Polarity management

A change leadership approach using a polarity lens

All the greatest and most important problems of life are fundamentally insoluble. They must be so, for they express the necessary polarity inherent in every self-regulating system. They can never be solved, but only outgrown.”

C.G. Jung

The BSEA Polarity Management Offerings

Leveraging polarity thinking is a scalable skill designed for anyone who wants to lead change, no matter the size of the system you’re working with. BSEA, in partnership with POLARITY PARTNERSHIPS, a leader in polarity management, Polarity thinking and polarity approach, offers training and consulting support to individuals and organizations.

“How do we implement change successfully and bring people along?” is a common question that arises whenever we introduce change movements in the organization; be it transformational and strategic plans, balanced scorecards, mergers and acquisitions, cultural change, large IT projects or any other change that requires people to work differently together. This question arises because change movements have an uncanny way of attracting resistance, stuckness and frustration that lead to failure. Change interventions devised to counter these challenges often fizzle out after a while. A sure way to successfully manage change requires the ability to recognize that what you are facing is
not a problem to solve but a challenge to manage (polarity). Problems to solve have got clear Either/Or answers. E.g. “Should we acquire an ERP or not?” You can only have one answer to solve your problem.

All change movements are polarities. They are unsolvable and unavoidable. Each has got 2 interdependent rights. Each right has got positive results that you want (upsides) and negative results you want to eliminate (downsides).

For example, in implementing balanced scorecard/strategic plans, you have two interdependent poles present – the current state (where the organization is moving from) and the desired state. See Fig. 1 below.

To successfully implement your plan, you must see and focus on both poles. Failure to do this creates unnecessary confusion, conflict, and resistance with those who see potential problems with the Future State pole. For example, if one of the reasons you’re developing a new strategy is to give the organization a clear measurable direction, those who value freedom to create and fear measurement will see rigidity creeping into the system and might resist the new strategy. You also miss out on the upsides of the Current State pole and you are likely to sink into the downsides of both poles.

The Polarity management approach is a natural a way to work with both poles of a polarity. It provides the means to see the whole picture, be able to leverage on the energy between two interdependent polars and to convert resistance into a resource.

Managing Polarities

Polarities also called dilemmas, paradoxes or ‘wicked’ problems that come in interdependent pairs. Polarities cannot be solved using the traditional one-right answer or EITHER/OR problem-solving thinking paradigm that we have mastered all our lives – in school, at home and work.

They are managed using a different paradigm around leveraging through BOTH/AND thinking. This kind of thinking requires the wisdom to see the whole picture and be able to differentiate between a solvable problem and a polarity to manage; recognize the inherent tensions between the poles of the polarity, and the ability to leverage the energy between so upsides on both sides are maximized, and downsides minimized.

Most ongoing chronic issues in the both organizations and in the society are polarities:

Examples;

  1. Continuity AND Transformation
  2. Self and others
  3. Boy Education and Girl Education
  4. Training AND Development
  5. Work AND Life Balance
  6. Individual Performance AND Organizational Performance
  7. Customer needs AND Customer Wants
  8. Individual Development AND Team Development
  9. Strategic AND Operational
  10. Evidence-based leadership AND Intuitive Leadership
  11. Health AND Economy
  12. Environment and Economy

Learning to harness and leverage the energy between the two poles helps you achieve goals faster, improve learning and convert resistance to a resource for sustainable.

The Polarity Approach to Continuity and Transformation (PACT™) Process

The PACT™ Process is about Seeing, Mapping and transforming the energy contained in polarities, exploring how polarities may help you better understand the issues and opportunities you’re facing right now both those inside and outside your organization and as well think through the polarities that will provide the greatest leverage in achieving your desired results.

A five-step process, PACT™ helps you organize through your wisdom and capitalize on the inherent tensions between two interdependent poles to get the benefits of both upsides and the synergies between them. PACT™ is applicable to all polarities.

The Covid-19 Pandemic dilemma Example

World leaders today are struggling with the dilemma of how to keep the people healthy and at the same time, sustain a healthy Economy. These are two poles of the Covid-19 dilemma/polarity. Focusing on either pole without the other will lead to even bigger problems. The SMALL model is a simple natural way of managing the polarity:

Seeing – From the onset, one can see this is not a solvable problem. It is a polarity. The two poles are interdependent. They must be managed together to maximize on the upsides and minimize the downsides of either pole. Addressing the people safety pole at the expense of the economy pole or vice versa will only create frustration, anger and resistance.

Mapping – People want to see interventions that sustain a healthy economy without compromising their safety. Mapping is about respecting and empowering both poles and the people who prefer each pole. Building a polarity map for the two poles will allow stakeholders to see the whole picture – and it is about more than seeing the whole picture. It is about co-creating a whole picture that works for a variety of stakeholders involved.

Assessing is about analyzing how well stakeholders feel the polarity is getting managed. This information will enable learning, i.e. to make meaning into strengths and vulnerabilities in the polarity.

Leveraging is about agreeing on Action Steps and Early Warnings that will help leverage the power of the polarity. It is about putting plans in place for how to build on what is already doing well, improve on what governments want to do better, track progress and course-correct over time. It is also about exploring more ways and places where they can apply polarity thinking to add value to the communities.

If leveraged well, both People Health and the Economy will thrive. If not well leveraged,
both will descend into the lower parts of the poles, the deeper fears.

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ARE YOU LOOKING TO MANAGE YOUR POLARITIES?

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