Xpanse Inc
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Xpanse Inc

What Startup Leaders Can Learn About Cultural Strategy from a Polarized Political Environment

Productive Conflict Improves Team Potential, But Getting There Can Be Tricky

Agreement Isn’t a Prerequisite for a Great Relationship

Productive Conflict

An Interpersonal Engagement Model that Drives Decision Making Excellence

Getting to Productive Conflict for Decision Making Excellence

Strategy and Decision Making

Why Seeking Productive Conflict is a Cultural Strategy for Teams

The Prerequisites to Productive Conflict

  1. Fostering a learning organization
  2. Focusing on trust building and encouraging diverse perspectives
  3. Clarifying ownership and driving it to the lowest capable level of the organization

1. Fostering a Learning Organization

Failure States of a Learning Organization

  1. Decision drag. A learning organization can seize up with too many options to consider.
  2. Groupthink. Homogeneity in backgrounds can drive out the diversity of opinion needed for new information to break through.
  3. Not making time / too many meetings. By overloading the working capacity of your team, you squeeze out the quiet time needed for teams to research, analyze, reflect on, and integrate new information.

2. Focusing on Trust Building and Respect for Diverse Perspectives

Failure States of a Trust-Building Organization

  1. Trusting without verifying information is hazardous to decision making. Decision integrity requires sound inputs and these should be reviewed rigorously. We can trust the intent of our teammates, but we should still seek proof with data or a basis in a sound argument.
  2. Avoiding conflict by steering clear of debate to prevent upsetting a trusted partner.
  3. Lack of safe spaces for debate where team members can openly discuss concerns and topics of potential conflict.

3. Clarifying Ownership and Driving Ownership to the Lowest Capable Level of the Organization

Failure States of Ownership and Delegation

  1. Lack of training. Delegating to a level of the organization that isn’t capable of driving the decision happens when the team is insufficiently prepared for ownership. For example, when introducing Agile to a development team, telling the developers they own their process without first ensuring they understand the goals or how the process works can cause an avoidable failure or stall progress.
  2. False delegation. When a leader delegates to a capable level but overrides their decisions, trust and accountability is damaged and morale can be diminished.
  3. Ambiguous ownership boundaries. Unclear ownership boundaries creates “no man’s land” or “free for all” zones ripe for unproductive conflict.

The Outcome of Productive Conflict: Decision Making Excellence



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Dave Thomas

Engineering and Consumer Platform Leader @Xpanse; Product design, technology platform strategy, and ground fighting geek in Seattle