This is the year to execute…..
Is it time to hire an outside strategy facilitator?
I have a sneaky feeling that business will be tough. In the United States, we have a volatile stock market, the trade war continues, consumer confidence is sliding and the barriers of entry for many business sectors continue to lower. As a business leader, you are faced with:
- Increased competition
- Elevated technology expenses
- Fragmented market
All of these factors combined are driving down market share. So, how can you make this your year of execution and growth? Maybe it’s time to bring in a consulting firm.
Perhaps, your gut reaction is to roll your eyes, especially when you see or hear the word “consulting” followed by the word “firm.”
I get it. I’ve heard it all before.
“I hired an outside strategy consultant and they came in told us what to do and left. We didn’t do any of it and it was a huge waste of money.”
“I don’t need a facilitator to help my team have a conversation. I know what needs to be done.”
“We don’t want to hire a part-time person that gets paid $500 an hour to hang out in our office.”
“I am not paying someone to create our strategy and then let it set on a shelf.”
And then there are all the consultant jokes…
“A consultant, a lawyer, and a doctor walk into a bar…” The joke doesn’t end well for the consultant like me.
With the jokes aside, it’s sometimes hard to decide whether an organization should make the investment to hire an outside strategy facilitator to help move the company in a different direction. The idea seems so simple:
- Get a group to come together
- Make decisions
- Stick to the decision
There is a difference between simple and easy.
If you’re also like me, the idea of going to the gym sounds simple too. Eat only healthy foods and keep an organized office. It is simple, but for many, it’s not easy. I attend WW (aka Weight Watchers), not because I do not know what food I should eat. I attend for accountability, outside counsel, expertise in losing weight, and a different perspective. Eating healthy foods for every meal is simple but it is not easy, at least not easy for me.
How Does a Facilitator Work like Weight Watchers?
An outside strategy facilitator (a good one) does the same thing for managers and organizations. A professional, high-quality, facilitator brings expertise in guiding the conversation but, also brings an objective outsider’s view. When working with clients, we do not have an agenda or self-interest. Our only objective is to ensure the group meets its agreed-upon goals and objectives.
Consulting firms sometimes get a bum rap and can leave a leader feeling like, “Shouldn’t I be able to get my team to do this themselves?” After all, with costs ranging from $3,000 to $20,000 for multi-day experiences, how do you know that the investment will pay off?
After years of studying teams, working with organizations across a variety of industries, and leading hundreds of workshops, trainings, and retreats, we’ve fined tuned our ability to spot when an organization needs to hire an outside facilitator.
Hurdle #1: The Decision Roundabout
The Decision Roundabout is when a team cannot make a decision and stick with it. It’s like they’ve entered a roundabout but, can’t exit on the right street. Instead, they circle around and around a critical decision. What’s worse is when they make a decision and finally exit the roundabout onto the right street only to revisit the decision on future calls or meetings.
Boom! They are back in the Decision Roundabout!
An outside facilitator can bring the team together to make key decisions, document the decision, and provide expertise on how the team can avoid revisiting the decision over and over.
Hurdle #2: The Never-Ending Deadline
Oh…. the infamous “3-month project” that 3 years later still hasn’t launched! You and your team continue to push out the launch date to align with the new direction of the organization. Every time your team takes two steps forward, you have to take four steps back so the deadline gets pushed again. Suddenly, the team begins to lose faith if the project is ever going to end, competing priorities creep in and your project call used to draw 30 people now you’re lucky if you have 5 people on the call. You can’t get everyone on the same page and you surely can’t get them in the same room.
An outside strategy facilitator is an expert in bringing teams together then using proven methods, tools and tactics can help the team make decisions faster and execute quicker so 3-month projects are truly 3-month projects. Basically, we help you Get Stuff Done (aka GSD).
Hurdle #3: Which Way Do We Go, Which Way Do We Go?
Nothing is more frustrating than getting different messages from different leaders, which often results in the “never-ending deadline” or forces the team back into the “decision roundabout.” The bottom line is when different messages are coming from leadership organizational progress slows, leading to confusion. In today’s market, you can’t afford for that to happen. If leaders are not aligned, the only way to get things done quickly is to bring them together, figure out where the confusion lies, and get them marching to the same beat.
An outside facilitator is an objective third party that can help diffuse the situation, get leaders on the same page, and telling the same story.
Hurdle #4: Too Close to The Stove to Know It’s On
You know the old saying, you can’t see the forest for the trees. Well… I updated it to “too close to the stove to know it’s on” and suddenly the team gets burnt. So many times, internal teams are too deeply tied to their perspectives or personal agendas to be objective and can’t see a different department’s view. Having a third-party external facilitator can help everyone see a different perspective and learn how to spot when the stove is on and how to quickly turn it off. Personal or department agendas can lead to disastrous results.
Many years ago, when I was a practitioner, I witnessed one department’s fear of being closed, lead to a software purchase, that cost the organization millions of dollars. What if, the working team had taken a step back, away from the stove, to recognize fear, was driving the pressure to buy a specific software? Then, they could reassure the department, this would not impact them, in the long run, the company may have benefited from the project? Ultimately, the project was a complete failure, it wasted millions of dollars and resources only to force the organization to revisit it a few years late.
Hurdle #5: Power Player
Our mantra is, “People own what they help create” and we chant it loud and often.
Sometimes, especially in large organizations, we have power players. This could be an executive or it could be a mid-level manager or there are two power players from different areas of the organization. This person often holds the power and members of the team may be afraid to voice their ideas, concerns, or where they see obstacles. Or if there are two power players, representing their own departments, it’s important to have an objective third-party to bring balance.
These power players bring already “baked” ideas and want to see to it that the group gets on board with that specific idea or agenda. Many times, this is a one-sided idea and the group who are often responsible for delivering the work is not on board with this idea.
Our role is to see the bigger picture and help navigate the varying points of view.
Do any of these hurdles sound familiar?
It’s OK! This is our jam! As an outside strategy facilitator, we can really help you get where you’re going, fast, but more importantly – with intention, purpose, and a clear path forward.
Make this the year to execute! We hear this question often…. “Why do we need outside help?” but in the end we hear “There’s no way we could have gotten here without you. Thank you!”
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