Do You Know the Difference Between Strategic Sourcing & Category Management? Let the Tough Get Going with a Little Conflict!


The word “conflict” has such negative connotations but the most effective teams actually elicit conflict to generate new ideas.  Since most of our work as Sourcing / Category Management professionals is done in teams, embracing constructive conflict is a MUST as you are making the journey from Strategic Sourcing to Category Management. An article in HBR, “Too Much Team Harmony Can Kill Creativity” lays out several examples to consider:

  • “William Wrigley Jr., the American chewing gum tycoon, once noted that business is built by men who disagree, and that “When two men always agree, one of them is unnecessary.”
  • “Miles Davis and John Coltrane revolutionized jazz, but they also had a volatile relationship that prompted “Trane” to leave the band twice.”
  • “Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were a total mismatch when it came to style and personality, but their ability to combine their strengths — Jobs the visionary salesman, Wozniak the genius inventor — was key to Apple’s DNA. “
  • “Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant won three consecutive NBA titles together, but they also had a bitter and tense relationship that they could not hide from the public.”
  • “Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy played a big role in stabilizing Europe after the 2008 financial crisis, but they made an odd couple in public and mocked each other in private.”

We, at TMG, are avid supporters of constructive conflict.  So much so that we encourage all our clients (especially in our training workshops) to challenge us (as consultants / instructors) and each other.  The reason is that conflict (opposing views) generates discussion and new ideas.  Imagine sitting through days of training with little to no discussion or disagreement?  Boring!!!!!  We go so far as throwing out controversial concepts just to get the discussion going.  

According to the HBR article, ” . . . when teams and organizations enjoy too much harmony, they will gravitate toward inaction and complacency .  From Kodak to Blackberry to Blockbuster, business schools are spoiled for choice when it comes to examples of dominant market players that were jettisoned from the top by their complacency.  Success and happiness pose a bigger threat to businesses than a moderate degree of dissatisfaction. Being happy with the status quo is a sure way to escape creativity. Any significant innovation in the history of civilization was the product of dissatisfied minds: people who were unhappy with the current order of things and sought to disrupt the existing harmony.”

What this tells me is that a harmonious team that always agrees may be ill equipped and uncomfortable with conflict.   How can leaders help?  First, look at conflict as a positive thing that will allow your team to be more creative and challenge the status quo.  Isn’t that what Category Management is all about – finding new ways to solve old problems? Next, create an environment where conflict is embraced and not penalized.  Also, encourage your people to disagree and give them the tools to work through those disagreements constructively. We look at conflict as NECESSARY as long as it is managed.

Are you ready to shake things up in your organization by eliciting some conflict?  Put your people to the test and let them rise to the occasion.  You may be surprised at how much more productive your teams can be if you create some adversity and let them work through it.  You know what they say, “when the Going gets Tough, the Tough get Going”!

Join in the conversation and let us know what you think . . . .


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