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Table 1 Various types of competing demands in organizations

From: Analyzing competing demands in organizations: a systematic comparison

Competing demand Definition Implications for organizational design Representative work
Dilemma An either/or situation where one alternative is preferred relative to the other. Designers need to know how to select and be aware of potential for polarization and rigidity. Choice of one pole, for example, A, leads to failure to engage in action that supports the other pole, for example, B. (Achtenhagen and Melin 2003; Janssens and Steyaert 1999; Jarzabkowski et al. 2013; Westenholz 1993)
Trade-off A gradual exchange between two demands where more of one means less of the other. Designers need to be aware that the relief that comes as a result of a compromise is short-lived and it might reduce or neutralize the energy of the tension. In addition, the compromise might mute opposition although it might resurface later. (Achtenhagen and Melin 2003; Jarzabkowski et al. 2013)
Dialectic A pattern that always begins with a thesis, followed by an antithesis, which is then resolved by their synthesis. Designers need to be aware of the separation that dialectics imply as it might delay learning of the intersection and the opportunity to thrive through the tension. This also might marginalize the less powerful pole. (Jarzabkowski et al. 2013; Putnam et al. 2016; Smith and Lewis 2011; Westenholz 1993)
Duality The twofold nature of an object of study without separation; they are seemingly opposite but are interdependent and complementary. This implies that the designer’s focus is on complementarity and reducing power difference. This might also imply neutralizing the opposition in the long term. (Farjoun 2010; Janssens and Steyaert 1999; Jarzabkowski et al. 2013; Smith and Lewis 2011)
Paradox Contradictory, yet interrelated elements exist simultaneously and the tension persists over time. This implies that designer’s aim for accommodating tensions. For the designer that means critically examining assumptions about tensions and developing a complicated range of understanding tensions and new organizational practices to accommodate them. (Janssens and Steyaert 1999; Jarzabkowski et al. 2013; Quinn and Cameron 1988; Smith and Lewis 2011)