Polarity Management
Sensitivity to the downsides as they are experienced
A willingness to shift poles as needed
Knowing how to talk to your opposite and mediate
between opposites
3. There are such things as well-managed polarities. They are
achieved by staying primarily in the upper two quadrants.
When a polarity is being managed well, there is an effective
alliance going on between the crusading forces and the tra-
dition bearing forces.
4. There are also such things as poorly managed dilemmas.
Ignoring a polarity is one way to manage it poorly. The result
of poor Polarity Management is staying primarily in one or
both of the lower quadrants. When a polarity is being
managed poorly, there is an ineffective alliance going on
between the crusading forces and the tradition-bearing forces.
Create a Polarity Map and diagram the dynamics of how your group
moves through the four quadrants:
Think of a polarity that your work group is not managing as
well as you would like. (If you need suggestions of possible polari-
ties, see the Appendix for a list of polarities.)
1. Identify the up- and downsides of each pole.
2. Put an X where you think your work group is right now.
(Your group is, to some degree, in all four quadrants all the
time. I am asking you to identify where the emphasis or
energy is most concentrated at this time.)
Now, think of this Polarity Model with an X in one quadrant as
one frame in the film of a movie. If you were to put the film in
reverse and back it up, then start it up from six months or a year
ago, what would be the path of this X through the four quadrants?
How to Recognize a Well-Managed Polarity
In which quadrant have you spent the most time? That quadrant
would have the biggest loop. The quadrant where you have spent
the least time would have the smallest loop, etc. The distorted infin-
ity loop might look something like Figures 25 through 28.
Now think of what your group might do to keep itself in the two
upper quadrants of this polarity. Make a list of some action steps. Hints:
1. Identify those who will be the ones most sensitive to each of the
downsides. You might agree to encourage them to let everyone
know when they are experiencing the downside to which they
are most sensitive. This information will provide you with an
early-warning system. What you are doing is building in a
self-regulating process that capitalizes on the sensitivity of
different group members to each of the downsides.
2. You need to commit to the ongoing shift in emphasis back
and forth and consider how that can be done.

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