Thrive in Ambiguity
Matt Kandler

I was recently given some feedback as to a project that was the first of its kind that I needed to “learn how to thrive in ambiuity” So I did an internet search and found this great article! I was told that I asked too many questions and that I was to go with the “flow”. As a personality type that likes structure, as a former sports official who implemented rules, and as an experienced team leader and manager, I asked questions to understand or create a process. I was told I asked too many questions from leadership. I should “read between the lines!” Other team members told me confidentially they were glad that someone asked the questions as they were needing direction too. I think the new buzz term “thrive in ambiguity” needs to have ownership on both the management and non management side as you have clearly defined here. It is highly appreciated that you have framed both good and bad ambiguity and ownership from the management side. As Stephen Covey said, “Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood” when providing feedback as part of this process, management should ask your side of the story first. I was told I needed to do better job of decision making. The example provided to me was when someone picked up my rental car, when I arrived, I had to exchange it back because I had just had a knee replacement and couldn’t get in or out of the low-to-the-ground vehicle and for the same price (no extra cost to the company) I exchanged it back for a small SUV. So the manager then understood that this was for medical reasons. So to provide feedback BEFORE asking the WHY someone does something is Management 101. Additionally when a team assembles for the first time, there are rampid rumors of he-said, she-said. Its important to ask employees BEFORE providing feedback what was their version of an event was.

It comes down to who is a good leader, which is different than who is a good manager. They can be the same but if you go back to your favorite manager, you will notice the qualities you liked about your manager are the same qualities that make a good leader. Ambiguity is good if one is working on their own and establishing new processes for people who thrive in that environment. Scrum style projects or “thriving in ambiguity” in a team environment WITHOUT defining the processes and NOT asking questions, can lead to one of two things: 1) too many chiefs and not enough followers or 2) misunderstandings based on lack of goals, processes, or communication which consists of questions!

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