Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 3, Issue 3;   January 15, 2003:

Please Remove My Appendix

by

When an organization is experiencing problems with conflict, "pushback," or "blowback," managers often hire trainers to present programs on helpful topics. But self-diagnosis can be risky. Often, there are more direct and focused options that can help more and cost less.
Not feeling so good

Carole noticed that Cliff was checking his watch again. "Got somewhere to go?" she asked. "We all do, you know, but unless we can get these people to stop bickering and start engineering, nothing else matters."

"I know, sorry," Cliff said. "But I'm out of ideas. They all believe they aren't the problem."

Carol, Cliff, and Daryl sat silently for a minute, though it seemed longer. Then Daryl had an idea. "What about conflict training? I hear from HR that they have someone and people say he's pretty good."

Cliff really had given up. "I can hear them now: 'Oh, training. Another day lost.'"

But Carole was more optimistic. "Let's do it. We've tried everything else. Maybe it'll help."

In desperation, and with good intentions, Carole, Cliff, and Daryl are about to deal with a team conflict problem with conflict training.

Training rarely hurts, but considering all the costs, it can be a mistake. To understand why, imagine waking up one morning with a pain in your left side. You call your doctor and manage somehow to get an appointment that morning. You walk into the office and say, "Doctor, my left side hurts. Please remove my appendix."

Self-diagnosis is risky
when your health is at stake,
and it's no less risky in
the organizational context
Of course, you'd never do that. Instead, you'd probably talk about your pain, and submit to an examination. Maybe it's appendicitis, but maybe not — it's unlikely, since normally, the appendix is on the right side.

Self-diagnosis is risky when your health is at stake, and it's no less risky in the organizational context. Instead of deciding for yourself what to do, have a consultant investigate what kind of problem there might be, then tell you what your options are, and recommend action.

Here are some advantages of professional assessment:

Fit
If there's too much tension in the air, training might not be a fit. Some people might be too hurt or too steamed to learn much. You might need another kind of intervention first.
Cost
When you include the cost of participant time, training can be more expensive than more direct and focused interventions. A professional assessment can control costs.
Opportunity cost
The people attending the training could be doing something else, and that work might be delayed by the time spent in training. The cost of those delays can be significant.
Expertise
Experts are more likely to uncover the real issue. You gain the benefit of their skill and experience with other organizations.
Outsider status
During the assessment, some people in your organization are more likely to reveal key information to the outside expert than they would be to you or to someone within your organization.
Objectivity
It's difficult to be objective about interpersonal issues. Since we have a tendency to overlook our own contributions to problems, self-assessment can be less objective than a professional assessment.

An assessment can be helpful even when you think everything is OK. Think of it the way you would your annual physical. Would you skip a physical because you feel fine? Go to top Top  Next issue: Let Me Finish, Please  Next Issue

52 Tips for Leaders of Project-Oriented OrganizationsAre your projects always (or almost always) late and over budget? Are your project teams plagued by turnover, burnout, and high defect rates? Turn your culture around. Read 52 Tips for Leaders of Project-Oriented Organizations, filled with tips and techniques for organizational leaders. Order Now!

Situs inversus is a condition in which internal organs are organized as a mirror image of the norm. It affects one in 7-8,000 humans. There are also other conditions that can cause the appendix to be on the left side. More.

Your comments are welcome

Would you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenEMudcCzvnDHFfOEmner@ChacTcmtXTCJBjZfSFjIoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.

About Point Lookout

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.

Point Lookout is a free weekly email newsletter. Browse the archive of past issues. Subscribe for free.

Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.

Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.

Related articles

More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:

Two cyclists commute to work at the U.S. Federal Highway AdministrationEnjoy Your Commute
You probably commute to work. On a good day, you spend anywhere from ten minutes to an hour or two — each way — commuting. What kind of experience are you having? Taking control of this part of your life can make a real difference.
A MetronomeSelling Uphill: The Pitch
Whether you're a CEO or a project champion, you occasionally have to persuade decision makers who have some kind of power over you. What do they look for? What are the key elements of an effective pitch? What does it take to Persuade Power?
A black kite, a species of hawkEmbolalia and Stuff Like That: II
Continuing our exploration of embolalia — filler syllables, filler words, and filler phrases — let us examine the more complex forms. Some of them are so complex that they appear to be actual content, even when what they contain is little more than "um."
An example of a Weaver's PathwayStill More Things I've Learned Along the Way
When I have an important insight, or when I'm taught a lesson, I write it down. Here's another batch from my personal collection.
An empty subway carAnticipating Absence: Internal Consulting
Most consultants are advisors from outside the organization. But when many employees are unavailable because of the Coronavirus pandemic, we need to find ways to access the knowledge that remains inside the organization. Internal consulting can help.

See also Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

Margay cat (Leopardus wiedii)Coming July 6: Fake Requests for Help
When a colleague asks for assistance, we can feel validated, even flattered. But not all requests for help are what they seem. The more devious amongst us can be endlessly creative in employing requests for help to achieve devious ends. Available here and by RSS on July 6.
A micrometer capable of measuring to |plusmn .01 mmAnd on July 13: What Do We Actually Know?
Precision in both writing and speech can be critical in determining the success of collaborations in the modern workplace. Precision is especially important when we distinguish between what we surmise or assume and what we actually know. Available here and by RSS on July 13.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenEMudcCzvnDHFfOEmner@ChacTcmtXTCJBjZfSFjIoCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.

Get the ebook!

Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:

Reprinting this article

Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500-1000 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info

Public seminars

The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power

Many The Power Affect: How We Express Personal Powerpeople who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.

Bullet Points: Mastery or Madness?

DecisBullet Point Madnession makers in modern organizations commonly demand briefings in the form of bullet points or a series of series of bullet points. But this form of presentation has limited value for complex decisions. We need something more. We actually need to think. Briefers who combine the bullet-point format with a variety of persuasion techniques can mislead decision makers, guiding them into making poor decisions. Read more about this program.

Follow Rick

Send email or subscribe to one of my newsletters Follow me at LinkedIn Follow me at Twitter, or share a tweet Subscribe to RSS feeds Subscribe to RSS feeds
The message of Point Lookout is unique. Help get the message out. Please donate to help keep Point Lookout available for free to everyone.
Technical Debt for Policymakers BlogMy blog, Technical Debt for Policymakers, offers resources, insights, and conversations of interest to policymakers who are concerned with managing technical debt within their organizations. Get the millstone of technical debt off the neck of your organization!
52 Tips for Leaders of Project-Oriented OrganizationsAre your project teams plagued by turnover, burnout, and high defect rates? Turn your culture around.
Go For It: Sometimes It's Easier If You RunBad boss, long commute, troubling ethical questions, hateful colleague? Learn what we can do when we love the work but not the job.
101 Tips for Effective MeetingsLearn how to make meetings more productive — and more rare.
Ebooks, booklets and tip books on project management, conflict, writing email, effective meetings and more.
Comprehensive collection of all e-books and e-bookletsSave a bundle and even more important save time! Order the Combo Package and download all ebooks and tips books at once.
If your teams don't yet consistently achieve state-of-the-art teamwork, check out this catalog. Help is just a few clicks/taps away!