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Discussing the Undiscussable: A Guide to Overcoming Defensive Routines in the Workplace Paperback

ISBN-13: 978-0787986322 ISBN-10: 0787986321 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Jossey-Bass; 1 edition (September 28, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0787986321
  • ISBN-13: 978-0787986322
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 7 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #682,959 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


“I highly recommend this book to leaders, consultants, and anyone else who wants to help teams and organizations learn to address their most challenging issues. Bill Noonan’s insights, stories, and practical methods make this an important book to read.”—Roger Schwarz, author, The Skilled Facilitator, and coauthor, The Skilled Facilitator Fieldbook


“Noonan makes Chris Argyris’s pathbreaking work on organizational defensive routines accessible, and even entertaining.”—Bruce Patton, coauthor, Getting to YES and Difficult Conversations


“Whether at work or home we can use Bill Noonan's work to improve our lives and those of the people we interact with.”

—Robb E. Van Cleave, treasurer, International Board of Directors, Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM)


“In a world of increasing complexity where multiple perspectives are required for addressing work issues, the ability to guide groups in having honest discussions where both intuition and data are given full and fair consideration is more and more important.”—Ralph Biggadike, professor, management division, Columbia Business School





From the Inside Flap

Since his 1990 landmark book Overcoming Organizational Defenses, Chris Argyris has extensively researched and written about how well-meaning, smart people create vicious cycles of defensive behavior to protect themselves from embarrassment and threat. In Discussing the Undiscussable, Bill Noonan enlivens the scholarly work of Chris Argyris through the use of reflective exercises and easy-to-read chapters that illuminate the basic human experience endemic to the creation of defensive routines. This book offers hope for altering organizational defensive routines by leveraging the greatest opportunity for change—the way we think and act.

Discussing the Undiscussable provides a set of practical “how to do” exercises for detecting, surfacing, and discussing organizational defensive routines in a safe and productive way. The combination of text, business fable, and interactive and reflective exercises is versatile in its application to both individuals and groups. The companion DVD contains video vignettes of the book’s business fable where the actors model both defensive routines and virtuous cycles of behavior. Readers will instantly recognize what has long been going on in the workplace, and will be able to develop the skills to talk about it productively. 

  --This text refers to the Unknown Binding edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Birdview on September 18, 2007
Format: Paperback
I can't praise this book any higher, for 2 reasons. One is, and the most important one is, that this book is about a kind of interpersonal practice that was advocated by Chris Argyris and Donald Schon for at least 30 years, which was called action science. And there is a group of very experienced consultants, and also students of Chris Argyris, still working on this approach. And I want to say, action science is the most powerful knowledge/practice that I have encountered in my life. It probably is one of the most important leverage on how to create a learning organization. AND, Chris Argyris though had written over 30 books on this topic, he wrote his books with two thumbs. Reading Argyris' works is always a daunting task. Before Bill Noonan's work come to live, I almost thought that it was impossible for this work to be written in "human language," and the author proved me that I was damn wrong.

The reason for giving this book my highest praise, is because both Argyris and Schon's students went out and set up a consulting firm called Action Design (please google it). They are VERY GOOD, so good that I think they are, from my heart, the top-notch class of consultants. They refined Argyris and Schon's work and keep developing their own way of adopting the practice of doing an effective intervention on sticky organizational issues, and also keep teaching others how to do it. And Bill Noonan is one of them.

The second reason for praising this book, is because it blends with different channels to convey Argyris's concept. It includes metaphors, story-telling method, a case-in-point, a DVD showing a lively conversation, and of course, the part that I most treasured, his personal experience and lesson-learned.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Drs A. J. Ardon on November 6, 2007
Format: Paperback
Discussing the Undiscusable is a book of great importance. I have read most of Chris Argyris' works and try to bring his insights into practice, which is far from easy and requires much practice. In my opinion, Argyris' work should play a pivotal role in organization changing and learning. Still, there is always a gap to bridge between his insights and the day-to-day practice of many managers (and practitionars). I think Bill Noonan succesfully contributes to bridge this gap with his accessible book: simple words, very practical examples and the DVD-ROM that clearly illustrates what he means (very helpful!). This book, that succesfully brings Argyris' brings ideas to all of us, deserves much praise!
Arend Ardon
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Brandon Hull on November 11, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book unveils how our personal defensive routines can stand in the way of, or even utterly undermine, organizational performance. What's great about this book are the example dialogues given. They're not hokey -- they're very believable. And the companion videos are nice reinforcements to the book's teachings. Great lessons.
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