Gridlock, Stalemate, Deadlock Cost Business $ Billions, and the Meter Is Still Running: Gridlock Is a Symptom, Not a Cause..

Gridlock is complete lack of movement, or progress… it’s congestion resulting in stalemate, stagnation, paralysis… According to study; traffic gridlock cost U. S. $121.2 billion and of that figure, only $2.7 billion paid for the 2.9 billion gallons of fuel wasted by idling vehicles… The vast majority of the cost is the result of wasted time, as workers spend time in traffic, rather than at the office…

In business, as in traffic, little-to-nothing gets done when there is gridlock. According to Babak Armajani; in business it’s the differences among– individuals, groups… and the trick in overcoming it is to uncover the main issue that lie beneath the surface…

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Gridlock is rooted in competition over ‘winning’ and ‘losing’… When you get stuck in this paradigm success usually means that for one party to win, others must lose… Hence the solution lies in changing the rules about winning and losing… Breaking gridlock often means that you must change not only the way you define winning and losing, but also the way you think and the way you talk; the key is building trust.

In the article Getting Past Gridlock by Chris Stathakis writes: We hear gridlock discussed a great deal with regard to politics and even traffic patterns, but gridlock affect many organization… Gridlock can be defined as a situation in which the lack of a decision is impeding the normal flow and movement of just about anything, i.e.; ideas, workflow, people… It often happens because people have very different ideas about how to move forward…

The human brain is simply hardwired for it. When conflict strikes it can be hard for people to see the gray areas of issues… Add to this the reality that as conflict develops, humans tend to want to dig-in and hold firm in their positions fearing that if they give-in, even just a little, they lose everything… But much like in politics, in ‘us versus them’, someone always has to lose. So when issues create gridlock, hopefully, there is enough leadership maturity such that a compromise can be found that’s in the best interest of the entire organization…

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In the article Overcome Conversational Gridlock At Work by Diane Windingland writes: When people are at a frustrating gridlock, emotions can be high and cause automatic physical stress response; the fight or flight response. The fight or flight response keeps most people from danger by making them want to fight or run…  At times, the threat can be so overwhelming that a ‘freeze response’ (deer-in-the-headlights) is triggered…

So first– Stop; take a break from looking at the issue the same way, and give yourself a chance to calm down, reflect and to better examine the issue… Look at the issue from a completely different angle… Stop trying to resolve it yourself, get other perspectives, get third parties to give their perspective… Listen carefully and resist debate until you fully understand all the issue. Most gridlock occurs because all parties feel they have needs and expectations that aren’t likely to be met if they ‘give-in’…

Put yourself in the other person’s shoes as you listen to understand their needs and expectations… Realize that you may not know or understand everything– may be there are hidden issues… In gridlock people can become so entrenched in opposing viewpoints that they fail to see many areas of agreement. Often problems becomes personal, rather than the real issue… Hence the entire situation evolves into a ‘You vs. Me’ battle…

However, another approach is to define the gridlock as ‘We vs. the Problem’, rather than ‘You vs. Me’… This has advantage of encouraging cooperation and collaboration against a common issue… Humans have a tendency to get mired in the ‘problem’… We tend to focus on the problems rather than solutions– the human brain is a prediction machines continually trying to predict outcomes of actions while at the same time trying to minimize risk, maximize reward… ‘problems’ are often based on past experience so it’s easier to focus on them, where as ‘solutions’ lie in the uncertain future…

In the article Cure for Cross-functional Gridlock by WorkLore writes: A classic case of ‘cross-functional gridlock’ is when people within an organization become stuck because they are unable to compromise on critical issues that affect both of them… In the extreme form, the pattern can escalate to such heated conflict that entire projects or processes are paralyzed– just as vehicle drivers are by traffic gridlock…

Cross-functional gridlock shows-up when ever coordination is needed across boundaries: Think of engineering working with manufacturing, sales working with marketing, information technology working with administration, internal groups working with external customers… Untangling the self-defeating knots of conflict and wasted effort can be drawn from– conflict management… and they usually include; linking interests, collaboration, shared vision, shared outcomes…

In the article Decision Gridlock by Chris S writes: Gridlock is about decision-making and when the decision process comes to a grinding halt it becomes a serious issue… Often this can be the result of one or more people who are uncomfortable with– making a required decision, or insist on additional information before make a decision, or disagree on the issues involved in the decision… Those who are in a position to make a decision should recognize that no decision is a decision itself. A decision by default may be worse than actively making a decision, which may not be perfect.. more important, decisions are necessary to get people moving… According to Albert Einstein; nothing happens until something moves.

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Usually gridlock has a complex set of factors at play… So while you don’t want to over complicate things, also resist urge to over-simplify things as well… Whether you are personally embroiled in gridlock or just acting as traffic cop to keep things moving, try to understand the motivations in play… According to Chris Stathakis; the opposite of gridlock is smooth flowing traffic, which takes compromise from all parties agreeing to set of rules, boundaries… that work to keep things moving… 

According to Michael Krigsman; gridlock is among the most significant and common issues in many organizations… and it resonates as major obstacle for success and, in many cases, it’s among most pernicious and subtle cause of business failures… Virtually no organization is immune to gridlock but the key is for leadership to recognize it, and to manage it…