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Myth: I am always part of the team

In the Great Recession, it has not been hard to picture the following situation:

  The leadership team of the company is deciding on cost reduction changes to the company. Some of the options may be viewed as inconsistent with stated company values. The leadership team is split on the course of action, yet convinced that if significant changes in financial performance do not occur, the company may fail. However, whatever the decision, the entire company must support it and work together to survive.

 This situation requires a special tool that successful teams use: a “consensus” decision. The key is in the need for all to support and work for together for the successful action. This requirement of unanimous support is in alignment with Webster’s (2nd) definition: “group solidarity in sentiment and belief”. There is a very strong emphasis on the solidarity. In fact, it is “active” solidarity, for once consensus is achieved, the group’s position is solid and unanimous. All disagreement and discussion becomes part of the confidential history of the team. Consensus is usually only required for the most difficult and potentially unpopular decisions.

For a team to be effective, such consensus must respect the integrity of the team. Team members cannot follow the example of today’s politicians: once the meeting is over, individual team members publicly air their disagreement with the decision.  For the team to truly work with high levels of trust, once consensus is achieved, there should be complete solidarity with the outcome by all team members. To all outside the team, it should appear to be a unanimous decision.

This level of agreement requires significant emotional cost: someone may have to support a position that is different than his or her own personal choice.  Because of the cost, this process must only be used rarely, when solid team support is required. Agreement to abide by a consensus must be a requirement for team membership.

To achieve such consensus decision requires complete and open discussion where all opinions are heard. Active listening and mind mapping or brainstorming techniques may be used to capture all points presented and allow for the group to work its way to a solution. Every team member should be allowed to present his or her opinions and supporting reasons.

It is recommended that active listening be used to ensure that all are correctly heard.  This feeling of being heard is critical and discussion should continue until all key participants feel understood.  Understanding does not mean that there will be agreement, although that occasionally happens, and the process eliminates the need for consensus action.

If all discussion is complete and there is still disagreement, the team leader must make a decision for a course of action, which the team then actively supports. This decision may be for a less popular position, as the leader may identify that position as most in line with the values and mission of the team.  Remember, the value of the majority opinion does not determine the decision as it would in a democracy.

This consensus process is useful in reducing the disruptive impact of passive resistance techniques occasionally used by the members not yet fully committed to the team’s success or values.  The unanimous position after consensus reduces the ability to use an emotional situation to manipulate and weaken the role of the team.

 

Have you used this consensus technique?

 

Do you recall a team decision where you wish you had?

 


Communication Planning

Why Communicate?

The answer to this question should provide the business result or value to be achieved in the discussion.

Usually the statement of Purpose answers the question “why?’

Why would I spend my time?

Why would the customer/stakeholder pay for this work to be done?

If everyone involved does not see value for the customer & themselves in achieving the meeting’s goals, success will be more elusive.

Consider different values & experiences; remember every one first asks: “What’s In It For Me?”


What is the Result?

What does “done” look like? What are the tangible (& intangible) results that should result? This helps let everyone know when you’re done.

Be specific:

  • Action list
  • Decisions made
  • Status report/discussion
  • Investigation findings & recommendations
  • Corrective action for “learning opportunities”

Include the “feeling” that the attendees experience & leave with:

  • I am “heard” & listened to
  • The work is moving forward
  • I have learned valuable information
  • I have participated & contributed.
  • I own specific actions & results.

Sometimes a good way to define “what is” is to be clear about “what is not”.

After you have clearly defined what the products are, go back & check that they provide the value that is needed in the Purpose. Are the Products worth all the effort?

How to Communicate Effectively

How do we achieve the products?

Are the right people, tools, and information available?

Is there more work than time available?

How to split the work & still have interest in the total effort?

Consider the Levels of Communication as you plan to conduct the interaction.  Very often the communications breakdown happens here: the concept is for a 2-way communication but the execution is all one-sided.

The levels of communication are the subject of a separate full post.