Monday, February 15, 2010

The Importance of Strategic Dialogues - Part #1

THEME: New Year, More Challenges

FOCUS: The Importance of Strategic Dialogues - Part #1

Monday morning: February 15, 2010

Dear friends,

Every week now I meet more and more people who are overwhelmed by the amount of work that needs to get done. In a jobless recovery, more people are working more hours to just keep up with, what at times feels like a herculean set of tasks, i.e. a ton more work and fewer people to do it. And in the midst of all of this, we are leaders are not paying very close attention to one critical element, namely decision-making.

Every day decision-making is happening regardless of our presence. These decisions are impacting product development, customer service, strategic execution, and staff satisfaction and engagement. What we as leaders forget is that these decisions are not always being made in a conscious or thoughtful manner. Many of them are being made just to get past the current pile of work so that someone can get on to the next pile or stuff that presents themselves at the moment. Unconscious decision-making and poor decision-making is impacting our business every day.

Successful decision-making is a three stage process as outlined by Noel M. Tichy and Warren Bennis in their excellent article called “Making Judgement Calls: The Ultimate Act of Leadership”, Harvard Business Review, October 2007. As these authors point out, Stage #1 is the “Preparation Phase” where leaders identify what are the problems, frame them up within the context of what is happening and then mobilize and align people to understanding what and why this is a problem that needs a decision. Stage #2 is the “Call Phase” where the actual the moment of decision takes place. While many people think of this stage as a single moment of rational analysis based on knowable and quantifiable variables, the best leaders know it is a dynamic process influenced by multiple variables which are often outside of a leader’s direct circle of control or influence. The best leaders make decision that influence what is happening but also set up a framework for others to make successful decisions. Finally, Stage #3 is the “Execution Phase” when a a leader mobilizes resources, people, information and technology to support the decision.

During these cold winter days in the midwest and during this wacky jobless recovery where burnout and worry continues at an all time high, the missing piece for me this morning is a critical element in Stage #1. With so many people having their heads down and plowing through piles of work, they are making decisions unaware of the context of what is happening inside or outside the organization. “On to the next thing” is the new mantra. The value of strategic level dialogues between leaders and employees is that they create awareness and ultimately understanding of context. This level of awareness and understanding will change the quality of Stage #1 and Stage #2 actions. When done regularly, they will change Stage #3.

If we are seeking better results at work, then now is the time to schedule strategic level dialogues. During this time period of sharing and listening, we have the opportunity to expand awareness and understanding. We also over time will improve decision-making and collaboration.

This week figure out how you want talk with your people about the context of service not just the results of service.

Have a magnificent week,


Geery Howe, M.A.
Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer in
Leadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational Change

Morning Star Associates
319 - 643 - 2257

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