Point Lookout: a free weekly publication of Chaco Canyon Consulting
Volume 3, Issue 3;   January 15, 2003: Please Remove My Appendix

Please Remove My Appendix

by

When an organization is experiencing problems with conflict, "pushback," or "blowback," managers often hire trainers to present programs on helpful topics. But self-diagnosis can be risky. Often, there are more direct and focused options that can help more and cost less.
Not feeling so good

Carole noticed that Cliff was checking his watch again. "Got somewhere to go?" she asked. "We all do, you know, but unless we can get these people to stop bickering and start engineering, nothing else matters."

"I know, sorry," Cliff said. "But I'm out of ideas. They all believe they aren't the problem."

Carol, Cliff, and Daryl sat silently for a minute, though it seemed longer. Then Daryl had an idea. "What about conflict training? I hear from HR that they have someone and people say he's pretty good."

Cliff really had given up. "I can hear them now: 'Oh, training. Another day lost.'"

But Carole was more optimistic. "Let's do it. We've tried everything else. Maybe it'll help."

In desperation, and with good intentions, Carole, Cliff, and Daryl are about to deal with a team conflict problem with conflict training.

Training rarely hurts, but considering all the costs, it can be a mistake. To understand why, imagine waking up one morning with a pain in your left side. You call your doctor and manage somehow to get an appointment that morning. You walk into the office and say, "Doctor, my left side hurts. Please remove my appendix."

Self-diagnosis is risky
when your health is at stake,
and it's no less risky in
the organizational context
Of course, you'd never do that. Instead, you'd probably talk about your pain, and submit to an examination. Maybe it's appendicitis, but maybe not — it's unlikely, since normally, the appendix is on the right side.

Self-diagnosis is risky when your health is at stake, and it's no less risky in the organizational context. Instead of deciding for yourself what to do, have a consultant investigate what kind of problem there might be, then tell you what your options are, and recommend action.

Here are some advantages of professional assessment:

Fit
If there's too much tension in the air, training might not be a fit. Some people might be too hurt or too steamed to learn much. You might need another kind of intervention first.
Cost
When you include the cost of participant time, training can be more expensive than more direct and focused interventions. A professional assessment can control costs.
Opportunity cost
The people attending the training could be doing something else, and that work might be delayed by the time spent in training. The cost of those delays can be significant.
Expertise
Experts are more likely to uncover the real issue. You gain the benefit of their skill and experience with other organizations.
Outsider status
During the assessment, some people in your organization are more likely to reveal key information to the outside expert than they would be to you or to someone within your organization.
Objectivity
It's difficult to be objective about interpersonal issues. Since we have a tendency to overlook our own contributions to problems, self-assessment can be less objective than a professional assessment.

An assessment can be helpful even when you think everything is OK. Think of it the way you would your annual physical. Would you skip a physical because you feel fine? Go to top Top  Next issue: Let Me Finish, Please  Next Issue

Situs inversus is a condition in which internal organs are organized as a mirror image of the norm. It affects one in 7-8,000 humans. There are also other conditions that can cause the appendix to be on the left side. More.

52 Tips for Leaders of Project-Oriented OrganizationsAre your projects always (or almost always) late and over budget? Are your project teams plagued by turnover, burnout, and high defect rates? Turn your culture around. Read 52 Tips for Leaders of Project-Oriented Organizations, filled with tips and techniques for organizational leaders. Order Now!

Your comments are welcome

Would you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenwLgDfnPqzvDQYKqwner@ChacKmnaGZzgDJTqvWsAoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.

About Point Lookout

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.

Point Lookout is a free weekly email newsletter. Browse the archive of past issues. Subscribe for free.

Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.

Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.

Related articles

More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:

StonehengeHigh Falutin' Goofy Talk
Business speech and business writing are sometimes little more than high falutin' goofy talk, filled with pretentious, overused images and puff phrases of unknown meaning. Here are some phrases that are so common that we barely notice them.
A late rabbitGames for Meetings: III
We spend a lot of time and emotional energy in meetings, much of it engaged in any of dozens of ritualized games. Here's Part III of a little catalog of some of our favorites, and what we could do about them.
One site auditing a virtual presentationVirtual Presentations
Modern team efforts almost certainly involve teleconferences, and many teleconferences include presentations, often augmented with video or graphics. Delivering these virtual presentations effectively requires an approach tailored to the medium.
U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Robert Rubin (left) with Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan GreenspanThe Paradox of Confidence
Most of us interpret a confident manner as evidence of competence, and a hesitant manner as evidence of lesser ability. Recent research suggests that confidence and competence are inversely correlated. If so, our assessments of credibility and competence are thrown into question.
Sherlock Holmes and Doctor WatsonHow to Make Good Guesses: Tactics
Making good guesses probably does take talent to be among the first rank of those who make guesses. But being in the second rank is pretty good, too, and we can learn how to do that. Here are some tactics for guessing.

See also Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness for more related articles.

Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout

Raquel Welch (left) and Gilda Radner (right) from a @Cite{Saturday Night Live rehearsal, April 24, 1976Coming December 20: Conceptual Mondegreens
When we disagree about abstractions, such as a problem solution, or a competitor's strategy, the cause can often be misunderstanding the abstraction. That misunderstanding can be a conceptual mondegreen. Available here and by RSS on December 20.
An engineer attending a meeting with 14 other engineersAnd on December 27: On Assigning Responsibility for Creating Trouble
When we assign responsibility for troubles that bedevil us, we often make mistakes. We can be misled by language, stereotypes, and the assumptions we make about others. Available here and by RSS on December 27.

Coaching services

I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrenxUyjzprlGAwLZMJjner@ChacSVFVKPkpPkAEDcbooCanyon.com or (617) 491-6289, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.

Get the ebook!

Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:

Reprinting this article

Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info

Public seminars

Person-to-Person Communications: Models and Applications
When Person-to-Person Communications: Models and Applicationswe talk, listen, send or read emails, read or write memos, or when we leave or listen to voice mail messages, we're communicating person-to-person. And whenever we communicate person-to-person, we risk being misunderstood, offending others, feeling hurt, and being confused. There are so many ways for things to go wrong that we could never learn how to fix all the problems. A more effective approach avoids problems altogether, or at least minimizes their occurrence. In this very interactive program we'll explain — and show you how to use — a model of inter-personal communications that can help you stay out of the ditch. We'll place particular emphasis on a very tricky situation — expressing your personal power. In those moments of intense involvement, when we're most likely to slip, you'll have a new tool to use to keep things constructive. Read more about this program. Here's a date for this program:

Ten Project Management Fallacies: The Power of Avoiding Hazards
Most Ten Project Management Fallaciesof what we know about managing projects is useful and effective, but some of what we know "just ain't so." Identifying the fallacies of project management reduces risk and enhances your ability to complete projects successfully. Even more important, avoiding these traps can demonstrate the value and power of the project management profession in general, and your personal capabilities in particular. In this program we describe ten of these beliefs. There are almost certainly many more, but these ten are a good start. We'll explore the situations where these fallacies are most likely to expose projects to risk, and suggest techniques for avoiding them. Read more about this program. Here's a date for this program:

The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
Many The Power Affect: How We Express Personal Powerpeople who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.

Follow Rick

Send email or subscribe to one of my newsletters Follow me at LinkedIn Follow me at Twitter, or share a tweet Follow me at Google+ or share a post Subscribe to RSS feeds Subscribe to RSS feeds
The message of Point Lookout is unique. Help get the message out. Please donate to help keep Point Lookout available for free to everyone.
Technical Debt for Policymakers BlogMy blog, Technical Debt for Policymakers, offers resources, insights, and conversations of interest to policymakers who are concerned with managing technical debt within their organizations. Get the millstone of technical debt off the neck of your organization!
52 Tips for Leaders of Project-Oriented OrganizationsAre your project teams plagued by turnover, burnout, and high defect rates? Turn your culture around.
Go For It: Sometimes It's Easier If You RunBad boss, long commute, troubling ethical questions, hateful colleague? Learn what we can do when we love the work but not the job.
101 Tips for Effective MeetingsLearn how to make meetings more productive — and more rare.
Ebooks, booklets and tip books on project management, conflict, writing email, effective meetings and more.
Comprehensive collection of all e-books and e-bookletsSave a bundle and even more important save time! Order the Combo Package and download all ebooks and tips books at once.