How Urgency Disrupts Collaboration – Part 2

blue-abstract-glass-balls(1)This post builds on Part 1. Here we explore the question: How can we capitalize on the full benefits of teamwork and do our best thinking, even when the process is moving quickly? Here are some tips:

  • When things need to move fast, have pre-emptive conversations about decision-making and input. The team can agree up front on what kinds of decisions need full input and agreement, which can have consultative input, and which the task owners or business leaders can make on their own. When developing “a product” for a deadline, make agreements on where in the process the product will be open for input and review. Talking through this ahead of time can avoid breakdowns in trust. When input is planned for, others’ ideas and opinions can be viewed as critical to a good design and decision-making process, instead of ‘slowing down the train.’
  • Be conscious of suppressing dissent and concerns. Most people are not comfortable with encouraging dissent or really hearing the minority/conflicting view; when things are moving quickly or the pressure of a deadline looms, this tendency is heightened. Narrowing input increases the risk of a poor decision. My colleague and friend, Nancy Gabriel, has taught me to reframe how I see differences and dissent to realize that they can be generative. Deep Democracy processes offer a helpful approach to constructively working with “the wisdom in the no” to arrive at a better decision. We often see that suppressing or short-cutting concerns leads to groups cycling around the same conversations because the fundamental issue has not been resolved.
  • Trust the messiness. Instead of resisting and avoiding conflicts and divergent ideas, trust that there may well be a ‘groan zone’ of messiness until the clear path emerges. When groups are willing to stay in this process, rather than shutting down voices of concern or dissent, a breakthrough and/or new clarity often emerges.
  • Question assumptions about urgency. In some cases, people bring a chronic sense of hurry and impatience to getting work done. Remaining focused on the team doing its best thinking to get the best results, means questioning assumptions on timing. I point out the extra time it will take to do re-work if we don’t get it right the first time, and emphasize that we do have time to make a thoughtful, well-informed, and considered decision. I am learning to be on the lookout for manufactured urgency.
  • Do our inner work as leaders. We can each build awareness of our own inner mind states and recognize where our impatience or projections of how fast things “should” be moving are imposing themselves on a situation. When I took up meditation, I became more conscious of a frequent underlying sense of a need to plan, control, and push things forward. This is a mind state of unsettled impatience and feeling that ‘however it is now’ is not good enough. In meditation practice, I learned to observe it without reacting, and could feel how this was quite an unpleasant mind state. I began to realize my role in pushing action fast to reduce my discomfort with these mind states in ways that did not serve the team, the goal, or the larger cause. With practice, I learned to recognize the feeling of impatience and note it, without unconsciously rushing to action. As each person develops their self-awareness in this way, the team can function at a higher level of collective creativity, patiently listening and sensing what is most needed and trusting the potential that can emerge in its own time.

I have recently had the opportunity to work with a team where I could experience what is possible in a group when we let go of the rush. Members of this team have a lot of experience with in intentionally slow down the conversation so each person can be fully present and listening with their full attention, e.g., using circle process. I appreciate how relaxed and connected the group is and have seen the quality of ideas and new thinking that can emerge when there is not a sense of rush, distraction, and tightly-structured agendas that pressure and constrict the group’s time and attention. The conversation comfortably takes the time it takes and we arrive at clarity. Ria Baeck and Helen Titchen-Beeth describe it this way, in this article:

Guided by an inspiring question, one which challenges our assumptions and invites us to novel thinking, our inquiry is not closed until some novel understanding—a sudden, collective ‘now we know’—has been reached. This communion in novel attention has a specific flavor to it, a kind of shared stillness that coincides with a shared felt sense: decisions are not taken, they emerge by themselves as a collective knowing what to do. This is hard to describe when you haven’t experienced it, but when you do, you long for this magic in the middle to happen again. In searching for the emergent, we can get a coherent, collective sense only of the one next, minimal step that is aligned and resonant with the whole and that only by using all our faculties of knowing, together.

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