The Chief Information Officer and her top team at a multi-billion dollar US company were locked into a costly and damaging cycle of political and increasingly personal in-fighting with top leadership of one of the company’s most important business units. This fracture, several years old by the time Exile was hired, posed a growing threat to collaboration and creativity just as the company was trying to navigate the first wave of a global recession.
A decisive breakthrough in our work with the team occurred when it became clear that the issue was only symptomatically about the individuals involved in the dispute. Using our conflict-utilization tools to look deeper at the matter the team realized that the business unit, which was under considerable pressure from market changes, was in fact rife with bullying and other poor, and ultimately counter-cultural behavior. Moreover, as we continued to explore the issues, the conflict itself pointed towards broader and more alarming difficulties in the company as a whole, reflecting a company that had lost its way from its founding mission and values. Maverick and reckless behaviors had begun to arise throughout the chief executive’s top team. This presented a quandary: the IT department realized it could only partly address its own conflict with the business unit until the broader, company-wide behaviors had been dealt with.
This work yielded a classic good news/bad news scenario. On the positive side, the team through the acquisition of conflict-utilization and issue-clearing skills , was able to improve rather dramatically their relationship with the business unit they were in conflict with. By seeing the conflict in its broader context, the dispute became less personal and less heated. On the downside, however, the team did not rise to the occasion to take their newly won perspective to the CEO to try to inspire deeper and more company-wide change. Although they were now more comfortable expressing difficult and potentially controversial points of view to one another and to the business unit with whom they’d been fighting, there still remained considerable fear of doing the same with more senior executives. Perhaps this is understandable: the economic downturn had made everyone more risk averse than they might have been in boom times. The team decided that their best move was to keep their heads low and wait it out.