyzed. The analysis was accomplished using
MAXqda (2004), a robust, qualitative research software that allows multiple levels of
coding. All data were sorted as elements of communication, such as channels or tools,
and as processes of communication. Two other forces, leadership commitment and the
strength of the initiative itself, were coded separately but included as elements of
communication. An analytical method similar to the affinity process was used to cluster
more than 1,000 coded segments into activities and communication process categories.
To help with recall, the researcher applied the word changes as a mnemonic for
the communication processes middle managers used. These process categories included:
1. Contextual process, making sense out of equivocal or uncertain situations.
2. Heartfelt process, relating to people on very human terms.
3. Aligned process, aligning departmental work to enterprise goals and
strategies.
4. Narrative process, using the tools and elements of story to communicate.
5. Grounded process, anchoring the initiative firmly in organizational
prerogatives.
6. Elegant process, crafting messages that are effective, efficient, and
appropriate.
7. Supportive process, providing support to people in their work and lives.

173
The interpretation of these findings and the conclusions that were drawn are discussed
next in this chapter.

Interpretation of the Research Findings


This study sought to identify, explore, and describe exemplary communication
practices that middle managers use in creating successful organizational initiatives. The
main research question was: How do middle managers communicate across
organizational layers so that senior management initiatives succeed in organizations?
Approaches, channels, and tools middle managers use also were investigated as
subquestions to the main research question. First, a discussion of the findings from the
subquestions will be provided. Then the researcher will explain how she interpreted the
broader research findings.

Interpretation of Findings Related to Subquestion 1


The findings from analysis of the style or approach exemplary middle managers
used, as reported in chapter 4, indicated that middle managers were intricately involved
in sensemaking activities within their organization; middle managers were open and
trustworthy and created a safe environment for interchange and discussion; middle
managers took the time to learn about Six Sigma, were convinced of its value themselves,
and were actively involved in generating interest and enthusiasm. The fact that middle
managers engaged in these activities was not a surprise, but these findings demonstrated

174
that these activities were requisite in implementing the Six Sigma initiative in the
umbrella organization.

Interpretation of Findings Related to Subquestion 2


Middle managers appeared to be people oriented and were committed to
facilitating the work of those they supervised, as evidenced by the findings reported in
chapter 4. They were discerning thinkers and could identify the needs of different groups
and tailor their messages accordingly. They were flexible and able to use a variety of
channels to communicate and were spontaneous and opportunistic, using casual
conversations to reinforce the Six Sigma initiative. They also were visual and were
comfortable sketching and drawing charts and graphics to enhance communication.
These exemplary middle managers were highly invested in the success of the enterprise
and made monitoring, goal setting, and encouraging part of their approach to
communication. These channels are consistent with the literature as far as the duties and
activities of managers are concerned (Mintzberg, 2004; Whetton & Cameron, 2002).
What was striking about these findings was the middle managers dedication to
connecting to others using human means, including finding time to meet face to face,
personalizing messages, and scheduling one-on-one meetings in the midst of hectic
schedules.

175
Interpretation of Findings Related to Subquestion 3
Like the approach and the channel questions, the findings on middle manager
communication tools were varied. The use of e-mail generated almost three times as
many responses as all other categories. But often the comments were describing how the
middle manager avoided using e-mail whenever possible. What can be said about middle
managers is that when they do use tools such as e-mail, PowerPoint, or even the
telephone, they use them effectively and they use them in a manner that is respectful of
direct reports or others time. These findings shed a new light on Daft and Lengals
(1986) media richness model, which asserted that media choice was based on the tool that
would best reduce uncertainty and equivocality. Even though middle managers may have
realized that e-mail was not the best tool, they found themselves using it out of necessity,
usually based on time constraints. Thus, the question that seems more appropriate ask in
the future is not what tools individuals use, but how they make them effective.
The interpretation of the subquestions leads to another question: How did these
middle manager communication activities result in such positive results for the umbrella
organization? To understand the answers to this question, it is necessary to interpret the
interaction of the seven process categories that emerged from data analysis.

The Seven Categories


As reported in chapter 4 the seven processes emerged from the data through an
affinity process. These seven overarching processes include: (a) making sense out of
equivocal or uncertain circumstances; (b) relating to people in human terms; (c) aligning

176
departmental work to the enterprise; (d) using the tools or elements of story to
communicate; (e) anchoring the initiative firmly in organizational prerogatives; (f)
crafting messages that are effective, efficient, and appropriate; and (g) providing support
to people in their work and lives.
An in-depth discussion of the communication activities associated with these
communication processes was provided in chapter 4. To help understand the
interrelatedness of the processes in explaining exemplary middle manager
communication, the researcher used a tool called the interrelationship diagraph (Cowley
& Domb, 1997, p. 77). This tool illustrates how categories impact or influence each
other. For example, does the alignment communication process positively influence the
capability of the contextual communication process in supporting the successful
implementation of the Six Sigma initiative or is the relationship reversed? The researcher
used this tool to compare the seven categories to each other. The diagraph appears in
Figure 11.

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Figure 11. Interrelationship diagraph.


In the diagraph, arrows going out of the boxes illustrate the likelihood of that
process having influence over the process of the targeted box. By using this diagraph, the
effect of each to overall communication can be discerned. As noted by Cowley and
Domb (1997), boxes that have more outgoing arrows are key drivers. Those that have
more incoming arrows are desired outcomes or outputs. Boxes with about the same
number of arrows entering and leaving are considered means to the end (Cowley &
Domb, p. 77). According to Cowley and Domb, the boxes with the most arrows leaving
are considered the most influential in the overall success of any initiative (p. 77).
The Contextual Communications Process
Contextual is influenced by whether the initiative is heartfelt by the middle
manager, aligned with organizational initiatives, has been placed in narrative form, is

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grounded in the organizational prerogatives, is easily understood or elegant, and
demonstrates support for people. All of these processes determine how messages are put
into context or how meaning is attached. By definition, contextual is an outcome.

The Heartfelt Communication Process


Grounding and aligning communication determines whether a manager can truly
believe in the initiative. Belief and commitment influence whether the manager can put
the initiative in context, can support staff in the initiative, or care enough to craft elegant
messages and narrative communications. Heartfelt, by definition, is a means to an end.

The Aligned Communication Process


Grounding the initiative determines whether it can align with organizational
prerogatives. The actual alignment determines whether an individual can generate
heartfelt support, place it in context, create narratives, and craft elegant messages.
Aligned, by definition, is a key driver.

The Narrative Communication Process


With the exception of elegant, all other processes influence the ability to create
narrative examples. Narrative, as a form of crafting a message, influences elegant
because it structures information into the story format. Narrative is an output.

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The Grounded Communication Process
The grounded function, which relies on leadership commitment, influences all
other processes because it sets the parameters for organizational expectations and
provides the gist of communication messages. Grounded is a key driver.

The Elegant Communication Process


Elegant is influenced by all other processes except contextual. The degree to
which the other processes provide clarity both organizationally and personally determines
the extent to which the manager can craft effective and efficient messages. Elegant is an
outcome.

The Supportive Communication Process


Grounded and aligned functions determine the parameters under which a manager
can be supportive. Heartfelt determines whether the manager will feel supportive.
Supportive determines how the message will be placed into context, what kinds of stories
are told, and the degree to which the manager cares about the message being concise and
appropriate. Supportive is a means to the end. Figure 12 illustrates the impact among the
various communication processes.

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Figure 12. Key drivers, means, and outputs in exemplary communication.

Key Drivers
In interpreting the results of the study, this exercise demonstrates the value of
grounding and alignment in supporting exemplary middle manager communication.
These processes impact the middle managers ability to maintain consistency in action,
talk, and deeds; to identify and create linkages to organizational goals; to prioritize and
plan work so that goals may be set; to leverage senior management commitment to the
initiative to generate collaboration. Second, and more important, grounding the initiative
firmly in organizational prerogatives is essential. This means that senior management
recognizes the link between strong organizational communication and results. It also
means that senior level managers create appropriate incentives that are meaningful and
influential to those that they need to participate in the initiative. To put it in the

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vernacular, through these two processes senior managers put their money where their
mouth was. These findings, generated from an analysis of the verbatim comments of the
interviewees, suggest that if middle managers are ineffective in communicating to create
successful organizational initiatives, the difficulty may not reside entirely with the middle
manager, but with leader support and perhaps the initiative itself.

Means-to-the-End
In the interrelationship diagraph both supportive and heartfelt categories are
identified as means to an end. These two processes can be viewed as communication
filters through which any initiative must pass. If people fail to trust their managers, if the
manager is unapproachable, if the manager is skeptical, and if the manager has no
credible knowledge or expertise of the initiative, it is unlikely that the senior manager
initiative effectively will be communicated to direct reports through the middle manager
without distortion. Second, if the middle manager does not value people, is not interested
in helping people, cannot create a safe environment for the discussion of ideas, will not
meet with people one on one or face to face, and does not encourage and recognize
achievement, the message may be delivered to direct reports, but it will not be reinforced.
As a result it is not likely to have the staying power to take effect.

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Outcomes
The last three process boxes indicate the types of communication processes that
make understanding and acceptance easier. Middle managers who are able to make sense
of equivocal or uncertain circumstances, use the tools and elements of story to
communicate and craft messages that are effective, efficient, and appropriate will
generate greater understanding of the initiative and help people accept it. Developing a
context for direct reports relies on understanding and leveraging existing departmental
and individual predilections, tailoring the message to the audience, and generating
interest and buy-in. To do this, middle managers must be willing to teach and coach.
Supporting structures from the initiative itself and from the organization, particularly
through senior level commitment, will help the middle manager reduce uncertainty and
equivocality with any new initiative.

Summary of Key Drivers, Means to End, and Outcomes


In reconsidering the original research question, how do exemplary middle
managers communicate across organizational layers so that senior management initiatives
are successfully implemented, the answer is they do it by creating contextual, narrative,
and elegant messages through supportive and heartfelt communication. The question that
was not asked but has emerged from this study is: How were exemplary middle managers
able to communicate so that senior management initiatives were successfully
implemented? The answer to that question is that the initiative must be both aligned and
grounded in the organization. Although the literature mentions the need for senior

183
management commitment in driving through initiatives, this study revealed the
foundational necessity of the grounded and aligned processes. What is new in this study
is the discovery that the initiative itself through its structures and language had an
inherent communication capability. In the course of this investigation, the literature did
not include studies on determining whether a contemplated organizational initiative will
restrict or encourage communication. The Six Sigma initiative had this capability.

Interpretation of the Findings on Appreciative Inquiry


The appreciative inquiry was well accepted and generated more than 125,000
words related to middle manager exemplary communication. The technique caused
people to think in positive terms, as evidenced by the number of positive comments
compared to negative comments. However, the researcher did encounter difficulties
generating actual stories with beginnings, middles, and ends in using this technique. This
finding, however, should not be surprising given the multiple definitions of the word
story in the literature (Boje, 2001; Czarniawska, 1999; Denning, 2001; & Gabriel, 2000).
The researcher, however, did not find that the group interviews generated any
greater feelings of hope or comparatively different answers from the individual
interviews. Although the interviewer can say the interviewees generally enjoyed
themselves, only one of the two groups actually focused more on positive outcomes than
on concerns for the future. This could have been due to the inexperience of the researcher
in facilitating this kind of interview rather than a flaw in the methodology. The group

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interview, however, may not always be a feasible approach in an appreciative inquiry,
particularly where time, location, and cost are issues.
Based on the researchers previous interviewing experiences, appreciative inquiry
did offer distinct advantages. When the protocol was proposed to the study site, the study
was accepted without much difficulty due to, in large part, the relative small possibility of
internal weaknesses being brought to light. Participants who contacted the researcher
with concerns about the interviews, with the exception of one, were relieved to hear that
their interviews would focus around positive comments and not require them to risk
criticizing their company to an outsider. One simply refused based on the research
questions but would not elaborate. Thus, the research methodology made it much easier
to access interviewees and to establish trust even before the interview began.
Finally, the appreciative inquiry approach offers great potential for providing
another perspective in generating understanding. In a world that has so many problems,
an appreciative inquiry may bring to light ways of leveraging successes. Virtually all of
the respondents of this study were intrigued by the approach and noted how infrequently
they looked for what works well for what gives hope. The appreciative inquiry also
caused self-reflection among some respondents, which generated new levels of
understanding for them about how their managers communicate and how they
communicate back. It is possible that appreciative inquiry, applied to existing social
problem, may help create this kind of mutual understanding.

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Boundaries of the Evidence
As in any qualitative study, statistical measures to ensure replication or
generalization to other circumstances are not present in this study. The boundaries of the
data are straightforward. While the findings of this study may provoke other
organizations to examine their methods of communicating senior management initiatives,
the data here apply only to the exemplary divisions of the umbrella organization, to those
exemplary managers, and the Six Sigma initiative. In the instance of the study
organization, the deployment of Six Sigma was universal throughout all organizations
and was supported by specialized communicators called Deployment Champions. This
deployment of specialized communicators may not be possible in all organizational
initiatives.
The conceptual framework for this study was social constructionism. This
framework asserts that all realities are created through social interaction. This study
investigated how one organization created a new reality through a Six Sigma initiative
and does not apply necessarily to other initiatives or organizations.

Social Change
Studies like this deal with the routine realities of organizational life. The social
change ramifications may seem small when compared to studies on broader human
problems like mental health, poverty, crime, or violence. But people who work full-time
minimally spend about 2,080 hours annually at work each, which represents 36% of the
workers waking hours. The quality of the work environment thus can have a

186
considerable impact on middle managers or those who supervise or are supervised by
middle managers. The study results may impact the practice of management by
demonstrating both the importance of leaders and the proposed capability of the initiative
in developing successful middle manager communication. The findings of this study may
be used to develop new ways to evaluate organizational plans for new initiatives,
particularly as they relate to middle managers. It also may help organizations develop
expectations for middle manager communication. Since middle managers make up about
10% of the American workforce (United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2004),
improving their management practice may impact job satisfaction, retention rates, and
other quality of life factors, both for the middle managers and for those they supervise.
Creating the conditions for exemplary middle manager communication also may
result in broader social change. It is clear from this study that senior level managers
valued the role of communication, invested significant resources in it, and did all they
could to keep the organization focused on the ultimate outcome, which was implementing
Six Sigma to generate cost savings and improved business results. This focus, and the
supporting structures that were incorporated into the deployment of the initiative,
supported middle manager communication. If this type of focus and alignment had been
practiced across layers, it is possible that the Challenger would not have launched and the
safety and evacuation of Hurricane Katrina victims would have been expedited.
The choice of an initiative that had communication practices and supports within
it also has implications. Based on the findings of this study, it seems reasonable that
advocates for social change initiatives should contemplate how the initiative itself will

187
foster or restrict communication among those who will be responsible for implementing
it. Umbrella organization employees found that the structure and terminology of Six
Sigma created a common language that helped bridge disparate divisions. This common
language helped to speed up the diffusion of the initiative in the organization. This lesson
should not be lost for those who seek social change. If a common language is not part of
an initiative, it might be helpful to find terms and concepts common to all stakeholders.
This common ground can provide a firm foundation for creating a new social reality.
On a more practical level, the findings from this study illustrate the problems with
using electronic media to convey meaning. In a day when electronic media are
ubiquitous, the temptation to avoid human contact in exchanging information and
creating meaning is great. The respondents in this study expressed a lack of enthusiasm
for electronic media in that it stripped away many of the human dimensions, such as tone
of voice or facial expressions, needed to accurately create meaning. While it seems like a
small thing, this study reinforces the potency of face-to-face human contact in developing
understanding and support. As the workforce becomes more diverse and more global, the
human side of communication needs to be contemplated and most likely elevated.

Recommendations for Action


For those interested in organizational effectiveness and communication, this
research might generate new ways of assessing the likelihood of organizational initiatives
succeeding. In the past, middle managers have been considered intractable, withdrawn,
and self-serving (Balogun, 2003; Huy, 2002; Peters, 1992; Thomas & Linstead, 2002)

188
when dealing with senior level demands. Yet this study demonstrated that middle
managers alone are not responsible for derailing organizational initiatives. High level
work eased middle manager communication at this study site. Thus, as executives
contemplate initiatives, they might evaluate the resources they are willing allocate to the
initiative and the degree to which they are willing to support it. This backing, at least in
the context this study, appears foundational to successful implementation.

Recommendations for Specific Organizational Actions


Specific actions that organizations, especially senior level managers, might take
as a result of this study include activity in six key areas: (a) communication approaches
of middle managers, (b) communication channels of middle managers, (c)
communication tools of middle managers, (d) key driver processes in new initiatives, (e)
means-to-the-end processes in new initiatives, and (f) outcome processes in new
initiatives.
While it is unlikely that organizational members will read this dissertation (it
lacks, in particular, the quality of elegance that was identified in the analysis), the
findings will be disseminated throughout the umbrella organization through an executive
report. It also is likely that this researcher will prepare manuscripts from this study for
publication. Finally, this researcher consults from time to time with organizations on
communication. Through the actual publication of this dissertation and the activities just
described, the findings will be disseminated.

189
Middle Manager Communication Approach
This study identified several activities that middle managers engage in to create
an effective approach to communication of new initiatives. Organizations may benefit by
comparing the list of codes identified in this study to the accountabilities they have
created for this level of leader. Organizations also may want to identify and implement
ways of training and educating middle managers in this area. Middle managers may want
to emulate these activities and evaluate whether these types of communication activities
improve their rapport with subordinates and others in the organization.

Middle Manager Communication Channels


As discussed above, organizations may want to compare the list of activities
identified in this study related to communication channels to the list of accountabilities
they have created for middle managers. Leaders in organizations may want to consider
implementing Tichys (2004) teachable point of view as one of the channels they use in
disseminating information. Middle managers may want to find ways to schedule more
time for face-to-face discussion with those they supervise. They also may want to
develop ways to incorporate the narrative style in their communications, including
following the Six Sigma DMAIC process when appropriate to outline problem-solving
projects. They may want to learn how to tailor messages to specific groups and sharpen
their drawing and sketching skills to help others visualize their communication points.

190
Middle Manager Communication Tools
Organizations may want to investigate ways to assess the use of electronic
communication tools, especially e-mail and PowerPoint. Middle managers may want to
solicit feedback on their own e-mails and consciously try to use the telephone and
impromptu meetings more often. Of all the communication tools mentioned in the
interviews, e-mail by far was the most problematic. Organizations probably should
develop protocols and etiquette for using e-mail effectively. This area is discussed further
in the recommendations for further study.

Key Driver Communication Processes


The strength of the influence of the grounded and aligned communication
processes was stunning in this study. Organizations may want to assess the level of
commitment they provide with any new initiative. The CEO commitment, which
occurred six years before this study was conducted, has become legendary in the
umbrella organization. As leaders contemplate new initiatives, they should assess
whether the initiative provides the kind of communication structuring that Six Sigma did.
This includes a common language, a common narrative process, linkages to other
organizational goals and objectives, a means for prioritizing work, and the means for
creating cross functional communication.

191
Means-to-the-End Communication Processes
Based on the activities found in the heartfelt and supportive categories,
organizations may want to assess these softer skills in their managers before embarking
on new initiatives. Organizations also may want to incorporate training on facilitation
skills, negotiation skills, building trust and credibility, and skills on developing a safe
environment that encourages participation. Organizations may want to develop better
means for feedback and train managers in ways to solicit feedback.

Outcomes Communication Processes


The narrative, contextual, and elegant categories provide strong clues for how
organizations can assess their own communications, whether they are formal corporate
communications or informal talks among managers and staff. Organizations should be
interested in developing skills in middle managers to help them discern how to
effectively create context for their staff. The ability to create context will become more
urgent as the workforce becomes more diverse. The umbrella organization was able to
teach its managers how to do this, as evidenced by the responses from employees in
Brazil and in Northern Ireland. Finally, with the increased reliance on e-mail and the ever
mounting time pressures, organizations should train all managers how to be stingy, yet
effective, with the written word.
These actions represent some of the more obvious steps organizations and middle
managers can take as a result of this study. These recommendations will be forwarded to
the umbrella organization upon completion of this project. While these recommendations

192
were fairly obvious from the findings of the study, there are still many unanswered
questions. These questions are discussed in the next section.

Recommendations for Further Study


Through the interpretation of the research findings additional questions emerged.
Several questions associated with middle managers communication style or approach
surfaced. Are there other style or approach activities that are effective in implementing
senior management initiatives? Which are most effective in which organizations? The
same questions can be applied to the findings on channels. Which of these channels are
most effective and are there others that were not mentioned that would be helpful in
implementing organizational initiatives? Which ones are most important and which
should be developed by organizations? The findings on tools illustrate a need for more
research on the appropriate use of new media, particularly e-mail. Research questions
regarding this area are limitless, but an appreciative inquiry on exemplary uses of e-mail
as a communication device might prove fruitful.
This study concentrated on one organization deploying one initiative. The
findings of the study provoked a number of questions for future investigation:
1. Will this type of deployment work for other initiatives within this
organization? In the areas that were not exemplary, why did the approach not work?
2. Will this type of deployment work for other initiatives in other organizations?
Will it work for the deployment of Six Sigma in other organizations? Are there other
organizations where this model has been used that can be studied?

193
3. How influential was the initiative itself in creating successful implementation?
How influential were the organizational factors, such as the commitment of resources,
alignment with other initiatives, and leadership commitment, in generating successful
middle management communication?
4. If the grounded and aligned communication processes were absent, what
approaches would middle managers use to create successful implementation of
organizational initiatives?
5. How might cultural differences affect how middle managers communicate to
create successful implementation of organizational initiatives? Are there other initiatives
like Six Sigma that can overcome global cultural differences?
6. How can appreciative inquiry be used to identify, explore, and describe other
organizational phenomena involving middle managers? Are there other circumstances
where the group interview might yield richer information?
7. In a global economy that relies on electronic media and in organizations
where people are burdened by full schedules, is there a greater need for human
interaction in generating understanding? If so, what are the implications of this need, why
does it exist, and how can middle managers help meet that need?
As research often does, this study probably has raised more questions than
answers for the researcher. The above represent some of the more broad-based issues that
emerged and that link most directly to the findings of the study.

194
Reflections on the Research Experience
As noted in chapter 3, the researcher came to this study with several biases. These
biases included the acceptance that reality is socially constructed and the belief that
stories are key ingredients to organizational communication. The researcher also has
spent considerable time studying middle managers and disagreed with the premise of
Tom Peters (1992) that middle managers do not add value to organizations. The
researcher also was skeptical of using appreciative inquiry as a viable research method.
Overall, the research experience for the investigator was positive. In developing
the research protocol, however, the researcher was extremely nave in assessing the ease
and willingness of people to participate in a doctoral-level study. The most difficult
obstacle to overcome was arranging interviews. The interview process took a month
longer than anticipated. The major difficulty was not the study itself but that people were
exceptionally busy and interviews often needed to be booked weeks in advance.
Compared to other data gathering interviews in which this researcher has been
involved, the appreciative inquiry approach provided the quickest way to build rapport
with the interviewees. Many of the respondents were relieved to know that they were
only going to be asked about what worked. As a result, there was no pressure or tension
to withhold information. Interviews were relaxed and often included kidding and humor.
In appreciative inquiry, the researcher is considered a coinquirer with the
interviewee. According to Schall et al. (2002), when appreciative inquiry is used for
conducting research, the researcher has a less neutral and more active role and is more
involved with the interviewees than in other types of inquiry. Consequently, it was

195
appropriate for the researcher to engage in conversations with the respondents. From time
to time, the researcher would share her experience with Six Sigma and would compare
notes with the interview participants. Often, the participants would clarify Six Sigma
concepts for the researcher and give advice on how to manage Six Sigma projects in her
institution. Aside from this type of communication, the researcher did not inject opinion
or bias, at least knowingly, into any of the interviews.
In the past the researcher has seen middle managers as individuals caught between
the conflict of senior management and direct reports. The realities of isolation and
conflict discussed by Huy (2002), Oshry (1994), and Hamel (2000) were well observed
by this researcher. The researcher often felt that middle managers were placed in a nowin situation and that they had to choose between loyalty to senior levels or to direct
reports. This investigation changed that perception of the middle manager situation.
In this organization and among the exemplars, middle managers did not feel
isolated or torn. The striking difference between this organization and others the
researcher has experienced was what might be called the enterprise view. All members of
the organization shared a common understanding of what was important to the firm,
particularly as it applied to Six Sigma. This is not to say that middle managers, senior
managers, and direct reports agreed on every issue. For example, recently communicated
changes in the health care program were often mentioned in the discussions. While
members of the organization expressed different opinions of the change, they understood
why the change was being made and how it related to the overall broader enterprise
strategy. In fact, when individuals were granted three organizational wishes, many

196
wished for an even more aligned enterprise view. This understanding of what might be
called the greater good provided a common platform for discussions among all levels
Until this study, this researcher had not seen an example of where common vision
and aligned organizational goals actually made middle manager work easier. But in this
case, these elements certainly were at play and were noted as important elements for
middle managers by respondents. The researcher expected to find that exemplary middle
managers had ways to end-around corporate directives, but instead found cooperation and
support from the top. The structure of the initiative reduced the need for middle managers
to find ways around organizational practices.

Conclusion
Middle managers often have been demonized for their roles in communicating
organizational initiatives. Their failures and the problems they cause in organizations
have been studied and documented in the literature. Few studies sought to determine what
middle managers did well and how they contributed to organizational success. This study,
using appreciative inquiry as a methodology, focused exclusively on middle managers
and what they did well. The results of the study confirmed much of what has been
documented in the literature regarding the approaches, channels, and tools that effective
communicators use, regardless of whether they are senior, middle, or supervisory
managers. Consistent with the literature, this study found that middle managers used a
variety of approaches, channels and tools in communicating successful organizational
initiatives.

197
But this study also unearthed some unexpected and sometimes startling findings.
Contrary to the media richness theory (Daft & Lengal, 1984) that purports that managers
choose media that will best deliver their messages, sometimes middle managers had to
choose media that was available for convenience. E-mail and PowerPoint, which are two
of these media, were seen as necessary evils and perhaps needs study in the future on
how and when to use them. But what was really unexpected was that the conflict,
isolation, and confusion of middle managers so often depicted in the literature did not
seem to exist in this Six Sigma organization. Middle managers were engaged,
enthusiastic and knew how to work well with direct reports and others. The senior
leadership of the organization, and the initiative in itself, undeniably supported the
personal makeup and well developed skills of the exemplary middle managers.
The findings of this investigation of middle manager communication reinforced
many of the principles of communication reported in the existing literature. However, it
was clear from this study that the umbrella organization made two choices that influenced
middle managers ability to communicate to generate success for the Six Sigma initiative.
First, the senior management including the CEO, his group presidents, and his divisional
vice presidents made a very visible commitment to implementing Six Sigma. Second, the
initiative itself, as it was implemented in the umbrella organization, provided incentives
to encourage participation, a common language to ease communication, and special
advocates (Black Belts, Master Black Belts, and Deployment Champions) to enhance
diffusion. These things coupled with the skills and abilities of the middle managers made
the communication of Six Sigma work. The lesson learned is that middle managers

198
cannot generate success out of poorly conceived initiatives that lack sufficient leadership
sponsorship. One of the interviewees perhaps best summarized this final conclusion of
this study:
To get right to the heart of your thesis, is communication the reason we
had success? Well, we had real good success and good communication
was one of the contributing factors. But by itself, no. It would not have
turned a bad plan into success just having good communications. Ive seen
that before. And the words would have been useless without all of the
other infrastructure in place. (r080.3)

199
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213
APPENDIX A:
COVER LETTER SOLICITING ORGANIZATIONAL PARTICIPATION

214
November 14, 2005
Mr. Scott Johnson
Director, Corporate Six Sigma
Caterpillar Inc.
100 N.E. Adams St.
Peoria, Illinois 61629
Dear Sir:
At the suggestion of Mr. Tim Elder, last week I called your office regarding the possibility of
conducting a doctoral study at Caterpillar that would look at exemplary middle manager
communication. I realize that your Six Sigma responsibilities must keep your schedule very full,
so I thought I would send you preliminary information about my proposal and then follow up
with another phone call.
My study is unique in that it is investigating what goes right in implementing successful
organizational initiatives. Six Sigma, as practiced by Caterpillar Inc., has been demonstrated to be
a very successful organizational initiative. For example, one practice that seems to work
particularly well in implementing Six Sigma is the elevator speech. My investigative framework
uses a process known as appreciative inquiry, which focuses on behaviors, attitudes, and actions,
like the elevator speech, that create positive states in organizations. The study itself concentrates
on exemplary middle manager communication practices.
This study would be conducted confidentially. All information gleaned from interviews would be
treated as confidential, and neither the participants nor the companys name would be revealed in
my dissertation without the expressed written consent of Caterpillar.
The results of this research will be made available to Caterpillar upon completion of my
dissertation. I will be happy to provide a written report of my findings and would be willing to
present the findings in person, if Caterpillar so desired. I would also be willing to co-author with
Caterpillar personnel articles for the scholarly or practitioner literature. All of this, of course, is
offered without charge as part of my dissertation project.
I will be calling you in a few days to answer any questions you might have. In the meantime, if
you wish to contact me, you may call me at Illinois Central College, where I serve as the
marketing director, at 309/694-5599 or may e-mail at cfliege@waldenu.edu.
Thank you in advance for considering this study. I hope that we will be able to work together.
Sincerely,
Cheryl M. Fliege
Doctoral Student
/encl.

215
APPENDIX B:
EXPLANATION OF STUDY

216

A Study of
Exemplary
Middle Manager
Communicators
A doctoral-level inquiry into how organizations leverage
middle manager communicators to achieve exceptional
results.

217

A Study of Exemplary
Middle Manager Communicators
A doctoral-level inquiry into how organizations leverage middle manager
communicators to achieve exceptional results.

Introduction
When things go right, organizations celebrate. But they usually dont scrutinize the
elements of success the way they dissect the elements of failure.
Today management scholars believe that organizations are missing opportunities to
learn how to increase capacity, productivity, and employee commitment and satisfaction
because most researchers study what goes wrong, not what goes right1.
This study is an appreciative inquiry and seeks to discover the most positive,
energizing aspects of middle management communications work in the organization.
Rather than looking at gaps, deficits, failures, and problems, this research project
concentrates on exemplary organizational communication.
Middle managementthose who translate strategy into tacticsare perhaps the most
understudied and misunderstood organizational groups in our country2. While senior
level management makes up less than 0.3% of Americas workforce, midlevel leaders
comprise almost 10% of the workforce3. At the same time, scholars attribute only 10%
of the influence in organizations to senior level leaders4. Who, then, has influence in the
organization?
Many scholars say middle managers are in the position to exert significant influence in
the organization.5
Thats why this study seeks to find out what the best middle managers do in
communicating for results. It is hoped through this study common themes will emerge
on highly effective communication practices of middle managersand that these themes
will lead to ways to replicate those practices among other middle managers which, in
turn, will help increase achievement of organizational initiatives.

218

Purpose of the Study:


Management scholars have studied how middle management communication has
impeded achievement of desired organizational outcomes. This study looks at the
other side of the equation. Specifically, the purpose of this study is:

To identify the communication dynamics of middle management that lead to the


achievement of organizational success.

Research Question:
To achieve this purpose the research question that will be asked is:

How does middle management communicate across organization layers to achieve


exceptional organizational results or outcomes?

Research Conceptual Framework


Most organizational research to date has focused on deficits, problems, failures and
what is wrong with organizational behaviors. Positive organizational scholars suggest
that this approach intimidates research participants and causes defensive answers6.
Positive organizational scholarship (POS) is decidedly biased toward those attitudes
and behaviors in organizations that are generativethat means they produce
positive emotions, attitudes, and behaviors. The scholars of this relatively new
research concept assert that not only does such research discover what is positive
and life-enriching in organizations, but by the very nature of asking positive
questions, it reinforces and expands those attitudes and behaviors7.
Within the broad realm of POS is a specific approach called appreciative inquiry.
In a nutshell, this approach to research uses interview questions that elicit narratives
from research participants of exceptionally positive experiences and peak
performances in the organization. It has been suggested that not only do these
stories enlighten the organization on what is good, positive, and effective in the
organization, but also serves as inspiration for other staff8.
Some organizations are consistent high performers, but in all organizations there are
pockets of exceptional performance9. This study seeks to identify areas of
exceptional performance and discover what middle managers do to energize the
connection between senior management strategy and frontline achievement.

Research Methodology
The research methodology is described below:

219
1. The CEO or senior managers will identify a organizational initiative that has achieved
success, either throughout the organization or within pockets of the organization.
Success is defined as exceptionally exceeding an organizational target, meeting a
stretch goal, or achieving an expected or desired outcome ahead of schedule and/or
under budget. A organizational initiative is one in which most organizational
members are expected to participate. Examples include: achieving certifications or
accreditation, achieving high levels of consumer satisfaction, exceeding profit
targets, or implementing a product, service, or work approach ahead of schedule or
with greater participation than anticipated.
2. The researcher will conduct an hour audio or video interview with the CEO or senior
managers who have identified the initiative. The nature of this interview will focus
around what went right and how success was achieved. The CEO or senior
managers will be asked to identify three middle management representatives in
areas of the organization that achieved success who did an exemplary job in
communication that led to the achievement of the goals of the initiative.
3. The researcher then will conduct an individual and a group interview of the
exemplary middle managers. Like the senior level interview, these interviews will
focus on what works, what generated pride, and what went exceptionally well. The
individual interviews will gather initial information on exemplary practices. The group
interview provides the opportunity for the exemplars to interact face-to-face to
create multifaceted stories of success. Appreciative inquirers note that often the
interaction of groups to appreciative questions generates additional insight into
exemplary practice. These interviews will last between one and two hours and will
be audio or video taped. Middle managers are defined as those who are at least two
levels below the CEO or division leader and who directly supervise at least six
people.
4. The researcher will ask the exemplary middle managers to identify three of their
direct reports who responded well to their communications and strongly contributed
to the success of the initiative.
5. The researcher will interview each of the three direct reports individually and will
conduct a group interview as well. The interviews will focus on what the manager
did right, what worked in communication the organizational initiative, and what
generated pride. The interviews will last one to two hours and will be audio or video
taped.
All interviews, subjects, and data collected will be protected as confidential. To
expedite the process, the researcher will ask the study site to assist in scheduling
interviews by permitting study subjects time away from their jobs to participate.

220

Data Collection and Analysis


The information collected on the tapes will be transcribed and coded for analysis.
Repeating themes will be identified. A narrative that describes these themes and
their role in effective middle management communication will be crafted.

Reporting
The results will be reported in the researchers dissertation. Additionally, the
researcher will provide the study site with a research report. The researcher also will
provide an in-person report to members of the organization, at the organizations
request.

Time Frame
The study is tentatively scheduled to begin in the first quarter of 2006, if all Walden
University requirements have been fulfilled by that time.
1 Sorensen P. F., Jr., & Yaeger, T. F. (2004). Feedback from the positive question. In D. L. Cooperrider & M Avital (Eds.),
Advances in appreciative inquiry Vol. 1. Constructive discourse and human organization (pp.263-281). Oxford,
England: Elsevier, Ltd.|Cameron, K. D., Dutton, J. E., & Quinn, R. E. (2003). Foundations of positive organizational
scholarship. In K. S. Cameron, J. E. Dutton, & R. E. Quinn (Eds.), Positive organizational scholarship: Foundations of a
new discipline (pp.1-13). San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc. | Dutton, J. E. (2003). Breathing life into
organizational studies. Journal of Management Inquiry, 12(1), 5-19. | Ludema, J. D., Whitney, D., Mohr, B .J., &
Griffin, T. J. (2003). The appreciative inquiry summit: A practitioners guide for leading large-group change. San
Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc. | Barrett, F., & Fry, R. (2002). Appreciative inquiry in action: The unfolding
of a provocative invitation. In R. Fry, F. Barrett, J. Seiling, & D. Whitney (Eds.), Appreciative inquiry and organizational
transformation: Reports from the field (pp. 1-23). Westport, CT: Quorum Books.
2 Huy, Q. N. (2002). Emotional balancing of organizational continuity and radical change: The contribution of middle
managers. Administrative Science Quarterly, 47, 31-69. | Williams, D. (2001). Mining the middle ground. Boca Raton,
FL: St. Lucie Press.
3 United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, May, 2004
4 Statt, D.A. (2000). Using psychology in management training. London: Routledge.
5 Floyd, S. W., & Lane, P .J. (2000, January). Strategizing throughout the organization: Managing role conflict in
strategic renewal. Academy of Management Review, 25(1), 154-177. | Higgs, M. & Rowland, D. (2001). Developing
change leaders: Assessing the impact of a development programme. Journal of Change Management 2(1), 47-64. |
Broussine, M. & Guerrier, Y. (1983). Surviving as a middle manager. London: Croom Helm. | Kanter, R. M. (1983). The
change masters: Innovation and entrepreneurship in the American corporation. New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc.
6 Whitney, D. & Trosten-Bloom, A. (2003). The power of appreciative inquiry. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers.
7 Cooperrider, D. L., Whitney, D., & Stavros, J. M. (2003). Appreciative inquiry handbook. Bedford Heights, OH:
Lakeshore Publishers.
8 Schall, E., Ospina, S., Godsoe, B., & Dodge, J. (2004) Appreciative narratives as leadership research: Matching method
to lens.. In D. L. Cooperrider & M. Avital (Eds.), Advances in appreciative inquiry: Constructive discourse and human
organization (Vol. 1, pp. 147-170). Oxford, England: Elsevier, Ltd.
9 Dutton, J. E. (2003). Breathing life into organizational studies. Journal of Management Inquiry, 12(1), 5-19.

221

Schematic of Proposed Interview Process

222

Researchers Qualifications
Name: Cheryl M. Fliege
Current Occupation: Director of Marketing and Communications, Illinois Central College
Student Status: Doctoral student in Applied Management and Decision Science with a
specialization in Leadership and Organizational Change, Walden University, Minneapolis, MN
Educational Degrees:
M.A. in Hospital and Health Administration with a concentration in research, University of Iowa,
Iowa City, Iowa
B.A. in Mass Communications and English, Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, Indiana

Relevant Experience and Honors:


More than 20 years in hospital and healthcare public relations, communications, marketing,

and research.
Three years as a private research/marketing consultant. Researched and consulted on:

organizational culture, process management, strategic planning, succession planning, quality


function deployment.
Certified quality function deployment facilitator.
Manuscript preparation writer/editor for multiple medical journal articles on outpatient

anesthesia and served as editor for local medical journal, ghostwriter for multiple other
magazines and journals.
Presenter: Association of Community College Trustees National Conference, Community

College Consortium National Conferences, National Council for Marketing and Public
Relations National Conferences
2005 District Communicator of the Year - National Council for Marketing and Public Relations

District 5
2005 National Communicator of the Year National Council for Marketing and Public

Relations
Six Sigma Yellow Belt and pending Green Belt.

Contact Information:
Cheryl M. Fliege
Director of Marketing and Communications
Illinois Central College
East Peoria, IL 61635
Office Phone: 309/694-5599
Home Phone: 309/383-4602
Student E-mail: cfliege@waldenu.edu

223
APPENDIX C:
SAMPLE LETTER OF COOPERATION

224

Official
Title
Organization
City State Zip
Dear Ms. Fliege:
Based on my review of your research proposal, I give permission for you to conduct the
study entitled " Positive Organizational Results and Successful Communication
Initiatives: An Analysis of Exemplary Middle Manager Communicators" within the
<name> organization. As part of this study, I authorize you to invite members of my
organization, whose names and contact information I will provide, to participate in the
study as interview subjects. Their participation will be voluntary and at their own
discretion. We reserve the right to withdraw from the study at any time if our
circumstances change.
I understand that the data collected will remain entirely confidential and may not be
provided to anyone outside of the research team without permission from the Walden
University Institutional Review Board.
Sincerely,

Official
Title
Organization
City State Zip
Date: _____________________________________________

225
APPENDIX D:
LETTER TO STUDY SUBJECTS INVITING PARTICIPATION

226
NAME
Address
City, State Zip
Dear <name>,
More often than not, organizational studies look for whats going wrong, rather than whats going
right. But theres a new concept in research called appreciative inquiry. This approach asks the
question, Whats working in this organization and how can we build on it?
You are invited to participate in a research study that takes this approach. This study looks at how
middle managers do a good job in communicating successful organizational initiatives. You were
recommended for this research project because of your experience with Six Sigma. Your
participation in the study is voluntary. As a participant, you will be asked to complete one or two
one-hour in-person interviews with the researcher. The details of the research procedures are
covered in the enclosed consent form. Your participation has been approved by your
organization.
Your answers will be kept confidential. An agreement of confidentiality is enclosed for your
review and your files. To volunteer to participate in the study, please complete the enclosed
consent form and return it in the self-addressed stamped envelope by <date>. You will be called
by <administrative liaison> to schedule your interview. At the time of the interview, you will
receive a photocopy of your consent form for your files. In the meantime, you may call or e-mail
me with any questions or concerns you might have. Contact information is listed below.
As a participant in the study, you will receive a copy of my finished dissertation, if you so
request. I will also be providing participating organizations with a summary of my findings. You
may also request a copy of that report.
I hope you will participate in this unique study. Few organizations have used appreciative inquiry
to explore organizational communication. Your participation will help generate new knowledge
on what goes right in organizational communication. I look forward to hearing from you.
Sincerely,

Cheryl M. Fliege
Doctoral Student Walden University
c/o 533 Justa Road
Metamora, IL 61548
Office Phone: (309) 694-5599
Home Phone: (309) 383-4602
E-mail address: cfliege@waldenu.edu

227
APPENDIX E:
INFORMED CONSENT FORM

228

CONSENT FORM FOR POSITIVE ORGANIZATIONAL RESULTS AND


SUCCESSFUL COMMUNICATION INITIATIVES: AN ANALYSIS OF
EXEMPLARY MIDDLE MANAGER COMMUNICATORS
You are invited to participate in a research study of how exemplary middle managers
communicate to ensure the success of organizational initiatives. You were selected as a
possible participant because of your knowledge and/or experience related to the topic. Please
read this form and ask any questions you may have before acting on this invitation to be in
the study.
This study is being conducted by Cheryl M. Fliege, doctoral candidate at Walden University.
Background Information:
The purpose of this study is to identify, explore, and describe the practices of the
communication dynamics of middle managers that lead to the achievement of organizational
goals. The study looks at this phenomenon from the perspectives of senior managers, middle
managers, and the people who are supervised by middle managers.
Procedures:
If you agree to be in this study, you will be asked to:
Participate in a one hour audio or video taped interview. The interview may be conducted
in person or by phone.
If you are a middle manager or supervised by a middle manager, participate in a small
group, one hour audio or video taped interview.
If you are a middle manager or senior manager, review a brief summary statement of
communication practices for accuracy based on your one hour interview
Voluntary Nature of the Study:
Your participation in this study is strictly voluntary. Your decision whether or not to
participate will not affect your current or future relations with the institution in which you are
employed. If you initially decide to participate, you are still free to withdraw at any time later
without affecting those relationships.
Risks and Benefits of Being in the Study:
This study is an appreciative inquiry. As such, the questions you will be asked will focus only
on positive aspects of organizational communication. There are no physical risks to you, nor
is it likely that you will suffer any adverse psychological effects.
(Continued)

229
(Page 2 of 2)
The benefits to participation are discovery of what makes communication work in
organizations like yours.
In the event you experience stress or anxiety during your participation in the study you may
terminate your participation at any time. You may refuse to answer any questions you
consider invasive or stressful.
Compensation:
No compensation will be provided for your participation.
Confidentiality:
The records of this study will be kept private. In any report of this study that might be
published, the researcher will not include any information that will make it possible to
identify a participant. Research records will be kept in a locked file; only the researcher will
have access to the records. Tape or video recordings likewise will be kept in a locked file;
only the researcher will have access to these electronic files. All files will be destroyed ten
years following the completion of the study.
Contacts and Questions:
The researcher conducting this study is Cheryl M. Fliege. The researchers adviser is Dr.
Marcia Steinhauer. If you have questions,, contact information is:
Cheryl M. Fliege, 533 Justa Road, Metamora, IL 61548 | Home Phone: 309/3834602; Office Phone: 309/694-5599 | e-mail address: cfliege @waldenu.edu
Dr. Marcia Steinhauer, 2 Rebecca Court, Ewing, NJ 08628 | Phone 609/883-6559 | email address: msteinha@waldenu.edu.
The Research Participant Advocate at Walden University is Leilani Endicott, you
may contact her at 1-800-925-3368, x 1210 if you have questions about your
participation in this study
You will receive a copy of this form from the researcher.
Statement of Consent:
I have read the above information. I have asked questions and received answers. I consent to
participate in the study.
Printed Name of Participant:
Signature:
Date:
Signature of Investigator: Date:

230
APPENDIX F:
INSTIUTIONAL REVIEW BOARD APPROVAL

231
From: <research@waldenu.edu>
To: <cfliege@win.waldenu.edu>
Cc: <msteinha@win.waldenu.edu>; <amdsadvise@waldenu.edu>
Subject: Cheryl Fliege - IRB materials approved
Date: Tuesday, March 28, 2006 11:33 AM
Dear Ms. Fliege:
This email is to notify you that the Institutional Review Board (IRB)
has
approved your application for the study entitled, "Positive
Organizational
Results and Successful Communication Initiatives: An Analysis of
Exemplary
Middle Manager Communicators"
Your approval # is 03-28-06-0104848. You will need to reference this
number in the appendix of your dissertation and in any future funding
or
publication submissions.
Your IRB approval expires on March 28, 2007. One month before this
expiration date, you will be sent a Continuing Review Form, which must
be
submitted if you wish to collect data beyond the approval expiration
date.
This letter indicates that the IRB has approved your research. You may
not begin the research phase of your dissertation, however, until you
have
received the Notification of Approval to Conduct Research (which
indicates
that your committee and Program Chair have also approved your research
proposal). Once you have received this notification by email, you may
begin your data collection. Your IRB approval is contingent upon your
adherence to the exact procedures described in your original
application.
If you need to make any changes to your research staff or procedures,
you
must obtain IRB approval by submitting the attached IRB Request for
Change in Procedures Form. You will receive an IRB approval status
update
within 1 week of submitting the change request form and are not
permitted
to implement changes prior to receiving approval. Please note that
Walden
University does not accept responsibility or liability for research
activities conducted without the IRB's approval, and the University
will
not accept or grant credit for student work that fails to comply with
the
policies and procedures related to ethical standards in research.

232

Researchers are expected to keep detailed records of their research


activities (i.e., participant log sheets, completed consent forms,
etc.)
for the same period of time they retain the original data. If, in the
future, you require copies of the originally submitted IRB materials,
you
may request them from Walden Research Center.
Please let me know if you have any questions.
Thank you,
Jeff Ford
Research Coordinator
Walden University

233
APPENDIX G:
CONFIDENTIALITY AGREEMENT

234

CONFIDENTIALITY AGREEMENT
Name of Signer:

Cheryl M. Fliege

During the course of my activity in collecting data for this research: A Study of Exemplary
Middle Manager Communicators I will have access to information, which is confidential and
should not be disclosed. I acknowledge that the information must remain confidential, and that
improper disclosure of confidential information can be damaging to the participant.

By signing this Confidentiality Agreement I acknowledge and agree that:


1.
2.
3.

4.
5.
6.
7.

I will not disclose or discuss any confidential information with others, including friends or
family.
I will not in any way divulge, copy, release, sell, loan, alter or destroy any confidential
information except as properly authorized.
I will not discuss confidential information where others can overhear the conversation. I
understand that it is not acceptable to discuss confidential information even if the
participants name is not used.
I will not make any unauthorized transmissions, inquiries, modification or purging of
confidential information.
I agree that my obligations under this agreement will continue after termination of the job
that I will perform.
I understand that violation of this agreement will have legal implications.
I will only access or use systems or devices Im officially authorized to access and I will not
demonstrate the operation or function of systems or devices to unauthorized individuals.

Signing this document, I acknowledge that I have read the agreement and I agree to
comply with all the terms and conditions stated above.

Signature:

Date: November 25, 2005

235
APPENDIX H:
RESEARCH PROTOCOL:
SENIOR MANAGERS

236
RESEARCH PROTOCOL:
SENIOR MANAGEMENT
The interview research protocol for senior managers follows. It includes the
procedure for preliminary communication, the introduction to the study, and explanation
of the signed consent form, the questions and concluding remarks.
Preliminary Communication
Once potential research participants have been identified by the organization, a letter
introducing the study and consent form will be sent to the potential participant. These
appear in Appendixes D and E. The researcher will request the participant to complete
the consent form and return it to the researcher in a self-addressed, stamped envelope.
The researcher will schedule the interview herself or with the help of the organizational
liaison, depending on the preference of the study site. A follow-up phone call or e-mail
will remind the participant of the scheduled interview.
Introduction Interviewer Remarks
At the interview, the researcher will begin by greeting, welcoming, and thanking
the study subject for participating. The researcher will then explain the study. This
explanation will follow this script: Before we begin the interview, I would like to
explain what this project is. This study is part of my doctoral research for my dissertation.
The study centers on effective communication in organizations using Six Sigma. This
study may use a little different approach that what you may have experienced in the past.
The approach is known as appreciative inquiry and I will be asking you about when
things go right. We will not focus at all on problems or complaints, but instead well look

237
at when things have gone exceptionally well with organizational communication. Im
using appreciative inquiry as an approach in the hope that we will discover the things that
middle managers do especially well in communicating organizational initiatives like Six
Sigma and we will learn from great communicators how to communicate even better in
organizations. What questions do you have at this point that I might answer?
After answering questions, the researcher will explain that information as reported
in the dissertation will be kept confidential and that any direct quotations used in the
dissertation or other reports will not include any trade secrets or other information
deemed confidential by the study site. The organization, although it will be generally
described in the dissertation, will not have its identity revealed in the dissertation or other
reports without organizational written consent. Direct quotes will not be attributed to a
specific person in the dissertation or other reports unless written permission from the
senior manager and other required organizational officials is received. The researcher will
confirm that consent for the interview that had been given prior to the study is still valid.
Questions
Research questions will follow a hybrid form of appreciative inquiry and critical
incident technique. The questions, and potential probes, are listed below.
Opening Questions
1. When you are feeling best about the Six Sigma initiative at [organization],
what do you value most about Six Sigma and what it has brought to your organization?
2. What was the single most important thing Six Sigma has contributed to your
organization?

238
3. Now think about three of your best middle manager communicators. Please
tell me a story about how each middle managers communication contributed to that
success. Please identify each of them so we may include them in this study.
Topic Questions
(Note: Some flexibility will be used in asking these questions. Participants may cover all
aspects of the questions in one answer.)
1. Reflect back on what youve just told me about Six Sigma and middle
manager communication. Now think about a time when you were especially pleased,
excited, or greatly impressed with the communication effort of those middle managers.
What factors or forces in the middle managers approach to communication helped to
make that communication effort really great? When I talk about their approach, Im
talking about things like formal versus informal communication, frequent versus
infrequent communication, open door policies, and so on. Approach refers to the general
style of communication.
2. Again, reflect back on what youve just told me. What factors or forces in
the middle managers choice of communication tools and communication channels
helped to make that communication effort really great? These choices include a
preference for written versus spoken, e-mail, use of formal corporate communication
documents and so on. In other words what media did they use and what kinds of tangible
communication aids did they employ?

239
3. Imagine that every middle manager in your organization embraced the
approaches to organizational communication of the three managers weve just discussed.
What would happen in the organization? How would it be different?
Potential Probes and Follow-ups
1. How exactly did the middle manager do [topic of interest]?
2. How long did it take? What happened next?
3. How did you react?
4. How did you feel about [topic of interest]?
5. Why was that important?
6. How was that different or better from other approaches?
7. What were the results or outcomes?
Concluding Questions
1. As you look at how these middle managers are communicating today in your
organization, what is it in their communication efforts that gives you hope for the future
or that makes you certain that [organization] will flourish in the times to come?
2. I want you to imagine for a moment that I can give you three organizational
wishes. What three things would you wish for concerning middle manager
communication?
3. Are there other stories or information that you think are important for me to
know to better understand middle manager exemplary communication? What are they?
4. From the conversation weve just had, what was the most important thing you
discovered from discussing middle manager communication?

240
Conclusion
At the conclusion of the interview, the researcher will thank participant for
interviewing and ask if there are additional questions. The researcher then will explain
the next steps. First, the contents of the interview will be transcribed and reviewed. The
interviewee will be sent via e-mail a copy of the transcript for review, correction, and
addition. A communication story of exemplary communication will be created from
senior management comments to share with middle manager and staff group interviews.
Senior managers will be able to review story before it is shared with others. Second,
middle managers will be interviewed individually and as a group. The group interview
will include a sharing of the senior management communication story. Following middle
managers, subordinates will be interviewed individually and as a group. The group
interview will include a sharing of the senior management communication story and a
similar middle management communication story. A report will be shared with
organization as negotiated between senior management and researcher.

241
APPENDIX I:
RESEARCH PROTOCOL FOR MIDDLE MANAGERS:
INDIVIDUAL INTERVIEW

242
RESEARCH PROTOCOL FOR MIDDLE MANAGERS
INDIVIDUAL INTERVIEW
The research protocol for individual interviews of middle managers follows. It
includes the procedure for preliminary communication, the introduction to the study, and
explanation of the signed consent form, the questions and concluding remarks.
Preliminary Communication
Once potential research participants have been identified by the organization, a letter
introducing the study, confidentiality agreement, and consent form will be sent to the
potential participant. These appear in Appendixes D and E. The researcher will request
the participant to complete the consent form and return it to the researcher in a selfaddressed, stamped envelope. The researcher will schedule the interview herself or with
the help of the organizational liaison, depending on the preference of the study site. A
follow-up phone call will remind the participant of the scheduled interview.
Introduction Interviewer Remarks
At the interview, the researcher will begin by greeting, welcoming, and thanking
the study subject for participating. The researcher will then explain the study. This
explanation will follow this script: Before we begin the interview, I would like to
explain what this project is. This study is part of my doctoral research for my dissertation.
The study centers on effective communication in organizations using Six Sigma. This
study may use a little different approach that what you may have experienced in the past.
The approach is known as appreciative inquiry and I will be asking you about when
things go right. We will not focus at all on problems or complaints, but instead well look

243
at when things have gone exceptionally well with organizational communication. Im
using appreciative inquiry as an approach in the hope that we will discover the things that
middle managers do especially well in communicating organizational initiatives like Six
Sigma and we will learn from great communicators how to communicate even better in
organizations. What questions do you have at this point that I might answer?
After answering questions, the researcher will explain that information as reported
in the dissertation will be kept confidential and that any direct quotations used in the
dissertation or other reports will not include any trade secrets or other information
deemed confidential by the study site. The organization, although it will be generally
described in the dissertation, will not have its identity revealed in the dissertation or other
reports without organizational written consent. Direct quotes will not be attributed to a
specific person in the dissertation or other reports unless written permission from the
middle manager and other required organizational officials is received. The researcher
will confirm that consent for the interview that had been given prior to the study is still
valid.
Questions
Research questions will follow a hybrid form of appreciative inquiry and critical
incident technique. The questions, and potential probes, are listed below.
1. When you are feeling best about the Six Sigma initiative at [organization], what
do you value most about Six Sigma and what it has brought to your organization?
2. What was the single most important thing Six Sigma has contributed to your
organization?

244
3. Now think about three of the three people you supervise who have responded
best to your communication about Six Sigma. Please tell me a story about how they
responded that made you believe your communication was successful. Please identify
these employees so that we may include them in this research.
Topic Questions
(Note: Some flexibility will be used in asking these questions. Participants may cover all
aspects of the questions in one answer.)
1. Reflect back on what youve just told me about Six Sigma and your
communication. Now think about a time when you were especially pleased, excited, or
greatly impressed with your communication effort. What factors or forces in your
approach to communication helped to make that communication effort really great?
When I talk about approach, Im talking about things like formal versus informal
communication, frequent versus infrequent communication, open door policies, and so
on. Approach refers to the general style of communication.
2. Again, reflect back on what youve just told me. What factors or forces in
your choice of communication tools and communication channels helped to make that
communication effort really great? These choices include a preference for written versus
spoken, e-mail, use of formal corporate communication documents and so on. In other
words what media did you use and what kinds of tangible communication aids did you
employ?

245
3. Imagine that every middle manager in your organization embraced the
approaches to organizational communication that weve just discussed. What would
happen in the organization? How would it be different?
Potential Probes and Follow-ups:
1. How exactly did the staff member do [topic of interest]?
2. How long did it take? What happened next?
3. How did you react?
4. How did you feel about [topic of interest]?
5. Why was that important?
6. How was that different or better from other approaches?
7. What were the results or outcomes?
Concluding Questions
1. As you look at how your staff responded to your communication in your
organization, what is it in their response that gives you hope for the future or that makes
you certain that [organization] will flourish in the times to come?
2. I want you to imagine for a moment that I can give you three organizational
wishes. What three things would you wish for concerning organizational communication?
3. Are there other stories or information that you think are important for me to
know to better understand exemplary organizational communication? What are they?
4. From the conversation weve just had, what was the most important thing you
discovered from discussing organizational communication?

246
Conclusion
At the conclusion of the interview, the researcher will thank participant for
interviewing and ask if there are additional questions. The researcher then will explain
the next steps. First, the contents of the interview will be transcribed and reviewed. The
interviewee will be sent via e-mail a copy of the transcript for review, correction, and
addition. A communication story of exemplary communication will be created from
middle management comments to share with next level of interviewspeople supervised
by the middle manager. Middle managers will be able to review story before shared with
others. Second, middle managers will be interviewed as a group. The group interview
will include a sharing of a senior management communication story. Following middle
managers, staff will be interviewed individually and as a group. The group interview will
include a sharing of the senior and middle management communication stories. A report
will be shared with organization as negotiated between senior management and
researcher.

247
APPENDIX J:
RESEARCH PROTOCOL FOR STAFF:
INDIVIDUAL INTERVIEW

248
RESEARCH PROTOCOL FOR STAFF
INDIVIDUAL INTERVIEW
The research protocol for the individual interviews of those supervised by middle
managers (staff) follows. It includes the procedure for preliminary communication, the
introduction to the study, and explanation of the signed consent form, the questions and
concluding remarks.
Preliminary Communication
Once potential research participants have been identified by the organization, a letter
introducing the study, confidentiality agreement, and consent form will be sent to the
potential participant. These appear in Appendixes D and E. The researcher will request
the participant to complete the consent form and return it to the researcher in a selfaddressed, stamped envelope. The researcher will schedule the interview herself or with
the help of the organizational liaison, depending on the preference of the study site. A
follow-up phone call or e-mail will remind the participant of the scheduled interview.
Introduction Interviewer Remarks
At the interview, the researcher will begin by greeting, welcoming, and thanking
the study subject for participating. The researcher will then explain the study. This
explanation will follow this script: Before we begin the interview, I would like to
explain what this project is. This study is part of my doctoral research for my dissertation.
The study centers on effective communication in organizations using Six Sigma. This
study may use a little different approach that what you may have experienced in the past.
The approach is known as appreciative inquiry and I will be asking you about when

249
things go right. We will not focus at all on problems or complaints, but instead well look
at when things have gone exceptionally well with organizational communication. Im
using appreciative inquiry as an approach in the hope that we will discover the things that
middle managers do especially well in communicating organizational initiatives like Six
Sigma and we will learn from great communicators how to communicate even better in
organizations. What questions do you have at this point that I might answer?
After answering questions, the researcher will explain that information as reported
in the dissertation will be kept confidential and that any direct quotations used in the
dissertation or other reports will not include any trade secrets or other information
deemed confidential by the study site. The organization, although it will be generally
described in the dissertation, will not have its identity revealed in the dissertation or other
reports without organizational written consent. Direct quotes will not be attributed to a
specific person in the dissertation or other reports unless written permission from the
middle manager and other required organizational officials is received. The researcher
will confirm that consent for the interview that had been given prior to the study is still
valid.
Questions
Research questions will follow a hybrid form of appreciative inquiry and critical
incident technique. The questions, and potential probes, are listed below.
Opening Questions
1. When you are feeling best about the Six Sigma initiative at [organization],
what do you value most about Six Sigma and what it has brought to your organization?

250
2. What was the single most important thing Six Sigma has contributed to your
organization?
3. Now think about your direct supervisor. Please tell me a story about a time
when his or her communication contributed greatly to the success of the Six Sigma effort.
Topic Questions
(Note: Some flexibility will be used in asking these questions. Participants may cover all
aspects of the questions in one answer.)
1. Reflect back on what youve just told me about Six Sigma and your
supervisors communication. Now think about a time when you were especially pleased,
excited, or greatly impressed with the communication effort of that supervisor. What
factors or forces in your supervisors approach to communication helped to make that
communication effort really great? When I talk about their approach, Im talking about
things like formal versus informal communication, frequent versus infrequent
communication, open door policies, and so on. Approach refers to the general style of
communication.
2. Again, reflect back on what youve just told me. What factors or forces in the
your supervisors choice of communication tools and communication channels helped
to make that communication effort really great? These choices include a preference for
written versus spoken, e-mail, use of formal corporate communication documents and so
on. In other words what media did they use and what kinds of tangible communication
aids did they employ?

251
3. Imagine that every middle manager in your organization embraced the
approaches to organizational communication of your supervisor as weve just discussed.
What would happen in the organization? How would it be different?
Potential Probes and Follow-ups:
1. How exactly did the middle manager do [topic of interest]?
2. How long did it take? What happened next?
3. How did you react?
4. How did you feel about [topic of interest]?
5. Why was that important?
6. How was that different or better from other approaches?
7. What were the results or outcomes?
Concluding Questions
1. As you look at how your supervisor is communicating today in your
organization, what is it in his or her communication efforts that gives you hope for the
future or that makes you certain that [organization] will flourish in the times to come?
2. I want you to imagine for a moment that I can give you three organizational
wishes. What three things would you wish for concerning supervisor communication?
3. Are there other stories or information that you think are important for me to
know to better understand exemplary supervisor communication? What are they?
4. From the conversation weve just had, what was the most important thing you
discovered from discussing supervisor communication?

252
Conclusion
At the conclusion of the interview, the researcher will thank participant for
interviewing and ask if there are additional questions. The researcher then will explain
the next steps. First, the contents of the interview will be transcribed and reviewed. The
interviewee will be sent via e-mail a copy of the transcript for review, correction, and
addition. Following individual interviews, a group interview of middle managers and a
group interview of staff will be held. The group interview will include a sharing of the
senior and middle management communication stories. A report will be shared with
organization as negotiated between senior management and researcher.

253
APPENDIX K:
RESEARCH PROTOCOL FOR MIDDLE MANAGERS:
GROUP INTERVIEW

254
RESEARCH PROTOCOL FOR MIDDLE MANAGERS
GROUP INTERVIEW
The research protocol for group interviews of middle managers follows. It
includes the procedure for preliminary communication, the introduction to the study and
explanation of the signed consent form, and the questions and concluding remarks.
Preliminary Communication
Group interviews will follow the same preliminary communication process as the
individual interviews. Once potential research participants have been identified by the
organization, a letter introducing the study, confidentiality agreement, and consent form
will be sent to the potential participant. These appear in Appendixes D and E. The
researcher will request the participant to complete the consent form and return it to the
researcher in a self-addressed, stamped envelope. The researcher will schedule the group
interview herself or with the help of the organizational liaison, depending on the
preference of the study site. A follow-up phone call or e-mail will remind the participant
of the scheduled interview
Introduction Interviewer Remarks
At the interview, the researcher will begin by greeting, welcoming, and thanking
the study subject for participating. The researcher will then re-explain the study. This
explanation will follow this script: Before we begin the interview, I would like to
remind you of what this project is. This study is part of my doctoral research for my
dissertation. The study centers on effective communication in organizations using Six
Sigma. This study uses the same approach we used in your individual interview. The

255
approach is known as appreciative inquiry and I will be asking you about when things go
right. We will not focus at all on problems or complaints, but instead well look at when
things have gone exceptionally well with organizational communication. In the end, I
hope to better understand what makes up great middle manager communication. What
questions do you have at this point that I might answer?
After answering questions, the researcher will explain that information as reported
in the dissertation will be kept confidential and that any direct quotations used in the
dissertation or other reports will not include any trade secrets or other information
deemed confidential by the study site. The organization, although it will be generally
described in the dissertation, will not have its identity revealed in the dissertation or other
reports without organizational written consent. Direct quotes will not be attributed to a
specific person in the dissertation or other reports unless written permission from the
middle manager and other required organizational officials is received. The researcher
will confirm that consent for the interview that had been given prior to the study is still
valid.
Questions
Research questions will follow a hybrid form of appreciative inquiry and critical
incident technique. The questions, and potential probes, are listed below.
Opening Question
First, Id like each of you to introduce yourself and what you do in your
organization and then Id like you to share a positive experience youve had with
organizational communication of Six Sigma.

256
Topic Questions
Now I would like to share some brief comments from senior management about
outstanding middle manager communication in the organization regarding Six Sigma.
[Read story]
1. Now that youve heard the comments about a very positive experience with
communicating Six Sigma, can you recall this incident or one similar to it? What was
your memory of that particular incident or one similar? How did you feel, what was
going on in your mind?
2. In this incident, or one similar to it, what was your role in communicating?
What about the organization made it possible for good communication? What
circumstances, tools, or media supported this communication? Why were they helpful?
3. What do you know about your organization that would help us to better
understand these stories about positive organizational communication?
Closing Questions
1. Reflecting on some of the stories that were told here today, what would you
say about your organizationits structure, systems, contexts, peoplethat creates
conditions where good communication on organizational initiatives like Six Sigma can
flourish? How does the culture or climate at [organization] foster this kind of
communication?
2. What other stories are important for me to hear to learn more about good
communication of Six Sigma?

257
3. From the conversation weve just had, what was the most important thing you
discovered from discussing organizational communication?
Conclusion
At the conclusion of the interview, the researcher will thank participant for
interviewing and ask if there are additional questions. The researcher then will explain
the next steps. First, the contents of the interview will be transcribed and reviewed. The
interviewees will be sent via e-mail a copy of the transcript for review, correction, and
addition. A report will be shared with organization as negotiated between senior
management and researcher.

258
APPENDIX L:
RESEARCH PROTOCOL FOR STAFF:
GROUP INTERVIEW

259
RESEARCH PROTOCOL FOR STAFF
GROUP INTERVIEW
The research protocol for group interviews of staff follows. It includes the
procedure for preliminary communication, the introduction to the study and explanation
of the signed consent form, the questions and concluding remarks.
Preliminary Communication
Group interviews will follow the same preliminary communication process as the
individual interviews. Once potential research participants have been identified by the
organization, a letter introducing the study, confidentiality agreement, and consent form
will be sent to the potential participant. These appear in Appendixes D and E. The
researcher will request the participant to complete the consent form and return it to the
researcher in a self-addressed, stamped envelope. The researcher will schedule the group
interview herself or with the help of the organizational liaison, depending on the
preference of the study site. A follow-up phone call or e-mail will remind the participant
of the scheduled interview.
Introduction Interviewer Remarks
At the interview, the researcher will begin by greeting, welcoming, and thanking
the study subject for participating. The researcher will then re-explain the study. This
explanation will follow this script: Before we begin the interview, I would like to
remind you of what this project is. This study is part of my doctoral research for my
dissertation. The study centers on effective communication in organizations using Six
Sigma. This study uses the same approach we used in your individual interview. The

260
approach is known as appreciative inquiry and I will be asking you about when things go
right. We will not focus at all on problems or complaints, but instead well look at when
things have gone exceptionally well with organizational communication. In the end, I
hope to better understand what makes up great middle manager communication. What
questions do you have at this point that I might answer?
After answering questions, the researcher will explain that information as reported
in the dissertation will be kept confidential and that any direct quotations used in the
dissertation or other reports will not include any trade secrets or other information
deemed confidential by the study site. The organization, although it will be generally
described in the dissertation, will not have its identity revealed in the dissertation or other
reports without organizational written consent. Direct quotes will not be attributed to a
specific person in the dissertation or other reports unless written permission from the
middle manager and other required organizational officials is received. The researcher
will confirm that consent for the interview that had been given prior to the study is still
valid.
Questions
Research questions will follow a hybrid form of appreciative inquiry and critical
incident technique. The questions, and potential probes, are listed below.
Opening Question
First, Id like each of you to introduce yourself and what you do in your
organization and then Id like you to share a positive experience youve had with
organizational communication of Six Sigma.

261
Topic Questions
Now I would like to share some brief comments from senior management and your
supervisor about times in the organization when communication of Six Sigma initiatives
seemed to really work well.
[Read story]
1. Now that youve heard the comments about these effective efforts with
communicating Six Sigma, can you recall this incident or one similar to it? What was
your memory of that particular incident or one similar? How did you feel, what was
going on in your mind?
2. In this incident, or one similar to it, what was your role in receiving,
understanding, or accepting the communication? What about the organization and your
supervisor made it possible for good communication? What circumstances, tools, or
media supported this communication? Why were they helpful?
3. What do you know about your organization or your supervisor that would help
us to better understand these stories about positive organizational communication?
Closing Questions
1. Reflecting on some of the stories that were told here today, what would
you say about your organizationits structure, systems, contexts, peoplethat creates
conditions where good communication on organizational initiatives like Six Sigma can
flourish? How does the culture or climate at [organization] foster this kind of
communication?

262
2. What other stories are important for me to hear to learn more about good
communication of Six Sigma?
3. From the conversation weve just had, what was the most important thing
you discovered from discussing supervisor communication?
Conclusion
At the conclusion of the interview, the researcher will thank participant for
interviewing and ask if there are additional questions. The researcher then will explain
the next steps. First, the contents of the interview will be transcribed and reviewed. The
interviewees will be sent via e-mail a copy of the transcript for review, correction, and
addition. A report will be shared with organization as negotiated between senior
management and researcher.

263
APPENDIX M:
RELATIONSHIP OF RESEARCH QUESTIONS
TO INDIVIDUAL INTERVIEW QUESTIONS

264
RELATIONSHIP OF RESEARCH QUESTIONS
TO INDIVIDUAL INTERVIEW QUESTIONS

The following table traces the logic in developing the questions for individual
interviews. While three different groups (senior manager, middle manager, and staff) will
be interviewed, the questions between groups are essentially the same. The middle
manager questions have been chosen for this demonstration.
Table M1
Logic of Individual Interview Questions

How do middle managers communicate across organizational layers so that senior


management initiatives succeed in the organization?

Interview Questions

Relationship and Rationale

When you are feeling best about the Six Sigma


initiative at your organization, what do you
value most about Six Sigma and what it has
brought to your organization?

The question directs participants to consider


the value of the initiative. It helps to trigger
thoughts of important or critical incidents,
behaviors, actions, and attitudes. In essence, it
primes the interview.

What was the single most important thing Six


Sigma has contributed to your organization?

This question seeks to identify the most


important outcome of Six Sigma. This question
sets the stage for asking about communication
related to the initiative.

Now think about three of the people you


This question simply develops the next round
supervise who have responded best to your
of interviews and provides the means for
communication about Six Sigma. Please tell me triangulation.
a story about how they responded that made
you believe your communication was
successful. Please identify these employees so
Table M1 continues
that we may include them in this research.

265

Table M1. (continued). Logic of Individual Interview Questions


What are the approaches exemplary middle manager communicators used to create
successful outcomes and why?

Interview Questions

Relationship and Rationale

Reflect back on what youve just told me about


Six Sigma and your communication. Now think
about a time when you were especially pleased,
excited, or greatly impressed with your
communication effort. What factors or forces in
your approach to communication helped make
that communication effort really great?

This question triggers the recall of an extreme


or exemplary incident of communication about
Six Sigma. Asking about factors and forces
elicits detailed description. The question
specifically seeks detail about communication
approaches, which is the essence of one of the
research subquestions.

What are the channels exemplary middle manager communicators employ to create
successful outcomes and why? What are the tools exemplary middle manager
communicators employ to create successful outcomes and why?

Reflect on a time when you were especially


pleased, excited, or greatly impressed with
your communication effort. What factors or
forces in your choice of communication tools
and channels helped make that communication
effort really great?

This question triggers the recall of an extreme


or exemplary incident of communication about
Six Sigma. Asking about factors and forces
elicits detailed description. The question
specifically seeks detail about communication
tools and channels.
Table M1 continues

266

Table M1. (continued). Logic of Individual Interview Questions

How do middle managers communicate across organizational layers so that senior


management initiatives succeed in the organization?
Interview Questions

Relationship and Rationale

Imagine that every middle manager in your


organization embraced the approaches to
organizational communication that weve just
discussed. What would happen in the
organization? How would it be different?

This question seeks to elicit detail on


successful organizational communication.

As you look at how your staff responded to


your communication in your organization, what
is it in their response that gives you hope for
the future or that makes you certain that
[organization] will flourish in times to come?

This question is consistent with the


appreciative inquiry methodology. It examines
how positive behaviors can create
organizational effectiveness and success.

I want you to imagine for a moment that I can


give you three organizational wishes. What
three things would you wish for concerning
organizational communication?

This question provides an opportunity for the


participant to vent any negative comments
about communication.

Are there other stories or information that you


think are important for me to know to better
understand exemplary organizational
communication? What are they?

This question provides an opportunity to share


additional information related to the research
question.

From the conversation weve just had, what


was the most important thing you discovered
from discussing organizational
communication?

This question is consistent with the


appreciative inquiry methodology. This will
provide additional context for creating coding
categories.

267
APPENDIX N:
RELATIONSHIP OF RESEARCH QUESTIONS
TO GROUP INTERVIEW QUESTIONS

268
RELATIONSHIP OF RESEARCH QUESTIONS
TO INDIVIDUAL INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
Table N1
Logic of Group Interview Questions
Interview Questions

Relationship and Rationale

Now that youve heard the comments about a very


positive experience with communicating Six Sigma,
can you recall this incident or one similar to it?
What was your memory of that particular incident
or one similar? How did you feel, what was going
on in your mind?

The question offers an opportunity to triangulate


data through the recollection of an exemplary
incident by different individuals.

In this incident, or one similar to it, what was your


role in communicating? What about the
organization made it possible for good
communication? What circumstances, tools, or
media supported this communication? Why were
they helpful?

This question seeks to identify the organizational


context that supports effective communication and
positive organizational outcomes.

What do you know about your organization that


would help us to better understand these stories
about positive organizational communication?

This question allows for additional information to


be shared about the process of exemplary
communication.

Reflecting on some of the stories that were told here


today, what you say about your organizationits
structure, systems, contexts, peoplethat creates
conditions where good communication on
organizational initiatives like Six Sigma can
flourish? How does the climate or culture at
[organization] foster this kind of communication?

This question seeks to determine if what conditions


in the organization support middle management
communication.

What other stories are important for me to hear to


learn more about good communication of Six
Sigma?

This question provides an opportunity to share


additional information related to the research
question.

From the conversation weve just had, what was the


most important thing youve discovered from
discussing communication?

This question provides one last opportunity for the


participant to provide information on organizational
communication.

269
APPENDIX O:
CODING CATEGORIES AS SUGGESTED BY QUESTIONS

270
CODING CATEGORIES AS SUGGESTED BY QUESTIONS
Table O1
Coding Categories as Suggested by Research Questions
Research question

Verb

Noun phrase

What do you value most about Six and what is has brought to
your organization?

Attributing

value in the
organization of the
initiative

What is the most important thing Six Sigma has contributed to


your organization?

Assessing

the impact of the


organizational
initiative

How did employees respond to the communication about Six


Sigma that made the communication successful?

Succeeding

in generating
acceptance by
employees of the
initiative

What factors or forces in your approach helped make that


communication effort successful?

Leveraging

existing organizational
factors and forces in
communicating
successfully

What factors or forces in your choice of communication tools


and channels helped make that communication effort
successful?

Selecting

the right channels and


tools to communicate

Imagine that every middle manager in your organization


embraced the approaches to organizational communication that
weve just discussed. What would happen in the organization?
How would it be different?

Identifying

methods to enhance
communication

As you look at how your staff responded to your


communication in your organization, what is it in their
response that gives you hope for the future or that makes you
certain that [organization] will flourish in times to come?

Discerning

Responses to
communication that
work

I want you to imagine for a moment that I can give you three
organizational wishes. What three things would you wish for
concerning organizational communication?

Envisioning

necessary change in
current communication
patterns
Table O1 continues

271
Table O1. (continued). Coding Categories as suggested by research questions
Research question

Verb

Noun phrase

From the conversation weve just had, what was the most
important thing you discovered from discussing organizational
communication?

Prioritizing

successful
communication
requirements

Now that youve heard the comments about a very positive


experience with communicating Six Sigma, can you recall this
incident or one similar to it? What was your memory of that
particular incident or one similar? How did you feel, what was
going on in your mind?

Recognizing

feelings associated
with successful
communication

In this incident, or one similar to it, what was your role in


communicating?

Defining

the requirements of the


communicators role

What about the organization made it possible for good


communication? What circumstances, tools, or media
supported this communication? Why were they helpful?

Exploiting

organizational factors
that contribute to
outstanding
communication

Reflecting on some of the stories that were told here today,


what you say about your organizationits structure, systems,
contexts, peoplethat creates conditions where good
communication on organizational initiatives like Six Sigma can
flourish? How does the climate or culture at [organization]
foster this kind of communication?

Employing

organizational climate
and culture for
successful
communication

272
APPENDIX P:
EXCERPT FROM TRANSCRIPT

273
APPENDIX P
EXCERPT FROM TRANSCRIPT

When you are feeling best about the Six Sigma initiative at Caterpillar,
what do you value most about Six Sigma and what it has brought to
your organization?
I would say it has brought more rigor to what we do, a lot less action being taken off
of tribal knowledge, somebodys past pathologies, it puts more rigor, more statistical
basis by what we do and prioritization. Whats been nice, especially within our
organization, within Bobs organization, is that we have a prioritization tool that we
use that when projects go in, not that all projects arent important, but they take the
ones that are really going to mean some significant business results. Those are the
ones that are going to get focused on and prioritize them in that manner.

What was the single most important thing Six Sigma has contributed
to your organization?
Again, I would say the rigor, the rigor piece, absolutely. Theres been a lot of
activities in the past have happened based on just nice things to do. Cant really tell
whether or not its having an effect on the bottom line. The projects I worked on were
typically growth projects so you could actually validate the effect of your project, but
in the past, there were things people were doing that just didnt bring a whole lot of
value.

274

Now think about your direct supervisor. Please tell me a story about a
time when his or her communication contributed greatly to the
success of the Six Sigma effort.
When we started the embedding and encoding phases here at MPSD, I know Bob, my
supervisor, basically took it upon himself that his organization was going to be in the
forefront of the embedding and encoding. So he actually created positions that said,
Were going to take your current day-to-day activities and were going create Six
Sigma Black Belt positions from these activities and were going to wrap that rigor,
that process-orientation around the things youre doing. And so, his communication,
he always looked at it as a positive thing, we want to be held up as one of the premier
organizations that supports the Six Sigma initiative.
[Interviewer: So his communication was, not only are you going to do Six Sigma, but
youre going to do it exceptionally well?]
Yes, yes and he really put, because at times, as you alluded to earlier that sometimes
these things are a flavor of the month. And he made sure to communicate that this
was not going to be a flavor of the month, this is how were going to do business.
And people tend to look at change as a negative and he definitely put a positive spin
on that communication. Heres what its going to mean to our organization, heres
how were going to grow our organization, heres how were going to show benefit. It
was a very positive light on the changes.
[Interviewer: So the initiative was not so threatening?]

275
Exactly.

Reflect back on what youve just told me about Six Sigma and your
supervisors communication. Now think about a time when you were
especially pleased, excited, or greatly impressed with the
communication effort of that supervisor. What factors or forces in
your supervisors approach to communication helped to make that
communication effort really great? When I talk about their approach,
Im talking about things like formal versus informal communication,
frequent versus infrequent communication, open door policies, and
so on. Approach refers to the general style of communication.
He is just an extraordinary communicator. He likes to almost over-communicate,
which is not a bad thing. Its always an open door policy. Typically its very informal
and it makes everybody feel very comfortable. His policy is, if, do whatever you need
to do to make things happen, but, if at any time you need my assistance, I will go to
the appropriate people and I can give you assistance, meaning if we run into some
roadblocks with certain groups, certain areas, and we need him to intervene, hed be
more than happy to intervene and formalize a meeting with department heads,
formalize a meeting with vice presidents, formalize a meeting with the right people to
assist us and overcome those obstacles. He always has a very informal way about him
that makes people comfortable and everything, everything he talks about is always in
a positive light. Theres nothing really negative.

276
APPENDIX Q:
PROCESS OUTCOMES MATRIX

Believing in the initiative yourself

Established behaviors, attitudes to


mirror (Maxham &
Netemeyer, 2003);
increased influence
through commitment
and consistency

Being informal,
open, easy to approach

Increased likelihood
of reception through
social acceptance
(Cialdini 2001b;
Piderit, 2000)

Building trust

Increased influence
through liking, commitment and consistency, authority
(Cialdini, 2001b;
Piderit, 2000)

Acti vities

Outcomes

New reality created


via collaboration
(Mills, 2004); established influence
through social proof
(Cialdini, 2001b)

New reality created New reality created


via discursive legiti- via collaboration
macy (Phillips, 2004) (Mills, 2004); established influence
through social proof
(Cialdini, 2001b)

Established influence via expertise


and authority
(Cialdini, 2001b)

Established behaviors, attitudes to


mirror (Huy, 2001);
increased influence
through commitment
(Cialdini, 2001b)

Table Q1 continues

Having an organizational approach to


generate interest,
enthusiasm, and
buy-in

Teaching and coach- Having an initiative


ing
structure to generate
interest, enthusiasm,
and buy-in

Developing personal Embracing change


know ledge that helps
subordinates accomplish w ork

New reality created


via collaboration
(Mills, 2004); established influence
through social proof
(Cialdini, 2001b)

Increased reception
(Kounalakis et
al.,1999)

Reinforced messages via liking


(Cialdini, 2001b;
Piderit, 2000)

New reality developed, reduced


equivocality and
uncertainty (Cooren,
2004; Phillips et al,
2004; Weick )

Outcomes

Heartfelt processes: Relating to people on human terms

Generating interest,
buy-in, and enthusiasm

Tailoring messages
to the audience

Leveraging existing
individual and departmental predilections

Creating context of
initiatives for subordinates

Acti vities

Contextual processe s: Making sense out of equivocal or uncertain circumstances

Process Outcomes Matrix

Table Q1

277
277

Established behaviors, attitudes to


mirror (Maxham &
Netemeyer, 2003);
increased influence
through commitment
and consistency
(Cialdini, 2001b)

Outcomes

Using the initiative


structure to generate collaboration

Created influence via New reality created New reality created


authority (Cialdini,
via discursive legiti- via collaboration
2001b; Rotemberg & macy (Phillips, 2004) (Mills, 2004)
Saloner, 2000)

Identif ying and creat- Prioritizing w ork,


ing linkages to orplanning, setting
ganizational goal
goals

Establishment of
communicative rules
(Bronn & Bronn,
2003; Jabs, 2005)

Leveraged tools
based on media
richness (Daft &
Lengal, 1986)

Increased reception
(Kounalakis, Banks,
& Daus, 1999); creating new reality via
illustration (Luhman
& Boje, 2001)

Outcomes

New social reality


created through
story (Denning,
2001); memorable
message created
(Gladw ell,
2000/2002; Phillips,
2004)

Using available tools Easing communicato enhance commu- tion through the
nication
structure of the initiative

Draw ing and sketch- Creating better uning to enhance com- derstanding through
munication
stories and examples

Acti vities

Narrative processe s: Using the tools and elements of story to communicate

Maintain ing consistency in action, talk,


and deeds

Acti vities

Aligned processe s: Aligning departm ental work to the enterprise

Table Q1. (continued). Process Outcomes Matrix

Establishment of
communicative rules
(Bronn & Bronn,
2003; Jabs, 2005)

Causing the same


language, same
approach to be used
through the initiative

Table Q! continues

278
278

Created influence via


authority (Cialdini,
2001b, Rotemberg &
Saloner, 2000); new
reality created via
discursive legitimacy
(Phillips, 2004)

Rapid, regular dissemination of information (Gladw ell,


2000/2002; Hamel,
2000)

Outcomes

Linking participation
in the initiative to
future career paths

Influenced created
via scarcity (Cialdini,
2001b); new social
reality created via
discursive legitimacy
(Phillips, 2004)

Generating results
through the initiative

Influenced created
via social proof and
authority (Cialdini,
2001b)

Demonstrating unw avering leadership


and commitment

Created influence via


authority (Cialdini,
2001b; Rotemberg &
Saloner, 2000); new
reality created via
discursive legitimacy
(Phillips, 2004)

Expecting goals to
be set

Created influence via


authority (Cialdini,
2001b; Rotemberg &
Saloner, 2000); new
reality created via
discursive legitimacy
(Phillips, 2004)

Setting expectations
for consistent implementation of the
initiative

Created influence via


authority (Cialdini,
2001b; Rotemberg &
Saloner, 2000); new
reality created via
discursive legitimacy
(Phillips, 2004)

Creating the expectation for strategic


alignment

Created influence via


authority (Cialdini,
2001b; Rotemberg &
Saloner, 2000); new
reality created via
discursive legitimacy
(Phillips, 2004)

Acti vities

Outcomes

Grounded processe s: Anchoring the initiative firmly in organizational prerogatives (part 2)

Prioritizing projects
through the initiative

Recognizing the link


between communication and results

Acti vities

Grounded proce sse s: Anchoring the initiative firmly in organizational prerogatives (part 1)

Table Q1. (continued). Process Outcomes Matrix

Created influence via


authority (Cialdini,
2001b; Rotemberg &
Saloner, 2000); new
reality created via
discursive legitimacy
(Phillips, 2004)

Investing resources
in communication
and implementation
of the initiative

Table Q1 continues

279

Decreased equivocality (Daft & Weick,


1984)

Increased reception
(Kounalakis et
al.,1999)

Rapid, regular dissemination of information (Gladw ell,


2000/2002; Hamel,
2000)

Reduce uncertainty
and equivocality via
contact (Duck, 2001;
Rogers, 1962/1995,
Phillips et al., 2004)

Increased diffusion
via contact (Weenig,
1999)

Outcomes

Reduced anxiety
about change (Huy,
2002)

Reciprocal relationships established


(Cialdini, 2001b);
reduced anxiety
about change (Huy,
2002)

Outcomes

Reciprocal relationships established


(Cialdini, 2001b)

Creating a safe envi- Facilitating and sellronment for ideas,


ing solutions on
discussion, and
behalf of staff
learning

Valuing people

Acti vities

Increased diffusion
via contact (Weenig,
1999); increased
influence through
reciprocity, liking,
authority (Cialdini,
2001b)

Meeting w ith staff


one-on-one

Supportive proce sse s: Providing support to people in their work and lives (part 1)

Rapid, regular dissemination of information (Gladw ell,


2000/2002; Hamel,
2000)

Documenting and
passing on know ledge

Crafting concise,
effective communication

Communicating
frequently

Holding regular staff


meetings

Finding unscheduled Keeping staff up to


date
time to meet w ith
subordinates

Acti vities

Elegant proce sse s: Crafting messages that are effective, efficient, and appropriate

Table Q1. (continued). Process Outcomes Matrix

Table Q1 continues

Netw orked leveraged for rapid diffusion (Duck, 2001;


Rogers, 1962/1995;
Weenig, 1999)

Cascading information from senior


levels throughout the
organization

280
280

New reality created


via collaboration
(Mills, 2004)

Reciprocal relationships established


(Cialdini, 2001b)

New reality created


via collaboration
(Mills, 2004)

Outcomes

Reciprocal relationships established


(Cialdini, 2001b)

Meeting w ith groups


face-to-face to discuss issues and
ideas

Encouraging discus- Helping people


Recognizing good
efforts in nonsion and feedback
achieve their goals
through focusing
monetary ways
them and monitoring
perf ormance

Acti vities

Supportive proce sse s: Providing support to people in their work and lives (part 2)

Table Q1. (continued). Process Outcomes Matrix

281
281

282
APPENDIX R:
PERMISSION TO USE FIGURE 2

283

From: "Alexander, Huw" <huw.alexander@sagepub.co.uk>


To: <cfliege@waldenu.edu>
Subject: RE: Permissions
Date: Tuesday, January 10, 2006 11:12 AM
Dear Cheryl,
Thank you for your request. Please feel free to include this material
in your dissertation and make sure to reference the material fully.
With all best wishes,
Huw

-----Original Message----From: Clifford, Anna On Behalf Of permissions


Sent: 03 January 2006 18:11
To: cfliege@waldenu.edu
Cc: Alexander, Huw
Subject: RE: Permissions
Dear Cheryl,
Thank you for your request, however, this is actually a publication of
our sister office in London. I have ccd my colleague there, Huw
Alexander and I am sure that he will be in touch shortly.
Sincerely,
Anna Clifford
Permissions & Translations Administrator
Sage Publications
2455 Teller Road
Thousand Oaks, CA 91320
805-410-7713
805-376-9562 fax
anna.clifford@sagepub.com
-----Original Message----From: cfliege@waldenu.edu [mailto:cfliege@waldenu.edu]
Sent: Monday, December 12, 2005 8:03 AM
To: permissions
Subject: Permissions

284
E-mail: cfliege@waldenu.edu
-------------------------------------------------------------------------Name: Cheryl M. Fliege
Affliation: Walden University student
Address: 533 Justa Road
City: Metamora
State: IL
Zip: 61548
Phone: 309/694-5599/home 309/383-4602
Reference Code:
Title_of_publication: Methods of Text and Discourse Analysis
Type_of_publication: Book
Type_of_Pub_Other:
Isbn_issn: 0-7619-6483-5
Pub Date: 2000
Volume_Issue:
Title_of_Material: Figure 1.1 From theory to the instruments of
empirical research; Figure 1.2 Theoretical and methodological research
operations
Authors_of_Material: Titscher, S.; Meyer, M.; Wodak, R., Vetter E.
Portion_of_material: 2 pages
Page_Range: pages 10 and 14, but only the figures on these pages
Type_of_use: republish in a thesis/dissertation
Type_of_use_Other:
Purpose_of_use: Academic
Distribution_qty: Maybe 20 people, but its a dissertation and its
hard
to predict
Title_of_your_publication: Positive Organizational Rsults and
Successful
Communication on Initiatives: An Analysis of Exemplary Middle Manager
Communicators
Requestor_type_of_publication: Dissertation
Author_Editor_your_publication: Cheryl M. Fliege (self)
your_publisher_distributor: University of Michigan dissertation
publishers/Walden University
Estimated_pub_date: Summer 2006 (I hope)
Entire Publication:
Other_Use_of_Material:
Comments:
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285
APPENDIX S:
PERMISSION TO SUMMARIZE CIALDINI

286

287
APPENDIX T:
PERMISSION TO USE MAXQDA SCREENSHOTS

288

Original Message ----From: info@maxqda.de


To: cfliege@waldenu.edu
Sent: Tuesday, September 12, 2006 11:43 AM
Subject: Your MAXqda + MAX Maps
Dear Cheryl,
Mona forwarded your message to me and Im happy to answer it. You may of course use
MAXqda screenshots for the publication of your dissertation! We would be very happy to get the
reference to your dissertation! And if possible we would be very happy to get a short description
of your topic, your methods and how you used MAXqda. We are currently in the process of a
major renovation of your website and we are willing to insert information on projects and
publication which are done with MAXqda. It would be great if you could provide the information
about your work.
Concerning the reference; for the screenshots the following footnote would be fine: MAXqda,
Qualitative Data Analysis Software, Version 2, Berlin, Germany 2004; www.maxqda.com
If you are using quotations from the manual, you just take the information out of the manual.
Looking forward to hearing from you.
Best regards
Anne

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289
CURRICULUM VITAE
Cheryl M. Fliege
533 Justa Road
Metamora, IL 61548
(309) 740-1660
Education
Walden University, Minneapolis, MN
Ph.D. Candidate Applied Management and Decision Sciences, Degree expected 2007
The University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA
M.A. in Hospital and Health Administration, 1981
Valparaiso University, Valparaiso, IN
B.A. in English and Mass Communication
Professional Experience
Illinois Central College East Peoria, IL
Associate Vice President Marketing, Communications, Customer Relations; Dec. 2000 Present
Adjunct Faculty, Department of English and Professional Development Institute
Converse Marketing, Peoria, IL
Vice President/Consulting Services, 1997 to Dec. 2000
Methodist Medical Center; Peoria, IL
Director of Marketing, Publications, and Research; 1989 to 1997
Director of Physician Information1987 to 1989
Medical Staff Writer1986 to 1987
Oconomowoc, WI
Freelance Writer1984 to 1986
Methodist Medical Center; Peoria, IL
Assistant Director of Community Relations1981 to 1984
The University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA
Program Assistant1979 to 1981
South Suburban Hospital, Hazelcrest, IL
Director of Public Relations, 1978 to 1979
Bethesda Lutheran Home, Watertown, WI
Writer, Photographer1976 to 1978
Silver Cross Hospital, Joliet, Illinois
Secretary, Public Relations Department, 1975 to 1976

290
Honors, Certificates, Related Experience
Childrens Home Board Member, 1988-1991
Friends of Owens Center Board Member, 1989-1992
American Heart Association Heart Walk Chairman for Methodist, 1994
Rhodell Owens Volunteer of the Year Award, Owens Recreation Center, 1994
Concordia Lutheran School Board of Education 1994-1996
Peoria Park District Recreation Advisory Board and Revenue Producing Subcommittee 1995-1997
Member, Editorial Board, Peoria Woman, 1996 to present
Member, American Society for Training and Development (ASTD) 1997
Member - American Management Association, 1999 to present
Member National Conference on Marketing and Public Relations (NCMPR), 2000 to present
Illinois Central College Foundation Board, Spring 2000
District 5 NCMPR Communicator of the Year 2005
National Communicator of the Year 2005
Six Sigma Yellow Belt Training,2005
Six Sigma Green Belt Training, 2005