165 – Decision making: How dialogue becomes action

Posted by Lancing Farrell                                                                                             960 words

emperors new clothes

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This last post in the series on decision making discusses the importance of design operating mechanisms that promote free flowing and productive dialogue to enable decision making. The setting in which dialogue occurs is as important as the dialogue itself.

 Ram Charan says this will be evident in the social operating mechanisms if people feel able to speak with ‘openness, candour, informality and closure’. He discusses each in turn:

  • Openness means that the outcome is not predetermined. There is a willingness to hear all sides in a safe atmosphere of ‘spirited discussion, learning and trust’.
  • Candour is willingness for people to speak the unspeakable, to expose unfulfilled commitments, to air the conflicts that undermine apparent consensus. People express their real opinions, not what they think team players are supposed to say. Candour helps eliminate the ‘silent lies and pocket vetos’ that occur when people agree to something that they have no intention of doing. It prevents reworking and revisiting decisions and reducing performance.
  • Informality encourages candour. Formality suppresses it. Informality also reduces defensiveness.
  • Closure imposes discipline. At the end of a meeting people know exactly what they are expected to do. It produces decisiveness by assigning accountability and deadlines to people in an open forum.

In local government there can be a notable lack of candour – speaking up can have consequences. Continue reading

161- Decision making: Dealing with indecisiveness.

Posted by Lancing Farrell                                                                                  1100 words

dilbert indecision

This is the fifth post in a series. Some organisations, like some people, just can’t make up their minds. Ram Charan believes that leaders can eradicate indecision by changing the tone and content of the everyday conversations occurring throughout the organisation. This is difficult in local government where CEO’s and top management are often insecure and sensitive to challenge.

Breaking a culture of indecision will require leaders to challenge assumptions, share information, and bring disagreement to the surface. Charan offers the following example to highlight the signs of indecision:

A presentation is made to a meeting about a proposed project. There is silence until the CEO speaks and asks questions that show they have taken a position on the matter and made up their mind. Then others speak up to agree with the CEO, keeping their comments positive.

It appears that everyone supports the project. But, some are concerned and keeping their reservations to themselves. Over the next few months the project is slowly strangled to death.

It is not clear who killed it but it is clear that the true sentiment in the room after the presentation was the opposite of the apparent consensus.

The key issue is that the true sentiment is the opposite of the apparent consensus. Charan says that ‘silent lies and lack of closure’ can lead to a false decision that is undone by unspoken factors and inaction.

How often does this happen in local government? Continue reading