On Tuesday my team and I were faced with the challenge of deciding an overall strategy which would be the basis of our future decisions. We could not make any other decisions until we first set a direction for ourselves. Obviously, this was an important decision, which proved to be quite time consuming. It wasn't until the end of Wednesday’s class, after constant toing and froing, that we finally decided on an overall strategy, from which we could base the rest of our decisions upon. Once this was established we were able to make other decisions relatively smoothly and efficiently, (but getting to this point was a struggle). So my problematic experience this week was the time it took to make a decision. As a result I am concerned about the time needed for our group to make other decisions in the future.
This experience got me thinking about why we took so long to come to a decision as a team. I don’t think it came down to anything our CEO did or did not do (and whether or not he is a level 5 leader). We selected our strategy democratically, so this problem does not come down to the competency of our CEO as a leader. After all, if our CEO simply selected our strategy for us, we may have become alienated followers or sheep (Kelley, 1998), if we did not agree or get a chance to challenge this strategy. We began our discussion by looking at the pros and cons of different strategies which was a good first step. However this led to us finding something that could go wrong with every strategy we were considering – and consequently we got too hung up on trying to find the perfect strategy. What finally brought us to a decision was realising that it’s more about the execution of our strategy, and less about which strategy we decide to go with. Besides looking for a perfect strategy, I think the primary reason why we took so long to make a decision was because our entire team were making every single decision as a collective, so each member had to have a say and agree before we could move on. Unfortunately I think our team was doing exactly what Spreier et al (2006) warned us not to do: being too intensely focused on achievement. This can demolish trust and confidence in team members which will ultimately impair performance (Spreier et al, 2006). It’s great that everyone in the team wants to perform well and is motivated to succeed, however we need to find a balance so that we can trust each other to make decisions independently, which we can then present to the group for analysis and debate.
Spreier et al (2006) suggest that for many of us are taught to value achievement from an early age, and this is not a bad thing – it leads to growth and national achievement etc. However, in a team or an organisational setting, we must be careful how obsessive we become with achievement, and the means we use to reach our goals. Spreiers literature gave us the example of Jan who second guessed all of her team members, rewrote their work, and accused them of incompetence. This extreme example illustrates how important it is for our team to trust each other to make decisions, and to remember our roles and allow specialisation (rather than everyone trying to be a part of every single decision). In future if we trust each other’s competence in each area of specialty, this will increase our decision making efficiency and theoretically improve performance.
In the weeks to come it is important for our team to put this theory into action, which will allow us to complete the learning cycle. I need to trust my team members gut feelings and decisions, but also not be afraid to critically think about decisions and challenge ideas to make myself an effective follower. A careful combination between the two should show an improvement in our teams decision making. Our rollover was successful and we have the highest SHV in our world at this early stage, so we are currently off to a good start and I am confident in my team – therefore I know I can trust my team members to make good decisions, and hopefully they will trust me in return.
Kelley, R. E. (1988). In praise of followers. Harvard Business Review, 66(6), 142--148
Spreier, S. W., Fontaine, M. H., & Malloy, R. L. (2006). Leadership run amok. Harvard Business Review, 84(6), 72--82