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Storming Phase Management

In the process of growing and re-structuring an organization or simply forming a team, it is important to embrace the storming phase. It cannot be avoided. LET THEM STORM!

Successfully setting boundaries, identifying conflicts and understanding the different types of conflict resolution strategies will shape the roadmap leading to the norming phase. Setting clear boundaries defines what is productive and what is not. Direction may come from market needs, company's vision or simply from the collective wisdom of the Sr. Leadership Team. Regardless of the source, it needs to be clearly articulated to ensure that everyone speaks the same language and is on the same page in terms of what needs to be accomplished. A shared vision can rise above the inconsistencies of an organization or team and establish a common purpose to channel debate in a constructive manner. Often times when people have clear guidelines in which to operate, they are more empowered to act, take initiative and innovate. It is extremely important to identify whether a conflict is functional or dysfunctional. Functional conflicts can drive productivity if managed properly. Sr. Leadership must encourage healthy dissent in order to improve problem solving and innovation. Asking tough questions and challenging the rationale behind recommendations can help with the process. Functional conflict plays a critical role in obtaining a deeper understanding of the issues and coming up with the best possible solutions. Managing the waves of dysfunctional conflict is a much more difficult task than encouraging functional conflict. Sometimes, functional conflicts become dysfunctional when disagreements evolve into irrational personality clashes. There're no easy solutions to dysfunctional conflict but here are a few suggested strategies:

  1. Recognize biased fairness perceptions: research by Carnegie Mellon University professors Linda Babcock and George Loewenstein and their colleagues shows sometimes what would constitute a fair conflict resolution is biased by egocentrism, or the tendency to have difficulty seeing a situation from another party’s perspective.

  2. Mediate the conflict: the key is to find common ground.

  3. Arbitrate the conflict: Sr. Management imposes a solution based on KPI's analysis.

  4. Control the conflict: reduce intensity by slowing down changes and introducing productive one on one check ins.

  5. Accept the Conflict: understand the talent level within the organization and reassign roles. It is the process of having the right people in the right seats.

How do you manage storming phases within your organization? Do you use any of the above strategies?


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