Steps is one of the high performance skill sets clients learn from
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."
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
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?"
the moment of attitude conversion.
During the 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
5. Devise Strategies.
Make the action
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.
In an 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 writing.
How to make and receive promises.
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, which always involves risk and
some degree of unknown.
In the Leadership
Organization, senior management leads in several ways:
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 the customer.
- 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.
Your credibility with your customer
cannot exceed your credibility with each other.
7. Handle Slippage.
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.
Having the real status
information on the table facilitates intelligent choices, which are four:
1. End the commitment
to the accountability, or this person's involvement;
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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