Immutable principles conflict: what happens?

Sometimes immutable principles conflict with each other and this creates conflict and tension. It’s a bit like the eternal question of the chicken and the egg. Everyone has an opinion.

Paradoxical © Benoit Daoust | Dreamstime.com

Paradoxical
© Benoit Daoust | Dreamstime.com

As team members apply organisational immutable principles in day to day operations conflicts are inevitable. In fact, I believe it is in the midst of such conflict the best innovations emerge. Conflict in organisations is inevitable. People often passionately hold differing opinions. Team members will naturally hold values and place different positions of priority on those values. Immutable principles conflict.

Immutable principles establish the W.O.W., Ways of Working, of a team or organisation. They articulate what the values look like in action. Establishing a clear set of values for an organisation is a very important process. However, without establishing immutable principles which describe what those values look like in action those values may end up being no more than words on a piece of paper or in a file stored somewhere electronically.

Establishing clear and immutable guiding principles for your team or organisation is a great start. Understanding the dynamic nature of those principles only comes as you collectively apply them in day to day operations.

Immutable principles conflict.

In our organisation we hold to an immutable principle of people first. We also hold to the principle that it is quality which makes the biggest difference. For us, in an educational setting, it is the quality of the teaching and learning which really counts. The two principles are always held in tension and sometimes become paradoxical for us. These immutable principles conflict with each other.

Using Tension Creatively © Filipfoto25 | Dreamstime.com

Using Tension Creatively
© Filipfoto25 | Dreamstime.com

For example, a teacher who is not achieving the standards we have collectively agreed to may well have their position in jeopardy. Some team members will struggle with the principle of people first in this situation. The two are in tension. It is another example where immutable principles conflict.

We also hold to the principle that there is a divine plan and purpose for every child’s life while, at the same time, holding the principle that sometimes the good of the many outweighs the good of one. The idea that every child is precious and matters deeply creates a tension when we are considering withdrawing the enrolment of a student. These immutable principles conflict. There is a tension between what is best for the one, what is best for the rest of the student body and what is best for the organisation.

Tension not only exists when immutable principles conflict. It also occurs between the other values and perspectives individuals may hold. While we strongly believe in round pegs in round holes we still have to distribute work tasks and roles between our team members. It simply isn’t always possible to find a perfect fit for everyone.

Sometimes it is just the realities of the world we live in which create our immutable principles conflict. We believe strongly in the principle family first. However, we cannot afford to just give team members time off to take care of every family related issue which arises. It is a budget reality. Operational realities sometimes contribute to immutable principles conflict.

Great leaders use conflict, paradox and tension between immutable principles as opportunities for creative innovation.

Innovation © Alphaspirit | Dreamstime.com

Innovation
© Alphaspirit | Dreamstime.com

All of these tensions, along with the plethora of interpersonal and professional conflicts which occur every day in any organisation, can either become a source of great angst or they can be the most amazing creative opportunities for innovation. It can be a wonderful opportunity when immutable principles conflict.

Great leaders use conflict, paradox and tension between immutable principles as opportunities for creative innovation. Always remember, the wisdom is in the room, but you might not have it! When organisational leaders learn to leverage conflict and tension into constructive, respectful conversations innovation occurs.

Innovation is not the same as invention. An invention is something completely new. Innovation is when you take what already exists and combine it in different ways to achieve new outcomes. Creative tension is probably the best way to achieve innovation. Innovation can be the result when immutable principles conflict.

While it is important leaders focus continuously on describing and developing the organisational culture they aspire to (and immutable principles are an invaluable tool in this process), it is not about getting everyone to think and behave in the same ways. It is far more about valuing the differences and learning to help people to value each other’s ideas and positions so that they can use the tensions to create new outcomes.

Establishing a clear set of organisational immutable principles is a great start. That is all it is – a great start. The true power of immutable principles emerges as a team or organisational leader guides people through the application of those principles helping them learn to value difference and use conflict creatively. Organisational growth and development of positive organisational culture result from the innovative thinking which emerges from teams who value conflict.

Takeaways

  • Conflict in organisations is inevitable. Don’t spend your leadership energy trying to achieve a conflict free environment.
  • Conflicts can be managed and people can be led to discover creative innovations as a result of conflict.
  • Establishing clear and immutable guiding principles for your team or organisation is a great start – but that is all it is – just a great start.
  • Understanding the dynamic nature of immutable principles only comes as you collectively, as a team, apply them in day to day operations.
  • Learn to value difference.
  • Great leaders use conflict, paradox and tension between immutable principles as opportunities for creative innovation.
  • Always remember, the wisdom is in the room, but you might not have it!
  • When organisational leaders learn to leverage conflict and tension into constructive, respectful conversations innovation occurs.
  • Innovation is not the same as invention. An invention is something completely new. Innovation is when you take what already exists and combine it in different ways to achieve new outcomes.

Additional Resources

The Johari Window

Five non negotiable elements of a culture

What are your non negotiables?

What are your non negotiables? They play an important part in your contribution.

What’s your organization’s attitude?