How to manage Paradoxes and Controversies



Often managers and associates look at strategy with in mind the criteria of total consistency.

These criteria may be relevant when the issue is to match objectives and allocated resources, or when it is about governance and organization.  When it comes to implementation, this needs to be adapted, more flexible and subtle.

To become over-zealous, in terms of consistency, about implementation may generate more than plain rigor.  It can generate too many procedures and bureaucracy.  It can lead to more centralisation than necessary, more stiffness than needed.

What is essential for a company is to be symbiotic with its environment.  To adapt, observations must be a permanent process, to look at what is outside with realism and without prejudice.  Sometimes adaptations to the market and client needs looks very much like juggling, very close to inconsistency.


This is where creative management is needed.


When clients are asking for a specific demand, the minimum is to take it into account and appreciate what is possible and what is not.  The client is bringing creativity from the periphery.  The idea may be good to create new products or new services, as there are chances that some other clients might be interested in the same deal.

Incremental developments are easy to plan and to forecast.  Apparent inconsistency coming from clients’ inputs can bring innovations. 

In many sectors, the training of the newcomers is done on the job, through a continuous mastering of increasing controversies.  Mastering one paradox after the other is a good way to become an experienced manager.  You start to juggle with one ball, then two, you add one, another one, another one…

You learn to manage paradoxes in managing complexity.  Then you develop skills to combine apparent contradictory objectives and means. This is a good way to become more creative and propose solutions where other people see only constraints and dead ends.  Not everybody has these skills.


Some people can be totally disturbed by paradoxical situations.  They feel insecure.  The next thing they do, is to become inhibited and unable to move ahead. Those who are not risk averse, and can stand stress and ambiguity, may live these situations and find new ways.  This is how «best practices” are occurring.


In many cases problems solutions are limited by our own intimate constraints.  Our capacity to be creative and find new solutions in everyday life is in direct correlation with our level of autonomy, and aptitude to stand in ambiguous position long enough to find new ideas.

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