Substantive conflict is natural within top management teams as executives struggle with making high-stakes choices under conditions of ambiguity and uncertainty. Yet, many top management teams fail to sufficiently debate appropriate courses of action. This article reports on a field study of top management teams and examines four managerial levers that can help executives overcome the cognitive, emotional, and political barriers to engaging in conflict. These levers are: build a heterogeneous team; create frequent interactions within that team; cultivate a distinct symphony of roles such as Counselor, Futurist, and Ms. Action around fundamental tensions within managing; and use multiple-lens tactics such as competitor role playing and multiple alternatives to provide unexpected vantage points on key issues.
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