The Right Fight, the new management guide from noted business strategists Saj-nicole Joni and Damon Beyer, turns management thinking on its head and shows why, in the fast-moving, hyper-competitive marketplaces of the 21st century, leaders need to both foster alignment and orchestrate thoughtful controversy in their organizations to get the best out of them. The authors’ groundbreaking research—including examples as diverse as Unilever, Microsoft, Coca-Cola, Dell, the Clinton Administration, and the Houston Independent School System—shows that happy workers can become bored or complacent and thus less productive than workers who are subjected to a little properly managed tension. Readers of Good to Great and Winning, as well as the Harvard Business Review and Strategy + Business, will find much to ponder in The Right Fight.
Business strategists and consultants Joni and Beyer argue that carefully created and managed tensions in the workplace can be a propulsive aid in driving performance. The authors state that alignment agreement on mission, strategy, and company goals gets a business only so far; strategically steered conflict can create breakthrough performance, deliver lasting innovation, and groom the next generation of leaders. The authors offer six guiding principles: make sure the fight matters; focus on the future; pursue a noble purpose; keep conflict sport, not war; structure formally, but work informally; and turn pain into gain. Elucidating key points are numerous case studies of successful creative tension (Julie Taymor's production team for the Broadway play The Lion King, Doug Conant's management of Campbell Soup) and failures (Larry Summers's overly aggressive leadership style at Harvard University). The authors also provide a series of questions for managers to determine if the fight is worth pursuing. Joni and Beyer make a convincing and counterintuitive argument that instigating dissent, if done selectively, can produce big results.