Imagine it’s the end of a long day and you and some friends are just sitting down at a new restaurant you’ve all been excited to visit. Instead of bringing menus, the waiter says “Hey, we’ve been noticing that most people who come here at this time order grilled cheese…so, in order to save you time and effort, I just went ahead and got a grilled cheese cookin’ for each of you!”
At this point, if you’re anything like me, you’re actually pretty psyched because you love grilled cheese and you’re now going to get it really, really soon. But, I’m weird…Most people would probably laugh, look at each other in astonishment, then leave.
This is a pretty silly anecdote, but you know what’s even more ridiculous? When similar logic is applied to critical decisions on multi-million dollar technology projects…in healthcare…that ultimately affect people’s vitals and well-being.
Many of these disappointing results are completely avoidable, but because of the speed and complexity of work in large enterprises, they persist.
Throughout my career, no other pursuit has done more to equip me for these challenges than the pursuit of clarity. Here are 3 proven ways you can achieve it in your organization.
AIR OUT THE ASSUMPTIONS:
Everybody makes them, but few people are honest about the ones they are making. If you can establish enough trust with your stakeholders to openly state your assumptions, the groundwork is laid for organizational clarity.
As a management consultant, I’ve seen a remarkable thing happen when I’ve “entered the danger” of an ambiguous process and dared to share my assumptions: there’s a sigh of relief, then more people sharing their assumptions. The result is very often alignment and clarity. This is, of course, a delicate dance. Vulnerability and courage are necessary ingredients in this practice but must be tactfully applied.
For me, this starts with a list. And though I can’t possibly document every ambiguous process in my organization, I can at least identify the ones that routinely frustrate my team or department. When I get the time, I write out my own assumptions about each one. This allows me to both prioritize clarifying conversations, and know when to share a critical assumption at the right time.
REINFORCE THE AGENDA:
Meetings. If run well, they can be the highlight of your day and a source of inspiration; if run poorly, the bane of your existence. Every day in America, around 11 million formal meetings take place. and of those millions of meetings, guess how many have a formal agenda …about 37%. This is a depressing statistic considering how attempting an effective meeting without an agenda is like entering the Iditarod with a team of kittens.
Even with an agenda, it’s very possible to bite off more than you can chew. Meetings that create clarity have achievable agendas, not exhaustive ones. I’ve found it helpful to assign a time value to each agenda item. Often, those times are just in my head, but they help a great deal with scoping and prioritizing talking points. A well-set agenda will not only aid in driving clarity during the meeting. If used as a template for meeting notes, it can also powerfully reiterate decisions and action items that would otherwise be forgotten or misconstrued.
RALLY AROUND THE OBJECTIVE:
We’ve all been to that event before. You know the one I’m talking about…where everyone, even the organizer is thinking …”I could be watching Netflix right now.” It’s what all bad events, projects, workflows, and organizations have in common…nobody can explain why they exist.
Determining the objective for something can be a relatively simple exercise, but I’d like to suggest looking inward before looking outward. Have you ever taken time to discern, after considering your capabilities, what’s your bottom line? What value must you add in order to meet the requirements of your role? It can then be helpful to consider what’s beyond the scope of your assignments and determine an objective around the value you wish to provide. Anybody can do this, but very few take the time to achieve this level of clarity around their own contributions.
Once you’re aligned on why you exist, you’re much better prepared to lead your team through clarifying its own identity and mission. No matter how long a person, team, or process has been in place, it can always benefit from you helping to clarify its objective.
Want to learn more about how the pursuit of clarity can help with your everyday business challenges? Contact me directly and let’s open a dialogue: firstname.lastname@example.org