In my blog post on the 7th of May 2014 titled ‘How great is your team?’ I promised to go into details of the 11 different aspects that make a great team. The first eight aspects regarding ‘Burning Platforms’, ‘Team alignment around critical goals’, ‘Clearly agreed way of working?’ ‘A great decision making process’, ‘Information flow is encouraged’, ‘Great leaders don’t mince their words’, ‘Positive Crisis’ and ‘ Great Conversations’ have already been posted in this blog. Here is the ninth installment; ‘Radical Action Conversation’.
Radical Action Conversations are authentic. They go beneath the surface and deals with ‘adaptive’ issues that hinders real execution. Such conversations deals with engagement issues, honesty issues, relationship issues etc. that people may generally try to avoid to maintain false harmony. It encourages team members to be in ‘Adult’ mode rather than ‘Parent’ or ‘Child’ mode as described in ‘Transactional Analysis’. Such conversations are about identifying and dealing with assumptions team members make in their decisions, prejudices, actions, relationships etc.
Consider this. Your organization is working on a product launch that requires coordination between planning, manufacturing, marketing, sales, legal, finance and supply chain teams. The project is running late and at the current speed the launch could be delayed by more than 2 months. This can give a major advantage to the competitors who are working on a similar product to meet the same need of the customer.
The discussions at the management meetings are very technical. They speaks about the delay in finding the right raw materiel, delay in gearing up distributors and delay in configuring machines in the factory. The team discusses this and decides on some steps to speed up, but the situation is the same at the next meeting. The team resorts to unproductive conversations such as fake, dormant and aggressive conversations to avoid facing the real issues. See my blog post ‘Great Conversations’ for more details of unproductive conversations.
This becomes a radical conversation when the team starts talking about the adaptive aspects such as the trust issues between the marketing and sales manager, the integrity concerns of the supply chain manager and the competency concerns of the factory manager. The team starts focusing on facts, when the focus changes to transforming rather than debating reality, when there is willingness to challenge and explore assumptions, when tough decisions are made based on these conversations and when clarity of accountabilities and commitments are achieved. Discussions at future meetings focus on tracking actions decided, agreeing on course corrections required and ensuring execution with both discipline and speed.
Such Radical Action Conversations will see relationships growing rather than cliques being fostered and team capability clearly growing through the engagement. Radical Action Conversations requires skill and courage and it takes a lot of effort to develop team with this capability. However this is not just useful but essential for a great team!