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How to Assure Major Support for Decisions

Posted By Michael Nothdurft On November 8, 2012 @ 02:00 In Corporate Social Responsibility, Leadership, Management | Comments Disabled

An experience I will never forget – together with my boss we agreed upon a strategic approach and we went into a meeting to achieve the approval of management team and the CEO. I presented the proposal and we started the decision taking process. The CEO had some reservations; I could dispel some of his concerns, but suddenly my boss argued against my proposal. He even mentioned that he had restrictions against my proposal. I felt like falling into a deep hole. Trusting this boss has been distroyed for ever. I call these people “submarines” – they are hiding and trying to knock you out.

I got used to the fact that from time to time leaders and managers are agreeing to proposals and decisions are taken. After the first arguments against this decision you can hear: “I didn´t like the decision, but I was forced to agree”; or even worse in front of their own people: “I am convinced that this decision is a wrong one, but I have to implement the decision, please do not complain; I am not in charge – it has been the CEO”.

During my time as manager and leader I communicated a lot before and after decisions and it is obvious that sometimes we have to take decisions that have no positive outcome for some people. In these cases, decisions are quite often in written form – but the explanation and communication with people always has to be face to face. As a leader you have to love people and have a real interest on them. Without them we would be nothing!!

I am right now working based on the values and rules of the Genuine ContactTM program and in this virtual organization

“we have implemented a decision making process that assures that everyone has been part of the decision making process and will support it.”

we have implemented a decision making process that assures everyone that has been part of the decision making process and will support it. And we take care that the “complete elephant” is present during this process. Please, never exclude someone of whom you believe that he might be against the planned decision.

We call this process “Five to fold”. The process is used in change processes and is normally executed in personal presence only at the beginning. However, as we are a virtual organization with members all over the globe, this process has now been transferred to online situations as well.

Read here how it works:

The proposal is presented by a sponsor. The proposal is in written form. A flip chart would be ideal, online it come with an e-mail.
The process is facilitated.  In some cases it could be useful to use an external facilitator who is familiar with the procedures. It works in online as well.

In the next step everyone can ask clarifying questions only – no comments, just questions. The facilitator has to assure that there are clarifiying questions only. At this step the sponsor could get important input for wording or misinterpretations.

Even in online meetings we are using a “talking object”. The person that has the talking object is allowed to speak; the other ones are respectfull listeners. The talking object is in the middle of the circle we are sitting in. Online we are drawing a circle and the participants are placing their names around it. Each speaker has to stand up, grab the object, go back to her seat and than she can speak. This gives enough time for the listeners to process what we have heard. This procedure is improving the quality of meetings tremendously.

The sponsor is allowed to answer and may find out that he/she has to fix something.

The following step gives the participants the chance to share his/her perspective, while commenting on the proposal.  With small or obvious proposals this often goes very quickly, but it is a step not to be skipped. The talking object is passed around the circle one time.  Only if you want to share some insights, opinions with the others you are invited to do so.

The sponsor will listen carefully, and it makes sense to have someone available taking notes.

After this step, the sponsor can decide if he would like to modify the proposal, keep it as it is or even skip it. If he/she modifies the proposal the first steps asking questions for clarification and sharing perspectives will be repeated. That may need some time; but in the end the participants really understand the content, the purpose and goal of the proposal.

Then there comes the time to vote. We are doing it with fingers or using voting features in online applications.

  • Showing five fingers means that I am fully support and will take leadership in implementing.
  • Four fingers give the signal that you are a strong supporter, but you will not necessairily take a leading role in implementation.
  • Presenting three fingers shows that you have a solid acceptance for the proposal.
  • With two fingers you are demonstarting that you have important reservations, but will support the implementation.
  • With one finger only you have very serious reservations, but you will not block it and will not subvert the proposal.
  • Showing the fold in front of your heart you are giving a veto! You are blocking the proposal as it is presenting damage to the purpose of the organization.

People who have voted with two, one or have blocked have to write down their reservations and reasons. These informations are very important for further decisions in similar cases. We rate these reports as big learning possibilities.

In my experience the steps of clarification questions and perspectives lead to the fact that proposals can be modified in such a way that the participants can easily support them.

And we are always learning a lot concerning the different angles of view, backgrounds, and we are more and more understanding the perceptions of diverse human beings.

If you have a really important issue to decide upon, something where you need everyone on board, “Five to Fold” can make a difference. The identity of the organization will be fostered and the common goals will beachieved much faster and with enthusiasm.

And I promise the submarines will leave your places.

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