Yorkshire Times
Weekend Edition
Dr Suzie Hamlin
Organisational Development Consultant
4:36 PM 12th November 2013

Mind The Gap

Have you ever reflected on the contrasting perspectives held by different departments within your organisation? Perspectives which are fully believed but totally different. They are perspectives that are talked about and the more they are talked about the more they become 'truth', acceptable and people's reality. These perspectives can be very damaging and they often encourage independent, silo working as opposed to collaboration and working interdependently.

It is easy to see where there are obvious entrenched perspectives outside of our sphere, such as between competing Governmental Parties, but we are often blind to the fixed and perhaps misconceived positions we hold ourselves. Judgements we have made about individuals and groups that can result in 'never the twain shall meet'. Obviously it is possible for organisations to hobble along with these different factions, but there is potential for such increase in productivity if some of them were exposed, explored and diffused.

It is, therefore, really important to 'Mind the Gap'.

I often help mediate a way through some of these entrenched positions by drawing an outline of a brain on a flip chart and asking groups from each area to consider what is in their corporate brain. That means what is important to them as a team/department, what are they focusing on, what are the challenges they face. After this I ask them to do the same exercise whilst considering the corporate perspective of the other team/department. Sharing all this material with each group can really help them to understand commonalities, the challenges the other team face and where the perspectives they have held about that other team have been too extreme. The positive result of an exercise such as this is often multifaceted:

The identification of potential synergies where working together on a particular project/challenge will bring far greater benefits than doing it alone.
The identification of duplication, where working together would save resources and encourage consistency and sustainability.
The introduction of alternative perspectives on problem solving, thus encouraging creativity.
The building of relationship leading to a desire to understand and work collaboratively rather than a defensive separateness.

It can also be done internally

Sometimes it does take an external and neutral perspective to help to identify and highlight those entrenched positions, but I do believe it can also be done internally.

If you are aware of such potentially stifling perspectives in your organisation why don't you take some time to reflect on:
The entrenched perspectives you and/or your team/department hold.
The entrenched perspectives you feel other departments have about you.
Ways that you could facilitate a meeting of people who hold those contrasting perspectives and do an exercise similar to the one I outline above.

In that meeting, consider the impact that holding those perspectives is having on the way you work together or don't.
In the light of what you have explored, unpicked and challenged, set yourselves some objectives around how you are going to work differently over the next three months.
Meet again after three months to reflect on the journey and what has changed.
Start to tell the story so that others begin to do the same kind of exercise.

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