Human Resources/strategic management
how the quality strategic decisions are affected with the change in leadership
Leadership as the starting point of strategy
Even the best strategy can fail if a corporation doesn’t have a cadre of leaders with the right capabilities at the right levels of the organization.
When it comes time to implement a strategy, many companies find themselves stymied at the point of execution. Having identified the opportunities within their reach, they watch as the results fall short of their aspirations. Too few companies recognize the reason.
Mismatched capabilities, poor asset configurations, and inadequate executioncan all play their part in undermining a company's strategic objectives. Although well-regarded corporations tend to keep these pitfalls squarely in their sights, in our experience far fewer companies recognize the leadership capacity that new strategies will require, let alone treat leadership as the starting point of strategy. This oversight condemns many such endeavors to disappointment.
What do we mean by "leadership"? Whereas good managers deliver predictable results as promised, as well as occasional incremental improvements, leaders generate breakthroughs in performance. They create something that wasn't there before by launching a new product, by entering a new market,or by more quickly attaining better operational performance at lower cost, for example. A company's leadership reaches well beyond a few good men and women at the top. It typically includes the 3 to 5 percent of employees throughout the organization who can deliver breakthroughs in performance.
Since bold strategies often require breakthroughs along a number of fronts,a company needs stronger and more dominant leadership at all levels if these strategies are to succeed. A defining M&A transaction, for example, requires leadership throughout an organization's business units and functions in order to piece together best practices and wring out synergies while striving to carry on business as usual. In addition, leaders throughout both companies must transcend the technical tasks of the merger to rally the spirits of employees and to communicate a higher purpose.
As the number of strategic dimensions and corresponding initiatives increases, so does the pressure on leadership. Not surprisingly, our work in many industries with companies of all sizes has shown that high-performers, especially those with lofty aspirations, have the most difficulty meeting their leadership needs. Of course, companies that perform poorly are also lacking in leadership capacity. The higher a company's aspirations or the more radical its shift in strategic direction, the larger the leadership gap. This rule holds true for high performers and laggards alike.
The consequences of inattention
Most CEOs will agree that leadership is important, yet few assess their leadership gap precisely. Fewer still build an engine to develop the right quantity of leaders with the right mix of capabilities, at the right time, to match opportunities.
If the number of leaders needed to achieve a strategic goal—for example, expanding current operations or developing new businesses—were set against the number of existing leaders, a company could uncover the numeric leadership gap it must address. Even if an organization has enough leaders, it may discover a shortfall in their capabilities. A company expanding internationally, for example, could find that its current leaders lacked the cultural sensitivity to operate in unfamiliar geographies. Or a corporation entering new markets could find it had too many engineers and not enough business builders.
The failure to assess leadership capacity systematically before launching strategic initiatives can leave top executives scrambling to fill gaps at the last minute—with significant consequences.
In the short term, companies that undertake new strategies without the right leaders in place are forced to burden their existing ones with additional responsibilities. As such leaders take on the new challenges, the demands from day-to-day operations invariably increase, leaving less time for other tasks. Often these leaders drop the activities with less tangible outcomes, such as staff development, for which the effects are not immediately evident. If a company stretches its existing leaders too far, their overall effectiveness takes a nosedive. From the start, this trade-off compromises strategic objectives. Companies executing strategies under these circumstances assume either that they can get by with suboptimal leadership or that achieving just part of their initial objectives will capture a corresponding percentage of the strategy's net present value. We know from experience that these assumptions can be fatally wrong: one critical misstep can jeopardize the entire investment.
In the longer term, a persistent leadership gap will be responsible for an inexorable decline in the number and quality of leaders. Companies create a vicious cycle in which good leaders become overextended or are moved haphazardly and thus have less time to develop younger talent. The day will come when they hand over the reins to a less experienced, ill-prepared group of successors. Left unchecked, this cycle can ultimately put the company's core operations and strategic growth at risk.
Given the severe consequences of a leadership gap—the best-planned strategy is no more than wishful thinking if it can't be translated from concept to reality—why do so many companies discover their leadership shortfall only when executing their strategies? This question raises another, more fundamental one regarding strategy and leadership: which is the chicken and which is the egg? Companies have taken a number of useful approaches to this puzzle.
One successful US conglomerate with global operations routinely holds discussions that integrate both strategy and leadership. Any consideration of a strategic initiative invariably includes the question, "Who exactly will get this done?" If the company does not have a sufficient number of the right leaders, the plan does not proceed.
Another approach is to weigh a corporation's strategic options against its ability to launch new businesses, new approaches, and other forms of breakthrough performance—in other words, its leadership. Consider, for example, the global-expansion strategy for a successful resource company. The effort included identifying the leadership required to drive breakthrough performance over five years in areas such as running and expanding existing businesses, developing new ones, renovating corporate processes such as risk management, and providing overall change leadership. The company then gauged its leadership gap by comparing these requirements with the qualities of its current leadership bench. It made a number of strategic decisions to determine, among other things, which path was best for realizing the strategy, whether to revise its aspirations, and whether to develop leaders internally or hire them from outside.
A third approach is to plan the path toward a predetermined strategic goal by taking into account the quantity, timing, and mix of leaders that the various alternatives require. Companies using this framework may rule out some possibilities if developing the requisite depth of leadership is unrealistic in the time frame dictated by the marketplace. A leading food company in Asia, for example, aspired to become the dominant regional player. With five strong national brands, it had at least three clear options for how to achieve that goal: take a cautious approach by launching one brand as a pilot in each overseas market before introducing other brands; focus on China by building a beachhead with one brand in a single city, then sequentially rolling that brand out region by region within China; or, finally, acquire a player in one regional Chinese market, thus gaining outlets and local expertise, and use this opening to roll out all five brands to more markets in China over time.
While many factors, including the company's appetite for risk, weigh on these decisions, in this case each option had distinct leadership requirements. The first, for example, would initially require at least five to ten well-rounded leaders—entrepreneurs capable of establishing local networks, operating under unfamiliar conditions, and managing all five brands. The second option called for a business builder who was deeply familiar with the beachhead city to direct a team of four to six emerging leaders who could spearhead the subsequent expansion. A business-development leader would also be helpful in seeking an alliance partner to speed up the company's pace and bolster its confidence during the regional expansion. The third possibility, by contrast, would immediately require an expert to structure, valuate, and negotiate deals and, in the medium term, a few executives capable of operating in each of the regional Chinese markets. After the company critically reviewed its current and potential leaders, it made the decision to adopt the third of those options.
These three cases illustrate how thinking about leadership up front can affect a strategy's direction, path, and outcome. But can a company bring leadership considerations into its strategic discussions even earlier, before it chooses a general direction? To do so, the company must think rigorously about its current leadership pool—the types of leaders and their mix of capabilities—and lay out the strategy accordingly. If a manufacturer's strong suit is leaders with superb marketing capabilities, for example, a market-driven strategy would be implied and might include selling another manufacturer's products. Taken to this level, leadership becomes the true starting point for strategy.
Filling the gap
A clear picture of the leadership gap can help guide strategic thinking, but to retain as many options as possible, companies must also consider ways to fill that gap. To reduce the risk of strategic failure, they need to direct their approach to leadership with three time horizons in mind.
Long term: Position
Companies need to position themselves today to meet their strategic objectives during the next three to five years. In an 18-month period, for example, a South Korean consumer goods company successfully expanded its core business into Japan, where it diversified into noncore sectors such as low-cost lodging. It achieved such deep penetration of this notoriously closed and mature market so quickly by building its leadership bench in advance. At least five years before the initiative's launch, the company began hiring managers and sending them to Japan—through exchanges with friendly Japanese partners—thereby creating a cadre of South Korean leaders trained to operate in Japan.
In many of Asia's key growth markets, local leaders with a global perspective are highly sought after and often unavailable at almost any price. Returning nationals, typically trained in Europe or the United States, may be another option, but many companies have found these prospects to be expensive and lacking in the tacit knowledge needed to operate successfully in the cultures of many corporations—and the industries they compete in. A company must hire and groom potential leaders as much as a decade or more ahead of market need and then help them build the internal networks necessary for long-term success.
To cite another example, for decades a US financial-services giant systematically hired the best global talent, regardless of the market, and rotated these leaders through every critical aspect of its operations. This investment in human assets paid off handsomely. In most of the new economies the company enters, it enjoys an almost unparalleled ability to field full-service teams with strong leaders in the vanguard. Competitors, by contrast, are forced to expand more selectively or to offer expensive packages to lure top talent.
Medium term: Cultivate
Companies must also begin cultivating leaders for specific roles one to two years down the road. This effort requires recognizing the skills, behavior, and mind-set that leaders must possess to be prepared for future roles. Many executives spend years building their technical skills and industry knowledge but rarely develop expertise in areas such as managing stakeholders and building networks. In a prominent resources company, for example, top executives identified potential successors for key leadership positions. It highlighted the measures needed to bring each one up to speed, including counseling, training, and new assignments, by considering individual profiles (strengths and weaknesses, past experience, and skills) as well as the key success factors for upcoming leadership positions (industry or functional expertise, personal or change-management skills, and local knowledge).
Another company informed appointees of their next assignment six months ahead of time and then enrolled them in self-directed preparatory programs. All of the leaders wrote a personal-development contract related to the challenges of the new role and created a list of learning opportunities and developmental activities that would prepare them for their new responsibilities. These tasks could include, for instance, seeking advice from veterans or drawing up a plan for the first 100 days in the new role. The company also provided four categories of learning modules: "lead self," for self-awareness, skill mastery, and developmental planning; "lead others," for getting the best performance from colleagues in specific settings; "lead context," for understanding and identifying trends in the competitive environment; and "lead change," for aligning key stakeholders, steering the organization to breakthroughs, and challenging conventional approaches and thinking.
Short term: Match
Job experiences and stretch assignments are the primary development vehicles for leaders. Opportunities to achieve performance breakthroughs are critical not just for reaching a company's performance goals but also for developing its best people. Unfortunately, corporations that are particularly risk-averse often match their people to opportunities by looking at track records and job experiences, which they see as indicators of future performance. But such an approach is unlikely to succeed, since the experience and skills needed for earlier successes are not necessarily precursors for those required to achieve performance breakthroughs in subsequent opportunities.
A better approach is to use corporate-performance objectives and personal-development goals to match current and potential leaders with opportunities. This multifaceted approach uncovers a better fit between the individual and the opportunity. For this process to be successful, top managers need to acquire a holistic understanding of each individual, including professional abilities, such as leadership qualities, track record, and potential, as well as key personal traits, such as style and preferences, character and motivation, and current attitudes and mind-set. Companies can assess these qualities through information—objective and subjective—from superiors, peers, mentors, and other sources.
To help leaders develop throughout any of these three time horizons, a company must first accurately identify who its leaders are and then convince them of an opportunity's potential. Companies often underestimate this challenge. Top managers typically assume they know which of their best people are willing and able to take on new challenges, but the reality is often very different. At one multinational corporation with an ambitious growth agenda, the CEO asked the 20 members of his management committee for written nominations to fill leadership positions for 30 initiatives. Most committee members couldn't confidently name more than five to ten candidates, and large overlaps existed among the members' lists. Each had nominated the "usual suspects"—managers who were well known in the executive suites. If the company pursued all 30 initiatives simultaneously, it would overload these candidates while denying other potential leaders the chance to develop and shine. Corporations must instead look out along the three time horizons we have described to build a more systematic leadership engine.
Strategy will not succeed in a void, and leadership often makes the difference between merely reaching for great opportunities and actually realizing their potential. Top managers must assess their company's leadership gap and find ways to close it over the short, medium, and long term. Better still, they should integrate leadership with strategy development and thoughtfully match their portfolio of leaders with opportunities.
Strategic Leadership and Decision Making
Strategic leaders need teams to solve problems and to develop policy alternatives to meet the challenges of working in "permanent white water." This is particularly true when dealing with policy issues and problems related to resource allocation decisions. A high-performing team will use, as one of several tools, a consensus process in estimating the situation and developing policy recommendations at the strategic level of government, business, or in other national or international organizations. The consensus team model uses a systems approach in dealing with strategic problems.
Inputs to the consensus decision making process include the leader, the team members, and other resources used to forge a decision. Clearly, the quality of the decision making process and the decision itself are affected by the quality of the inputs. This is especially true with regard to the team leader's contributions.
The leader of a strategic team has two critical responsibilities. First, the leader is accountable for the effective functioning of the team. Key to maintaining effective functioning is the team's ability to step back periodically and critically examine what is happening. Second, the leader is responsible for developing and maintaining a stable structure as the team engages in its work. This responsibility hinges on the team's meta-decision. A meta-decision is a front-end decision about how the team is going to reach consensus and make a decision.
Consensus acts as an energy force in developing unity of action and effort. Consensus involves both process and outcomes. It is not dictatorial, idealistic, conforming, bland, or sterile. Developing effective consensus has much to do with widespread participation, acceptance, and support for decision implementation.
The process is divided into Three Pillars:
• High Conceptual Level. Employ multiple frames of reference to develop high conceptual power. This means developing a "team mindset." Team members must think strategically to find the highest quality solution to a complex national problem, and to minimize risk of failure. Remember to stay out of the weeds.
• Prudent Consensus Approach. A high-performing team recognizes that effective team consensus does not emerge at the extreme ends of decision options. It usually falls between unanimous agreement and profound conflict. Successful strategic teams develop strong team identity, co__rol internal politics, foster competitive debate, and forge consensus for action.
• Vigilant Decision Management. Effective strategic teams monitor their activities and make necessary adjustments to improve performance. The team is a self-correcting entity that develops capability to assess performance and take corrective action. The critical element here is that team members collectively take responsibility for both identifying and implementing changes to achieve success.
OUTPUT. High-performing teams employ consensus decision making. Common purpose and goals, shared leadership roles, personal and mutual accountability, and collective work products are the values gained from this consensus approach.
FEEDBACK. Strategic leaders have an opportunity to expand power through the feedback process in the model. The most dynamic aspect of the consensus team approach may be in employing feedback effectively to both team members and the team leader. Meaningful feedback is essential to making this process work.
A FINAL WORD. How you make decisions at the strategic level is just as important as the decision itself. The best decision in the world is nothing without a powerful consensus for action, and useless unless it has produced a decision that is good for the organization. Decision makers must come armed with critical thinking skills that will allow them to efficiently and effectively function at the strategic level.
TACTICS AND TECHNIQUES
In addition to the CTDM Model, there are a number of other tactics and techniques that can enhance the decision making processes of strategic leaders. Tactics and techniques are instruments to use to achieve some desired end. We measure a piece of lumber before cutting it to a precise length and angle to fit it in a structure. We choose a particular iron to approach the green given certain wind conditions. We know what we want and we choose our tools from experience, or the practices of others.
Techniques are methods a person uses to complete the technical requirements associated with a particular role. Techniques represent knowledge of specialized methods and the skill to apply them. Tactics are more like plans and procedures that would be used to achieve some objective. For example, a leader might use as a tactic the CTDM, and use evaluation of the work as a technique.
Some techniques and tactics break down into simple lists of things that leaders have used successfully.:
1. It ain't as bad as you think. It will look better in the morning.
2. Get mad, then get over it.
3. Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your position falls, your ego goes with it.
4. It can be done!
5. Be careful what you choose. You may get it.
6. Don't let adverse facts stand in the way of a good decision.
7. You can't make someone else's choices.
8. Check small things.
9. Share credit.
10. Remain calm. Be kind.
11. Have a vision. Be demanding.
12. Don't take counsel of your fears or naysaysers.
13. Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.
The following six sections develop the processes of team tactics and techniques.
SECTION 1: Leader Planning and Preparation
The team leader is responsible for laying the groundwork for team activities. A joint/interagency team leader has several issues to consider before his or her team gets down to business.
1. Clarify the team's identity and charter.
Establish a close working relationship with the Executive Sponsor-the strategic decision maker empowering the team. The Executive Sponsor will guide team efforts and maintain liaison with the other strategic decision makers. This reduces the amount of mixed guidance to the team and clarifies the reporting relationship between the team and strategic decision makers. Clarify and gain agreement on the following issues (The name of the team.
• The name of the Executive Sponsor.
• The Executive Sponsor's objectives, intent, and guidance.
• The team's purpose and assigned tasks.
• A description of the desired product-what is a quality product?
• Set boundaries on the magnitude of the desired outcome.
• The users and the uses of the team's work.
• Team composition.
• Advisors & experts available to the team.
• The team's scope of authority.
• The Executive Sponsor's milestones.
• The Executive Sponsor's reporting requirements.
2. Understand the complexity of the problem.
Do not go into your first meeting cold. Track the history of the problem and related policy decisions. Develop your intuition about how the policy has taken shape, how the problem evolved to its present state, and how organizations have responded. Understand the stakeholders, their interests and their competitors. Get an accurate view of how stakeholders will react in team activities. Clarify the Executive Sponsor's current political agenda. What perceived need inspired the decision to form a team? What are the risks and consequences of team failure? In the end, what really matters to the strategic decision makers?
3. Write out the team's mission.
Define the team's mission-when, who, what, to do what and where.
4. Determine the conceptual framework.
Most problems lend themselves to a conceptual framework for resolution. In many cases, the systems approach is very useful. Once identified, a conceptual framework serves as a basis for designing the team's process plan. For example, the Framework for Grand Strategy suggests that the team should first assess the international environment, and then assess the current U.S. domestic situation. Overall, the conceptual framework guides the work of the team.
5. Envision goals
• Identify the team's specified and implied tasks. State team goals in specific, concrete language:
• Consider how the team's purpose fits into the larger picture.
• State the tasks and products that you must deliver.
• Think about outcomes that would count as team failure.
• Provide a basis for deciding priorities.
6. Determine needed functional expertise to fill gaps.
The conceptual framework may also indicate information needs. These gaps may require the team to rely on outside experts or use of a "fact-finding" subgroup. Consider how the team will fill its information needs.
7. Keep pace with the environment
You may have to deliver a product quickly. Keeping pace may require "fast decision making." Before you design your team's process plan, you may need to employ tactics to accelerate the team's decision making processes:
• Initiate procedures to track real time information on the environment and current operations. Hone your understanding of what is going on and what works. Do not completely rely on long-term, general performance trends.
• Anticipate that while the team is doing its work, it will need to build several alternatives, using the team's intuitive understanding of the situation and diversity of experience. Even include options that may not have widespread support. Shape alternatives as more information is available. Rely on the power of comparisons in reflective debate to sharpen preferences and team member efforts.
• Seek outside advice. Rely on an experienced counselor to act as a sounding board for ideas or to provide insight into a variety of issues. Be selective in choosing an advisor-a team is best served by a trusted counselor who is respected by his or her colleagues.
• When it's time to decide, include everyone. Use a two-step procedure called "consensus with qualification" to push for consensus. Debate the issue and attempt to forge consensus. However, if consensus does not emerge the leader makes the choice. All may not agree with the decision, but everyone has a voice in the process.
• Integrate policy and tactics. In deliberations of strategic options, discuss required tactical moves in a "quick and dirty" fashion. Refine options as necessary. Do not complete elaborate, detailed tactical planning during deliberations.
8. Design a process plan
Describe how your team will approach its work-the sequence of steps and delegation of responsibilities. Consider the conceptual framework you identified to solve the problem in laying out the major steps in the team's process plan. Make sure your plan reflects the sequential step-by-step nature of tasks.
Establish checkpoints in the process plan to review team progress. Plan on periodically checking to see if the team is still on course. Be prepared to recycle on certain issues. Use checkpoints to adjust the team's process.
Write out a team process plan and allocate time available. Frequently, the structure of most "unstructured" strategic decisions involves three basic phases:
• Identification: assess the situation and identify problems.
• Development: search for alternatives and build decision options.
• Selection: evaluate & choose an option, and authorize actions.
9. Manage time
Do not go further in your process planning without properly allocating time available to each portion of the team's process plan. Outline a time schedule. Include periodic "alarm bells" to alert the team to approaching deadlines. Protect the last part of a work period to review the team's product and to complete final revision. This requires constant monitoring of a team's schedule. To avoid a last minute crash, build cushions into time schedules.
10. Structure the team.
Consider tasks that need to be done and tailor the team to get the work done. Use designated subgroups as necessary, such as a fact finding subgroup. Be careful that you properly integrate the work of a subgroup into the team's process plan. Make sure that you do not employ subgroups in parallel when their products are sequential in nature.
11. Determine assignment of member roles and functions.
Define team member roles and functions. There are a few key functions that must be assigned initially. These include time keeper, recorder, spokesman, and chart maker/report writer. Relate team member roles and functions to one another. This understanding of interrelated roles and functions enables team members to integrate their work, anticipate what should occur and, when the unexpected happens, react accordingly.
12. Plan to control internal politics
Control internal politics by empowering team members. When the leader empowers members, most see little need or have any desire to engage in politics.
13. Plan for reflective debate.
• Establish important ground rules to promote productive policy debate( Yates, 1987):
• Include all affected team members in the debate.
• Adhere to norms for proper conduct and protocol.
• Employ neutral language and ordinary, nontechnical terminology.
• Discourage the use of "we-they" discourse.
• Avoid old grievances about historical injustices.
• Provide full access to information.
• Keep communication channels open.
• Focus on interests and mutual problems instead of "positions."
• Avoid "winner take all" decisions.
Encourage team members to speak their minds. Recognize that if debate is left unstructured, there is a high cost to team unity. Unstructured debate can get emotional. Lingering rivalries are possible. Do not allow extreme and strident voices to dominate discourse and obstruct the team's process.
Employ proven methods that improve the quality of strategic decisions: include Dialectic Inquiry and Devil's Advocate. The Dialectic Inquiry method is useful in paring down and producing a high quality assessment of the situation. The Devil's Advocate method is useful in producing a high quality course of action.
14. Plan for forging team consensus.
Consider how you plan to build consensus on situation assessment and your team's proposed recommendation. The basic idea is that everyone must have their say. If push comes to shove, consider using the two-step procedure called "consensus with qualification" to push for consensus.
15. Lay out the agenda for the first meeting.
• The goals of your first team meeting should focus on three themes:
• Strengthening team identity.
• Understanding the rationale for forming the team.
• Starting work on situation assessment.
There is always a temptation to plunge into the problem. Your team will do better in the long run if you spend equal time on all three aspects, especially at the first meeting.
16. Arrange details of first meeting.
Let team members know the following details of the team meeting so they can prepare:
• Organizational sponsor.
• Name of the team meeting.
• Date, time, duration, and location.
• Purpose & desired product.
• Preparation tasks (if required).
• Resource requirements.
SECTION 2: A General Team Process Plan
A team process plan describes how a team will sequence steps and delegate responsibilities. The team also should gain consensus on a procedure that resolves conflict quickly.
SESSION TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION
1a Initial Meeting Team goals, ground rules,
member roles, etc.
and process plan.
If you need a conceptual framework, use the tried and true "systems approach" to gain insight into what is happening. A systems approach enables the team to identify key components and how they interrelate. Identify cause-and-effect patterns. Then the team can better understand how possible decisions are likely to turn out.
1b Problem Awareness Historical view, key trends, major issues.
Start with a historical frame of reference. Track the evolution of the problem and related policy decisions. Discuss how the policy has taken shape, how the problem evolved to its present state, and how organizations have responded.
2 Stakeholders Stakeholder views.
Understand the interests of the stakeholders and their competitors; obtain an accurate view of how they have reacted to policy decisions. Consider the stakeholders' frames of reference and perspectives. Search for a shared vision of the future--identify the stakeholders' "common ground."
• Identify external forces and critical trends.
• Listen to stakeholder perspectives on the problem.
• Clarify stakeholder concerns and needs-no debates.
• Identify common concerns among stakeholders.
• Describe a vision for the future that addresses the common concerns and needs of the stakeholders (Weisbord 1992).
3 Assess the Situation(Zsambok) Frames of references, time horizon.
• Expert opinions.
• Functional considerations.
• Gaps and ambiguous information.
Using the systems approach, reframe the problem using more frames of reference-political, structural, symbolic, human resources, economic, military, social, or religious to make sense out of the complex strategic situation. This includes not only a numerical expansion, but also a qualitative amplification of existing frames of reference. Seek all viewpoints to broaden the team's situation assessment. Even under severe time pressure, remain aware of dissenting perspectives and weigh team assessments accordingly.
4 Clarify the Problem Confirm team goals & debate the issues.
Encourage reflective debate. An open, frank, and combative dialogue on major points of difference and conflicting preferences can be constructive. However, recognize that unstructured debate carries a high cost. Do not allow extreme and strident voices to dominate and obstruct the team's process.
Ensure all members have a shared understanding of the problem before proceeding. Reassess a situation when information changes. Analyze whether new information calls for modifying plans. If so, ensure the team members understand changes in the team's assessment.
5 Create Alternatives Brainstorm & create strawmen alternatives.
Start by brainstorming solutions to the problem. After everyone has given their input, group the solutions and list the various approaches to the problem.
6 Screen Alternatives Discuss feasibility and desirability of alternatives.
Request team members review and assess the alternative approaches individually according to their agency/functional perspective. Suggest a simple rating scheme such as:
• Workable and preferred
• Workable but less preferred
• Difficult but preferred
• Not executable (state rationale)
Be careful not to exclude some good alternatives. The screening process enables team members to gain insight into other member perspectives and how each function would have to change to implement a decision. This step is crucial in gaining a broad perspective on how the U.S. Government works and the need for joint/interagency cooperation.
7 Develop Decision Options Formulate choices for decision
Develop a few decision options in concrete terms. Assign someone (who has a good understanding of the team's mission) to build a few strawmen. Use concrete strawman proposals to discuss, compare, modify, and to chose from. In developing options, consider various stakeholder perspectives.
8 Assess Decision Options Compare and debate the choices
Here are some important questions to answer in assessing decision options:
• What is the objective we hope to achieve with the decision?
• Have we considered all means available?
• Can or will this option achieve the objective?
• What are the costs-according to each frame?
• Are the desired gains and risks of failure clarified?
• What are the value tradeoffs incumbent with the decision?
• Will the public support the decision?
• Will the situation be altered later?
• What are other possible outcomes-short & long term?
• What will it take in "political capital" to implement?
When assessing decision options, use a devil's advocate or "war gaming" model to search for gaps in a proposal. In war gaming, team members "play out" a decision option against probable threats or simulated opponents, with all risks properly included. During a debate or a war game, gaps become obvious. Also, a devil's advocate or war game can uncover misunderstandings in the way various members perceive a decision option. Once a misunderstanding is identified, clarify the point (Zsambok, et al, 1992).
Ultimately, the team leader is responsible for resolving value conflicts that a team cannot resolve by internal debate. This responsibility is a unique task of a leader. The leader, as a sole person sitting in judgment, can better subordinate one value to another, mindful of the team's mission and its goals (George, 1980).
9 Develop a Recommendation and Required Actions
Integrate policy decisions and tactics. In developing your recommendation, identify required tactical moves. If substantial political resistance exists, mold your recommen-dation by using an incremental approach to make a major policy change, thereby reducing the stakes in the near term. Craft a step-by-step approach in implementing your recommendation.
SECTION 3: A Standard Meeting Agenda
Start on time:
• Bring your team to order.
• Introduce yourself.
• State the purpose of the meeting.
Get to know each other:
• Conduct team member self-introductions.
• Review individual background and skills.
• Present personal expertise / interest on the issue.
• Establish member equity.
Set the stage:
• Restate the team's mission.
• Restate the executive sponsor's guidance.
• Foster a sense of shared mission.
Clarify team goals:
• Explain how the team's mission fits into the big picture.
• State major tasks to be accomplished and products.
• Provide a basis for determining team priorities.
• Make sure everyone understands the team goals.
Work out decision making issues.
• Establish a climate of consensus-style leadership.
• Discuss the need for consensus.
• Present the case for requiring everyone's input.
• Describe the role of reflective debate.
Confirm the meeting agenda:
• Review the meeting agenda.
• Suggest meeting timelines.
• Review the product desired.
• Get consensus on the meeting agenda.
Assign member roles and functions. Functional Experts, Sub-Group Leaders, etc.
Assign admin tasks: Spokesperson, Recorder, Timekeeper, etc.
Outline the team's conceptual framework and process plan:
• How should the team think about the issue?
• Framework for Grand Strategy?
• The Systems Approach?
• What is your plan to attack the problem?
• Tackle an easy issue first, then the hard ones.
• Get the history on the situation.
• Identify stakeholder interests.
• Assess the situation using member views or reframing.
• Brainstorm solutions.
• Build a consensus strawman, then argue, or start with the status quo and then tweak.
• Use the Delphi Technique.
• Assess the risks and alternative outcomes.
• Use consensus with qualifications.
Get Started: Go to the first step on your agenda.
Make Assignments: Issue task to team members. Require inputs within three to five days so things don't go cold.
Evaluate Team Processes:
• Allow ten minutes at the end for team self-evaluations.
• How did this meeting go? What didn't members like?
• Are we addressing the right issues?
• Are we spinning our wheels?
• What do we need to correct?
• Will this team succeed? Why or why not?
SECTION 4: Ground Rules for Team Members
1. Promptness: Team meetings are sacred. We start on time. Come prepared to participate and contribute to the team.
2. Team Goals: Understand the team's goals. When not clear, seek clarification at the outset, rather than waste time pursuing vague objectives. Do not begin working without good direction.
3. Member Roles: Understand your role and function on the team. Identify other team member roles and functions. Understand the interrelated nature of roles and functions. Integrate your work with that of others.
4. Member Contributions: Contribute to team success by participating actively in execution of assigned roles. Watch for disengaged members and try to bring them back into the team. Do not continue without attempting to improve the situation.
5. Teamwork: Work as a team. Step outside your role to help teammates. Understand it is not enough for you just to help others--learn what caused the problem. There are several reasons for the need to help--an uneven distribution of workload, or an unwise employment of a member's expertise.
6. Debate the Issues: Everybody engages in reflective debate.
7. Personal Conduct: Adhere to norms for proper conduct in debate:
• Use neutral language and ordinary, nontechnical terminology.
• Discourage the use of "we-they" discourse.
• Avoid old grievances about historical injustices.
• Provide the team full access to information.
• Keep communication channels open.
• Focus on rationale rather than "positions."
8. Open Discussions: Speak your mind. But, do it in a way that does not jeopardize team unity. Avoid becoming emotional, and reverting to lingering rivalries.
9. Self -correct: Call "time out" to correct processes.
10. Team Evaluations: Take time to look at team processes. Be prepared to present your evaluation at the end of each session.
SECTION 5: Tactics for Dealing With Differences Among Team Members (Yates 1987)
1. Establish a sense of shared mission. An obvious, but critical task that provides a sense of self, fosters cooperation, controls fragmentation, and establishes member equity and contains defensiveness.
2. Create incentives to act. Deadlines, assigned responsibilities, and a structured process encourage all members to act and assume responsibility for team success. Time is money-produce something tangible and get it on the street.
3. Track evolution of problems and policy decisions. Tough problems trace a twisting course as they unfold. This influences the team's intuition about how policy has taken shape, how the problem evolved to its present state, and how organizations have responded.
4. Understand the stakeholders. Understand both personality traits and bureaucratic interests of the stakeholders. Team leaders of joint/interagency team's need to get an accurate view of how various stakeholders will react to team activities.
5. Deal with extremes and the middle. There is a tendency for extreme, strident voices to dominate debate. Team leaders need to control strident voices and give the silent middle a secure opportunity to present their temperate views. Moderate views often reduce conflict.
6. Search for common ground and a shared vision of the future. Most teams have a set of common needs, or "common ground," that should be identified and expanded. The search relies on open discussion, discovery of common needs, and agreement on objectives.
7. Address winning issues first. Begin debate on issues that can be easily resolved. This forms a habit of successful conflict resolution within the team. It reemphasizes that team success means working together in forging consensus.
8. Take decisive action by using an incremental approach. When intense conflict and resistance exist, a practical approach is to employ a step-by-step strategy in solving the problem. Bold decisions, implemented incrementally, gain headway while reducing tension.
9. Build a few "strawman" proposals in concrete terms. To improve reflective debate and focus discussions on tangible issues, assign someone to build a few proposals. Teams work exceptionally well when they have strawman proposals to discuss, compare, and modify.
10. Attend to the needs of the implementers. Nothing gets done unless the supervisor makes it so. Pay attention to the problems your decisions pose for those who must implement higher-level directives.
SECTION 6: Tactics to Accelerate the Decision Making Process-Fast Teams
1. Track real time information. Fast teams track real time information on the environment and current operations to develop an intuitive and deep grasp of the strategic situation. Fast teams focus on today's critical concerns and current organizational operations to learn what's going on and what works.
2. Build multiple, simultaneous alternatives. During the decision process, fast teams immediately begin to build alternatives, using the team's understanding of the situation and diversity of experience. They include options that may not have widespread support, and rely on comparisons in debate to sharpen their preferences.
3. Rely on the advice of an experienced counselor. Fast teams seek outside advice of an experienced, usually older, counselor to act as a sounding board for ideas or to provide insight into a wide variety of issues. They are selective in choosing an advisor who is respected by his or her colleagues.
4. Try for consensus, but don't delay deciding. When it's time to decide, fast teams use a two-step procedure called "consensus with qualification." They debate the issue and attempt to forge a consensus. If a consensus does not emerge after everyone has had their say, the leader makes a choice, guided by input from the team. All may not agree with the decision, but everyone has a voice in the process.
5 Integrate policy decisions and tactics. Fast teams integrate their decisions with other policy decisions. In deliberations of strategic options, they briefly discuss required tactical moves in a "quick and dirty" fashion. Then, they refine options as necessary. Fast teams are able to better implement decisions because they prevent many of the headaches resulting from disconnected tactics.
The practice of decision making in teams, and the selection of a consensus process seems required by the environment where strategic leaders toil. First, the notion of VUCA suggests that it is virtually impossible for a single individual to be able to provide a best course of action; issues are simply too complex, the interest groups too varied, and the implications too hidden for traditional decision making. Secondly, teams are the fundamental building blocks that represent the decision making infrastructure in large, complex organizations characterized by: differences in values, ethics, morals, and culture; the globalization of the economy; and, for the military, the absence of a well-defined military threat. In such a fluid, information-laden, fast-paced environment, the varied team processes, systems, tactics, and techniques available are tools that a skillful strategic leader can use in the pursuit of critical decisions affecting national security.
In addition, systems such as GroupWare offer new ways of making decisions electronically by allowing brainstorming techniques to be applied on line in classrooms, office spaces, or labs. The leader is able to design an electronic meeting, and the participants are able to suggest ideas, rank them, vote on them, and reach consensus in an electronic environment that also permits discussion and human interaction. The conjunction of such systems, with video teleconferencing, can eliminate the need for costs and delays associated with travel.