Jan Bosch is research center director, professor, consultant and angel investor in start-ups. You can contact him at jan@janbosch.com or follow him on janbosch.com/blog, Linkedin (linkedin.com/in/janbosch) or Twitter (@JanBosch).

Opinion

The illusion of alignment

Leestijd: 4 minuten

As I work with teams in dozens of companies, I’ve noticed an interesting pattern over the years. When I start to work with the team and we go through introductions and the preliminaries, everything looks peachy and wonderful. As we get into the work at hand and I (innocently) start to ask questions, a certain level of discomfort starts to emerge in the team. And as the answers I get back become less precise, more avoiding and fluffy, I start to drill deeper as it’s obvious that there’s something fishy.

As I keep pushing and probing, someone, at some point, gives an answer that obviously is from the heart and that directly represents this person’s opinion. The problem is that this viewpoint clearly isn’t shared by the rest of the team and, depending on the level of extrovertness of the other members, dissent starts to show. This is where the whole house of cards comes tumbling down and it’s obvious that there’s a huge elephant in the room that nobody talks about (and for which I am obviously brought in).

The interesting thing is not that different people have different opinions. We all have different opinions and life would be pretty boring if we didn’t. The surprising thing, to me, is that teams work so hard at establishing an illusion of alignment. Even though everyone knows that others have different, sometimes diametrically opposing, views, the team works incredibly hard at finding formulations, abstractions and wordings that obfuscate the obvious disagreement and that create an illusionary alignment.

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