Be honest. When you and your team are working through a thorny issue, challenge, opportunity or problem do you push forward aggressively to reach a fast, effective workable solution for the greater good of the organization?
If you’re like many leadership teams that’s not what you’re doing. Instead, you’re flogging an issue to death — repeating arguments, defending personal agendas and delaying decisions for a variety of reasons. Today’s advice?
Use a good process to make decisions. Then decide. Working through a business issue isn’t about making sure that you wrestle every last syllable of discussion out of the topic…it’s about solving the issue, once and for all. We teach a simple three-step process to help make that happen.
- Step 1: Identify the real issue
Too often we see business leaders get wrapped around the axle of symptoms, never addressing the root challenge that needs to be addressed. Before you charge off on a discussion, get crystal clear on exactly what you should be working on. Say, for example, your shipping department is consistently behind schedule getting orders out the door. An ineffective team might debate whether the shipping manager is the right person for the job. An effective discussion, however, would dig until they identified the root cause of the symptom. That could be anything from an ineffective shipping manager to poor production scheduling to untimely procurement of raw materials. The first step in solving any problem forever is making sure that you’re addressing the cause, and not the symptom.
- Step 2: Effectively Discuss
The operative word in Step 2 is not “discuss” – it’s “effectively”. There is a huge difference between an effective discussion and many of the mind-numbing death marches that too often pass for effective discussion. Bad discussions drag on, they wander off on tangents and they grind painfully through hurdles of individual agendas and lazy decision-making processes. Some people talk too much. Some people talk too little. Many people say the same thing over and over. And over.
Effective discussions look very different. For starters, the people in the room are focusing not on multiple agendas but on one – making the best decision for the greater good of the organization. From there, everyone gets the opportunity to speak their mind one time. Egos are set aside, no grandstanding, no politicking. Say what you have to say one time, then listen to everyone else. Once that’s done, it’s time for the final step.
- Step 3: Solve
Too many tough calls get debated to death and then punted. Cans get kicked down the road, time gets wasted and nothing gets resolved. The final step in the process is the most basic, but sometimes the hardest. Make a decision and move on. After you’ve had a healthy discussion on a topic with input from everyone then it’s time to decide what you’re going to do, assign responsibilities for getting it done, and move on. If the team can’t agree on the best way to move forward – and usually a good team can – the personal in charge makes a call and takes responsibility. Done.
We call the process “IDS” – Identify, Discuss, Solve – and it is a simple yet powerful tool that will help you get more done in a meeting than you ever thought possible.
Meet the Founder
Jeff Whittle founded and launched Whittle & Partners in 2011. Before that, Jeff practiced law in Dallas for 15 years and has an additional 20 years of executive business experience. He has run businesses ranging from startups to 300-employee operations.