Thursday 20 May 2010

A Story of Failure... The Offstage Character

I've posted a few examples of the Multistory approach working.  Here's an example of it failing - I am always wary of any approach that seems to be a panacea, and I also believe we can learn a lot from failures.

One failure I learned a lot from was in a social work setting, where a new manager had been appointed over a team involved in some quite creative approaches.  The senior practitioner was unhappy with the financial constraints suddenly placed upon her and her team; but that was the very job the new manager had been appointed to do.  The relationship quickly deteriorated and by the time I was asked to help, the two were not prepared to speak to each other.  The boss was also involved, and I included him in the process.  However what I failed to pick up in the early stages was the key role of an off-stage character, who used to share an office with the new manager, and who was still very influential with her.  
I managed to get all three individuals to the stage where I - and they - believed that it might be valuable to sit down in the same room and explore their stories.  However, the manager, who had shown some signs of movement and willingness to discuss by the end of our one-to-one conversation, now dug her heels in and refused to listen or to open up and discuss here real perceptions.  I later learned that her friend and old office-mate had spent some time with her advising her not to give an inch, as the boss and the practitioner would both take a mile if she did.  Had I realised earlier the degree to which this off-stage character was actively involved in the dispute, I should have included her in the process.  In the event, we got nowhere, and the two people who had been prepared to move a little felt very bruised and abused.  The manager was eventually re-assigned to another area: most organisations’ default response to difficult relationship issues.

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