The work is intelligent collaboration among professionals, not a competition with winners and losers

UK, 8 September 2016.- Professional management teams in business evolves. Maybe not so quickly that the technology but is tailored to the needs of each client. In this sense, I just read an interesting analysis of Margaret J.Wheatley happened to play here for their usefulness. I also recommend listening to the video Yves Morieux about the rules at work. I invite you to reflect and comment on your experience.

Yves Morieux: “Modern work — from waiting tables to crunching numbers to dreaming up new products — is about solving brand-new problems every day, flexibly, in brand-new ways. But as Yves Morieux shows in this insightful talk, too often, an overload of processes and sign-offs and internal metrics keeps us from doing our best. He offers a new way to think of work — as a collaboration, not a competition”:

MARGARET WHEATLEY, Ed.D.

Margaret Wheatley is a well-respected writer, speaker, and teacher for how we can accomplish our work, sustain our relationships, and willingly step forward to serve in this troubling time. She has written six books: Walk Out Walk On (with Deborah Frieze, 2011); Perseverance (2010); Leadership and the New Science; Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future; A Simpler Way (with Myron Rogers); and Finding Our Way: Leadership for an Uncertain Time. Each of her books has been translated into several languages; Leadership and the New Science appears in 18 languages. She is co-founder and President emerita of The Berkana Institute, which works in partnership with a rich diversity of people and communities around the world, especially in the Global South. These communities find their health and resilience by discovering the wisdom and wealth already present in their people, traditions and environment (www.berkana.org). Wheatley received her doctorate in Organizational Behavior and Change from Harvard University, and a Masters in Media Ecology from New York University. She’s been an organizational consultant since 1973, a global citizen since her youth, a professor in two graduate business programs, a prolific writer, and a happy mother and grandmother. She has received numerous awards and honorary doctorates. You may read her complete bio at http://margaretwheatley.com/bio.html, and may download any of her many articles (free) at http://margaretwheatley.com/writing.html. 

Solving, not Attacking, Complex Problems
A Five-State Approach Based on an Ancient Practice
Margaret J. Wheatley and Geoff Crinean

Organizations today suffer from a severe disability when it comes to solving problems. In virtually every organization, regardless of mission and function, people are frustrated by problems that seem unsolvable. Every attempt to resolve a problem results in unintended consequences that dwarf the original one. Relationships worsen as people harden into opposing positions, each side insisting on its own solution, unwilling to consider alternatives. Too many problem-solving sessions become battlegrounds where decisions are made based on power rather than intelligence. Consider the language used to describe problem-solving. We “attack the problem,” “tackle the issue,” “take a stab at it,” “wrestle it to the ground,” “get on top of it.” If colleagues argue with us, we complain that they “shot down my idea,” “took pot shots at me,” “used me for target practice,” or that “I got killed.” In the face of opposition, we “back down,” “retreat” or “regroup.” (Sometimes there are gentler metaphors in use–we may “float an idea,” or test it to see “if it has legs.”) Such aggressive descriptions of problem solving point to a startling conclusion. We experience problem-solving sessions as war zones, we view competing ideas as enemies, and we use problems as weapons to blame and defeat opposition forces. No wonder we can’t come up with real lasting solutions! Aggressive problem-solving techniques manifest in subtle ways as well. Nearly every problem faced by an organization is exceedingly complex. Yet we act as if simple cause and effect is at work. We push to find the one simple reason things have gone wrong. We look for the one action, or the one person, that created this mess. As soon as we find someone to blame, we act as if we’ve solved the problem. Of course, it’s always someone else’s fault, never our own. This is the one real joy of scapegoating–we walk away, and somebody else or their project takes the hit. Finding others to blame is the only reward of simplistic thinking.

But satisfaction at naming the scapegoat is momentary. Long-term, we’ve set in motion a number of disastrous unintended consequences that create an impotent and hostile organizational culture. In a culture of blame, people become protective and reactive, striking out in self-defense. Innovation and risk-taking vanish. What arises are hardened positions, stronger factions, alliances, even cabals. As polarization takes hold, appreciation for diverse viewpoints disappears. People trust only those who think like they do. Real information goes underground and only angry gossip and paranoid rumors make it to the light of day. Passive aggression grows stronger in calculated strategies where people stonewall, delay, and sabotage. Thinking shrinks to moment-by-moment reactions and long-term strategic thinking disappears. Everybody needs to protect themselves, and nobody thinks about the whole enterprise. This sorry state of affairs is quite predictable. Aggression only breeds more aggression. It only creates more fear and anger. It is impossible to avoid this deteriorating cycle as long as aggressive tactics are pursued. What has been less evident is that our approaches to problem-solving are inherently aggressive. We haven’t noticed how our attempts to solve problems by seeking simplistic causes, by treating problems as enemies, by needing to assign blame, how all these behaviors are contributing to the increasing number of problems we face, and the deterioration of an organization’s or community’s capacity to work together.

There are healthy alternatives to this aggressive approach to problem-solving. But before detailing a five-stage process, let’s observe for a moment the sea of aggressive energy in which we swim, blindly. These days, our senses are bombarded with aggression. We are constantly confronted with global images of unending, escalating war and violence. In our personal lives, we can’t help but encounter angry people cursing into cell phones, watch T.V. talk shows where guests and audiences intimidate each other verbally and sometimes physically, or attend public meetings that disintegrate into shouting matches. Aggression appears frequently in advertising images, from food products that promise to “hammer your hunger,” to a recent candy commercial where formerly benign M&Ms ™ became violent and beat up a noisy moviegoer to everyone else’s satisfacción. Aggression is not only the dominant energy of this time, we regard it as a positive attribute. Parents scream from the sidelines of their children’s sports events: “Get aggressive!” Employees are rewarded for aggressive timelines and plans. Dictionaries define “aggressive” as hostile action, but also positively as assertive, bold, and enterprising.

The predominance of aggression in our behavior and language is more than a curious trend. Aggression only moves in one direction–it creates more aggression. We quickly become locked into a deteriorating cycle of increasing rage and violence. Caught in fear and anger, we lose the capacity to respond in any other way. We strike out ever more fiercely, thus creating more frightening reactions from those we oppose.

Aggression is inherently destructive of relationships. People and ideologies are pitted against each other, believing that in order to survive, they must destroy the opposition. While this is absolutely necessary on a real battlefield, when aggression moves into our day-to-day relationships, it destroys our capacity to work and live together. Relationships fracture, distrust increases, people retreat into self-defense and isolation, paranoia becomes commonplace. Aggressive tactics breed fear and anger, and these emotions destroy all hope for healthy communities, workgroups, families, and organizations.

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Aggression in Organizations

Aggression is the most common behavior used by many organizations, a nearly invisible medium that influences all decisions and actions. What is not recognized is that aggression is one of the greatest barriers to thinking clearly and working well together during this difficult time. Aggression is evident in the consistent use of war and sports metaphors. There is constant use of these images as we “bring in the big guns,” “dominate the field,” plan “a sneak attack,” or “rally the troops.” Recently, even email has turned violent: “I’ll shoot you an email.” And organizational aggression is on the rise, mirroring the societal trend. Competition has become increasingly ruthless with strategies that aim to destroy competitors and achieve total market domination, rather than former strategies of co-existence within well-defined niches. The resurgence of command and control leadership is a less obvious but strong form of aggression, where the will of one person is imposed on others with the demand for obedience and compliance.

Day-to-day in organizations there is the overt aggression in meetings where one or two people dominate the time, railroad the agenda, and insist on their opinion or strategy. Passive aggression is also abundant, as when people use delaying tactics, when they agree to do things and then fail to act, when they refuse to respond to communications or act contrary to prior agreements, when they act secretly and fail to communicate what they’re doing, when they resort to sarcasm and cutting humor. The impact of increasing aggression is having a profound impact on organizational relationships. Distrust is on the rise, so much so that in one survey, managers reported that the primary reason they attend meetings is because they don’t trust what their colleagues will do in their absence. More employees are retreating into self-protective stances, hoarding resources and information for fear of losing further control of their work. And worker stress levels are at an all-time high. In Canada, one-third of lost work days are from emotional/psychological causes.

Organizations are caught in aggression’s one-way street. Fear and anger will continue to increase unless we notice what is happening and make a choice for non-aggressive approaches. In the past, aggressive strategies were part of many organization’s cultures, but they were moderated by other practices. When we had more time available, and weren’t drenched in uncertainty and fear for the unknown future, there were moderating influences on aggression, such things as participation, consensus-seeking, patient problem-solving, inclusion, and diversity of perspectives. But now, in this culture of speed and overwhelm, there is nothing to counterbalance aggressive practices. Yet until we choose for alternative methods, we will continue to experience increasing anger, frustration, impasse, and exhaustion.

Solving problems free from aggression

For eons, humans have struggled to find less destructive ways of living together. In this present culture, we need to find the means to work and live together with less aggression if we are to resolve the serious problems that afflict and impede us. The five stage process described here originated in from an ancient teaching in Tibet. We have brought it forward, modified and expanded it, based on our experience of working in many large, complex organizations and communities who face intractable problems. This process allows individuals and groups to disengage from aggressive dynamics, yet to use the passion and energy of all involved to develop greater clarity and insight into appropriate and effective actions. To step aside from aggressive responses to problem-solving requires using some little-used skills: humility, curiosity, and a willingness to listen. Humility is a brave act–we have to admit that we don’t enough to solve the problem, that our approaches aren’t working and never will. Even our own treasured answers are insufficient–if everyone bowed to our demands and did what we asked, the problem still would not be solved. We need more information, more insight. This kind of humility is rare in competitive, embattled organizations and communities, but it is the door we must walk through to find the place of true solutions. One wise educator put it this way: “Humility is admitting that I don’t know the whole story. Compassion is recognizing that you don’t know it either.”

Hopefully, humility leads us up out of our bunkers, to open ground where we step away from the rigidity of our positions and become a bit curious. We need to be open to the possibility that colleagues and even strangers have information and perspectives that may be of value to us. Only with their input do we stand a chance of seeing this problem in all its complexity. Every perspective, prejudice, and opinion offers more information. If we can start to realize that we’re all on the same side–that the problem is the problem–then our different positions become a benefit that allow us to see the situation more fully.

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Five stages to solving complex problems

In order to develop a rich understanding of a complex problem and to determine appropriate actions to resolve it, there are five precise activities to complete in sequence. These are:

  • Cooling, Quieting.
  • Enriching through Fruitful Opposition
  • Magnetizing Resources
  • Precise Destroying
  • Intelligent Action

These five stages are depicted here as a cycle because they work developmentally, one stage creating the conditions for the next. This developmental sequence, however, can sometimes be gone through very quickly, or a group might spend a great deal of time in one stage and move rapidly through the next. Each stage has a form associated with it, a shape that provides the appropriate structure for the work at hand. Also, there are different core behaviors that facilitate the inquiry for each stage…

If you want to finish reading this analysis Margaret J.Wheatley you can do on your own blog. Thank you.If you want to finish reading this analysis Margaret J.Wheatley you can do on your own blog. Thank you.

 

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