A nice piece in the HBR today on exploring different perspectives and the inherent tensions between some (indeed many) roles in the modern organisation. I’ve used Susan Scott’s description from ‘Fierce Conversations’ of the organisational ‘beach ball’ a few times recently – if you’re finance the world is one colour, if you’re operations another and HR a different colour again.

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An Exercise to Make Conflict Feel More Comfortable (and Less Scary)

A healthy work culture requires healthy conflict. But it’s hard to have constructive disagreements if people view conflict as only an interpersonal problem. Help your team understand that there should be a certain amount of tension between different roles at work.

This exercise can help: Draw a circle and divide it into wedges, one for each role. With your team, discuss: What is each job’s unique value? Which stakeholders does this role serve? What tensions does this job’s responsibilities put on other people? Write the answers inside the wedges, and then use them to talk about why different roles naturally come into conflict with each other — and why that’s OK.

For example, there probably should be tension between sales and operations, because sales looks for new customer solutions while operations tries to create consistency and efficiency. Your team will start to see that the conflict they’ve viewed as interpersonal friction is actually healthy, role-based tension.

Adapted from “An Exercise to Help Your Team Feel More Comfortable with Conflict,” by Liane Davey

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