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STRATEGY

Tough Decision? Get Alignment Without Consensus: 3 Ways

Here's a bulletproof process for getting a diverse and opinionated management team on the same page.

We were trained as strategy consultants before building Avondale, but we've never really believed that strategy was the magic elixir that many "gurus" have claimed. These days, management teams have the building blocks to develop strategy, even if they don't have a world-class MBA education.

It's always been clear to us that successfully developing and executing strategies is about getting alignment within the management team. We all have witnessed the never-ending debates about one strategy vs. another. It's extremely tough to get a diverse and opinionated management team on the same page. It's even tougher, if not impossible, to create a uniform consensus within this group. The debates can be frustrating and turn into a giant time-suck.

How can you get alignment without consensus? It can be done, if you follow these four steps:

1.  Get the facts.

Make sure the team has the facts they need. The most common reason for misalignment is the lack of facts or different assumptions that are not based on solid facts. Spending some time and effort to get the facts, often results in quicker and easier alignment. If you find that your team doesn't have the facts it needs to have a useful discussion, don't waste time - table the discussion and go gather the facts.

2.  Consider the alternatives.

Understand what other decisions or investments are available. Identifying various options helps frame the discussion around the best alternative.

3.  Try for consensus.

Consensus is always best if it can be established quickly and efficiently. But many times it can be a laborious process. Determine whether the two steps above get the group closer to a common view on path forward. If not, don't fret ... just move on.

Discuss, debate, and commit. Knowing that consensus is a futile exercise, ask individuals in the group to present both sides of the story. These should be fact-based arguments for one path or the other. Then the CEO or leader should make a decision - to which everyone agrees to commit.

Many management teams struggle with committing to a decision without consensus, even if the CEO makes it. But the magic is in the process. Most management teams that go through all four steps are more willing to commit to a decision, even if they didn't agree with it, because each individual was given the opportunity to gather and present facts, identify alternatives, and state their case. This exercise typically results in reasonable individuals supporting the decision of the CEO.

Share your successes and struggles with gaining alignment among your leadership team.  Send us an email at karlandbill@avondalestrategicpartners.com.

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Last updated: Jun 25, 2012

KARL STARK AND BILL STEWART | Columnist | Co-founders, Avondale

Karl Stark and Bill Stewart are managing directors and co-founders of Avondale, a strategic advisory firm focused on growing companies. Avondale, based in Chicago, is a high-growth company itself and is a two-time Inc. 500 honoree.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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