May 2018. I have spent two days facilitating a seminar on strategy deployment with a bunch of motivated young intrapreneurs – middle managers empowered to run their business as if it was theirs. I based my coaching on the Goal Tree, a logic tool of choice among the Logical Thinking Process, totally suiting the purpose.
During these two days I probably learned as much as my audience, even so on very different aspects, and this makes the consultant’s job worth doing it. In this post I share some of my lessons learned.
Been told to deploy the strategy vs. bring your organization to the next level
Usually the Goal of an organization is defined by the founders, the owners or their delegates. Those people know why, what for the organization was created, why money was invested and what the organization is supposed to achieve. The Goal is set and it’s up to the subordinates to carry out the deployment of the necessary tasks to achieve it.
It is conversely unusual that the Goal can be (re)defined by young middle managers. Except in a culture fostering engagement and entrepreneurship, showing confidence, granting support and as much of wellbeing as possible to its talents.
It makes a huge different though if the Goal is set by a remote boss or committee with loose ties with the unit or if the future is defined by the managers running it and having their skin in the game every single day.
In my pleasant and uncommon experience, it was the latter that was done: the managers in charge defined the Goal and ambition for their unit, worked out the details of how to achieve it and “sold” the whole to their bosses. It was a great success and the CEO asked unexpectedly to work out an even bigger ambition.
Twenty minutes to define the Goal and three hours to work out the details
This is another benchmark in my own records working with management teams. The consensual Goal was defined with a compelling phrase in a matter of 20 minutes. This is, according to my experience, a very short time.
It shows how aligned the team of 12 members was, even before starting the work with goal setting and strategy deployment. I remember another case in which I had to struggle many hours to simply get enough acceptance from a management team about their boss’s Goal, despite the fact they worked on a daily basis with him… Their competitors are still safe I think.
The three hours to get to enough details of the underlying Necessary Conditions is consistent with my records, provided you don’t have a naysayer in the team. Now three hours don’t get you in every detail of the tasks to carry out, but give a sufficient picture to communicate and share with more people in the organization.
As my “students” soon realized, further details must be worked out with their subordinates in order to onboard them and let them be part of building their future. Themselves as managers had a clear enough picture of what must be done, how to align their staff to get it done and how to explain the whole scheme to their bosses.
A pure logic tool can leave some space for emotions
Before this seminar I always presented the Goal Tree as a pure logic tool filtering out the emotional side of things. From now on I have to amend my speech. First because applying my lessons by the letter, the first Goal statement my students came up with could only be compelling for the most fanatic accountants. As I gave my surprised feedback that such a Goal would not trigger many dreams of a desirable future, the reply was: “you told us that emotions have no place in the logic tools”.
Alright, I had to explain that the Goal statement was an exception for the sake of being compelling, otherwise nobody would possibly get thrilled by a series of numbers, i.e. the expression of the Goal in measurable units. Except for the already mentioned fanatic accountants.
The next place where emotion is welcome is in the room, in front of the brown paper where the Tree builders build their Goal Tree with sticky notes. The rational analysis of the Necessary Conditions to achieve the desirable scheme can be done with passion as long as it is positively driving the group and does not lead to fights. In the case this post is based on, it was a very positive and collaborative mood.
Third place (moment would be more adequate) where emotion is likely to show, and is in some extend welcome, is when the Goal Tree builders present their work and “sell” their project to their audience. Without emotion, even the most compelling written Goal statement may not move the audience as much as a passionate invitation to the journey to achieve it by the project presenters.
Except for the Goal statement, my initial stance remains valid. Emotion will not find its place in the Goal Tree itself.