Radical Action Conversations – Makes Great Teams

Radical conversations
Image Credits: http://www.teeveetee.blogspot.com

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!

How great is your team?

You have just boarded a plane which is already 4 hours late after being given hope that it was going to take off earlier many times resulting in multiple visits to the boarding gate and back to the waiting lounge. Then you sit in the air craft for one more hour without the air conditioning working and no proper explanation from the crew for the reason for the delay. After one hour you are asked to de-plane as there is a technical problem in the aircraft. A further 3 hours wait biting into a sandwich provided by the airline with no clear apology for the delay. Attempts to find out about connecting flights falling on deaf years of annoyed ground staff. Back on the plane that thank fully moves. But it stops again. Pilot announces that we are waiting behind 7 other aircrafts to take off as we had missed our original slot. And finally the plane takes off after a 9 hour delay.

How some people think of teams
Image Credit: http://www.dilbert.com


In this situation why do you think things went wrong? Who could have fixed it? Check-in manager? Pilot? head of Engineering? The CEO? Perhaps not anyone of them! Could it be all of them, if they had worked as one team? There could be individual hero’s who would have tried to make the passengers comfortable, speed up the boarding process etc. but it takes a team to make the difference.


Therefore it is clear we need teams when it is difficult for a group of people together to deliver a goal.

If you see similarities of the above situation in your workplace, perhaps you need to assess the quality of team work. Given below are the qualities of a great team. Rate your team against each of these qualities on a scale of 1 to 5, 1 being poor to 5 being excellent.

  1. We have burning Platforms that unifies team. Rating: _____

A burning platform is a critical task that needs to get done before a crucial dead line that requires real teamwork. EG: Getting the ERP system running before the beginning of the next financial year. Getting the new product into the market before the heavy buying season. John F Kennedy created a burning platform when he said lets get a man on the moon safely in a decade from now!

  1. There is clarity about our critical goals. Rating: _____

If our goals are clear we know what we should do and should not do. When the British rowing team was preparing for the Olympics and had to make a decision they asked the question, ‘will this make the board go faster?’ This helped them to turned down dinner invitations and even attend the opening ceremony.

  1. We have clearly agreed ways of working: _____

There are 4 possible ways of working based on the responsibilities and roles of the team. These levels include strategic, tactical, operational and interactive. It is important for the team to have clarity and alignment regarding this and to know which other related teams operates in which way with clarity of the interface relationships.

Continue reading “How great is your team?”

Does Top Talent always become a Top Team that delivers Top Performance?

Omar Khan 2012
Creator of Radical Action Conversations

Ever had a situation where you had top talent in your team perhaps a great track record of performance supported by great processes and a super brand, but with no results to justify these inputs.

In our leadership consulting work we have found one of the key reasons for this. This happens when top leadership does not recognize the fact that the fastest way to improve organizational results is through the key teams that are accountable for delivering that performance.

Organizations need to be strengthened horizontally not vertically, and by ratcheting up the capabilities of top teams, we can increase the value of our organizational assets ten-fold, and every penny invested, will give a hard dramatic ROI as each of these teams are in charge of strategic business results!!

Driving up business performance through our key teams require; growing our leadership throughout the team as way to driving key results, aligning teams so they can execute and get past blocks and plateaus, having an expanded concept of individual and team accountability, improving the quality of decision-making in ways that shows up on our bottom-lines and tangibly improving ‘conversational capacity’ through the ability to have radical action conversations.

Continue reading “Does Top Talent always become a Top Team that delivers Top Performance?”