COMM 4170-01:  (Applied) Organizational Communication                      Fall 2005

                           Mondays and Wednesdays, 3:00-5:00 p.m.

                           LNCO 1100


Instructor:     Dan Lair

                     LNCO 2810

                     581-6665 (hard to reach; use e-mail instead)


                     Office Hours: W 2:00-3:00 p.m.

                                          Th. 5:00-6:00 p.m.

                                          Or by appointment


Required Text(s):


      DeWine, S. (2001). The consultant’s craft: Improving organizational communication (2nd Ed.).  Boston: Bedford St. Martin’s.


      Keyton, J., & Shockley-Zalabak, P. (2004).  Case studies for organizational communication: Understanding communication processes.  Los Angeles: Roxbury Publishing Co.


      Supplemental readings will be placed on reserve and e-reserve at Marriott Library.


Suggested Supplemental Text:


      Cheney, G., Christensen, L.T., Zorn, T.E., & Ganesh, S. (2004). Organizational communication in an age of globalization: Issues, reflections, practices.  Long Grove, IL: Waveland.  (On reserve at Marriott Library).


Course Description and Objectives:


      This course is designed as an opportunity to being applying the theories and principles of organizational communication covered in the introductory course (COMM 3170) to “real-life” organizational experiences.  Accordingly, COMM 3170 is a prerequisite for this course; the instructor will audit students enrolled in 4170, and any students who have not met the prerequisite will be dropped from the course.


      COMM 4170 is “applied” in four senses:


·        First, the bulk of in-class work will be devoted to the discussions applying organizational communication theories and principles to real-world case studies.

·        Second, the course will develop an emphasis on applied organizational skills, by focusing on communication consulting in general and, in particular, organizational training and development.

·        Third, the class itself will be a sort of “laboratory” exploring one particular organizational structure: the matrix organization. 

·        Finally, the course will be applied in that you will be putting the skills, theories, and practices you learn (and have learned previously) to work in a group project.  In this project, you will act as a communication consulting team who will work to help a local non-profit organization improve some aspect of its communication


In sum, this course will provide students with the opportunity to 1) extend their knowledge of organizational communication theory and practice; 2) better apply the lessons of organizational communication to their own organizational experiences; 3) gain exposure to the skills of organizational communication practitioners, particularly communication consultants and trainers; and 4) provide valuable and meaningful service to the community at large in the process.


Service Learning and Collaborative Learning:


This class offers a somewhat different experience from the types of group work that you may have participated in for other classes.  Because you will be working with actual organizations in the community, you are responsible to far more than just your fellow group members.  This means that you need to not only contribute to your group’s efforts, but also that you must ensure that you are learning as much as possible throughout the course in order to ensure that the service you provide your client organization is as high quality as you are capable of delivering.  Accordingly, your commitment to come to class prepared – having read and reflected on the material assigned – to actively engage in discussion is crucial for your individual success, your group’s success, and the success of the class as a whole.


Class Structure:


As mentioned above, the class will be structured into a matrix organization.  As such, you will be a member of two teams: a group project team and a theory specialization team.  Project teams will be responsible for identifying a local nonprofit organization who would like some assistance in improving some facet of their communication, volunteering for that organization, and then, in collaboration with the organization, identifying, assessing, and recommending solutions/improvements regarding a specific communication-related issue.  Theory specialization teams will develop a specific expertise in one of the four main theoretical approaches to organizational communication we will develop over the course of the semester: classical/HR approaches; systems approaches; cultural approaches; and critical approaches.  The work of project teams will happen primarily outside of the class (although time will occasionally be allotted for group work in class); the work of theory specialization teams will happen inside class (i.e. in breakout discussion groups on case studies). 


The structure of the class, then, will look like this:




Classical/HR Specialists

Systems Theory Specialists

Critical/Cultural Approaches Specialists

Group One

Todd McCausland

Peter Johnson

Jason Winzeler

Kristen Ware

Kyle Coles

Amanda Smart

Bryce Hummel

Group Two

Kara Draper

Michael Gulbrandsen

Wendy Carter

Ben Tucker

Dave Hill

Adam Hardman


Group Three

Maryam Pedraza

Stephanie Reynolds

Heiti Sin

Rob Gleason

Laura Smith

Brandon Mallak


Group Four

David King

Cameron Lange

Jaren Larsen

Vanessa Thornton

Stephanie Sonoda

Tom Jackman


Group Five

Cory Tanner

Tim Ormond

Brady Stout

Heidi Baldwin

Tyler Lloyd

Olivia Wright



Course Policies:


  • Attendance and Participation:  Your attendance and participation are crucial to the success of this course, as we will be relying on each others’ organizational experiences to apply the concepts we cover each day.  If you are not present, you will not be able to learn from others’ experience, nor will you be able to share your experiences to help others as well.  To that extent, it is essential that you 1) attend class and arrive on time, 2) arrive having both read the assigned material and completed your journal entry for that material, and 3) actively share your experiences and reflections with the class (if this final requirement is difficult for you, please meet with me to work out other ways in which you can contribute to the course). 


Accordingly, I will take attendance each class session.  You are entitled to three absences.  After that, 10 points will be deducted from your participation grade for each successive absence.  Your registration for this course signals your commitment to attend each course period, on time and for the duration of the period.  Any exceptions to the above due to unforeseen emergencies must be negotiated with me, as soon as possible.


  • Late Work: All assignments must be turned in at the beginning of the class period in which they are due.  A letter grade will be deducted for every day that an assignment is late.  There are no exceptions to this policy: if you will miss class due to an excused absence, you need to make arrangements to get your assignment to me beforehand.  You may e-mail me assignments (in Word or .rtf format only – no WordPerfect!) at, or drop them off at the main desk at LNCO 2400.


  • ADA: The University of Utah seeks to provide equal access to its programs, services and activities for people with disabilities.  If you will need accommodations in the class, reasonable prior notice needs to be given to the Center for Disability Services, 162 Olpin Union Building, 581-5020 (V/TDD).  CDS will work with you and the instructor to make arrangements for accommodations.  All written information in this course can be made available in alternative format with prior notification to the Center for Disability Services.


  • Withdrawal Policy: The registrar cautions that withdrawing from a course and other registration matters are the student’s responsibility.  The last day to withdraw without tuition penalty is September 2.


  • Academic Honesty: Standards of academic honesty as described in the Student Code (published in the course schedule) will be enforced.  Incidents of academic dishonesty, such as cheating on an exam or plagiarism, will automatically result in an immediate failure on the assignment and may result in a failing grade for this course.  If at any time you are unsure whether your actions constitute academic misconduct, please see the instructor for clarification.


Course Assignments and Grade Distribution:


Individual Volunteer Assessment Essay


Group Work


Identification of Organization (5%)

Contract w/ Organization (15%)

Research Report (30%)

Presentation of Findings (30%)

Organization Evaluation (10%)

Group Evaluations (10%)


Exam One


Exam Two



Attendance (50%)

Quizzes (20%)

Case Studies (20%)

In-Class Activities (20%)





















Grades will be distributed accordingly:



























Resources for Research/Assessment:


Data Gathering

Data Analysis

Observation Tips

Thematic Analysis Tips

Interview Tips

Coding Open Ended Questions

Interviews – Probing Questions

Content Analysis Tips

Focus Group Tips


Network Analysis Tips

 Example Report

Critical Incident Tecnhique


Developing Self-Report Scales




Tentative Course Schedule

(please check regularly online for changes and updates)


Topics and Readings

Assignments Due


Course Introduction

Introductions and Syllabus

Organizational Communication: Your Major and Your Career (Guest: George Cheney, Sequence Coordindator)



Theory and Practice

Corman, “That Works Fine in Theory” (e-reserve)

Keyton & Shockley-Zalabak (KS-Z), pp. 5-25



Introduction to Consulting & Training

DeWine, Chapters 1 & 2

Goodall, “On Becoming an Organizational Detective” (e-reserve)



No Class: Labor Day



Consulting: Entry (and the rest of the process)

DeWine, Chapter 3 & 20

Weisbord, “The Organization Development Contract” (e-reserve)



Classical Management and HR Theories

Kanter, “The New Workforce” (e-reserve)

“A Matter of Perspective” (KS-Z Chapter 15)



Systems Theories

Senge, “The Laws of the Fifth” (e-reserve)

Byrd, “Developmental Stages” (e-reserve)

Group Identification of Organization Due


Cultural Theories

Pacanowsky & O’Donnell-Trujillo, “Communication and Organizational Cultures” (e-reserve)

“Change, Coalitions, and Coping” (KS-Z Chapter 2)



Critical Theories

Eisenberg & Goodall, “Critical Approaches” (e-reserve)

“Corporate Counseling” (KS-Z Chapter 27)



Consulting: Process and Resistance

Weisbord, “ ‘Third Wave’ Managing and Consulting” (e-reserve)

Lange, “Seeking Client Resistance” (e-reserve)




In-Class Application: Looking through the Theoretical Lenses



Consulting: Investigating and Assessing

DeWine, Chapters 4 & 5

“Contemplating My First Year” (KS-Z Chapter 1)

Individual Volunteer Assessment Due


Research Methods

Cheney et al, “Chapter 15” (e-reserve if you don’t already have it)

Weisbord, “Methods of Diagnosis and Action” (regular reserve)



Research Methods in Focus: The Invterview

Stewart and Cash, “Structuring the Interview” (e-reserve)  



Spotlight on Training: Ethics

Harrison, “Toward an Ethical Framework” (e-reserve)

Purdy, “Ethics and Communication Consulting” (e-reserve)

 “The Penis People” (KS-Z Chapter 32)

Group Contract w/ Organization Due


Consulting:  Interventions and Feedback

DeWine, Chapters 8 & 13

“Dr. Jeckyll and Pastor Clyde” (KS-Z Chapter 23)



Exam One (In-class, open book)



Focus Area: Teamwork

DeWine, Chapter 12

Weisbord, “Transforming Teamwork” (regular reserve)



Focus Area: Teamwork

 “Engineering Difference” (KS-Z Chapter 14)

“The Fun Team” (KS-Z Chapter 13)

Case Study One


Focus Area: Organizational Change

DeWine, Chapter 15

Zaltman and Duncan, “Resistance to Change” (e-reserve)



Focus Area: Organizational Change

 “A Decision to Change” (KS-Z Chapter 21)

“Discord at the Music School” (KS-Z Chapter 5)



Focus Area: Interpersonal Conflict at Work

DeWine, Chapter 14



Focus Area: Interpersonal Conflict

“Navigating the Limits of a Smile” (KS-Z Chapter 33)

“When a Good Thing Goes Bad” (KS-Z Chapter 24)

Case Study Two


Providing Feedback: Presentations and Professional Reports

Review (closely) DeWine, Chs. 8 & 13









“Group Work” Day



Presentation Dress Rehearsal: Groups One and Three

Group Research

Reports Due


Presentation Dress Rehearsal: Groups Two and Four



Presentation Dress Rehearsal: Group Five

Exam Review

Revised Professional Reports Due!!!



Exam Two

No Class

(Take Home Due Monday, 12/12 at 5:00 p.m.!!!)



Final Course Period TBA

Group Member Evaluations Due, 12:00 p.m.