In order to bring out about change in organization, to facilitate decision making, and effective communication we have to do the following.
People should have conversations.
Some conversations are horizontal conversation, where you talk to other departments or peers related to you.
Or they can be vertical conversation, where you speak to your manager or your subordinates.
The conversations are not idle chatter or gossip, they have an aim: surfacing/identifying conflict. Assuming any two individuals agree on everything is folly. Many times those agreements are not surfaced out of “niceness” etc. If there is a thing you and me disagree on, and it has impact on how we do things, its imperative we identify such conflicts and resolve them.
Every plan is a series of steps where two people disagree on how to proceed.
Are you convinced the decisions you have taken, CEO will agree on? Are you convinced the way you have decided to do things is optimal for call center staff?
All conflicts belong to two kinds: goal conflicts or solution conflict. Solution conflicts are of two kinds: fundamental conflicts or incidental conflicts.
Goal conflicts can unravel organizations.
Solution conflicts may mean we are not making as much money as we can, not growing as much as we can, are not as lean as we can be (or whatever the goal of orgniazation is).
Goals are not limited to high level “customer comes first” kind goal, every activity in an organization has specific goals.
Goals are graphs often interlaced with solutions. Every goal conflict analysis bubbles to top. Ultimate understanding can only be achieved by looking at the whole, instead of just a part.
Fundamental (solution) conflicts are about two (or more) solutions having fundamental differences, as against incidental differences.
Incidental conflict means there are two solution, that are fundamentally similar, there is no substantial difference between the end result from either of solution, both solutions are good enough or have very minor differences.
Fundamental conflicts means one solution implemented/considered is fundamentally superior or infirior to other, and makes substantial difference in the outcome.
Understanding if a conflict is fundamental or incidental is essential, and gives us hints on how to resolve them.
In case of incidental conflicts, the important thing is we do quick consensus, ensuring that whatever solution is picked, there is strict adherance to it. Doing a coin toss, and giving strict instruction to everyone involve to follow the line can be suffecient, with focus on the later part. Coin toss, rock paper scissor, tea leaf reading are all cool.
For fundamental conflicts, painstakingly proving through analysis etc that indeed one solution is superior than other is crucial. Here there is no urgency, urgency can spoil things. Tactical-de-urgency-fying is crucial is some immediate decisions are needed for keeping the lights on like business function.
Conflicts are resolved when we achieve consensus. Not only must a resolution exists, everyone sitting in the room must agree with the consensus.
Having too many people in the room can act as hinderance with doing conflict resolution and consensus building.
Resolution consensus itself are of two flavours: consensus-consensus or authoritarian-consensus.
Consensus-consensus is arrived when everyone in the room has weighed every pro and con, the analysis, and has either agreed with the resolution or agrees that they are not fully convinced, and yet they do not have any counter arguments, so they have decided to agree with the resolution and have given their full go ahead, their full commitment that they are not going to continue the “conversation”, and are going to throw their entire weight behind making the resolution a success, even though they disagree.
Authoritarial-consensus, on the hand, is arrived at when the discussions don’t arrive at a resolution, or if the analysis is not being performed in rigerous/systematic fashion etc. This is done by someone senior saying this is, I am taking some decision based on gut or some high level intution etc, and resolution entails rest of the people agreeing with the decision.
An organization that tends to take authoritarial-consense over consenses-consensus does so because either dysfunctional hiring, fail to hire people with rigour and logic training, or dysfunctional leadership, a whim driven leadership, or leadership lacking cohesive vision. Even these organization do better than organization that do not arrive at consensus, and everyone is going what they feel like, becoming a completely dysfunctional organization.
Consensus are hard to arrive, and are ephemaral, tend to evaporate almost as soon as the meeting is over.
The purpose of codifcation is to solidify the consensus.
It must not only codify the conensus, but also the process, starting with the original conflict, the onerous meetings to arrive at consensus, various proposals offered, the basis of their dismissal, and so on.
If we simply codify the decision it is not enough, people will forget that the alternatives they may arrive at after hearing of the decision, was already discussed, and dismissed. If we do not justice to dismissal, a person who favours that alternative may wrongly believe that the decision making session was not adequate, and had they be present, they would have done a better job of advocating the alternative, and may be the alternative would have prevailed.
This lead to that individual either declaring the organization to whimsical, not taking decisions properly, or spending time making a case for their alternative, and hoping to have meetings with others to convince them of same.
This can especially backfire if those individuals go on believing their ideas are not being heard, even though the idea was heard and legitimately dismissed, leading to certain individuals to become demoralised.
Once a resolution has been identified, it must be communicated organization wide.
Communication must travel up, your boss, and their boss, and so forth must have a way to review the resolution (and the entire process if they feel a wrong resolution has taken place).
Communication is not just a passive process, its a two way process, the resolution must be communicated to the boss, and bosses acknowledgement that they have understood the resolution and agreed with it, must be taken. This must happen at every level of heirarchy.
Since bosses and their bosses are going to be busy, communication involves preperation of additional executive summary documentation, summarizing the decision, consolidating multiple decisions, squeezing it into smaller and smaller pieces as it travels up.
Yet allowing any person in the entire heirarchy an easy access to dig deep in case they disagree with the decision.
Similarly the decisions must be beefed up with further details, and communicated downwards. Every soldier must be aware of their marching orders in exact detail.
Communication must be organization wide.
Communications lead to conversations.