There are often situations in which you need to quickly formalize data in order to make a decision. Cutting endless discussions to the minimum and leveraging a reference model helps you step back, clear and organize your thoughts. I have always been fond of these tools that speed up the decision making process or give you a roadmap for action. Getting to Yes or Strategic Selling are kind of more elaborate ones that require some training before been mastered. But the following ones are simple and easy to use for an immediate pay back.
WHAT DO WE EXACTLY WANT?
The situation is quite usual. You have set up a meeting to discuss and precisely "define something", such as a pricing model or the structure of a commission plan (actually those are real life exemples for which I did use this approach in my current job).
Generally after a slow production period (people need to warm up...), participants start shooting a few inputs. Then the pace accelerates and ideas florish. The room temparture gets higher and people now react in real time to solutions given by others, often criticizing them ("That doesn't make sense...", "It's not going to work...", "I disagree, that's not fair...". Finally, ideas fly all around the room in a very unstructured way, letting you confused and stressed... as you have to summarize it up and get a consensus to move to the next step.
How could you structure this session to avoid the mess and get an usable output to move forward?
The principle is actually to step back and to first define the ATTRIBUTES OF THE SOLUTION you are looking for BEFORE producing a flow of unstructred ideas.
Here is an extremely simple framework that you can draw on a white board, and that is going to efficiently helps you and the team describe the attributes of the expected or ideal solution, while making sure you don't forget to look at it from any angle.
Give it a shot and you will see it works like magic!
With that done, you can now forget it (for a moment) and enjoy an energic brainstorming session. Just make the rules clear:
- People may say anything they want; there is nothing silly. They should not censor themsleves.
- Critic is NOT permitted.
- Ask participants to carefully listen to what is being said and always try to bounce back on the last input, making it better, associating ideas, sound, color, meaning...
- List ALL the ideas without any exception
- Sometimes when the production slows down, summarize the topic and all the ideas that have been produced. It gives the group a rest and a boost to move on again.
Finally you can go to the third and last step of the process, and analyze the inputs toward the initial attributes to keep, save or eliminate them. This final synthesis consists in framing, combining and eventually twisting the ideas to match at best the attributes of the ideal solution.
This is an easy, simple and very effective way to get results. Just try it!
WHO IS DOING WHAT?
Another extremely usual challenge is to define roles and responsibilities when creating a process or an action plan, and to make sure nobody is going to drop the ball or be kept out of the loop.
To make things clear for all the stakeholders, here are four basic roles you have to assign to individuals, groups or organizations in order to have a well understood and flawless process:
- Who is Responsible: the first step is to define the "owner" of the action or process, ideally the person (when two people or more are in charge, stuff are usually getting more complicated...) who will be in charge of making things happen.
- Who has to make Approval: the next question is to determine whether or not somebody should approve the decision or the output at the end of the day, such as a Director or VP who won't necessarily be participating to the discussions or work group, but will have to give a final "Yes", and has then a "veto power".
- Who has to be Consulted: when working on the issue, many people will have to be consulted to give their inputs along the way. It is important to list them all and don't forget anybody to avoid the risk of having them stand-up "after the facts" and say "We don't agree, and by the way we have not been asked our opinion, which is very unfair, even unacceptable".
- Who has to be Informed: some people will not be involved into the decision making process but should however be informed. Failing to do so could jeopardize or slow down the excution of the decision made and approved. Don't forget them.
Let's take a short example to really see how it works. Let's say we want to define a "new pricing model for a software solution".
Give a shot to this one too and let me know what you think.
How many times did you have to formulate a complain to a colleague, your boss or even a customer? This is a tricky exercise that often leads to a flat out "No way"...if not worse. This is unconfortable and usually we don't know how to start, neither how to conclude>
Here is a small model that will help you framing it into a very effective and usually very well acceptable way: DESC.
- Describe: the first step is to describe the situation with which you have an issue. You have to stay extremely factual and as objective as possible. Give facts and facts only, document eventually your claim with additional data from researches (comparisons, statistics, definition...). If you are familiar with Transactional Analysis, let's say that only your Adult is supposed to speak here.
- Express: this second step is quite different as you are going to express the feelings the situation is causing: frustration, stress, guilt, unsecurity, doubt... describe your emotions (you have first to identify them, which is not always easy). In term of Transactionnel Analysis, your Child is the one who speaks now.
- Specify: this third step consists in specifying a solution to solve this issue. Again you have to come back to a factual description: what has to be done, by who, when and with which resources. Be specific, precise and as clear as possible. This is your Adult who is back behind the wheel.
- Conclude: the last phase aims at showing the benefits, if applicable the "mutual benefits", of implementing the solution you have just proposed. This comes as a very natural next step of the previous ones and shows the positive consequences of doing the right thing to fix the torn situation.
Easy to remember thanks to the acronym (DESC = DESK) and extremely effective, this is a model I am often refering too, because he gives a very balance tune to your speech, mixing Adult and Child, facts and emotions, complqin qnd solution, without excluding the ones for the others.
That's it! Three easy to use models you can leverage on to simplify the world, get directions and finally a roadmap for actions in diverse situations. I would be interested to get your feedback if you give one of them a try. Looking forwards to reading from you.