Three steps for driving consensus in decision-making
August 31, 2009, 6:08am PDT | Length: 00:04:24
Today's episode of CIO Sanity Savers passes along a few tricks that can help you bring diverse groups together and enable effective decision-making.
Jason Hiner: It's difficult to imagine how any CIO can be successful without being skilled at consensus-building. Whether you're leading a planning process, hammering out product specifications, or working with other business leaders to identify possible budget cuts, you need to be skilled at bringing a diverse group of opinionated leaders and executives into alignment.
Don't get wrong, consensus-building is tough for even for the most accomplished leader, but the higher you climb up the corporate ladder, the more critical this skill becomes.
I'm Jason Hiner, and today on CIO Sanity Savers, I'll pass along a few tricks that can help you bring diverse groups together and enable effective decision-making.
Number 1: Define the process and the ground rules
The setup is the most critical aspect of any process. A wise CEO once said that the majority of business disagreements were due to conflicting assumptions. So if you explain upfront how the process works, why you're doing it, what you expect from participants, and what's on the table and what ISN'T, you can eliminate a lot of unproductive churn and set up your decision-making process to arrive at a consensus.
Number 2: Make it THEIR process and not yours
You may be the leader or facilitator, but everyone else in the room is there to express their views, debate, and make decisions. Design the process to include heavy participation so they feel as if it's their process and your role is solely to help them reach consensus.
If you appear to be pushing a viewpoint too vehemently, your role is tainted. Senior managers and executives do not like to be told what to do, especially by a peer or outsider. But if their voices are heard and there's ample participation and debate, you can be more authoritative in driving alignment without appearing to be pushing an agenda.
Number 3: Don't forget to close the deal
You'd be amazed how many executives lead an entire process over weeks of meetings and never close the deal. Remember that until you finalize and document decisions, conclusions, and plans, you leave the door open for continued debate. Make sure you define success with appropriate goals and metrics.
For some big decisions, it's wise and appropriate to bounce tentative conclusions off the CEO or the board of directors or even outside analysts or consultants under nondisclosure. If that's the case, then bring that feedback to the process and THEN finalize. For strategy changes or big entries into new markets, it's worth an extra iteration and often lends weight and credibility to the process.
Like all business executives, CIOs need to be skilled at building consensus. But developing that skill usually requires a lot of practice. The techniques we've considered here -- defining the process, making sure the participants "own" the process, and finalizing the plans you've made -- will help you bring a group into alignment so that you can make sound, actionable decisions.
To go deeper on this topic, see the original article from Steve Tobak over at TechRepublic's sister site BNET, which is a great source of practical advice for business managers.
I'm Jason Hiner and this has been an episode of CIO Sanity Savers. For more, go to sanity.techrepublic.com. And if you have questions or your own sanity savings tips, e-mail them to us at email@example.com. For those of you on Twitter, you can find me at twitter.com/jasonhiner. Thanks for watching. See you next time.