Ever wondered about the cost of teams at war?

Just think of the negative ROI – the waste of time, money, motivation, innovation and productivity, (not too mention employee disengagement) caused by the inability to collaborate!

When teams are at war…

Podcast  Tips and tools on speeding up progress towards team collaboration  

They might be skirmishing, infighting, or in open conflict. It’s a battle for power and the competitiveness is inefficient. They think they are ‘doing their job,’ but they’re not. They are not thinking about outcomes for the organization and the customer.

How would you like to help them:

  • Get more decisiveness, action and productivity,?
  • Remove bottlenecks to quality outcomes for the business and customers?

What’s their problem?

Teams in conflict see each other as the problem. Problem focus is normal in organizations, but much worse when teams compound it. Worse, they may have solutions at hand, but can’t agree on them because the ‘problem’ dominates the conversation. So it’s about who’s right.

Plus, one side usually decides to bully the other and force things through.

So, in order to get them to do the work, the job is to get them out of problem focus and move to solution building. We have to ignore the problem between the team.

‘Being opposed to collaboration these days is a bit like being against quality. Or maybe even profitability’ – Prahald Ramaswamy

What doesn’t work!

a. Don’t be the referee. Even if you’re the boss, they may both turn on you.

b. Don’t call a meeting to discuss the problem i.e., have, a) a time / agenda, b) make sure that everyone gets to speak, d) stick to the agenda, etc.

c. Don’t be a tough guy/gal by telling them there will be consequences if they don’t shape up. They will shape up for 10 minutes, no more.

Move forward. Ignore the problem focus.

The Solution Focus model for change and progress gets people to find out what they want and go do something about it. We don’t try to resolve the problem. After we have defined it and decided what we want, instead we mostly ignore the problem.

Collaboration is the goal … and it’s not a distant option. 


How to change the narrative in your organization

Your organization has good leadership and a sound strategy and yet…

Some teams in the organization actively campaign against change. You work with colleagues who condemn change in their status quo. Some managers still make arbitrary decisions.

All of them can tell you what’s wrong with the organization – especially about the problems with their fellow workers/managers. What to do???

  • Take them seriously, not literally. Don’t enter into their debate about what’s wrong. Think of them as experiencing loss, not resisting change.
  • Pay most attention to the folks who want change to happen – those who are already there and those that are wondering how to make the change happen.
  • Change the narrative about how people work together, how they collaborate, define their roles and take responsibility.
  • Build on the skills they already have. Not just the new skills and processes they need to learn / adapt.

In fact, surprisingly, change as little as possible!

How? Change the narrative about the problems they perceive to be facing by reframing negative gossip, siloed perspective, intolerance of other’s ideas and fear of negative consequences. These are unpleasant but soft barriers to delivering the strategy. It may not be necessary to change a lot of what they are working on or even the way they work. Instead, change the narrative about how they work together. Hard barriers, i.e., systems and processes that do need to change can be lead by a new narrative.

The real problem is undefined wins – Dan Rockwell

Move from fear-driven narrative about overcoming imagined obstacles and solving problems to creating dialogue about solutions for the things that need to get better. This is an opportunity to make the transition less intense. And remember, the change resistors will get it over time, one step at a time.

Here are questions to ask about delivering the organization’s strategy through a better narrative about how people work together, how they collaborate, define their roles and take responsibility:

What do we do well around here? How do we manage to do that?

How has our strategy helped us move forward?

When we work together collaboratively what works? On a scale of 1-10 how are we doing? What needs to get better to move us up 1-2 points on the scale? Suppose we were even more collaborative – what impact would that have on our strategy, our customers, and other stakeholders in the organization?

What works well with our current roles and responsibilities? Suppose that got even better – what would be different? How would that help our strategy, customers and stakeholders?

Don’t forget to help people put the new narrative into action:

Narrative is linear, but action has breadth and depth as well as height and is solid – Thomas Carlyle

Suppose we were to apply some of the above insights and learning to our projects in the next while – what would we see ourselves doing more of, differently, or better right away?

Suppose we were to reframe and/or create some new processes on working together – what would that look like?

A new narrative based on existing resources (vs. problems/resistance) and how to apply those resources to solutions about working together will make it much easier to introduce new systems and processes. Delivering the plan will remain a complex challenge, but people will be working together on the challenge.

More: Pushing elephants through a keyhole.


10 Why’s & Ways to Shut Up and L I S T E N !

We know that developing people’s strengths, engaging them and creating a more productive workplace requires good direction. We also need to create an environment where people come up with their own solutions.

Hence, Peter Drucker said:

 The Leader of the past was person who knew how to tell.

The leader of the future will be a person who knows how to ask.

When we learn to ask we become even better at listening. How will better listening help you?

People will listen to you if you first show you are listening.

People may not always make sense to you, but pay attention or you may miss something that you, a) have in common, b) can actually work with.

Listen without creating responses in your head. Your ideas may make sense to you, but probably won’t work for the person you’re responding to.

By listening carefully to what’s difficult or unacceptable about what a person is saying, you can see where their diverse ideas might actually work.

The person may be keen to be told what to do. When you listen first, you will have better context to give instructions in ways that they will understand.

No one is a mind reader, If you first understand and acknowledge a person’s perspective, you’ll be able to better communicate yours.

If you assume a person has a good reason for saying something, that it makes sense to them, then you’ll be more able to help them find answers.

If you show you are listening constructively – paying attention, not thinking of your answer – you can speed up cooperation.

If you ask, ‘What’s working?’ (instead of asking about the problem), and ‘What else?’, it will motivate you to listen even more. It will also focus a person’s attention on their capabilities and the progress they have already made.

Good questions and good listening usually have a motivating effect. They lead to more awareness of what works and to new ideas for steps forward.

Want to know about the dangers of not listening? Here’s Ernesto Sirolli’s TED talk: Want to help someone? Shut up and listen!

Want an solution focused interview tool to help you listen (even better than you already do so)!