Stasis Theory for Teamwork
This resource provides an overview of stasis theory and what you can do with it to help you conduct research, compose documents, and work in teams.
Last Edited: 2010-04-17 05:25:27
Stasis theory can also help writers work together in teams to build common ground and solve problems. When used as a process for talking through information related to a writing topic, the stasis questions can help teams generate and continue dialogue so that consensus may be reached - so that team members may achieve stasis with one another.
For example, if students are working with other writers to compose a report on racism in America, different team members might disagree about which actions are considered racist. Here is a sample dialogue from a team meeting where a group is working through their report on racism in America:
"Flying the Confederate battle flag is racist."
"Flying the Confederate battle flag is not racist."
"Yes, it is because it represents the Confederate states that supported slavery, and it's generally accepted that slavery in America was racist."
"Flying the Confederate battle flag is not racist, because it's a part of American history and Southern heritage."
These two team members disagree about whether or not flying the Confederate battle flag is a racist act. This sort of disagreement might lead to a complete breakdown of group work if common ground is not built.
In this example, the team members go on to agree that people still exhibit the Confederate battle flag (fact) on their vehicles and on their clothes, but that the flag is also displayed in museums (fact). They go on to agree that the issue is still very important to some people since a number of American states have recently debated the flag in legislatures and assemblies (quality).
Moreover, group members note that a number of legal suits have been filed for and against the display of the flag in public places, so it's clear the issue still matters to a lot of people (quality).
In this sense, the team members have achieved stasis on two of the four stases - fact (people still display the flag, though in different places) and quality (it's a very important issue). Where the team members disagree, however, is in the stases of definition (is the display of the flag "racist") and policy (what should we do about this?).
Thinking about this disagreement using stasis theory allows people to build common ground so that parties who disagree can move toward resolution and action even if they can't agree on all levels. For example, team members who disagree about whether or not flying the Confederate battle flag is racist might still be able to agree on what to do about it.
"Ok, we disagree about whether flying the flag is racist, but we can agree that flying the flag is probably protected under the First Amendment to the United States Constitution, that flying the flag is protected by our freedom of speech."
"So, people are free to display the flag on their vehicles, on their clothes, and on their property, as well as in museums. But, state legislatures and assemblies will have to debate and vote on whether or not the flag can be displayed on publicly funded property or in public symbols, such as state flags and seals."
"That sounds pretty democratic. Sure."
Not every team situation is going to end this amicably; however, by using the stasis questions to help keep the dialogue going - on a reasonable course - team members can find common ground and work toward action that is acceptable to most, if not all, of the group members.
Brizee, Allen H. “Stasis Theory as a Strategy for Workplace Teaming and Decision Making.” Journal of Technical Writing and Communication 38.4 (2008): 363-385.
Johnson-Sheehan, Richard. Writing Proposals: Rhetoric for Managing Change, 2nd ed. New York: Longman, 2007.