Dislodging Entrenched Positions

25 08 2010

Teams – even very senior teams – often suffer from a situation where one or two individuals have “dug in” behind a particular opinion or limit (“I will go thus far and no further”). We are not talking about healthy debate here but rather long-term refusal to shift on an issue that subtley – or perhaps overtly – cripples the team’s ability to move forward. If left unaddressed for long enough there are only two options: the team fails or the “resistors” are dismissed. Putting this issue off only prolongs the agony, and makes its likely impact greater.

But does this always need to end in tears (or failure)? There are two issues worth getting to grips with.

First, in the mind of those who have dug themselves a fortified position: what is the real issue? How are they framing the problem? Is it a perceived loss of power or influence if things change? Dislike of change?

Then secondly, is there a way of reframing the issue that is both genuine and aligned to the individual’s concerns? We have all heard the father of the Bride say something like “I now realise that I am not so much losing a daughter as gaining a son-in-law”. (I hope I will be able to say that with a whole heart when the day comes!). There are equivalents in organisations. These can range from “actually, I now realise I have other things I want to do in the next 10 years” (a graceful exit) to “I now see that I will have only slightly less influence in a much bigger pond” or “a slightly smaller share of a much bigger pie” (a surrender of the position in favour of moving forward as part of the team).

So the only question remaining is – how are you going to drill down into other people’s perceptual worlds, in order to understand the issue and how it could be reframed?  Glad you asked me that…

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