Sometimes whan I am about to achieve something, I loose interest in it and I dont complete it. A typical example is my book. I got a publisher to publish it, the content is almost ready..I need to do only the last round of editing, then I get introduced to orkut by my daughter and my entire focus moves away from my book to chatting with friends at orkut. The same pattern can be seen in some teams also. When they are about to win, they start doing all sorts of foolish things and loose the game. I can see this pattern happening in many of my project management workshop participants. When they are about to achieve their objectives, they get distracted and moves away from the goal.
Most of us hold one of two contradictory beliefs that limit our ability to create what we really want. The most common is the belief in our powerlessness – our inability to bring into being all the things we really care about. The other belief centers on unworthiness that we do not deserve to have what we truly desire. If we accept this as a working premise, it illuminates systemic forces that can work powerfully against creating what we really want.
Fritz uses a metaphor to describe how contradictory underlying beliefs work as a system, counter to achieving our goals. Imagine, as you move toward your goal, there is a rubber band, sumbolizing creative tension, pulling you in the desired direction. But imagine also a second rubber band, anchored to the belief of powerlessness or unworthiness. Just as the first rubber band tries to pull you toward the goal, the second pulls you back toward the underlying belief that you can’t (or dont deserve to) have your goal. Fritz calls the system involving both the tension pulling us toward the goal and the tension anchoring us to our underlying belief ‘structural conflict’ becuase it is a structure of conflicting forces; pulling us simultaneously toward and away from what we want. Thus closer we come to achieving our vision, the more the second rubber band pulls us away from our vision. This force can manifest itself in many ways. We might loose our energy. We might question whether we really wanted the vision. Unexpected obstacles develop on our path. People let us down.
Given beliefs in our powerlessness or unworthiness, structural conflict implies that systemic forces come into play to keep us from succeeding whenever we seek a vision. Yet we do succeed sometimes.
Fritz has identified three generic strategies for coping with the forces of structural conflict, each of which has it’s own limitations.
Letting our vision erode is one such coping strategy. The second is conflict manipulation (negative vision) in which we try to manipulate ourselves into greater effort toward what we want, by focusing on the negative impacts if the goal is not achieved (negative effects of global warming rather than the postive effect of a green planet). Fritz third generic strategy is the sttartegy of will power, where we simply psych ourselves upto overpower all sorts of resistance to achieving our goals.
Reference – The fifth discipline by Peter Senge