Managing Competing Tensions

We have a number of ways of managing competing demands and conflict so they can be dealt with in an open and positive way. A common dilemma is simultaneously wanting to embrace the new and conserve the old. Another is living with the tension between empowerment and central control.

One such method we use is ‘polarity thinking’, where the sticking points, conflicts and fears (the roots of resistance) of the change journey are identified and dealt with along the way. It’s a structured approach that helps people live and work with inherent dilemmas rather than getting stuck trying to solve the unsolvable (e.g. the perpetual tension between ‘centralisation and standardisation’ vs. ‘empowerment and devolution’).

The outcome is that the planned changes are embedded within the emerging organisation in a whole and healthy way, providing balance for the future across the organisation’s strategy, systems and culture.


We should like to acknowledge the work of Barry Johnson on polarity thinking and thank Polarity Partnerships for permission to reproduce the above tool (see 

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