The Change Journey Map Applied for Team Conflicts

I can't say that I wasn't prepared. When I got this recent assignment for facilitating a workshop for a 7 people HR team, I was warned that there was medium to high risk of conflict. Well, if you know such things in advance, facilitating such a workshop can one of the most rewarding jobs - standing in the middle of the fire. To summarize a long story: the Change Journey Map contributed to a positive outcome.

But let's start from the beginning. Here was a team under enormous pressure to perform in a time of big structural and other changes in their company. A team where five out of seven (including the team leader) felt not respected as persons or not accepted in their respective roles. A team where tension had built up for the last two years. I had 9 hours of workshop time in less than 1 1/2 days to deal with this situation.

Before I was even able to say my first words, conflict broke loose and the team was about to break apart. Good for a start, isn't it! I really began to enjoy my mission. We talked about the conflict and heard everybody's perspective. This cooled people down for a while.

We continued with an Appreciative Inquiry kind of process in a fishbowl - participants interviewed each other on professional peak experiences, on their dreams and needs but also what they wanted to achieve with the team and what they were ready to give. The other participants were sitting around as observers and took notes. We summarized what we have heard on a big whiteboard so we had a complete team matrix in front of us. There were moments of understanding and aprehension - people had an opportunity to question the assumptions and preconceptions they had about their colleagues.

These were the AI questions that we used for the interview:

  • Please tell me a story about a time when you were professionally at your best – a time that sticks out in your life, a time in which you were able to realize your full potential. Tell me what happened.
  • What is it in you that made you so successful at that time? What are you good at?
  • What is most important for you – in your work? What do you care for? Why is that important for you?
  • What do you want to achieve together with the team? What can the team give you? What can you give to the team?

Next was looking into the future - applying parts of the Journaling Process from Otto Scharmer's Theory U, we were able to arrive at a point where team members could share a joint image of the future. I led them through the bottom with the U with personal reflections on the following questions:

  • What is our responsibility in the current change processes in your company?
  • What does the future call us to do? What is really needed at the moment?
  • Imagine that it is 5 years later and our team has been become a widely recognized, key driver of innovation in our company. The team is being interviewed on their success story. What would be a question the interviewer would ask this future team? Write this question down.
  • Tune into this question and listen to the answer that comes up. Write it down on a piece of paper. Develop a story line around this question which you will tell to your colleagues in a moment.

We consolidated the results in small focus groups and the day ended with putting this image into a wall painting.

Was the conflict solved at this point? Of course not. So I knew that the second day would be a hard one for me. And it started rough, with people downloading all their grievances on each other. This is when the Change Journey came in. I distributed small A4 handouts with the Map (I didn't have the big map with me), asked them to look at it and find the place that symbolizes the current situation of the team. New places were invented and we reflected for quite a while on the Alley of Avoidance which was one of these new places. Suddenly, there was some fun and lightness in the conversation. It turned out that the Change Journey Map helps to ease the tension and to get into a productive coversation We made a list of issues on the question "What are we avoiding?" This was basically the turning point where people again were able to acknowledge and appreciate different perspectives.

In the remaining two hours I asked the team to come up with very specific suggestions on how to improve the collaboration. They came up with 15 very tangible steps and we assigned stewards to those with the task to take care that the suggestions are put into practice.

When I parted, I saw happy faces.


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Comment by Andrés Novoa on March 31, 2011 at 12:20am
Congratulations, sounds like you were able to help the team see the situation and have the valuable necessary conversations!
Comment by Katia Van Belle on March 29, 2011 at 5:18pm
Great story, thanks for sharing!
Comment by Lawrence Polsky on March 29, 2011 at 4:59pm
Good story!  Great job!


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