November 2016


From the President: 

Conflict, Creativity and Change


William “Bud” Wurtz, Ph.D.

2016 PNODN President

Most people have a natural aversion to conflict. Conflict induces a number of intense negative human emotions, primarily anger and fear.

Yet conflict is an inevitable and unavoidable aspect of the human condition. Organizations in particular are rife with conflict. There are never enough resources, be they funding, management attention, recognition, promotional opportunities, et cetera, et cetera. This leaves people with little alternative but to struggle, in various ways, overtly or covertly, over these scarce assets, tangible and intangible.

It is easy to despair over the constant, perpetual conflict that seems to be our lot in life. But there is one way to turn conflict into something positive: use conflict as the springboard to creative action.

To explain this, let’s look first at intrapersonal creativity. Some theories of the internal creative process see creativity as resulting from two different ideas that get mashed-up (to use a modern phrase) in the mind to produce a new, novel synthesis. One example is Johannes Gutenberg, who “mashed up” the disparate technologies of the wine press and a die/punch to create the printing press in 1450. Another is how Steve Jobs, in one of his less remembered achievements, mashed-up fonts and calligraphy in computing, giving all of us the opportunity to express ourselves digitally with clarity, variety and emotion.

When you are involved in or come across a conflict at work (or anywhere), often the key to resolving it is to find out what the people who at odds with one another care about. For it is the clash of different personal values that is frequently at the heart of conflict at work. Whether it is two project managers feuding over resources for their respective efforts, two employees at odds over who is responsible for a particular task, two executives engaged in mortal combat over competing goals – the list could go on for ever – clarifying the conflicting values begins the healing process. By redirecting the negative emotional energy from mano a mano to a positive focus on problem–solving, a space has been created for a creative synthesis to emerge that can move the organization toward productive change.

As OD professionals grapple with the hyper-rate of change resulting from the epochal transformation of our capitalist economy from its previous industrial model to a new one based on creativity and knowledge, we all need to bone up on our conflict resolution skills. Thus, we are most fortunate and honored to have Dr. Wally Wilkins as our facilitator for our November meeting. Wally, a Seattle-based clinical psychologist and leadership coach, is internationally respected for his work in and scholarship on conflict resolution. November’s meeting promises to be a rich and rewarding learning experience that you don’t want to miss.

Finally, let’s put your change management skills to the test. Make sure you show up for the November PNODN meeting on November 14th, and our meeting in December on the 12th. These two dates are the second Monday of the month rather than our usual third Monday of the month. You still have great opportunities for professional learning without intruding too closely on the holidays. We will be back to the usual schedule in 2017.

Dr. William “Bud” Wurtz

2016 PNODN President


PNODN has a full calendar for the fall.  Check out what is happening. . .Please note the date changes

November 14 - Resolving Conflicts during Rapid Change with Wallace Wilkins, Ph.D. 

During these rapidly changing times, differences in personality, values, habits and ego can escalate into co$tly conflicts. Many organizational leaders avoid conflicts, hoping they will magically go away. Their preference to avoid conflicts is what permits long-standing disputes to fester. Read more . . .

December 12 - ODN Evening with Sam Magill and Friends – A history of Organization Development

Where did OD come from? What’s changed? How healthy is OD now? Sam and some of his more seasoned friends will anchor an engaging exploration of where we’ve come from and how OD has evolved. Together we will ask how we’re doing as a field, what promises we now make to our customers and what we (and future practitioners) may, or may not, need to do to keep the field sharp. Read more. . .



Case Study

Savy Slips, Learning on the Run

By Philip S. Heller

Learnings from Practice 20: Meta-goals Facilitating Interpersonal Conflict

What are the goals of a reconciliation facilitator when mediating an interpersonal conflict?

The Request. A manager of the environmental restoration section of a State Department of Environmental Conservation, asked for help in reconciling a relationship between a supervisor in her section and the supervisor’s direct report, an environmental engineer. The deliverable agreed on was: A written joint report from the supervisor and the engineer detailing the issues, agreements, success measures and progress checks. The manager wanted both participants to give and receive feedback about how their behaviors were impacting each other and others in the section and the coping mechanisms each are using or will use. The manager agreed to act as a final decision maker if that was needed. The manager was unequivocally frank with the two participants that a failure to create a working relationship with the help of a professional coach would be taken as an unwillingness to engage.

Larger Context. The relationship between the two parties had deteriorated over several years. Others in the section have left, perhaps, in part, because of the supervisor’s style. The supervisor had applied for the manager’s job, but was not selected. The supervisor had not been able to problem solve staff’s dissenting views, had failed to ask for expertise and input on staff projects, and appeared disengaged at staff meetings. For example, the Supervisor and the Engineer had disagreed about the level of detail required for project specifications and objectives. The staff engineer had gone over the supervisor’s head to the manager to complain without going to the supervisor first. Thus, they began to avoid one another. In the past, the two parties had been through some formal mediation with an HR specialist in which feedback was exchanged.

Consulting Intervention. After joint meetings with the manager-sponsor, each of the parties was coached in private sessions. Finally, the parties participated in several facilitated dialogue sessions. Although the facilitation followed a typical process of collaborative problem solving (1), we also adopted a set of meta-goals for the facilitation that we believed would lead to a greater likelihood of reconciliation. These were:

1. Work towards an open and frank conversation. We attempted to model transparency of our feelings, thoughts, observations and wants, when it fit with the conversation (2). We helped the participants to focus on their here and now experience in the dialogue with each other rather than only discussing the past. We used questions to encourage concreteness and behavioral observations (e.g., “I’m noticing…”) to encourage immediate awareness.

2. Move trust of us, to trust of each other. We helped each party to see the perspective of the other party through our eyes as a neutral third-party. We translated what we were hearing in words that the other party could hear and understand (3)

3. Point out common ground. We paid particular attention to where that was already agreement. particularly where the parties aligned on superordinate goals or values. We made their alignment on superordinate goals, values and a desire for a better working relationship explicit and asked for validation from the participants.

4. Maintain optimal tension and power balance (4). We reinforced via paraphrasing and gestures the open expression of feelings to increase the interest and urgency in building a better relationship. To decrease tension, we would draw the attention, eye-contact and conversation to ourselves. Ensuring equal air time was one way we managed power balance.

Last Line. If reconciliation is the goal of an interpersonal dialogue, then facilitators might attend to the “meta-goals” of creating more openness, moving trust to the parties themselves, signaling common ground and maintaining optimal tension and power balance.

(1) To access the dialogue process used, go to: and select Facilitation Dialogue Process.

(2) For our definition of transparent behaviors go to: and select Openness.

(3) For more techniques for increasing trust among participants in an interpersonal conflict go to: and select Rebuilding Trust Between Parties.

(4) For more techniques for balancing tension and power go to: and select Balance Tension-Power.

Philip Heller is a senior associate of Learning Design Associates. For 36 years he has helped plan systems change and develop leaders in government, community agencies, and health care centers. Philip received his Ph.D. in Education focusing on learning and problem solving. As part of the originating group, he has been a PNODN member since 1982.

© 2016 Philip S. Heller, Savy Slips, Learning on the Run 20, Meta-Goals for Facilitating Interpersonal Conflict

October 17th meeting with Egils Milbergs  

by Jeremy Meeds.

During our October meeting with Egils Milbergs entitled 'A Better Faster Innovation Model', Egils took us on an innovation journey. We started out looking at our history of economic growth from Industrial Recruiting to Cost Competition to Cluster Competition, and finally to our current Innovation Ecosystems. We looked at why we should focus on innovation, including the fact that 2/3 of our GDP growth is from innovation and that innovation helps solve critical energy, health, water, transportation and education challenges. 

We took a look at which countries innovate the most and how to transform our ideas into value. We looked at the difference between slow and fast innovation approaches and how to accelerate innovation by "closing the gap" on the "valley of death", where the availability of capital during the entrepreneurial stage and venture capitalist stage could be better funded. We took a look at some pathways to prosperity by looking at the trajectory of innovation from nascent clusters to growth nodes to virtual clusters and finally to innovation ecosystems. We reviewed Washington State's current innovation groups including all of the companies that have been spawned from the University of Washington itself! 

We took a look at what level of innovation our particular work groups are at, and how the nature of our work has been changing. We looked at changing household incomes and the greater gap between the rich and poor with the middle class disappearing. 

We talked about how our education system is changing with the old way of learning in school becoming obsolete. We looked at what these changes mean for job holders and retraining, and we looked at the possibility of self driving cars and how they would reduce pollution, congestion and deaths. 

And finally, last but not least, we looked at the current water pollution situation and how a certain company named Pure Blue has taken on the challenge from the White House called the Clean Water Initiative to support water tech startups, provide $2 million in seed funding and collaborate with 30 other water partners through the United States to clean up our water. Overall, the discussion was lively and animated, and we all walked away feeling much more informed about the importance of innovation!






Our Administrator is: Ann M. Baus 


The Editor of the newsletter is David C. Wigglesworth 



From The Editor

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