Frustrated Frank: I really wish you would’ve let me know before you made that decision.
Hard Charging Hanna: Sorry. I thought we were moving forward based on my conversation with Joe.
Frustrated Frank: Well, Joe didn’t have all the information when you talked with him. This affects my team in big time. In fact, team Susie got wind of the decision and came into my office and hit the ceiling. I don’t blame her. I was mad too.
Hard Charging Hanna: Look, I’m not trying to cut in on your team, but we have to keep things moving or will never get anything done. Do you want to include EVERYONE in EVERY decision?
Frustrated Frank: “I don’t call including ME or my team ‘everyone.’”
For over 25 years, as I’ve coached work and interest-based tribes, I’ve heard the conversation (above), or one like it, many many times. People have a propensity to move forward with important initiatives, projects or actions without including important stakeholders in the decision, communication or change process. This misstep can endanger the possibility of progress toward the goal. Stakeholders who not appropriately included up front can intentionally or unintentionally slow or thwart the change process. The frustration of being left out of the loop can lead to inappropriate reactions and even sabotage. Not to mention that it takes more time to orient stakeholders who are not initially included and often increases rework.
Why do we sometimes move too fast and leave people out?
Hanna’s fear (in the scenario above) is real. People can over-talk decisions to a point where nothing seems to get done. We become leery of more talk because it feels like time is wasted with each new round. However, the way to overcome over-talking is not with a “no or low-talk rule.” Instead, dialogue about decisions should include the right people at the right time. This may initially slow the process down a bit, at the beginning, but in the long run it enables you to zoom because you avoid the trouble Hanna and Frank encountered.
A healthy conversational process includes the right people up and downstream for three reasons:
- To consider the value of the decision.
- To evaluate possible consequences and implications. People with different perspectives see different possible consequences and implications
- To anticipate –as much as possible– what it will take to make the change/decision a reality. NOTE: This is something leaders frequently underestimate since they often don’t do the actual work associated with a proposed change.
A number of years ago, I worked with a group of organizational leaders who were wrestling with the need to improve dialogue and participatory leadership. Together we came up with the following questions they determined they would ask when considering changes or entering a decision making process. You may want to develop something similar for your tribe. Here are the questions:
- Which affected groups need a courtesy communication PRIOR to the announcement but don’t need to be included in the decision process?
- What stakeholder groups will be directly affected by this decision and how should they influence the decision and/or communication of the decision?
- What stakeholder groups have a view on the issue that should be considered prior to any decision?
- What affected stakeholders need input into the decision?
- Which groups can be told after the decision is made and in what order should the be informed?
- What is the entire communication sequence–from those stakeholders who need to be involved in the decision, to those that need to be informed after it?
What questions would you add?