To achieve success, business leaders need agreement from their executive team. For example, if you want your company to grow faster, you need a new business strategy and a team that is able to follow that strategy to achieve faster growth.
To do that you must lead a process that invents a growth strategy, plans for implementation, and drives execution. You must overcome three big obstacles:
- Whomever you exclude from the team you assemble for this exercise could undermine the outcome
- The team members you select may compete for resources that benefit their group over the needs of the whole company
- While you should strive to make everyone affected by the change happy about it, you may have to make some people unhappy to achieve its desired results
Here are six steps leaders can take to reach agreement on a change in your company's direction.
1. Create a team by balancing inclusion and decisiveness.
To get your people to agree to change, you must balance the desire to make everyone feel included with the need to get results. To square that circle leaders should think of the change as an experiment from which the company can learn and improve. Create a team with the skills essential to making that experiment work.
For example, the leader of a team of college instructors was seeking to make fundamental improvements to a course that they all taught. Rather than include all the professors who would teach the course in the next two years, the leader staffed the redesign team only with the instructors teaching the course in the next semester. In that way, the leader increased the chances that the smaller design team would reach agreement on the course redesign in time to try it in the next semester.
To win the support of the professors who were scheduled to teach the course in the more distant future, the leader asked their opinion and sought their advice on how to conduct the experiment and what they should expect to learn from it.
2. Agree on the most pressing reasons for change.
Once the team is selected, the leader must reach consensus around articulating the most pressing reasons for making a change. For example, the leader of a business that's suffering from slowing growth and declining market share should seek consensus that the company's top priority should be achieving more rapid growth.
3. Ask each team member to present a solution to the group.
Lead the team to brainstorm options for achieving the goal. Ask the team to explain why the company is facing the problem -- say, loss of market share -- that needs to be solved. If the team doesn't know, commission objective research that leads to fact-based answers.
Each team member should then present and defend the rationale for their best solutions. Leaders should not criticize the ideas -- instead they should praise what they like about them and ask questions to clarify their understanding of the proposals.
If you've done this right, your team will feel that you have listened carefully and respect their thinking.
4. Present a solution that blends the best of the team member's ideas.
Each member of your team could have different proposals. Think about each one and formulate a solution that combines the best ideas from each team member and will most effectively achieve the purpose of the change process.
Consider the professor who is leading a course redesign aimed at reducing the amount of time instructors must spend on grading. One member of the teaching team proposes replacing individual student papers with a group paper. Another instructor wants to add individual machine-graded quizzes. The professor's blended proposal could include both ideas.
5. Request each team member's feedback on the proposal.
Next, present your proposed solution and solicit feedback from your team. Do this by creating a shared spreadsheet that can be edited and viewed in real-time by all your team members. Ask each team member to state whether they agree or disagree with each element of your proposal and explain why.
6. Vote on a revised version of the change in strategy.
Once everyone can see the feedback of each team member, you should be able to achieve a consensus by making relatively minor changes to the proposal. If your team agrees, you should be on your way to executing the proposal and achieving the desired results.