In the pictured triangle, the bottom represents those functional areas that generally operate in silos and thus focus only on their own optimization. Since they all have different priorities, constraints, metrics, and even language, trying to work together raises almost unavoidable conflict, which typically result in unsolvable lose- lose compromises or win-lose power plays.
Someone outside the conflict and midway up the triangle, such as human resources or a consultant or an upper manager, can use their broader perspective to provide solutions those at the bottom cannot see. But we only think about what’s best for the organization as a whole when we’re at the top of the triangle, where differences between functional areas disappear.
That’s where our customers are— when they receive damaged goods, they don’t say, “Gee, I wonder which department messed this up!” They say: “Damn, I should have bought a different brand!”—so that’s where the B State is.
“Shared ownership,” that oft-bandied term, doesn’t mean everyone must be involved in every decision, or that we won’t run into new conflicts as we try to resolve old ones. It means we’re all invested in eliminating anything obstructing the organization’s success, whether or not we’re directly involved in those obstructions. “It’s not my problem” and “It’s not my job” don’t exist at the top of the triangle. “It” is their problem—and everyone else’s problem on the team and in the organization.