On 30/07/2004 21:22:56 "Ken Schwaber" wrote:
> ... In retrospect, I'm surprised that I didn't foresee this cost to team
>The team members had previously been kept in relatively conflict-free
>situations, with management responsible for resolving anything that
>came up. Now it was up to the teams.
Great article Ken.
For the last 4 years I've been working in an environment and a culture
where conflict is obsessively avoided . When non-trivial conflict does
occur it is "escalated" and resolved via the hierarchy, not by the
individuals. It reminds me of seven year olds arguing in the school yard,
but instead of "I'm gonna tell the teacher on you", the grown-up version is
"I think I'll have to escalate this to my manager", or even worse,
agreement with an unspoken "I'll sort this out later when your boss is
asking for feedback for your performance review". This approach has caused
and reinforced an environment where people are afraid to disagree (because
they'll end up in a 121 being blamed for something, and their end of year
bonuses will suffer accordingly). Instead of using conflict to find better
ideas, it is resovled by inadequate compromise or avoided entirely.
I come from a country (New Zealand) where conflict is handled far more
directly/bluntly than where I current live (Scotland) - I suspect this is
true of many of the "colonies" such as NZ, Australia, US :), Canada, and
South Africa where the class system was largely wiped out. So when I
started working here I stood out as a bit of a freak. On the one hand, I
was being complimented for quickly turning around work, resolving many
outstanding issues and quickly finding solutions to conflicting
requirements, and for working easily with several people who were
considered "unworkable-with" (I was even described as a "breath of fresh
air"!), yet on the other hand, I was being told off all the time because
some colleagues had "escalated" issues behind my back.
The problem was that my direct, but charming!, approach usually worked but
when it didn't I got clobberd via the hierarchy. I hadn't yet learned how
to keep my head down.
Anyway, I found 2 ways around this:
The first was to read, re-read and apply the utterly excellent "Crucial
Conversations" book (see
). I can't say
kind enough words about how useful this book is for learning how to have
The second, was giving up and trying very hard to find a way out. I
couldn't fix the system, I didn't like the system, so I escaped.