I have been working in IT for over 40 years. For the last 25 years I been working as an independent consultant with charities and government agencies on technology projects involving organisational change, helping them design and implement systems to improve efficiency and service delivery whilst the same time building evidence bases to support their campaigning and advocacy work. I have typically worked on these projects from their inception right through to go live and active use. I think that this has given me a rare perspective across the whole project life cycle. Most of these projects have been with organisations with limited digital capabilities and understanding and have involved major changes in thinking and working practices required to deliver success and improvements in organisational value. These have, in turn, engendered significant levels of inter and intra organisational dissent and conflict. I originally saw this as a problem but I have come to understand a) that dissent is inevitable in such projects and b) it actually has significant value if used constructively. I have also realised that if dissent is suppressed, ignored or simply missed, it leads to major problems downstream. As a result I have, over the years developed techniques for surfacing and working with dissent/conflict and more recently have been researching the topic looking at a range of thinkers whose work covers complexity theory, organisation change, team working and personal development and then trying to fold these ideas into my day to day practice. In summary, I would like to think that I, partially at least, match this description (from the book The Neo-generalist): ‘The neo-generalist pulls together the fragments, assembles the puzzle pieces to establish the big picture. By inhabiting the spaces in between knowledge domains, s/he is capable of casting a wide net over multiple topics. S/he helps others achieve clarity’ Prior to starting as an independent, I worked as software engineer for Logica, started the first software development collective in 1979 and then worked for a software consultancy on projects for financial sector and media companies.
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Diversity and dissent: why they are important and how to use them to find effective and resilient solutions to complex problems
There is a growing realisation that group think within teams or organisational cultures that lack diversity results in outcomes that lack resilience, which in turn can lead to catastrophic failures But we also know that diverse views lead to tensions and conflict which can be difficult or impossible to resolve •We have all encountered situations where interdepartmental rivalry results in endless battles and a complete lack of progress •And then there is the senior stakeholder who just says 'No' and can't be moved This session will look at both sides of this problem, and then summarise some theory to help you identify situations where conflict can be used constructively. it will then run through a range of different techniques and tools that can be used when working with conflict situations It will draw on the work of a range of thinkers doing work around complexity, neuroscience, decision making, organisational culture and personal development. This will be coupled with my 30 years of experience working with not-for-profit organisations implement digital systems to support their often-complex service delivery activities It will start with some case studies and scenarios looking at situations where there was, in some cases, excessive conflict and, in others, insufficient and the consequences that resulted And then, using the Cynefin sense-making framework it will explore different problem types and identify the situations where dissent/conflict is actually going to be valuable and look at the reasons why, if done constructively, it yields better and more robust outcomes And finally it will take a high-level look at a range of techniques for both fostering dissent (where this needed) and dealing with tensions and destructive conflict (where this is occurring). Some of these techniques apply at an organisational level or team level, others apply in 1:1 and personal situations
•An understanding of why conflict and dissent can be valuable and in some cases critical to success in working with complex problems •Guidance for identifying the situations where conflict and dissent can and ought to be used constructively •A 'tasting menu' of tools and techniques that can be used around conflict and dissent at both an organisational and personal elvel •A list of underlying principles to guide you in working with difficult and challenging conflict situations