Recently I was training a leadership team leaning on Patrick Lencioni’s “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” (see https://www.tablegroup.com). This team was a mature team with high levels of trust and a strong capability to debate (have conflict) …. so the platform is set for a terrific and strong team environment.
They had reasonable scores for the last three platforms in Lencioni’s model but it was clear that something was holding them back in their ability to commit to decisions.
Of course, Lencioni highlights that this will have an impact on their capacity to breed ongoing team (or peer) accountability and a focus on team achievements or results.
I re-read Lencioni’s book and found two absolute nuggets of pure GOLD in one sentence. “The two causes of the lack of commitment are the desire for consensus and the need for certainty.” (page 207)
This is spot on for organisations I work with!
Let’s start with certainty – I work with plenty of Christian and socially active organisations or churches. Leaders of these organisations take their mission seriously and personally. They wish to do everything they can to serve as well as they can. Hence they strive for perfection again and again. Whilst this is admirable … the result is that decisions are not always made…. and hence there is nothing specific to achieve between meetings … impacting peer accountability and outcomes.
How often are decisions delayed because not every one is on board? Consensus on complex decisions is often a dream and not a reality. Teams need to understand that a decent decision is the objective – not agreement all round. Teams will also need to understand the difference between debate or “invitation to give an opinion” and decision making. Leaders need to make clear the framework for decision making and the intent of the discussion, in order to avoid the implication that consensus is the objective.
A key lesson for me? There are some books that are valuable to read … and re-read even after you have read them several times!
A few quick thoughts or hints that may assist in building the temperature for decision making:
- ask at the end of a meeting “what have we decided” and “what will we follow up in the future”;
- challenge the ‘polite culture’ directly. Conduct a workshop to describe ‘what behaviours we need to honour should we wish to make and commit to decisions’;
- adopt standard business rules for meetings such as “your silence means you consent” during the meeting; or all participants demonstrate “cabinet solidarity” outside the meeting; or “decisions can be re-debated only when the situation has changed” (eg new information or changed context) etc..;
- adopt a decision making framework (eg GROW – Goal, Reality, Options, Way forward) to work through for challenging or complex decisions;
- another useful question at the end of a meeting is “what will we tell others about what we achieved at this meeting” – which forces a review of achievements / decisions and equips the team to be able to and aligned in communication following the meeting;
- consider conducting pilots, trials or experiments (which reduce the temperature for perfection);
- utilise ‘worst-case scenarios’ to lower the bar or the increase the stakes to move forward with an imperfect decision;
- consider lowering the temperature or unacceptability of making imperfect decisions.
I hope this is a helpful reminder.
see “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team”, P Lencioni, Jossey Bass, 2002