When a group reaches an impasse, two common configurations are the dead end and division. The dead end occurs when the current paradigm fails and there is no alternative. It's bad news, but at least the team is together (usually, that is).
In division, there are two or more contending alternatives, and the team is often polarized around these choices. People with a talent for finding the "third way" are valuable assets, because they can often find the key element that reunites the team and gets it moving forward again. One such person on a team is good; two are better. Even better than that: an entire team that understands the concept of the third way and works together to find agreement.
Here are some techniques for finding the third way.
- Agree that agreement is needed
- For a divided group, unanimity is achievable only after all agree that unity is desirable. Achieving agreement about agreement can enhance the likelihood of respectful exchange, and limit the chances of the current disagreement turning into toxic conflict.
- Beware ideology
- An ideology is a set of principles and ideals that form a comprehensive vision of the field in question. An ideology provides a complete framework for considering that field, reaching beyond any current concrete issues. That's why ideologies have difficulty with concepts that arise outside their scope. When a subgroup of a team forms around an ideology, that subgroup faces obstacles when working with other team members.
- Replace ideologies with specifics
- What makes People with a talent for finding
the "third way" are valuable
assets, because they can often
find the key element that reunites
the team and gets it moving
forward againideologies so exclusive of alternative views is their comprehensiveness. If one or more of the team's coalitions is united by an ideology, invite its members to replace the ideology with specific goals. Specific goals are preferable to ideologies because they aren't constrained by issues that aren't yet on the agenda.
- Examine opposing ideas for commonalities
- Gather whatever the opposing ideas do have in common, and use that as a fresh starting point. Set aside any elements about which there is polarized disagreement. What remains is probably an incomplete description of the way forward, but try to make it more complete by asking, "What can we add to this that will move us forward?" Add only those bits about which you can gain consensus.
- Focus to expand existing coalitions
- If the team is divided, work to reduce the number of factions and expand each coalition by narrowing its focus. For instance, given a collection of common ideas on which some team members agree, try jettisoning one of them experimentally, by asking, "What if…" If the result is still acceptable to that group, invite people not yet in agreement to examine the reduced list. Can they now agree to join?
Are 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!
Your comments are welcomeWould you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenJdvertMOoNGMwpeFner@ChactbBqLYtbgqrLExIhoCanyon.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.
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.
More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- Doorknob Disclosures and Bye-Bye Bombshells
- A doorknob disclosure is an uncomfortable, painful, or embarrassing revelation offered at the end of
a meeting or conversation, usually by someone who's about to exit. When we learn about bad news in this
way, we can feel frustrated and trapped. How can we respond effectively?
- Games for Meetings: III
- We spend a lot of time and emotional energy in meetings, much of it engaged in any of dozens of ritualized
games. Here's Part III of a little catalog of some of our favorites, and what we could do about them.
- Selling 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?
- Asking Brilliant Questions
- Your team is fortunate if you have even one teammate who regularly asks the questions that immediately
halt discussions and save months of wasted effort. But even if you don't have someone like that, everyone
can learn how to generate brilliant questions more often. Here's how.
- Speak for Influence
- Among the factors that determine the influence of contributions in meetings are the content of the contribution
and how it fits into the conversation. Most of the time, we focus too much on content and not enough on fit.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming June 27: Interrupting Others in Meetings Safely: I
- In meetings we sometimes feel the need to interrupt others to offer a view or information, or to suggest adjusting the process. But such interruptions carry risk of offense. How can we interrupt others safely? Available here and by RSS on June 27.
- And on July 4: Interrupting Others in Meetings Safely: II
- When we feel the need to interrupt someone who's speaking in a meeting, to offer a view or information, we would do well to consider (and mitigate) the risk of giving offense. Here are some techniques for interrupting the speaker in situations not addressed by the meeting's formal process. Available here and by RSS on July 4.
I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenihwbFzqymVOKkNgQner@ChacydZGBFjCjerESfkdoCanyon.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:
- Get 2001-2 in Geese Don't Land on Twigs (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2003-4 in Why Dogs Wag (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2005-6 in Loopy Things We Do (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2007-8 in Things We Believe That Maybe Aren't So True (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2009-10 in The Questions Not Asked (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get all of the first twelve years (2001-2012) in The Collected Issues of Point Lookout (PDF, USD 28.99)
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 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info
- The Race to the South Pole: The Power of Agile Development
- 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. Lessons abound. Among the more important
lessons are those that demonstrate the power of the agile approach to project management and product
development. Read more about this program. Here's
a date for this program:
- Ohio National Insurance, 1 Financial Way, Blue Ash, OH: July
Monthly Meeting, Cincinnati
chapter of the International Institute of Business Analysis. Register now.
- Ohio National Insurance, 1 Financial Way, Blue Ash, OH: July 17, Monthly Meeting, Cincinnati chapter of the International Institute of Business Analysis. 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.