Social interaction in hospital management group meetings

This paper belongs to Thematic Session 2 of the Gothenburg Meeting Science Symposium

Tomi Laapotti, University of Tampere (Department of Language and Communication Studies)

At the Gothenburg symposium, I would discuss the findings and conclusions of my article-based dissertation (completed 2017) focusing on formal meetings. The study focuses on hospital management group meetings, and aims to understand the importance of these meetings for the hospital by analyzing the social interaction at these meetings. My study treats meetings as substantial organizational practices, where the organization is made visible and organized (Schwartzman, 1989; Boden, 1994). The data was gathered from a large public hospital in Finland: the data consists of ten video recordings of management group meetings from two different organizational levels, and interviews of seven management group members. The theoretical background is built upon the tradition of bona fide group perspective (e.g. Stohl & Putnam, 2003) and the communicative constitution of organization (CCO) perspective (e.g. Putnam & Nicotera, 2009).

The first article of the dissertation (Laapotti & Mikkola, 2015) describes the use of message functions during the meetings. The inductive analysis resulted in six categories of functions: information sharing, information processing, information assessment, operational coordination, procedural messages and humor. One-sided information sharing was the most dominant function of meeting interaction. In the second article (Laapotti & Mikkola, 2016), I analyzed both the interaction network structures of the meetings, and the participants’ perceptions of the significance of their meetings. Most of the discussions were dyadic between the chair and one member at a time, not between members. The goals of the information sharing during meetings were described as informative, not instrumental. Participants found it challenging to describe any concrete added value that the meetings contributed to their management work.

The discourse analytical third article (Laapotti, 2016) focuses on how the participants make sense of and give meanings to the hospital organization in the meetings, and on the importance of these sensemaking activities for the participants and for the organization. There is a tension between the agencies of the participants and the agency of the hospital organization. The organization’s non-human agency is mediated through the meeting agenda and particularly through the minutes of the highest level management group of the hospital. Meetings are regular, formal, and distinguished “guiding lights” in the process of organizing, which serve both the goals of the participants and the “organization”. The fourth article (in progress) focuses on the functions of problem-solving talk during the meetings and uses thematic analysis to explore these functions from the observation data. The main functions were to perform the meeting (e.g. information sharing without discussion), to enhance problem-solving, relational maintenance, and to use a problem as an instrument.

It seems the task originally designed for these meetings is performed outside of the meeting situations and therefore the role of the meetings has changed from what is written in the administrative rules of the hospital. The deeper significance of meetings is in the sense of belonging, identification, and participation in the process through which the organization is organized. These meetings are special arenas where the communicative construction of organization takes place.

Boden, D. (1994). The business of talk: Organization in action. Cambridge: Polity Press
Laapotti, T. & Mikkola, L. (2015). Kokousvuorovaikutuksen tehtäväkeskeiset funktiot sairaalajohtoryhmässä [Task-focused message functions in hospital management group meetings]. Työelämän Tutkimus 13 (1), pp. 38–55.
Laapotti, T. (2016). Organisaation merkityksentäminen sairaalajohtoryhmäkokouksissa. [Making sense of the organization if hospital management group meetings]. Prologi – Puheviestinnän vuosikirja 2016, pp. 24–45.
Laapotti, T. & Mikkola, L. (2016). Social Interaction in Management Group Meetings – A Case Study of Finnish Hospital. Journal of Health Organization and Management 30 (4), 613–629.
Putnam, L. L. & Nicotera A. M. 2009. Building theories of organization. The constitutive role of communication. New York, NY: Routledge.
Schwartzman, H. B. (1989). The meeting. Gatherings in organizations and communities. New York: Plenum press.
Stohl, C. & Putnam, L. L. (2003). Communication in bona fide groups: A retrospective and prospective account. In Frey, L. R. (ed.) Group communication in context. Studies of bona fide groups (2nd ed.). New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 399–414.

Start the discussion about this in the Kunsido forum