Successful Teams Focus on Achieving Results, Not on Being Right.

Rules for becoming a facilitator of succcess

Projects and new initiatives are often the result of some visionary having an idea that specific results can be achieved if only they had a new system. Often the visionary has little or no idea what it takes to implement his or her vision, but then again this has never been a requirement for an idea.

Inside many projects is hidden a can of worms just waiting for the implementers to discover. Subject matter experts can speed up a project by identifying the can of worms before work begins, thereby eliminating many of the project hurdles before they are encountered. But the difference between seasoned professionals and those who may have many years of experience with few real successes is their attitude towards these hurdles. Some view their participation as a way to ensure a successful project, while others view their role as one who's job is to discover cans of worms.

The can of worms detectors are far too common especially in organizations where bureaucracy prevails. Each step along the way flags are raised and decisions must be made, but they are done in such a way that the visionary is made to feel inadequate for not having thought of the issue ahead of time. Alternatively, the decision points focus too heavily on the technology and choosing the one right way instead of a way that works (lets form a committee and ensure a decision is never made). Eventually if the can of worms detector is not removed from the project, only one of two things will occur. The project will go way over budget or alternatively the visionary will lose interest and cut funding for a project that is either destined to fail, or has become a source of aggravation for the visionary who once championed its cause.

To be successful, the specialist must see him or herself as a facilitator of success. The job function is simply to "make things happen." The easy part is to be proactive and lay out a logical progression of steps and identify decision points along with options and recommendations based on the stated criteria. The challenge for the specialist who must deal with a visionary is to guide the process through these decision points that may or may not be visible to the uninitiated, and do so in such a way as to not lose the visionary's interest (often caused by focusing on technical details). Through tact, diplomacy, and creative spins, the experienced specialist guides the visionary through the decision points so as to continually move towards the goal rather than throw up roadblocks.

There is a big difference between simply being involved in a project, and actually guiding the process. Here is a quick checklist to determine if you have a can of worms detector on your team:

  • Do your people wait until a decision point arises before they speak up, or are they proactive?
  • Do they simply raise issues without a plan to investigate, or do they present alternatives?
  • Do they take it one step further and make educated recommendations on the best course of action, if so, commend them for it.
  • Do they readily take educated input towards decisions or aggressively defend their position? (Holding firm on one's position is sometimes required, as long as the position is not a close minded one, and the project continues to move forward)
  • Do they appropriately recognize the high-level process or only follow minutely detailed steps?
  • Do they insist on doing things only one way (the unproductive theoretical right way) or do they focus instead on "making things happen?"

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