Last week was the final sitting week of Federal Parliament for the year, a week that, in this country, often sees leaderships terminated and ministers taken out with the “Christmas rubbish”. This year though, we saw old, festering legislation finally dealt with (they had “2013” in the title), sending government members home relieved to start 2017 with, just maybe, a new agenda.
There are reflections here for all of us. How many things on your professional agenda remain unfinished, untidy, uncertain, unauthorised? I’m not talking about the easy stuff at the end of the to do list, no. I’m talking about the stuff that you’re avoiding because it’s hard to get consensus from the people you work with.
Ask yourself: do you really want to come back to work in 2017 with the same design problems hanging over you and your team? Or do you want to come back with the renewed energy that comes from some decent sleep and, more importantly, real alignment?
To give yourself the best chance of success, it’s a basic two-step process:
1. Put everyone in a room, be transparent about the unresolved issues, and don’t leave until you’re done fixing them; and
2. Document the new design with clarity and care, such that everyone can read and understand it with sufficient detail.
Sounds naïve and simplistic? Well, it’s not as easy as it sounds and it will often challenge your leadership.
Here’s why. You’ll need to convince people your problem is real and important in the first place. They may be in denial about the issues, or only interested in their part of it, perhaps at the expense of the total system. And they’ll almost certainly be occupied with other things and holding out for Christmas.
Then, you’ll need to book them all in for a long conversation. And one hour won’t cut it. That’s barely enough time to understand the issues from a single point of view, let alone address them. So go ahead and try to book a longer meeting in their calendars. Impossible? Now go and see the difficult people face-to-face and convince them to change their schedules.
But here’s a tip. While you’re talking to everyone, don’t be wasteful. Get a sense of what’s dear to them so you can formulate where the viable design options lie. By the time you get to the meeting, you can clearly articulate the various dimensions of the issues but also the common goals that exist. When there’s visibility and empathy across the team, innovation becomes possible.
Finally, if you get consensus, you really are negligent if you don’t write it down properly and share it soon after. When is your documentation good enough? When people like to share it because it’s useful to them. And it’s useful to them when it untangles complexity and empowers them to be informed advocates.
Only then will your consensus stick until the new year.