Steps to Closure
From High Performance Teamwork and
Built on Trust training
The 7 Steps is one of the high performance skill sets clients
learn from Learning Center.
Effective teamwork begins the instant
you begin any interaction, whether in person, through the electronic media or
through the design of a product some unknown party will eventually
interaction is defined by two criteria. First, did the interaction end with
closuremeaning all the relevant parties know who is going to do what
when. And second, does that closure accommodate some degree of success for all
involved, beginning with the customer and working back to include all parties
to the interaction, regardless of differing agendas, priorities or apparent
Most organizations have a random closure
culture, meaning that interactions sometimes close and sometimes do not. The
culture of these organizations has grown up randomly, not designed and driven
specifically to cause closure in every interaction. The result is "closure by
coincidence," depending on who is interacting, the circumstances and the
workloads. When closure doesn't occur, them vs. us conflicts result, especially
in passionate, fast growing organizations.
A few organizations choose to drive
culture, both top-down and bottom-up. This means the organization provides both
the atmosphere and the skills to encourage closure in every single interaction.
These organizations make it a point to model closure from the top and to
instill that kind of leadership throughout the company. We'll call these
exceptional companies Leadership Organizations.
Chances are your competition is a Random
Organization. This creates a great opportunity for a competitive edge. While
competitive edge resulting from best technology is critical, it can and
eventually will be copied and bested. Competitive edge that results from great
personnel is also priceless, but eventually can be stolen. When the
organization adds culture to its competitive profile, the edge becomes more
lasting. It is very difficult to copy the unique personality of your workforce,
now cohesive around the intention of creating closure, trust and coordination
among the disparate functions and locations of the organization.
1. Clarify the
identifying the specific situation. List all the problems, challenges,
questions, misunderstandings and non-closures and list the consequences of not
getting closure. If possible, include the actual dollar cost in terms of lost
time, lost productivity, missed opportunities, etc. List the personal costs to
you of non-closure, including frustration, burnout, lost personal opportunity,
etc. Finally, identify how - by action, inaction or both - you have been part
of the problem in the non-closure situation.
Common causes for not
getting to closure include:
Putting off that which looks painful or hopeless never results from being busy;
it is always an issue of avoidance. Never accept "I'm too busy" as an excuse.
Look deeper to see what potential pain or difficulty you are avoiding. When you
look deeper and see the pain, you start to see a habit emerge. It's critical to
discover for yourself the habit that underlies the avoidance behavior. It takes
courage to have the fear and go through it anyway.
- Being rigid and
demanding. Some habits are not fear based. People often project an image or
style they aren't aware of. In fact, the style they are projecting is an
invitation to the other person to act out of fear rather than toward the
vision. When you're rigid and inflexible, it invites (not causes) the other
person to change the content of what they are telling you.
Create a vision, a word picture of
the best outcomes in these relationships where you aren't getting closure. Be
brief but very specific. "I want better communication" is not specific enough.
Instead, it needs to be something like, "I want better communication in these
areas. Better communication in these areas would lead to closure in this
specific instance. I will know we have gotten closure in this specific instance
because I will see such and such."
Conduct closure communications.
There are two kinds of communications.
In prevailing communication, you want your viewpoint to prevail over the
other person's. In understanding communication, you want to understand
the other viewpoint, and to be understood.
Prevailing conversations cause us to get
less intelligent because each person sees things only from their own point of
view. Understanding conversations make us smarter because they allow us to see
enough different viewpoints that we get a real picture of what is going on.
This is like the difference between changing a line in a blueprint and moving
the walls after the building is constructed.
To reach closure effectively, practice
it on something that is important, current and needs resolution. Sit down and
have the communication. This requires knowing how to ask questions and having
good listening skills. Most questions contain assumptions that invite negative,
defensive responses. "Why are you always late?" is an assumptive question. If
your goal is to prevail and be right, then ask presumptive questions. If your
goal is to get a closure, ask non-assumptive questions, such as, "How are we
doing on our timeline?"
Find the moment of attitude
communication, there will come a moment when the air has cleared, when a
critical mass of the parties see the potential for win/win closure. This
"moment" is not subtle and not fleeting. It is clearly recognizable and only
requires that you look for the moment during or after a thorough, efficient
communication in step 3.
This moment of clarityagain, when
people experience the possibility of win/winis the time to seize for
action, not before and not after. Now is the time to devise strategies.
Make the action plan.
The Random Organization attempts to
devise strategies before Steps 1-4 have been completed, bypassing potential
discomfort or conflict and inadvertently subverting the entire process. Even if
closure is achieved under these circumstances, chances are the result will be
win/lose or that promises made will not have real commitment. The old labor
management wars show this clearly: when the company goes straight to contract
"negotiations" without first establishing a win/win attitude through Steps1-4,
the contract may get signed while both sides continue to store ammunition for
the next battle.
environment of trust, most action plans are really business proposals that
account for buy-in strategies, projected resource needs, probable impact and
risk/reward analysis. Even simple closure agreements are best rendered in
6. Distribute Accountabilities.
How to make and
Commitments happen every day. Some are effective and result in
accountability. Some are not effective and do not result in full
accountability. There is no mystery about which is which. The difference in
performance is staggering-soft commitments are one of the most expensive
mistakes that a team can make. A commitment is a skill that everyone needs to
have, and requires a specific atmosphere and specific training. A commitment is
a condition of no conditions. "I'll be here at 9:00 if the traffic is normal"
is not a commitment because it has a condition. A commitment is an
unconditional promise, not a guarantee, that always involves risk and some
degree of unknown.
In the Leadership
Organization, senior management leads in several ways:
- It models commitment behavior.
- It is explicitly
accountable to the rest of the organization for its commitments.
- It provides the true
gift of performance pressure balanced with acknowledgment.
- It provides specific
guidelines concerning the desired culture of closure, and works the guidelines
down and back up the organization, inviting buy-in and improvement, and,
- It provides the training
required for the critical mass of the workforce to understand effective
promises and how to reach closure in 100% of its interactions.
When these elements are missing, a
Random Organization results. In these organizations, the pressure resulting
from growth often results in uncommunicated conditions or reservations: people
saying "yes" and meaning "maybe." These false commitments result in missed
accountabilities, micro-management and credibility gaps that extend directly to
credibility with your customer cannot exceed your credibility with each other.
There are two kinds of slippage, the kind resulting from an initially
soft commitment and the kind resulting from a firm commitment that ran into
reality. Both must be addressed immediately. The most expensive error in
dealing with marginal performance is to ignore it and hope it will improve.
This contributes to an atmosphere of denial and non-closure (people responding
to others' needs with "yes" but with no timeline promised).
The best way to deal with slippage is
immediately and respectfully. The non-assumptive question "What happened?" is
far more effective than an initial accusation or even the question "Why?",
either of which can invite defensiveness and delay progress. "What happened?"
is the beginning of a problem-solving collaboration, which will create leverage
and new learning - - which the Leadership Organization consistently seeks.
the real status information on the table facilitates intelligent choices, which
1. End the
commitment to the accountability, or this person's involvement;
2. Change the commitment, for instance
by changing the timeline or resource allocation;
Re-commit to the original accountability
and timeline, or;
4. Ignore the situation and hope it will go away (Disaster
are confirmed, the parties might render the new plan into writing, as a gesture
of trust and to incorporate the new learning from this process.
To apply these steps to a real team
action plan, click here for a Closure Planning
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