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Suspense filmmakers love to make us feel uneasy. They use various techniques but the most direct is dissonance. Two music notes that feel at odds with one another are played simultaneously. Instinctively, we know something is about to go wrong.

We find it easy to recognise and acknowledge such dissonance in film and yet we so often ignore it in our work. The fact is that organisation dissonance is the greatest attributor to poor staff retention. It is also rampant and creative teams take the heaviest blow.

Dissonance comes into play when the why doesn’t add up to the what.

For example, we are a creative agency but focus on producing work to appease our clients. Or we value the opinions of all of our team members but only run with the ideas delivered by our seniors.

Staff spend so much of their energy trying to solve these incongruities that they are left with very little energy to devote to the task at hand, and the work suffers.

When we fail to think about the why, we eventually fall.

The two greatest causes of organisation dissonance are unnecessary complexity and unclear objectives.

Unnecessary complexity is most often introduced by leaders who are insecure about their own intelligence. They add unnecessary layers to confuse their team in an attempt to hide the real reasons behind their decisions.

Unclear objectives are most often introduced by leaders who are unsure what a win looks like. They get bogged down in the how. How are we going to design this website? How are we going to conduct this research? How are we going to build this bridge?

Instead, start with the who, what, where, why and when (not necessarily in that order). Why are we undertaking this work? Whose approval is required? What are we trying to accomplish? When do we need this done by? Where will the work be completed? Then ask how.

Combat dissonance. Give your people context and something to call their own.