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How Team Development Helps Businesses Make Hard Decisions

Zagreb, Croatia – September 21, 2014: Young athletes train rowing on the Lake Jarun

I was asked by a Federal Government client for a proposal for a 3-day facilitation. The audience was managers who had science and technical backgrounds. Everyone knew each other, though they were in different locations across New England. The “easy” cost savings has already happened, and the organization needed to cut services because of flat or declining revenues and constant upward pressure on costs. Some hard decisions had to be made, some people wouldn’t like the outcomes, and emotions would likely run high. There would be one day of team building and two days of facilitated work. I was asked what I would do in Day 1.

Here’s what I proposed, and why.

  1. Team development module, using the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI)
  2. Conflict Management module.
  3. Develop Ground Rules for the group
  4. Be clear on the Decision-Making process
  5. Change Management

Team Development module, using the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI).

In almost every team I’ve ever worked with, personality differences cause stress and misunderstandings. The Introverts wonder why the Extraverts won’t stop talking, and the Extraverts wonder what the Introverts are thinking. The people who like data get annoyed by the “ideas people” who don’t have their feet on the ground. The people who like making rational decisions get frustrated by the people who make decisions based on values and feelings. The people who like to keep things open as long as possible get annoyed by the people pushing for fast decisions. etc… I personally believe that we need all personality types to make the best decisions and with some awareness and training people will see personality differences as a strength rather than a problem.

Conflict Management module.

Conflict is inevitable in teams. In some teams there is open warfare. In others, conflict is avoided until something blows up. In other teams conflict is seen as healthy and is managed constructively. With training and awareness, conflict can go from something that is dreaded to something that gives the team energy, gets all ideas on the table, and gives the team better business results.

Develop Ground Rules for the group

When things heat up in teams (as they do when discussing cuts to programs, budgets and headcount) people will inevitably get testy with each other. Having a good set of Ground Rules ahead of time allows “process checking” to rein in people before they say things they might later regret. If the ground rules say things like “we will treat each other with respect” or “we will listen to all opinions before making decisions” when anyone doesn’t do that, they can be called out on it.

Be clear on the Decision-Making process

When difficult decisions need to be made it’s important to know ahead of time what the criteria for the decisions are, and who gets to make the decision… In the case of cost cutting and eliminating programs…

  1. Will decisions be by consensus?
  2. Will they be by voting?
  3. Will the leader have the final say?
  4. Is the output a recommendation that gets approved higher up?

Change Management

All changes go through a predictable cycle and it’s helpful for the managers in the meeting to understand the process they will go through, and that their staff will also go through. Knowing the process will help managers help themselves and to lead their people through the change cycle effectively.  

If you have some difficult decisions coming up and want your team to be rowing in the same direction, please get in touch…

David Green

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