April 27, 2005
Counter Cliche: No Conflict, No Interest
The entrepreneur’s take on Fred’s VC cliche of the week — "No conflict, No interest" is that it applies equally but differently to management teams.
Our nation’s first president, George Washington, is often said to have brilliantly placed political enemies Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton on his first cabinet so he would have differing points of view from which to choose when deciding some of the complex and delicate issues that faced our nation in its infancy. And many of those early decisions of the Washington administration — things like how to pay down the debt from the Revolution, or whether and how to put down the Whiskey Rebellion — were critical in forming our nation and deciding how much power to invest in our government.
The tension between one executive and another on a management team is, though perhaps less historically important, no different. A management team that finds itself 100% in agreement, 100% of the time, is in trouble. A management team that can have disagreements and use that tension productively to drive decisions is much better off. Building such a team requires the CEO to seek out executives who view the world differently, who have the courage to speak their minds in the face of strong opposition, and who have the ability to see different points of view.