Leadership
May 7, 2012

Le rôle du discours narratif dans la gestion publique

Le « discours narratif » est la dernière tendance en politique et en gestion publique – il suffit de suivre l’actualité pour s’en convaincre. Que dit-on, et que veut-on dire? Pourquoi les fonctionnaires devraient-ils s’attarder aux techniques de narration, et comment peut-on perfectionner ses compétences dans l’art du récit?

La narration s’entend d’une présentation ordonnée des événements, encore que cet ordre ne soit pas nécessairement chronologique. Les événements, et l’ordre dans lequel ils sont présentés, donnent un sens au discours. Ils mobilisent et persuadent l’auditoire. Prenons par exemple les discours narratifs du secteur public suivants :

  • Narration politique. Tous les partis politiques créent leur propre version de l’histoire récente pour asseoir leur prétention à gouverner. Les chefs de parti présentent un discours narratif qui rehausse leur expérience de la vie et leurs compétences en leadership. Comme les récits des adversaires sont forcément contradictoires, les partis et leurs chefs tentent de démolir et de discréditer ce que les autres racontent.
  • Narration personnelle. Le fonctionnaire qui demande une promotion ne doit pas seulement faire la preuve de ses antécédents, mais aussi produire un document cohérent relatant son parcours professionnel, ce qu’il signifie et en quoi il a particulièrement contribué à le préparer à relever les défis que présente le poste convoité. En d’autres termes, il raconte son histoire, en donnant des exemples personnels.
  • Responsabilisation. Certains échecs sont inévitables, et doivent être expliqués. Ces narrations explicatives, qu’on trouve souvent dans les rapports des vérificateurs généraux ou des enquêtes publiques, présentent l’ordre chronologique des événements, déterminent les parties concernées et finissent par désigner un ou des responsables.
  • Élaboration des politiques et planification. Les politiques publiques comportent toujours un volet narratif, ne serait-ce que le récit des événements ayant mené à leur élaboration. Les plans ministériels aussi comportent un volet narratif prédisant les interactions futures entre les facteurs extérieurs et les engagements du ministère.

Le discours narratif imprègne le secteur public, faisant de l’art du récit – soit la capacité de créer et de communiquer une histoire convaincante – une compétence essentielle aussi bien pour les politiciens que pour les fonctionnaires. Les discours sont contradictoires, ce qui exige des compétences en analyse, en critique et en démolition de la version de l’adversaire.

Mais comment peut-on acquérir ces compétences en narration?

L’administration publique est un domaine d’études appliquées bien connu pour puiser dans d’autres disciplines. Ainsi, on se tourne vers les sciences politiques pour clarifier les questions de responsabilisation et analyser le sentiment et le processus décisionnel des électeurs, et vers l’économie pour analyser le comportement d’optimisation de la valeur dans un contexte de marché, afin de prédire les répercussions des impôts et taxes, des dépenses et de la réglementation.

Où les gestionnaires de l’administration publique peuvent-ils se familiariser davantage avec le discours narratif? Une source évidente est constituée par les sciences humaines, la littérature et les études cinématographiques. Il existe aussi un champ pluridisciplinaire qu’on appelle la narratologie, axé sur la narration tous médias confondus. Mon désir de comprendre l’art de la narration m’a donc poussé loin de ma formation initiale en économie pour traverser l’une de ces cloisons qui sont malheureusement monnaie courante dans le milieu universitaire.

En traversant cette cloison, j’ai découvert de nombreux sujets de réflexion et beaucoup d’enseignements utiles. Le roman, tel qu’on le concevait à ses débuts au XVIIIe siècle, a établi le principe du récit exposé par un narrateur omniscient. Au siècle dernier, les auteurs se sont éloignés de ce principe pour raconter une histoire vue par un ou plusieurs personnages du récit, plutôt que d’un point de vue extérieur. Le point de vue du narrateur devient alors essentiel au récit.

Comme la narration peut se faire d’un grand nombre de points de vue, on peut faire l’analogie avec l’un des principes fondamentaux de l’analyse bureaucratique : notre « point de vue » dépend littéralement du point où nous nous trouvons et de la direction dans laquelle nous tournons nos regards. Ainsi, l’analyste du secteur public doit étudier de près le narrateur pour déterminer les facteurs qui influencent son point de vue, par exemple les expériences qui l’on façonné, ou encore les partis pris, conscients ou non, susceptibles de tromper l’auditoire.

Je donne un cours sur la rhétorique et la gestion à la Rotman School of Management de l’Université de Toronto, dans le cadre duquel je demande aux étudiants d’analyser de près divers discours narratifs contemporains à propos de dirigeants et d’organismes dans le but d’en tirer des leçons de leadership (ce qu’il faut faire, et parfois ce qu’il ne faut pas faire) et d’en dégager des techniques de narration, c’est-à-dire ce qu’on peut apprendre de la façon dont une histoire a été racontée pour l’appliquer à son propre récit.

Durant l’élaboration du cours, j’ai cherché des discours narratifs particulièrement riches et stimulants, qui ont été salués par la critique et qui ont résisté au passage du temps. Je n’essaie donc pas de donner aux étudiants un livre de recettes toutes faites sur l’art de la narration, mais plutôt de diriger un effort collectif visant à tirer des enseignements des classiques contemporains. Pour illustrer le processus, permettez-moi de vous présenter deux exemples éloquents.

L’histoire racontée dans Douze hommes en colère, un film tourné en 1957 par Reginald Rose et relatant les délibérations d’un jury dans un procès pour meurtre, est encore aujourd’hui présentée au théâtre. Les leçons de leadership qu’on peut en tirer sont données par le juré numéro huit (personnifié par Henry Fonda), qui est le seul à douter de la culpabilité de l’accusé et qui réussit, petit à petit, à convaincre les autres jurés de rendre un verdict de non-culpabilité. Le juré numéro huit déploie une vaste gamme d’aptitudes en matière de persuasion. Il n’essaie pas de convaincre les autres de prime abord; il les invite simplement à discuter. Il est doué pour comprendre les autres, il a une oreille attentive et donne donc la parole à ceux qui sont indécis, tout en faisant apparaître les desseins cachés des plus fervents défenseurs d’un verdict de culpabilité. Son leadership se manifeste aussi physiquement : il envahit l’espace personnel de deux jurés pour leur arracher la feuille sur laquelle ils jouent à tic-tac-toe, reconstitue la déposition d’un des témoins qui affirme avoir vu le meurtre, et laisse le plus sadique des jurés l’utiliser pour démontrer comment il pense que la victime a été poignardée. Le numéro huit fait montre des compétences de persuasion d’un ministre ou d’un haut fonctionnaire en pleine possession de ses moyens. On peut donc apprendre de lui en mettant en application ses techniques de persuasion dans les contextes pertinents.

Douze hommes en colère présente aussi une leçon importante à propos de l’importance du discours narratif lorsqu’on a le fardeau de la preuve dans un procès criminel. La poursuite est tenue de formuler un récit cohérent reposant sur des preuves. Dans le film, le procureur de l’État affirme que l’adolescent accusé est sorti en trombe de la maison après une violente dispute avec son père, a acheté un couteau à cran d’arrêt et est rentré avant minuit pour poignarder son père, sous le regard de deux témoins se trouvant dan

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Ontario’s Justice on Target strategy has been recognized with the top...
 
From a small community of like-minded managers and with the support...
 
As part of our ongoing series of conversations on the relationship...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.10 December 2007 If you were in or around...
 
Since its founding in 1947, IPAC has espoused what is best...
 
L’acquisition et le transfert de connaissances sont des processus fluides et...
 
Acquiring and transferring knowledge is a fluid, dynamic process. Teaching and...
 
Le « discours narratif » est la dernière tendance en politique...
 
Narrative has become a buzzword in politics and public management –...
 
Robert Louis Stevenson once observed that “politics is the only occupation...
 
In recent weeks our headlines and the world’s attention have been...
 
Ces dernières semaines, les manchettes et l’attention du monde entier étaient...
 
The Ontario Public Service is participating in a partnership project with...
 
As federal government managers deal with the results of the recently...
 
The Arctic is a world apart. The distances are epic, and...
The Ontario Public Service (OPS) is at a crossroads. The 2018...