An organization's ability to deliver outstanding results begins with the top-management team. And while bookstore shelves are cluttered with offerings on strategy, leadership, organizational change, and performance management aimed at executives, there is little practical guidance for senior executives who want to move beyond conceptual exercises to answer the question: How can our top teamand, by extension, teams throughout our organizationperform like a winner?
Here is the short answer: Ensure that your team of senior executives is a cohesive group of fully engaged playersa mini board of directorsunited in purpose and competent to act.
True enough, but the question, once again, is: How?
Coming to terms with "how" is the central aim of When Goliaths Clash . This book is less about conflict management per se and more about turning conflict within senior teams into a dynamic force for business results.
This is a tough challenge, given globalization, Digital-Age decision making, asynchronous work patterns, and the cubicalization of relationships. These centrifugal forces and many others have made organizations holding pens of dysfunctional conflict. This compromises business results and destroys morale .
Add to this the recent serial accounting shenanigans, from Adelphia to Enron to WorldCom to Xerox. At a deeper level, these revelations point to a pattern of collusion and even deceit. As a result, Wall Street is jittery; members of boards of directors are increasingly skittish; and employees are left to wonder about their leaders ' values and the disturbing pattern of secretive, vest-pocket decision making: What were all those who were involved pretending not to know?
These events have put a premium on honest, open discussion, debate, and confrontation within organizations. Eliminating conflict is unrealistic ; suppressing it only drives conflict underground . Goliathsand Davids down the linehave little choice but to learn how to bring forward competing points of view. They must learn how to clash effectively, and this book provides a road map for doing so.
In working with senior teams in organizations of every size and type across many industries and on six continents, we have discovered that conflict management is a driving business issue. Molding your senior team into a cohesive group of fully engaged players inevitably leads you to rethink how to realign strategy, structure, and business relationships and how best to organize to make decisions at every level. Put differently, managing conflict is not merely some human resources training exercise but a way for an organization to become more competitive and accelerate business results.
The insights, approaches, and examples provided in When Goliaths Clash come from working with executives on the firing line. We " name names " and, wherever possible, we have avoided the blind citation. This approach provides readers with a greater opportunity to learn from real executives who have faced real challengessometimes making real mistakesas they progressed to higher levels of team and business performance. It is our hope that some of the lessons we cite will enable readers to raise their level of play.
Many books on conflict management treat the issue as a bilateral exercise rather than as one connected to the larger performance environment. They tend to be technique-driven and neglect the larger organizational context in which conflict plays out.
When Goliaths Clash stands apart because it treats conflict as a business issue within the new social space of organizations, from individual to group, from hierarchical to horizontal structures, from face-to-face to electronic communication.
The chapter on e-conflict explores untraveled terrain and offers guidelines for dealing with a new set of challenges related to conflict management in an age of digital communication and decision making. When Goliaths Clash is intended for wide audiences of senior- and mid-level executives and managers and individual contributors. Anyone interested in improving his or her ability to manage conflict and improve performance should find value in the pages that follow.
Chapter 1, on the anatomy of conflict, explores the roots of conflict in individual perceptual differences and organizational conditions and discusses the options for effectively managing conflict.
Chapter 2 zeroes in on senior executive teams, assesses the causes of conflict within these settings, and offers ways to replace unresolved conflict with healthy disagreement .
Chapter 3 shows how to move smartly along the team-development wheel to manage conflict and, in the process, transform a team from dysfunctionality to high-performance.
Chapter 4 provides an up-close discussion of an effective process to create high-performance teams throughout an organization.
Chapter 5 goes to the heart of conflict management and discusses the portfolio of skills needed to manage individual and team-based conflict.
Chapter 6 wades into the new and often troubling waters of electronic communication and shows how to transform such communication from foe to ally in the struggle to manage conflict and improve performance.
Chapter 7 cuts through the fluff of "leadership" to assess an area curiously ignored by many writers on the subject: the role of the leader in managing conflict and driving business performance.
Please note that all quotations without other attribution come from personal interviews with the individual quoted. Sources quoted anonymously are done so to protect confidentiality.
When Goliaths Clash is written for executives on the run who are impatient with abstract theorizing and who insist on value-added reading that yields practical insights and results, now.