Since they were now officially stuck, Suzanne suggested they take a ten-minute break, and everyone agreed. Lynn left the conference room immediately, and the others went to the back kitchen area to get coffee. That left Matt and Suzanne.
Suzanne had an idea. "I'm wondering," she began, "if maybe the problem isn't someplace else."
Matt, puzzled, tilted his head and said, "By that you mean…"
"I mean, maybe we disagree because we're making different assumptions about something we don't know we're making different assumptions about."
Matt smiled. "I'm sorry, but tortured grammar is my specialty." They both chuckled. "But OK, tell me what you mean."
Suzanne obliged. "I remember something called the Johari window." She went on to show him how they could use the Johari window to expose differing assumptions, and it went something like this.
The Johari window is a four-pane window in which each pane represents a category of our joint knowledge. The panes are Open, Blind, Hidden, and Unknown. Open: I'm aware of this knowledge, and so are you. Blind: You're aware of this knowledge, but I'm not. Hidden: I'm aware of this knowledge, but you're not. And Unknown: Both of us are clueless about this.
When we disagree, the sources of our disagreement can often be outside our mutual awareness. Using the Johari window to classify our assumptions, we can surface them using techniques that are best for each of the Johari window's four categories.When we disagree,
the sources of our
disagreement can often
be outside our
- Open assumptions
- Open assumptions are those I know I'm making, and you do too. If we agree about them, then these assumptions are unlikely to spark destructive conflict. But even if we disagree about an open assumption, it's relatively less likely to create trouble, because we can discuss it, and we might even resolve or suspend our differences.
- When you inventory assumptions to explore the sources of disagreements, start with open assumptions — they're relatively safe, even when there's disagreement about them.
- My blind assumptions
- Blind assumptions are those that I make, but which I'm unaware of, while they're evident to you. Typical are the assumptions about who's responsible for what in a marital relationship, or assumptions based on professional, factional, demographic, or ethnic stereotypes.
- Blind assumptions are hard to find, because the assumer doesn't know they're there [Brenner 2006]. To search for them, propose candidates of your own — assumptions you think someone like you might make without being aware of them. This approach is relatively safe, because identifying the assumptions someone else might be making can seem like blaming — when we uncover a blind assumption, the assumer is more likely to have difficulty than is the assumer's partner.
Are you fed up with tense, explosive meetings? Are you or a colleague the target of a bully? Destructive conflict can ruin organizations. But if we believe that all conflict is destructive, and that we can somehow eliminate conflict, or that conflict is an enemy of productivity, then we're in conflict with Conflict itself. Read 101 Tips for Managing Conflict to learn how to make peace with conflict and make it an organizational asset. Order Now!
The Johari Window was developed by Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham (Joe and Harry) in the 1960s. There's no better work on the topic than their own: Luft, Joseph. Of Human Interaction: The Johari Model. Palo Alto, CA: Mayfield Publishing Co., 1969. It's out of print, so check the library.
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More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- Email Antics: II
- Nearly everyone complains that email is a time waster. Yet much of the problem results from our own
actions. Here's Part II of a little catalog of things we do that help waste our time.
- Assumptions and the Johari Window: II
- The roots of both creative and destructive conflict can often be traced to the differing assumptions
of the parties to the conflict. Here's Part II of an essay on surfacing these differences using a tool
called the Johari window.
- Dealing with Negative Progress
- Many project emergencies are actually the result of setbacks — negative progress. Sometimes these
mishaps are unavoidable, but often they're the result of patterns of organizational culture. How can
we reduce the incidence of setbacks?
- The prevalence of overwork has increased with the depth of the global recession, in part because employers
are demanding more, and in part because many must now work longer hours to make ends a little closer
to meeting. Overwork is dangerous. Here are some suggestions for dealing with it.
- Take Charge of Your Learning
- Many of us let others set our learning agendas — peers, employers, or the mass media. But you
can gain much both personally and professionally by setting your own learning agenda.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming October 23: Power Distance and Teams
- One of the attributes of team cultures is something called power distance, which is a measure of the overall comfort people have with inequality in the distribution of power. Power distance can determine how well a team performs when executing high-risk projects. Available here and by RSS on October 23.
- And on October 30: Power Distance and Risk
- Managing or responding to project risks is much easier when team culture encourages people to report problems and question any plans they have reason to doubt. Here are five examples that show how such encouragement helps to manage risk. Available here and by RSS on October 30.
I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenmhXARWRMUvVyOdHlner@ChacxgDmtwOKrxnripPCoCanyon.com or (650) 787-6475, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.
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- The Race to the South Pole: Lessons in Leadership
On 14 December 1911, four men led by Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole. Thirty-five days later, Robert F. Scott and four others followed. Amundsen had won the race to the pole. Amundsen's party returned to base on 26 January 1912. Scott's party perished. As historical drama, why this happened is interesting enough. But to organizational leaders, business analysts, project sponsors, and project managers, the story is fascinating. We'll use the history of this event to explore lessons in leadership and its application to organizational efforts. A fascinating and refreshing look at leadership from the vantage point of history. Read more about this program.
Here's a date for this program:
- Baldwin-Wallace University, 275 Eastland Road, Berea, Ohio
44017: November 7,
Kerzner Lecture Series/International Project Management Day, sponsored by Baldwin Wallace University and the Northeast Ohio Chapter of the Project Management Institute.
- Baldwin-Wallace University, 275 Eastland Road, Berea, Ohio 44017: November 7, Kerzner Lecture Series/International Project Management Day, sponsored by Baldwin Wallace University and the Northeast Ohio Chapter of the Project Management Institute. Register now.
- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many people 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.