We encourage an open exchange of ideas and the healthy conflict that naturally follows from discussing matters of substance. We believe that unanimity is rare and therefore rarely required; while unity is essential once an issue has been fairly debated.
In his seminal book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni contends that the absence, not the presence, of conflict is the death knell of any organization. I couldn’t agree more. The reason is simple yet profound. Absence of conflict indicates the absence of caring. Why argue about what’s going on within the organization when all you really care about is what you’ll be doing after the five o’clock bell?
A few years ago, a major client hired us to build a mission critical system for them. Given the high-profile nature of the project, the client’s executive sponsor was monitoring our progress very closely. One day he called me to strongly suggest I should attend the next project status meeting. I said I’d be happy to and asked him why he wanted me there. He said, “Well, we’re going to be speaking the truth in love and more than likely we’ll be engaging in healthy conflict.”
I said, “You’re talking my language, Mike. I’ll see you at the meeting.”
As it turned out, the meeting went just as Mike had predicted. At issue was a six-figure change order on the project. The client very much wanted our company to perform the additional work at no additional charge. However, what they were asking us to do was clearly beyond the original scope. Once both parties spoke the truth in love and engaged in some very lively healthy conflict, the matter was settled. The client agreed to approve the change order. Would they have still rather had the additional work for free? Of course, who wouldn’t? But, this is a great example of our values truly in action when the stakes were very high. It’s also a great example of how important communicating your values to your customers can be…assuming you’re operating in harmony with them.