Eye of the Storm Leadership
150 Ideas, Stories, Quotes, and Excercises On The
Art and Politics of Managing Human Conflicts
by Peter Adler, Ph.D.
Finds & Connects > Finds & Connects - Archive 

Finds & Connects – Archive


Dominican Leader Eases Tensions. “After hours of emotional speeches and occasional name calling, the week-long crisis between Colombia and its neighbors Ecuador and Venezuela appears to be ending amid a round of presidential handshakes. The apparent end of hostilities, which saw Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and his close ally, Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa send troops to their respective borders with Colombia, was prompted by President Leonel Fernandez of the Dominican Republic, host of a Latin American summit, who urged leaders to shake hands and put aside their differences.”  From The Wall Street Journal, A-5, March 8-9, 2008. (posted 3.11.09)

The Thawing Point. “It was a tipping point in modern history, marking the moment that the Cold War began to end. It brought together two iconic leaders, Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev who would pull the world back from the brink of destruction. But for (film director) Ridley Scott, the 1986 Reykjavik summit was something more than that. It was a very human tale with every ingredient for a gripping drama. “These are fascinating historical characters, larger-than-life figures, but I want to show who they were and why they did what they did,” the veteran British director said. “Their actions helped shape history, paving the way for the end of the Cold War.” Express (The Washington Post), 3.10.08 (posted 3.13.08)

An Accord to Remember. “Today, civic leaders from across the Israeli and Palestinian political spectrum are gathering here to publicize what has become known as the Geneva Accord – a negotiated but unofficial framework for reaching a permanent peace between our two peoples after years of bloodshed and lost and shattered lives. The accord lays out, for the first time, what a credible and negotiable Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement could look like. In the process, it addresses all the major differences between the parties, including security arrangements, the shape of permanent borders, the status of Jerusalem, the future of West Bank settlements, the rights of refugees and access to holy places. The initiative dates to January 2001, when the last official talks between Israel and the Palestinians ended at Taba. As participants in the negotiations, we both were left with the feeling that we could have reached an agreement had we been given a few more weeks. Unfortunately, our Israeli and Palestinian colleagues in the negotiations felt that the gaps were too large to be bridged. After the Israeli elections of 2001, when Ehud Barak lost to Ariel Sharon, the two of us agreed to try to complete the work at Taba - as private citizens. We wanted to find common ground and demonstrate to both Israelis and Palestinians that despite all the frustration, disappointment and, most of all, violence, we could keep meaningful discussions going. Our path was filled with obstacles. During this period, Israelis were forbidden from entering the Palestinian territories; Palestinians, meanwhile, found it difficult to obtain permission to enter Israel and to travel abroad. Thus, sometimes we would meet at checkpoints, where we negotiated in a car. On other occasions, the Swiss government made it possible for us to meet abroad. To support our effort, we built broad coalitions. On the Israeli side were people who identified with the Likud, Shinui, Labor and Meretz parties as well as retired senior officials, economists and intellectuals. On the Palestinian side were officials from Yasir Arafat's Fatah faction, parliamentarians and leading academics. Finally, in October, we were able to put on the table a 50-page agreement, including detailed maps. The document is complicated and thus difficult to summarize, but its central idea is that in exchange for peace with Israel, the Palestinians would at last gain a nonmilitarized state. The Palestinians would also get sovereignty over the Temple Mount, though Jewish access to the holy spot would be guaranteed by an international security force. In addition, Israel would have the opportunity to keep some West Bank settlements, including many of the new Jewish communities constructed on the Arab side of Jerusalem.” By Yossi Beilin and Yasir Abed Rabbo, The New York Times, December 1, 2004 (posted 3.11.08)


Problem Solving Harvard-style. The "adaptive" approach, as Stephen Bouwhuis calls it in The Australian Journal of Public Administration (Issue 123, March, 2008), is being taught at Harvard's Kennedy School and is useful for problems that require "a shift ... in ways of thinking across a community." Climate change is an example. A visionary puts forth a plan for the people to implement. An adaptive leader helps constituents understand the problem themselves, and then they build a plan together. Such a leader is a facilitator "helping communities face their problems." In other words, she's like your shrink. From Issue 123 | March 2008 - From “In the Lead,” a column edited by James Kuczmarski in Fast Company, March 2008 (posted 3.11.08)

Presidential Leadership Isn’t an Either/Or Choice. Robert D. Benjamin WRITES: “History may record the current presidential campaign as a turning point in how we think about leadership, choose a leader, and approach complex issues and difficult conflicts in the Twenty-First Century. The candidates present an interesting juxtaposition of leadership styles that is seldom seen in such high relief and clarity. John McCain is the prototype of the traditional and classic warrior as leader, Hillary Clinton, takes on the mantle of the pragmatic, technical, problem-solving wonk, and Barack Obama has cornered the role of the moral/inspirational shaman. The choice between them, not surprisingly, is framed as an either/or proposition, as if one style or the other is sufficient in itself and inconsistent with the others.” From “Wonks, Shamans, Warriors, Dealmakers and the Protean Leader” by Robert D. Benjamin at http://www.mediate.com/articles/benjaminleaders.cfm (posted 3.11.08)


The Power of Convening. “Over the course of my eight years as Governor of Oregon, I learned I had three kinds of power: the power to set an agenda, the power of the bully pulpit, and the power to convene. The power to convene is not as widely recognized and appreciated as it ought to be. Convening is a powerful tool available to leaders who want to address the kinds of complex problems that cannot be resolved without shared responsibility and joint action. A leader acts as convenor by creating a forum or place where key interests or stakeholders can participate in a collaborative problem solving process. This is different from a leader deciding what needs to be done and using his or her power to bring it about. Convening enables leaders to build consensus around a recommendation for action, and to take action without taking sides. We need leaders who can create forums or 'safe' public spaces where people can come together to solve problems. There aren’t many neutral spaces or forums in which people have the opportunity to work together to reach integrated solutions to problems. Yet these kinds of forums can serve the goals of public policy with or without any formal relationship with government.” From “Seizing the Moment” by former Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber, www.policyconsensus.org June 2004. 

Want to be a great leader? Michael Harvey, writing in the Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, identifies curiosity as a trait that "stimulates learning and, concurrently, increases the effectiveness of decision making and quality management in the global marketplace." Curious leaders excel at problem solving by intuitively filling gaps "between what one knows and what one wishes to know," and they're so important that Harvey suggests corporations administer curiosity exams: "Individuals should be tested on a regular basis." - From “In the Lead,” a column edited by James Kuczmarski in Fast Company, March 2008 (posted 3.11.08)


Twelve Questions for Hillary Clinton, John McCain, and Barack Obama on Leadership. The current U.S. presidential election is a great time to think about the relationship of politics, conflict and leadership. The collective challenges we face -- balancing freedom and security, maintaining economic and environmental sustainability, educating our young people, and assuring the health of those who cannot take care of themselves -- crisscross all sorts of historic borders, jurisdictions, and purviews.  Solving these issues, or even capably “taming” them, will necessarily be a team sport, one that requires a new and more “protean” type of leadership. How will Hillary Clinton, John McCain, and Barack Obama approach these coming storms? However unlikely it might be, imagine for a moment that we could engage all three candidates in an extended dialogue that goes beyond the sound bites and platform promises we have grown too accustomed to.  Here is what I would ask:

1.    Your History of Bringing People Together. Senators Clinton, McCain, and Obama, tell us about one or more specific instances in which you were the catalyst that brought warring factions together to create a new political arrangement. What did you do and what was the result? (We know a lot about the candidates’ temperaments and general positions and have also heard a lot of discussion and accusations about “experience.” It would be valuable to get more depth and specificity on their actual history of bringing people together.)

2.     Exemplary Leaders. Name three living or historical leaders you admire who actually brought disparate groups together. What specifically did they do and how is it relevant for the issues you will be facing? (As voters, we could use greater insight into who their political heroes and heroines are and how the values and actions of those leaders mirror the aspirations of each candidate.)

3.     Your Big Issues and Approaches to Bipartisan Alliances. Everyone talks about bipartisanship and “reaching across the aisle.” Name three issues where you think this will be possible during your first term and tell us why you are optimistic you will succeed. (All three candidates have said they will try to bring Democrats and Republicans together in new ways. It would be good to know why each thinks he or she has a shot at doing that. And on what issues: immigration? Iraq? greenhouse gas reductions?)

4.     Future Partners. All of you are running with certain key issues and goals in mind. History tells us that no president can achieve them alone. Who specifically are your future “trading partners” as you try to achieve your objectives? (Wouldn’t it be refreshing to gain insights as to who they would try to approach to build partnerships with, both within their own party and across the aisle in the other? Further, it would be good to get a glimpse of what might be inside their trade zones. What issues might they give on in order to gain on others?)

5.     Standing Firm v. Compromising. On the three issues that are at the top of your agenda, how will you decide when to take a stand and when to negotiate? If you can’t get everything you want, what considerations will lead you to either compromise or not? (Every leader has to manage the inherent tensions between taking competitive, cooperative, moral, or pragmatic stands. Usually, we can see these in historical hindsight but it would be helpful to hear where they intend to draw the line and where there might be gives and takes.)

6.     Countries At Odds With the U.S. What specifically will you do differently from your predecessors regarding Pakistan, Iran, Syria, North Korea, Cuba, Russia, and Venezuela? (America’s relationships with all of the above countries are tenuous and frayed, often for different reasons. Each, however, represents a potential geo-political hotspot. It would be helpful to hear how each candidate would approach the circumstances surrounding each relationship.)

7.     Middle East. Describe for us what kind of arrangements you think can be brokered between (a) Palestine and Israel and (b) the Shia, Sunnis, and Kurds? Tell us what your strategies will be in both of these circumstances. (These are America’s current hotspots, places with active, open, and ongoing armed conflict. Both situations cry out for adroit diplomacy and new negotiation strategies. Whoever becomes president cannot avoid these issues. It would be nice to have greater insight into an fresh thinking the candidiates might bring to their office.)

8.     Your Prevailing Impulse. CEOs lead in different ways. Some are strategists. Others focus on hiring and firing senior talent. Still others manage by the numbers. A few spur technical innovations and some are turn around specialists. Please resist the temptation to tell us you are everything and tell us which style you favor and why you are the right person at the right time. (These five leadership styles were identified in a 1990 study called “The Ways CEOs Lead” by Charles Farkas and Suzy Wetlaufer in the Harvard Business Review. No leader is good at all of these but usually one style predominates. As voters, one of our challenges is to understand and make a good match between what the candidates offer and what the times require.)

9.      Intellectual Flexibility. Name a major public policy issue about which you've changed your mind in the last fifteen years. Tell us what caused you to shift your views and what happened afterwards. (Even though times and conditions change, the punditocracy seems to place great stock in political consistency. An overriding emphasis on consistency seems to make otherwise smart people unwilling to be accused of "flip-flopping" on critical issues. It would be valuable for voters to really understand how changing conditions or new information caused candidates to shift their positions and hear how they handled the inevitable aftermath.)

10.     Changing Foreign Policy Frames. In what ways do you think America should change its role in the world and how will you try to mobilize Americans to support such a shift? (The last six years have been dominated by an American foreign policy based on American exceptionalism and unilateralism. While foreign policy has specifically been dominated by the "war on terror," the world-wide fluctuations in stock markets, the obvious impacts of global climate change, and the tides of refugees are among the reminders of our international interdependence and the need to engage in more effective joint actions with other nations. Voters could use some straightforward talk on each candidate’s views and where they may take the nation.)

11.    Mistakes. What mistake made by previous presidents are you most eager to avoid? (This question will predictably have McCain pointing his finger at the mistakes of previous Democratic presidents like Jimmy Carter and Obama and Clinton waggling their fingers at George Bush. Nonetheless, it would be useful to probe how each might seize some future similar circumstance and do things different.) 

12.    The 3 am Call. When the crisis call really comes at 3am, who will you call for advice and counsel before deciding what to do? In a crisis, who do you rely on for guidance? (This question is a test of how vulnerable each candidate is to “group think.” Lincoln invited his political opponents into his cabinet to create a “team of rivals.” Kennedy, having learned the hard way at Bay of Pigs, created a special Executive Committee (“The ExComm”) composed of hawks and doves during the Cuba Missile Crisis. He wanted both sets of views. It would be good to get an early glimpse of how likely each candidate is to have advisers in place who will challenge his or her thinking rather than being predictable toadies.)

Ambrose Bierce once described politics as a “strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles.” John Kenneth Galbraith called it the art of “choosing between the disastrous and the unpalatable.” I have no delusions. In an age of mass marketing and the “selling of candidates,” this kind of in-depth political dialogue is virtually impossible. Nonetheless, accidents happen and every once in a long while, someone sneaks questions like these into the picture and, for a brief moment, something important is revealed. By Peter Adler at http://www.mediate.com/articles/adlerstorm.cfm (posted 3.12.08)


Lateral and Logical Thinking. “Many years ago in a small Indian village, a farmer had the misfortune of owing a large sum of money to a village moneylender. The moneylender, who was old and ugly, fancied the farmer's beautiful daughter. So he proposed a bargain. He said he would forego the farmer's debt if he could marry his daughter. Both the farmer and his daughter were horrified by the proposal. So the cunning moneylender suggested that they let providence decide the matter.  He told them that he would put a black pebble and a white pebble into an empty money bag. Then the girl would have to pick one pebble from the bag. (1) If she picked the black pebble, she would become his wife and her father's debt would be forgiven; (2) If she picked the white pebble she need not marry him and her father's debt would still be forgiven; (3) But if she refused to pick a pebble, her father would be thrown into jail. They were standing on a pebble strewn path in the farmer's field. As they talked, the moneylender bent over to pickup two pebbles. As he picked them up, the sharp-eyed girl noticed that he had picked up two black pebbles and put them into the bag. He then asked the girl to pick a pebble from the bag. Now, imagine that you were standing in the field. What would you have done if you were the girl? If you had to advise her, what would you have told her? Careful analysis would produce three possibilities: (1) The girl should refuse to take a pebble; (2) The girl should show that there were two black pebbles in the bag and expose the moneylender as a cheat; (3) The girl should pick a black pebble and sacrifice herself in order to save her father from his debt and imprisonment. Take a moment to ponder the story. The above story is used with the hope that it will make us appreciate the difference between lateral and logical thinking. The girl's dilemma cannot be solved with traditional logical thinking. Think of the consequences if she chooses the above logical answers. What would you recommend to the girl to do?  Well, here is what she did.... The girl put her hand into the moneybag and drew out a pebble.  Without looking at it, she fumbled and let it fall onto the pebble-strewn path where it immediately became lost among all the other pebbles. "Oh, how clumsy of me," she said.  "But never mind, if you look into the bag for the one that is left, you will be able to tell which pebble I picked." Since the remaining pebble is black, it must be assumed that she had picked the white one. And since the moneylender couldn't / wouldn't admit his dishonesty, the girl changed what seemed an impossible situation into an extremely advantageous one.” Source Unknown. (posted 3.12.08) 


Good Groups. “A good group is better than a spectacular group. When leaders become superstars, the teacher outshines the teaching. Very few superstars are down-to--earth.  Before long they get carried away with themselves. Then they fly off center and crash. The wise leader settles for good work and then lets others have the floor. The leader does not take all the credit for what happens and has no need for fame. A moderate ego demonstrates wisdom.” From The Tao of Leadership by John Heider


Why We’re So Nice: We’re Wired That Way. “What feels as good as chocolate on the tongue or money in the bank but won't make you fat or risk a subpoena from the Securities and Exchange Commission? Hard as it may be to believe in these days of infectious greed and sabers unsheathed, scientists have discovered that the small, brave act of cooperating with another person, of choosing trust over cynicism, generosity over selfishness, makes the brain light up with quiet joy. Studying neural activity in young women who were playing a classic laboratory game called the Prisoner's Dilemma, in which participants can select from a number of greedy or cooperative strategies as they pursue financial gain, researchers found that when the women chose mutualism over "me-ism," the mental circuitry normally associated with reward-seeking behavior swelled to life. And the longer the women engaged in a cooperative strategy, the more strongly flowed the blood to the pathways of pleasure. The researchers, performing their work at Emory University in Atlanta, used magnetic resonance imaging to take what might be called portraits of the brain on hugs. "The results were really surprising to us," said Dr.Gregory S. Berns, a psychiatrist and an author on the new report, which appears in the current issue of the journal Neuron. "We went in expecting the opposite." The researchers had thought that the biggest response would occur in cases where one person cooperated and the other defected, when the cooperator might feel that she was being treated unjustly. Instead, the brightest signals arose in cooperative alliances and in those neighborhoods of the brain already known to respond to desserts, pictures of pretty faces, money, cocaine and any number of licit or illicit delights.” By Natalie Angier, The New York Times, July 23, 2002. (posted 3.11.08)


Every day, Every meeting. “Every day, every meeting is a test of charisma, another trait that, according to Boas Shamir, writing in the Journal of Applied Psychology, companies should seek in a leader. But it's not just charisma that matters--it's also the perception of charisma. To boost perceptions, you have to get your audience highly aroused. (Mind out of the gutter: To psychologists, arousal means the level of audience interest and engagement.) High arousal leads to "an amplification of ... charismatic appeal." That is, you'll seem even more charismatic than you already are and better able to sustain others' excitement and loyalty. - From “In the Lead,” a column edited by James Kuczmarski in Fast Company, March 2008 (posted 3.11.08)

Madonna and the Hungarians. “Madonna was in Budapest filming some scenes from the movie "Evita" and the Budapest newspaper "Blikk" interviewed her. The questions were posed in Hungarian, then translated into English for her; her replies were then translated back into Hungarian. Then "USA Today" wanted a copy of it. So. . . the Hungarian version was retranslated from Hungarian back into English for "USA Today" who only published part of it all. This is the whole version from the re-translation.

BLIKK: Madonna, Budapest says hello with arms that are spread-eagled. Did you have a visit here that was agreeable? Are you in good odor? You are the biggest fan of our young people who hear your musical productions and like to move their bodies in response.

MADONNA: Thank you for saying these compliments {holds up hands}. Please stop with taking sensationalist photographs until I have removed my garmets for all to see. This is a joke I have made.

BLIKK: Madonna, let's cut toward the hunt: are you a bold hussy-woman that feasts on men who are tops?

MADONNA: Yes, yes, this is certainly something that brings to the surface my longings. In American it is not considreed to be mentally ill when a woman advances on her prey in a discotheque setting with hardy cocktails present. And there is a more normal attitude toward leather play-toys that also makes my day.

BLIKK: Is this how you met Carlos, your love-servant who is reputed? Did you know he was heaven-sent right off the stick? Or were you dating many other people in your bed at the same time?

MADONNA: No, he was the only one I was dating in my bed then, so it is a scientific fact that the baby was made in my womb using him. But as regards those questions, enough! I am a woman and not a test-mouse! Carlos is an everyday person who is in the orbit of a star who is being muscled-trained by him, not a sex machine.

BLIKK: May we talk about your other "baby," your movie then? Please do not be denying that the similarities between you and the real Evita are grounded in basis. Power, money, tasty food, Grammys -- all these elements are afoot.

MADONNA: What is up in the air with you? Evita never was winning a Grammy!

BLIKK: Perhaps not. But as to your film, in trying to bring your reputation along a rocky road, can you make people forget the bad explosions of "Who's That Girl?" and "Shanghai Surprise?"

MADONNA: I am a tip-top starlet. That is my job that I am paid to do.

BLIKK: OK, here's a question from left space. What was your book "Slut" about?

MADONNA: It was called "Sex", my book.

BLIKK: Not in Hungary. Here it was called "Slut." How did it come to publish. Were you lovemaking with a man-about-town printer? Do you prefer making suggestive literature to fast-selling CDs?

MADONNA: There are different facets to my career highway. I am preferring only to become respected all over the map as a 100% artist.

BLIKK: There is much interest in you from this geographic region, so I must ask this final questions: How many Hungarian men have you dated in bed? Are they No. 1? How are they comparing to Argentine men, who are famous being tip-top as well?

MADONNA: Well, to avoid aggravating global tension, I would say it's a tie (laugh). No, no. I am serious now. See here, I am working like a canine all the way around the clock! I have been too busy to try the goulash that makes your country one for the record books.

BLIKK: Thank you for the candid chitchat.

MADONNA: No problem, friend who is a girl.”

From “Humor and Stories for Interpreters” at http://www.theinterpretersfriend.com/misc/humr/terperr.html


Analysis with Humility. “Joint fact-finding is a cooperative venture and communication among the participants is critical to success. Analysts have begun to recognize this and have started to adjust their craft to reflect the communicative character of their work. Non-analysts usually judge experts' opinions by their value, effectiveness, and legitimacy rather than soundness of the conclusions. Accordingly, experts must recognize the importance of these non-scientific criteria, and learn to communicate better with their non-expert colleagues. Practically, this means explaining the rationale and implications behind their findings in an easily digestible way. Andrews uses real cases to illustrate his argument that analysts should marry process to analysis, spread information, reason inductively, broaden their analytic scope, put analytic results into lay terms, and constantly seek out feedback on their work. Technical specialists who perform analysis in public settings can turn to Andrews's book for ideas about how to do their jobs more effectively. Scholars interested in the connection between expertise and the process of social learning will find his case study approach useful. Beginning with an analysis of the motivations and concepts at work in the process of joint fact finding, Andrews assesses the challenges analysts face from those who hire them and from their non-expert colleagues. He then illustrates his remarks with case studies of projects that have failed and succeeded. The book concludes by summing up the mistakes learned and elements that make for successful joint fact finding.” from Humble Analysis: The Practice of Joint Fact-Finding by Clinton J. Andrews, Praeger 2002

Science as Story. “For those of us who do not do science, science often seems like the last bastion of unfuzzy logic, a place where the answers are clear-cut, a moral universe where there is a right and there is a wrong. But we fool ourselves – it’s not like that at all. Science is ruled by human passions and limitations and creativity. Science is the story we tell ourselves, or are told, to make sense of the world of atoms and cells, illness and beauty, ozone and oxygen, the world in which we – collections of atoms and cells – find ourselves.” by Sue Halpern (posted 3.12.08)


On Collaborative Governance. “One issue still lingers from the polarized presidential elections: How might we return to more civil discourse, especially among our public leaders? Our fellow citizens aren't interested in a blame game. Leaders: It's up to us to change things. We'd do well to start at home, in our states and communities, whether we are Democrat, Republican, or of another stripe. It's time for public leaders to make a real effort to draw fellow citizens to the kitchen table, where America has traditionally found its most durable solutions, and begin to make progress together. Absent this, the polarization that now grips our land can only continue. One approach is "collaborative governance." That's a fancy name for getting everyone - every agency, citizen, community - with a stake in a particular issue to come together to talk about what ought to be done. This is different from your typical town meeting, which is too often just a one-sided exercise in appearing to listen. And, it's different from a public hearing, often attended only by policy experts or by those with vested interests to promote. Instead, collaborative governance takes as its starting point the idea that truly working together creates better solutions to public problems, solutions that more people can live with. We're talking about a politics of integration, rather than the politics of division that pits one side against another. Just look at difficult questions such as healthcare access, or energy independence. Are people working together toward solutions all can support, or are they battling for their ideology to win the day? But imagine, for example, if your state faces a question about how best to protect coastal areas, while still keeping needed industrial access. There may be laws about it, but no rules about how to apply them. For decades no one's known quite what may or may not be done on the coast. What if, as a citizen, you were invited to a meeting and found yourself, not in an impersonal hearing room but at a conference table where work gets done. Imagine around this table some citizens, some representatives from industry, union people, farmers, environmental groups, and others affected by what happens along the coastline. Imagine the state official who called you together says that, instead of the government creating a plan that only some could live with, it is instead up to you. As a group you're to hammer out a solution. That's collaborative governance, and it feels much different from simply "listening to the public." From “Gridlock Impossible at ‘Kitchen Table,’” By James E. Geringer and John A. Kitzhaber, Christian Science Monitor, Dec 23, 2004. (posted 3.12.09)


Decoding Biz-Buzz. “The language of modern business is under attack yet again. Assailing such fashionable terms as "high-performance culture," "alignment," "rightsizing" and scores of other bits of biz-buzz, social critics are going so far as to attribute the recent spate of corporate scandals to a business culture in which opaque language represents the broad acceptance of hidden, often amoral activities. Embarrassed, some companies are taking the offensive against argot. Deloitte Consulting recently released a free software program, called "Bullfighter," that hunts down and suggests replacements for jargon in business documents. Instead of "enterprise," for example, it recommends "company" or "organization," arguing that the initial choice is "a grandiose word that isn't very specific." As part of my job, I oversee my company's "thought leadership" activities, help arrange "synergies" among our "service offerings" and create "transparency" in "knowledge management" across our "operating units." I am also a lifelong writer and editor - a former critic of business patois who has learned to revel in it. I have come to see the criticism of "bizspeak" often speaks to what the critics, including those on the inside, do not understand about business. Large, modern companies are confederations. Although convention would assume that all people in all divisions and departments are pursuing the same objectives, rarely is that the case. Instead, senior management spends much of its time seeking to reconcile the myriad competing interests inside the company - the battles for pieces of a limited budget, the fights for financial and psychic reward - trying to harmonize the various factions with the organization's goals. In this continuous struggle, words are tools of negotiation. Jargon is frequently a placeholder. A phrase's meaning will be vague at first, and purposefully so, for the process of seeking agreement about meaning is essential to the ability of the enterprise - no, not the "company," but the entire complex web of employees, suppliers and customers - to move forward and (I say this without regret) "add value" to shareholders' wallets and people's lives. "Alignment" may be one of those silly terms that jargon-watchers love to slam, but when we achieve it in a company, we can feel the results.” From “Speak, O Muse, of Strategic Synergy” by Randall Rothenberg, The New York Times, August 13, 2003.


It’s Billiards, Not Chess. Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has been up close and personal with some of the world’s strongest leaders. Writing in the March, 2008 issue of Hemispheres Magazine, she says: “Many people believe that diplomacy is a game of chess. It’s not. Chess involves two people sitting quietly, thinking through their moves and spending time between moves. Diplomacy is more like a game of billiards, where there are bunch of balls in the middle of the table and you come in, pick up a cue stick, and hope you’ll strike a ball in a way that directs it into one of the pockets.. But along the way, you hit a lot of other balls, so it’s very unpredictable and dynamic. Despite all kinds of instant communication today, face-to-face contact is absolutely essential in diplomacy.”  From “Strategic Partnerships” in Hemispheres, March, 2008. (posted 3.11.08)

XIV.          CHOREOGRAPHY     

Orchestrating a Joint Powers Agreement. “Don’t think fancy. Think basic. That is what the school board leaders and superintendents did as part of the regional consensus processes on mechanisms for sustainable education services in rural North Dakota. These agreement builders adopted a rather old-fashioned approach, a joint powers agreement (JPA). A JPA is a contractual agreement that permits any units of government to do together what any one of them is statutorily authorized to do individually. With this tool, school districts can work together, regardless of budget, location or enrollment, to fashion a brighter future for North Dakota education. What makes a JPA work? The answer is in the consensus rule of decision-making. Within a joint powers agreement, each local school board may “opt-in” or “opt-out” of decisions. In this way they maintain their local authority and identity and no district or group of districts can impose their will(s) on any other district. The consensus rule promotes collaboration and cooperation among schools and reduces defensiveness between school districts. All of the parties involved can then focus their efforts and energies on the common goal of enhancing educational quality. Four JPAs are already operating throughout north central and southwestern North Dakota. They include 18 school districts in the southwest, Roughrider Educational Service Program (RESP); 23 school districts in the mid south, Missouri River Education Cooperative (MREC); 4 school districts in the north central, Mid Dakota Education Council (MDEC); and 15 school districts in the northeast central, Northeast Education Services Cooperative (NESC). That’s 60 school districts or a total of 28% of all the school districts in the state.”  From “Building Agreements: News from the Consensus Council., Inc., May, 2004 at www.agree.org (posted 3.12.08)


To Keep the Peace, Study Peace. “When Ashutosh Varshney, a political scientist at the University of Michigan, decided to study ethnic violence, he ended up looking at something that most experts in the field don't: peaceful cities. Mr. Varshney, who is from New Delhi, wanted to find out why some cities in India managed to avoid bloody Hindu-Muslim clashes while others erupted in horrifying violence. "For far too long scholars and policy makers have focused on the state for conflict prevention. My main research finding is that we should instead focus on civil society," Mr. Varshney said. "An integrated society is the best bet for ethnic peace." With the increase in ethnic conflicts in recent years, the results of his nine-year project have generated enormous excitement. Scholars have hailed his book, "Ethnic Conflict & Civic Life: Hindus & Muslims in India" (Yale University Press), as a major breakthrough, while the United Nations has already adopted his method to study Muslim-Christian violence in Indonesia. The Open Society Institute, part of the Soros Foundations Network, which promotes democratic principles and human rights issues, has distributed 170 copies of the book to staff members around the world. And it has been talking, along with other foundations, with Mr.Varshney about extending his research to other ethnic and religious flashpoints, from Eastern Europe to Nigeria. "By carefully studying riot-prone and peaceful cities, this new model has a persuasive analysis and explanation of why violence occurs," said Samuel P. Huntington, chairman of the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies. Most researchers tend to avoid studying regions where no violence exists, Mr. Huntington said, so they have no place to compare their findings to, and their conclusions are based on incomplete evidence. Mr. Varshney avoided this research flaw by leading a team of researchers from Harvard, where he taught for nine years, to explore why some Indian cities were violence-prone, while others with the exact same Hindu-Muslim ratios lived in peace.” By Mahvish Khan, The New York Times July 22, 2003. (posted 3.12.08)

Leadership for a Changing World offers a steady stream of research and case studies on everyday leaders and their work. It is run by The Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University. They post stories of unusual people and organizations that have been able to engage allies, create united voices, and collaborate with those who are impacted by decisions. Their work can be found at www.http://leadershipforchange.org/insights/research/list.php?List=Challenge.

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