Polarity Management

Bert Parlee is trained as a Mastery Level Polarity Practioner

In 1975, Barry Johnson developed the Polarity Map© to leverage the power inherent in interdependent pairs of values, competencies, and/or strategic outcomes.

The Polarity Management model and set of principles are a user-friendly way to deal with all polarities in life. Polarities are ongoing, chronic issues that are unavoidable and unsolvable.

Attempting to address them with traditional problem solving skills only makes things worse. There is significant competitive advantage for those leaders, teams, or organizations that can distinguish between a problem to solve and a polarity to manage and are effective with both.

Polarity Management increases in value as the system or issue:

  • Increases in complexity
  • Increases in diversity
  • Increases in speed of change
  • Increases in resistance to change

Polarity Management can help:

  • Simplify the complexity without being simplistic
  • Capitalize on diversity without alienating the diverse groups
  • Provide predictability and stability amidst accelerating change
  • Convert resistance to change to a resource for sustainable, ongoing change-ability

A fundamental question to ask when encountering a difficulty is: “Is this a problem we can ‘solve,’ or is it an ongoing polarity we must manage well?” If it is a polarity you must manage, applying traditional problem solving skills will increase the problem rather than help it.

The Polarity Management model and set of principles will help you distinguish between Solvable Problems and Polarities and help you effectively manage those polarities most important to your organization’s success.


The Polarity Approach for Continuity and Transformation (PACT):
A 5 Step Process for Organizations, Teams and Individuals

The PACT will help deliver your Mission AND Margin. Either would make it worth using. You can do both.

Become More Successful – Right Now and Over Time

To increase your ability to leverage the power of polarities, the PACT™ process builds on what you’ve accomplished in the past and prepares you to be even more successful in the future. You define success, be it numbers on the bottom line, behavior that reflects the culture you want to create, or any other measures that matter to you. The PACT™ will help you get things done that make a difference better, faster and easier. Over time, you will gain more and more of the benefits of managing key polarities well and pay for fewer and fewer of the costs of managing them poorly.

Leverage the Power of Polarities

All polarities work the same way, every time, all the time. Learn how to leverage one well and you know how to leverage them all well. Seeing polarities means recognizing when one or more underlying ones are impacting the work you’re doing. Mapping polarities means identifying the “upsides” and “downsides” of each pole, what you will achieve by managing it well, what will happen if you manage it poorly.

Action Steps and Early Warnings help ensure you have concrete ways to leverage the upsides and avoid the downsides of a polarity pole. Transforming, using the Power of Polarities, means taking what you’ve learned about how to leverage one well and putting it into practice in your daily work with desired results.

The 5-Step PACT™ Process

Step 1 – SEEING See an Individual, Team or Organization and their Polarities More Completely

Step 2 – MAPPING Create Assessment Ready Polarity Maps and a PACT™ Plan

Step 3 – ASSESSING Assess How Well Key Polarities are Being Leveraged

Step 4 – LEARNING Make Meaning of Assessment Results from Diverse Stakeholder Perspectives

Step 5 – LEVERAGING Achieve the Greater Purpose of Each Polarity

Some organizations create solid strategic plans but suffer from “binders that stay on the shelf” resulting in failed implementation efforts. Others excel at execution but could improve the upstream thinking that goes into developing plans. We realize it’s critical to leverage this Planning and Implementation polarity to achieve your strategic goals.

Part of good planning is making well-informed decisions, but it doesn’t stop there. I’ll work with you to engage key stakeholders in crafting this new direction. In doing so, you’ll create broad-based commitment to your strategy and the actions needed to translate it from words on paper to success in the real world.

Implementation is all about action. Focus on implementation and you’ll enjoy the benefits that come from following through on plans you’ve developed and commitments you’ve made.

Implementation efforts that succeed are based on clear Accountability AND strong Support. Get both of these right and see your implementation efforts deliver the predictable results envisioned when you developed your strategy.

Do you win by developing a smart strategy or implementing it well ?

The polarity perspective is yes !


Dr Parlee offers half-day, one day and two day trainings on Polarity Management.

He also offers polarity coaching to individuals and teams, as well as offering the full PACT consulting engagement to groups and businesses looking to take team and organizational learning to the next level of development.