When your goals are different than your leader's

Piers Young has been doing a little history reading and came across an interesting cultural observation. Insubordinate Survival Techniques

It seems that, when leaders are pressing hard to achieve their goals, people in the trenches will develop ways of ignoring all but the most direct of orders. And for good reason.

In the trenches in World War I, the Germans and the English were not continually fighting. Instead, they developed a complicated system of co-operation that meant neither side sustained heavy losses unless the Staff Officers had ordered a charge.

I've been seeing a little of the business vs. IT dynamic lately. But when I read Piers' article, I realized that all the people on the project truly want to work together to make something happen. Even the leadership want to make it happen. The trouble seems to be that the "sides" are getting caught up in their local context (problems, directives, performance measures) and missing that the rest of the project must continue as well.

This obviously isn't the same as a war, but conflicting contexts tend to be the worst at the leader level. Unfortunately, their "soldiers" bear the brunt of the difficulties. And as an intermediary, I have had the opportunity to get the heat from both sides. Ouch.

As an consultant in these situations, I try to see past the immediate situation to the larger picture. Where is the organization trying to go, and what can I do to help? At the same time, I need to be cognizant of the immediate situation and attempt to diffuse / understand it and help where I can.

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