The discussion heated up. I simply asked all participants, a management team, to take a stance by physically putting on a scale a coloured dot. For this growing organisation I was curious to know what the management wanted: more systemisation of processes on the one hand or more self-organisation and responsibilities on a lower level.
– But Ruben, what do you mean by self-organisation?
– Well it simply means that you delegate tasks at an even lower level than we currently do.
That was not me! The engagement was at a level that my involvement would only slow down the discussion.
– What tasks? Joined in a third person
– And how do we control this because quality is at stake here. Quality is at stake anyhow in our organisation.
– That’s one of the primary discussion we’re all here. It’s all about giving people some control.
– But what control do you mean? Is it control over their time, their tasks…
Definitions, always those bloody definitions…
This discussion was bound to happen. It typically happens when you ask participants to take a stance. Which of two options do you prefer? And BAM!… Starts a long debate about definitions. I call it delimitation discussions. What limits the issue and how do we as a group want to define these limits? Because I don’t want to choose red before I’m sure that we all agree what’s red.
The problem is: you end up in a discussion about which shades of red are included in the definition. It’s all very relevant, but it does not help the group any further.
I let go for a couple of minutes until I spotted a gaze of confusion in several eyes. And then I stopped the discussion.
Creating clarity: just take your stance, discuss later
I invited the participants to put their discussion on hold and give their stance anyhow. We would pick up the discussion after all dots would be on the wall. Obviously, some claimed the issue was not clear yet. So I asked: ‘Do you have a personal feeling on where you want to stand?’ The answer was affirmative, so I said: ‘Let’s move to the wall first then. We all know it’s your own personal choice and that there might be interpretation differences on the issue. But we can handle that after the dots.’
And so the dots came on the wall.
And then something interesting happened. As participants started asking and interpreting the row of dots it was intriguing to see that not a single participant was interested anymore in the different shades of red. The energy was now constructive. They all were interested in the reasons behind the choices of other. And slowly the group moved towards a shared understanding. Not all shades of red were clear, but the most important were.
And that’s how clarity usually appears in groups. The impulse is to discuss the delimitation but once you have all the positions on the table, you see common ground and that makes it much easier to move forward.