Underlying Contradictions Workshop (LENS)

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Level of process: 
Method category: 
Intent or purpose: 
To articulate the blocks to realizing the practical vision and to experience the recognition of the dysfunctional aspects of an organization.
Used as component of: 
This is usually the second workshop in a strategic planning process called LENS. It uses the elements of the Vision as its starting place and the Strategic Directions Workhshop uses the products from this workshop as a beginning point.
Recognizable Components: 
It uses the structure context, brainstorm, clustering, naming and reflection.
Types of Participants: 
A cross section of the whole organization or community.
Recommended size of group: 
Optimal amount of time needed: 
3 hours for a small group and 1 day for a large group
Usual or Expected Outcomes: 
A set of contradictions or blocks preventing the vision from existing now.
Level of participation: 
Ideal Conditions: 
Commitment to the process on the part of the participants.
Potential Pitfalls: 
This can be a pretty painful workshop as people have to look at where things are not going well.
How is success evaluated: 
A set of contradictions that motivate people to deal with them.
Examples of successes and failures: 
There are hundreds of examples in every part of the world. Companies, NGO's, communities and other organizations have successfully used this workshop
Type of Facilitator-Client Relationship: 
this needs to be pretty close
Level of Difficulty to Facilitate: 
Facilitation skills required
Facilitator Personality Fit: 
The facilitator has to be pretty logical and capable of leaps of intuition
Setting and Materials: 
Normally, there are 5 teams of people working and tables should be set so that the teams can work together. There should be breakout rooms for the teams.
Resources Needed: 
Large wall size sticky wall, whiteboard or plain surface. If possible the vision elements should be available for every team.
Pre-Work Required: 
The Vision workshop needs to be done. The Vision Chart or a list of vision elements should be put up so that everyone can see them.

<i>10 Minutes</i><br>
1. In this workshop we will look at the blocks to our practical vision. What are the realities that prevent the vision from coming into being. <br>
2. Underlying Contradictions are:<br>
o Related to the practical vision.<br>
o The root cause of the day to day symptoms we experience,<br>
o Appear in different ways over time.<br>
o Real, not something missing,<br>
o Not problems but opportunities to create the future.<br>
3. The Contradiction is not: <br>
o The lack of something like money, or people.<br>
o Usually related to more than one vision element.<br>
o Easy to change.
<i>90 Minutes</i><br>
1. We will break into teams. Each team will be responsible for 2 vision elements. Each team will come back with 25 specific blocks to these vision elements. Have at least 10 per vision. We will meet back here in 45 minutes to build a consensus of our set of contradictions from the work of the teams.<br>
2. In your teams individually make a list of your own ideas in response to the question:<br>
? What blocking this vision element from coming into reality? Clues to them might be irritations or frustrations as well as sociological realities. List as many as you can. <br>? In the initial brainstorm you might list the "lack of" but afterwards you should change into something that is. For example, you might list lack of money as a block but when you look at it, you might realize that it is more like "45 day average debtor payment time" or "high research spending priority"<br>
? Unless you are specific about a contradiction, you will be working on a different underlying issue than your colleague. <br>
3. Take 10 minutes to do this individual work.<br>
4. In the teams, go around the table and make a list on the flipchart of ideas. Please make sure that you include everyone. <br>
5. The first time ask one person to list their top 3. They ask how many have the same in their top 10. Keep adding to the list until you have about 25.<br>
6. Check to see that everyone has the most important from their list on the flipchart. <br>
7. Ask for more items that are not on this list? Keep going until the group is finished, then group similar items with symbols until you have about 20 items for your team. <br>
8. Select a team reporter.<br>
9. Are there any questions about the assignment? <br>
10. You have 45 minutes now. <br><br>
1.<i> Prepare a plenary wall with no columns. This workshop uses a free form organizing process. It is more intuitive than the vision workshop. You might have in you mind a picture where each kind of cluster might go. For example, if you are doing a community development workshop you might have economic clusters in the center, social on the right and community structures on the left. These are just guidelines and the actual information from the teams will determine where things go.</i><br>
2. Please number your sub-contraditctions 1 to 25. I will be calling for them by number. We will be organizing them by underlying causes. Underlying causes may go across organizational lines or different kinds of activity.<br>
3. I would like you to pass me you sub-contradictions number 1, 7, 13, 19. and 25. What I am doing is trying to get a spread of different kinds of sub-contradiction.<br>
4. <i>Plot one in the center of the wall. Continue plotting item with similar underlying contradictions. Avoid giving them names.</i><br>
5. <i>When about 1/3 of the items are plotted you are likely to have all the clusters. You should check to see if this is true.</i><br>
6. <i>Number the clusters and use the numbers as names. This is to prevent too early locking into a title.</i><br>
7. I would like you to go through your remaining cares, decide which cluster they go in and give them that number. If you can't decide where it goes or you have a disagreement among yourselves or a sub-contradiction does not go into one of the clusters give it the number 0. Are there any questions?<br>
8. <i>Plot the number zero cards first. This will determine if there are any more clusters.</i> <br>
9. <i>Put up the rest of the cards. If the group seems clear about the meaning of the different clusters you do not need to check if the cards are going into the right cluster. If they are not clear you might read them out as you put them up and check with the other groups to see if they are going into the right cluster. </i><br>
10. <i>Put circles around the clusters and with their numbers. You are now reading to do the naming.</i><br>
11. We want to use a two part title. The first part is what the block really is. and the second part is the arena of the organization that the block is located.It is easier to start with the arena of the organization and then discuss the block.<br>
12. Which one of the clusters is easy to name?<br>
13. <i>Start with identifying the arena of the organization. Then ask what is the block. Expect some disucssion about this. You want to go beyond the symptoms that the sub-contradictions usually are. </i><br>
14. <i>After the group gains confidence in naming the contradictions go to the most difficult ones.</i><br>
15. <i>When all of them are done read the list of contradictions and ask,</i> "Are these all of the underlying contradictions the organization faces?
1. As you look at the list of contradictions, what catches your imagination.<br>
2. What were some of the activities of this session? <br>
3. What was the most difficult part?<br>
4. What was the easiest part?<br>
5. What did you learn during this session?<br>
6. What is the next step that should be taken with this process?

How flexible is the process?: 
Follow-Up Required: 
Usually the Strategic Directions Workshop and Implementaries Workshop follow this one.
The Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA)
Derived from: 
This was based on work done by the Institute of Cultural Affairs using of a number resources including Mao Tse Tung's "On Contradiction"
History of Development: 

The process was first developed as part of the 1971 Global Research Assembly of the ICA. Over the next 3 years it was developed in three directions. It became a part of the Strategic Planning Process LENS. It was usedd with the Planning Consultation of Human Development Projects in about 30 countries. It was also developed as a part of the Town Meeting process which were held in about 5,000 communities.

Selected publications: 
90-76908-02-8 0865714169 0840361963 097297640X
Jenkins, J. C. and Jenkins, M. R. (1998). <i>The International Facilitator's Companign</i>, Groningen, The Netherlands: Digitaal<br> Spencer, L. (1989). <i>Winning Through Participation</i>, Dubuque: Kendall/Hunt Publishing.<br> Stanfield, B. (2002), for The Canadian Institute of Cultural Affairs, <i>The Workshop Book: From Individual Creativity to Group Action</i>, British Columbia: New Society Publishers.<br> Wilson, P. H., Harnish, K. & Wright, J. (2003). <i>The Facilitative Way</i>, TeamTech Press, Shawnee Mission, KS
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