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How to convert thinking and behaving diversity into effective decision-making process during the meetings.

03.03.2013

One of my customers - a training company requested me to recommend how to make a more effective decision making process for company’s top team members. The company has relatively small size with five top executives. 
The company top team has tri-modal combined Emergenetics (EG) profile, meaning that team has three thinking preferences (each 23% or greater). (Please note that all reasoning about combined profiles is speculative and the purpose of the report is to stimulate self-analysis.) 
The pie chart illustrates top team preferences for Structural thinking, Social thinking, and Conceptual thinking. Top team has one thinking preference from the “left” brain (Structural), and two from the “right” brain (Social and Conceptual). This gives to the “brain’ a slight bias for the intuitive and inspired over the logical and rational. Team also has two thinking preferences (Structural and Social) that are concrete and one (Conceptual) that is abstract, giving the concern for details and practical matters a slight edge over theorizing and speculating.
The gift of a tri-modal profile is the ability to empathize with other ways of thinking. Members of top team being together can understand nearly anyone due to high level of team cognitive and thinking diversity.
Top team Expressiveness, Assertiveness and Flexibility are in the “It Depends” category. This means that depending on the circumstances and other colleagues, team varies the energy it put into being calm and quiet (first third of Expressiveness), or talkative and animated (third third of Expressiveness), congenial (first third Assertiveness) or forceful (third third Assertiveness), determined (first third Flexibility) or easygoing (third third Flexibility). Depending on the circumstances and other colleagues, team picks the strategy it thinks will work best. 
The stress of having this multi-modal cognitive brain is that during a meeting, the group can be confusing. One minute members may be theorizing along with the Conceptual brains, and the next minute your Structural preference will put on the brakes. Or they may be carefully planning the steps needed to achieve a goal with their Structurally minded colleague, and suddenly team will start using pictures and colors to explain their ideas.
This point could be confirmed by words ones said to me during the discussion about the challenges for top team. One executive said that “we nicely can discuss different topics, but are not able to come to the finale decision”, “at the end we ask ourselves “So what?”
One of the possible explanation of this challenge is that team may handle internal diversity using series of tradeoffs in which potential losses must be balanced with potential gains and that team may have a tendency to take into account all possible information and opinions available.
When you are able to harness all of your preferences at once, you can put together a process that will make a unique vision workable. Or let me put this differently as a question – how to convert you thinking diversity into more productive decision-making process during the meeting. My recommendation to team members was to separate content of the meeting and process of the meeting itself.

Here’s a plan for setting out your meeting Decision-Making Objectives by moving forward through Emergenetics thinking and behaving preferences.

Step 1. Make an audit of your typical practice to conduct a meeting. Recall the most successful meetings you had in the past and define reasons for the success.

Analytical

  • Do you always have a good reason to arrange a meeting?
  • What are the most common reasons to meet: to quickly inform, to plan, urgency matters, to share responsibility for the important decision, others?
  • Do you fully use task conflict?
  • How do you balance biases and uncertainty?
  • When do you selecting appropriate decision do you tend to use more “boss said” method, heuristic’s method or more science method or others depends on the situation?
  • Do you have KPI to measure successful meeting outcome?

Recommendations

  • Define standard sound reasons to arrange a meeting and criteria to have a focused agenda;
  • Investigate what is a cost of one top team meeting;
  • Define at least one KPI to count meeting as productive and helpful.

Structural

Do you have a detailed process of conducting meetings?

Does every meeting have a “meeting host” responsible for meeting preparation including invitation, materials and presentation if needed, leading the discussion, minutes writing and follow-up?

Do you have rules for the standard meeting?

  • Days, time periods
  • Meeting length
  • One speech length
  • Number of variants for the discussion
  • Requirement for productive task conflict and ctr.

Are you usually separating the titular leadership role from the meeting leadership function?

Recommendations

Define rules:

  • Friday is “no meetings” day (example);
  • Restrict the length of the meeting and one separate speech;
  • The purpose of the planning meetings should be defined beforehand;
  • Procedure to assign meeting host and other roles;
  • Procedure for participation and attendance;
  • How decisions will be made (consensus or voting);
  • Task conflict - expressing different perspectives how disagreements should be addressed and handled;
  • Try to take away the tables and chairs in the meeting room and insist all meetings are conducted standing up (a funny recomedation);
  • Visualize meeting steps on fleep-chart.

Social

How do you maintain the right balance between personal, my representative group of employees and whole company goals?

How do you build enough trust to get the “real” work done and touch tough issues?

Recommendations

  • Discuss separately among the top team members how their role of leaders of subgroups influences decision making process;
  • Have an incentive principle to reward one or series of productive meetings;
  • Have sometimes an informal place for meeting.

Conceptual

How can you all have the freedom to experiment to find the right tools and processes, yet stay on track?

Do you often have boring meetings?

How can you make this process fun and creative so all of you grow with it?

Recommendations

  • Invite unusual guest/participant to the meeting;
  • Make something extraordinary like “Thank you letter” at the end of meeting, Ice-cream in the meadle of the meeting.

Expressiveness, Assertiveness, Flexibility

Do you really invest substantial amount of energy to get maximum result from every meeting?

Do you allocate enough energy level for the meeting in comparison with other activities?

Recommendations

  • Have team song/music as entrance music for boxers and use it every fourth meeting;
  • Define what is inspiring you as a team and use it before or during the meeting. 

Step 2. After the audit have a meeting about your meetings. Review, discuss, agree results of the analysis and define action plan.

Step 3. Recruit all of your energy in third third of Assertiveness and Expressiveness in order execute your plan and move forward with new meeting design.

 

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