The five behaviors are arranged in the above diagram just as they are in the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument mentioned last month. Details link. My Good Thinking Series defines collaboration as the combination of an effective decision and cooperative support.
This month I will add the diagonal red conflict line to last month’s drawing.
Focusing on idea-conflict (vs interpersonal-conflict) let’s first redefine conflict. In many organizations, and families, conflict is an unpleasant social skirmish to be avoided. Many meetings are stopped early when meeting leaders do not want to try to handle the emotional confusion that often accompanies conflict. “If you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say it all.”
Consider the following situation: You have two teams in two meeting rooms working on the same problem, trying to identify a solution they can support.
In room one, wonder of wonders, everyone is in agreement (artificial harmony?). In room two, everyone has a number of possible solutions and lots of (loud?) discussion to present their views.
So in room one, no conflict, one option. In room two, conflict, and many options.
Now to my thinking, having options is a good thing. Rethinking what’s actually happening when we recognize conflict is key here. The conflict in room two is the consequence of having alternatives. So the conflict merely represents disagreement, options.
Productive collaboration depends on tools (great questions) that are answered by a team together. The resulting dialogue promotes the team’s ability to consider many options and come to one solution that the whole team can support.
The term “conflict management” can more productively be thought of as option management.
Productive collaboration tools generate many data points that when collected on a wall (flipchart or whiteboard) allow the team to compare the options (disagreements) objectively minimizing the opportunity for eye-to-eye, interpersonal, battles. In the lower left quadrant above someone usually wins, while others lose. In the upper right quadrant, the team builds the best idea, and the team wins.
In all cases the questions and tools do not tell participants what to think, but how to think for a period of time. The questions engage team member thinking to create their own ideas about each ideation situation. Better questions, better ideas. Better ideas, better behavior and results.
Coupling this productive attitude toward conflict with collaboration tool facilitation skills allows teams to talk about anything, promoting improvement, innovation, and higher morale.
Seminars: International 1, International 2
Book: Collaborate – Tools and Techniques for Productive Meetings, available on Amazon. Includes instructions on how to facilitate 50+ collaboration tools.
Independent trainer and meeting facilitator John Canfield helps clients build high performance business teams. Find out more about he can help your company or organization at http://www.johncanfield.com and www.goodthinkingseries.com. Call or write 616-283-5588 | email@example.com