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  • Tara Rethore

Does your team behave like a holiday-gone-wrong movie?

'Tis the season for communal re-viewings of "holiday gone wrong" movies. And for the realization that, sometimes, the dysfunctional behaviors on the screen are similar to ones we've seen in our workplaces.


Business dysfunction is a regular guest in business: permeating meetings, impeding decisions, and disrupting strategy.

As we approach the holiday season, it’s worth taking a moment to identify our own dysfunctional management practices and take real steps to eliminate them. dysfunction of the situation. And unfortunately, dysfunction is often a regular guest in business: permeating meetings, impeding decisions, and disrupting strategy.


Three tips to eliminate common dysfunctions that prevent good strategy execution:


1. Go beyond ‘buy-in’. Reflect on your week. How many times have you heard about or referred to ‘buy-in’? The term has become ubiquitous in our conference rooms and around the water cooler – so much so, in fact, that it’s lost much of its meaning. Yet obtaining buy-in – or colloquially: a commitment to or support for achieving a shared goal – is truly important in advancing an initiative or idea. It’s also critical to executing strategy.


In practice, however, buy-in is confused and overused. Why? We fail to recognize that there are two types of buy-in: buy-in for acceptance and buy-in for approval. Most of us assume we get to approve (or disprove) the idea; not true. In reality, most often we are asked to accept and thus, support the path forward. We don’t get to approve! But that’s rarely said out loud. Furthermore, acceptance doesn’t require that we like the concept; it just means we understand and agree to move forward. So, the next time you seek buy-in:

Tell the audience explicitly what you need from them: buy-in for acceptance or for approval.

2. Specify decision rights. Accountability and decision-making are two huge enablers of successful strategy execution. Most of us know this; yet few do this well. Just search for ‘decision making process’; Bing surfaces +29MM results!


With our clients, we agree on and use a common decision framework for every project and in every meeting. Moreover, we specify explicitly which decision model will be used to take each critical decision. Sometimes, we decide by consensus; at other times, the boss takes an autonomous (or ‘executive’) decision.

Use a common decision framework and be explicit about each person’s role in the decision – at the outset.

Knowing my role in taking the decision allows me to contribute appropriately. That clarity drives transparent decisions. And, it promotes buy-in for acceptance because I understand.


3. Think ‘outcomes’. Have you ever been invited to a meeting without a clue as to why? Perhaps your agenda merely lists discussion topics? Or, you leave the meeting wondering what was actually achieved? No one enjoys those situations! And they drain productivity. Instead, we prefer to focus on outcomes.

Define and articulate what you expect to learn, do, or decide as a result of the meeting.

Those outcomes then become the basis for your agenda – and thus, why each person is invited. Take it a step further: indicate whether you are sharing information (perhaps resulting in shared understanding) or processing information (e.g., to drive a decision). Complete the trifecta by stating how you’ll take the decision for each topic. Now, not only do I know why I’m invited, I’m also thinking about the implications of the conversation and meeting for my area. Thinking and expressing desired outcomes enhances the effectiveness of the participants and drives action – before, during, and after the meeting.


This year, let’s resolve to avoid a ‘holiday-gone-wrong’ situation in our businesses. Choose just one of these tips and apply it in your own work, with your own teams and projects. In that way, you take strategy off the page and into action.