Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Resolving Team Conflict
In Warren Bennis' terrific book, Organizing Genius, he suggests a simple method for intervening productively when conflict emerges within a team. He learned the method from Robert Taylor at Xerox PARC. Taylor used to refer to Class 1 and Class 2 disagreements. In a Class 1 disagreement, the "combatants" cannot even fully explain the other sides' position. In a Class 2 disagreement, the parties can clearly articulate the other side's views. When a conflict emerged, Taylor would urge group members to shift toward Class 2. In other words, he would ask them to articulate clearly and concisely the other side's point of view. That method seemed to take the temperature down a bit, and it often helped pave the way toward a resolution. Bennis argues that it helped the members find common ground. Moreover, he explains that it may have used the principle of cognitive dissonance to Taylor's advantage. In other words, the simple act of understanding and then stating the other side's position and rationale may have made opposing members more likely to embrace key elements of it.