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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?

 


What is your standard today?

What is a standard?

A specific statement of the qualities required to achieve satisfaction in performance of work, or in behavior.

What does a standard do?

A standard provides a basis for objective comparison of actual performance to standard/what’s desired. It is the acceptable performance level quantified in an understandable way.

A standard serves as immediate focal point for investment of skill and effort in behaving and doing work. I focus my energy and effort in the direction stated in the standard.

A standard acts as a medium of communication among people in reaching agreement on a group approach to work. With the standard the discussion can be about performance as compared to the standard, not as I “think it should be”.

What purpose do standards serve?

They bring an increasingly higher order to work/life situations, while expanding the free space within which each person is able to operate. This little bit of order provides the boundaries, the structure for mature people to work within; all without the restriction of rules and conditions. Allowing individuals to be self-guiding results in greater positive expression and effort; that is, more work and therefore, productivity and profitability.

What results can standards produce?

−  A description of the consistent, logical and defensible levels of performance which is required to achieve goals and objectives, meet expectations, and effectively pursue continuous improvement.

−  An increase in motivation in people to steadfastly pursue a path of perfecting self, skills, knowledge and products.

−  A means for intelligent decisions regarding what improvements to invest in, and then what measures of return to focus on.