How to Design Conflict Out of Your Organization

How to Design Conflict Out of Your Organization

Read the entire post: How to Design Conflict Out of Your Organization at

How to Design Conflict Out of Your Organization by Daniel W. Rasmus

By Kristin Schepici on September 25, 2012

My book, Management by Design, offers readers a methodology that creates purposeful engagement in the design of work experiences. Too often, we just let work happen to us, as managers and employees. In the daily rush to accomplish and fulfill, to satisfy and delight, we rarely take the time to consider why we do the things we do in the way we do them.

A lack of context can be frustrating, and it can lead to conflicts. Using design thinking, organizations can get out ahead of some of the conflicts that the workforce, and the larger organization may face. Design helps identify issues, eliminate barriers, and foster inclusion. Read on to learn about the Management by Design methodology and how it can help organizations avoid conflict through design.

The methodology begins with balance, seeking those key elements that set up the dichotomy in the work experience. The following table offers a list of typical areas where conflict can arise when behavior, assignment, or circumstance fail to recognize first, that these elements are important to workers. And second, once recognized, that balance is something that must be actively pursued. Balance doesn’t just happen, it must be designed into the experience.

The areas above are not intrinsically out of balance. Rarely, however, do organizations, or managers, sit down and systematically think about what is out of balance ahead of a conflict, and when a conflict occurs, they often treat that symptom in isolation rather than developing a larger perspective. By listing the areas that require balance, staff and management can proactively watch for out of balance situations and seek remedies before they become conflicts.

Note: this list is not intended to be exhaustive. What would you add?

Once managers and workers identify the items that require balance, they need to constantly consider how to portion out the items. To help with this, the methodology suggests looking at variety and emphasis. Emphasis helps keep important core work at the center while variety attempts to introduce novelty so that people have time to reflect and create. Good managers communicate emphasis and permit, or even facilitate variety.

If managers don’t introduce variety in the right way, they can create conflict. If people don’t understand the permission of variety and a manager’s desire to help make work interesting, they may perceive variety as randomness or disruption. If, however, the manager works with his or her staff to create a balance list, and the staff agrees to what is important, then they can openly discuss how to introduce novelty as a creative act rather than a disruptive one.

The important items then become the things to emphasize. Everyone agrees that these items take priority and any movement away from these priorities must be negotiated. That does not mean that variety becomes lost in single-mindedness, but that variety becomes a planned activity.

To better understand proportion, consider a product planner for a software company wants to learn more about marketing. Rather than just randomly suggest that he or she find a mentor, or “carve out some time to explore,” the worker and the manager work together to design a learning experience that adds variety to the product planner’s work. They create a curriculum that links the planner’s knowledge to the marketing discipline and spells out, very clearly, the conditions under which the planner can engage in learning. Once negotiations conclude, managers need to rigorously protect learning time as much as they do execution time.

Read the entire post: How to Design Conflict Out of Your Organization at

Daniel W. Rasmus

Daniel W. Rasmus, Founder and Principal Analyst of Serious Insights, is an internationally recognized speaker on the future of work and education. He is the author of several books, including Listening to the Future and Management by Design.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.