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  • Writer's pictureRainer Gumpert

Psychological safety, managing the "resistance to change" and "fair process".

Amy C. Edmondson is the "mother" of studies in psychological safety. She has spent the last 20 years researching and publishing key findings on the topic. For my own organisational psychology thesis, I read many of her published articles on this subject.

In the recently published book "the fearless organisation", she describes that psychological safe teams outperform others. This is the case at "Project Aristotle" at Google, 47 mid-sized German industrial and service companies or 60 R&D teams in Taiwan. When phycological safety is present, can teams build on the diversity of ideas and use conflict constructively in order to make better decisions.

While my own thesis was about the leadership behaviours necessary to create a safe workplace by 1. having high performance expectations of all team members, and 2. accepting all of them unconditionally, the new learning for me from this book, is that psychological safety is paramount in risk management, too.

Case studies highlighted in the book, such as the VW Group and "Dieselgate", Wells Fargo and Nokia, demonstrate that the "fear of speaking up" can lead to avoidable failures. Similarly, the fact that "dangerous silence" existed at NASA and the Dana-Faber Cancer Institute had eventually led to disasters.

At Coalition Capital Partners, we use psychological safety as a foundational tool that allows us to manage "Resistance to Change" in our buyout change management processes and make efficient "Fair Process" decisions. Without our management team partners, Coalition team members, network experts and due diligence advisors feeling psychologically safe in order to have an open dialog and tell us anything, especially bad news, our investment decision will always be sub-optimal for risk and returns from the point of investment to the point of divestment. Going along to get along is not a psychological safe option at Coalition Capital Partners:)

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