The Exploration Group recently led an international scouting expedition that pushed us physically, mentally and intellectually. It was fast-moving and required everything in us to guide. This expedition had it all— a cross-cultural team, an organization needing direction, a changing industry and a board of directors unclear on their role. Also, I should I say, a frustrated staff at the end of their rope.
I should mention we had less than a week of expeditionary exercises to either right the ship or speak to sink it!
My fellow explorer and I had done our background reconnaissance. We knew the history, staff and board dynamics, current issues and the financial picture. We had a massive task and a short time to do it.
For the first day we listened to the board of directors. We had read the background brief, but we did not know the people. We needed to see them in action as a team. Did they know each other? Was there clarity? What was the relational work dynamic? We learned there was no hostility, just a lack of vision. They were "stakeholders" unaware of the issues and concerns of the day-to-day organization. It appeared that their goal was to protect their piece of the pie .
On the second day, we had to move fast. First, the director gave us background reports, staff surveys and industry trends.
We became time Nazis. We held reports to 5 minutes, discussion time to 10 minutes and questions to 2 minutes or less. We were trying to cover as much ground as possible and get people thinking. Where were they going, and what would be necessary to get there? They did not know. It was obvious this was a ship adrift without a rudder. Maybe this was a ship that should stop sailing. We were not sure.
Amidst the discussion there were a number of small problems presented which we intentionally ignored. By the end of day two there was dissonance. People were hunting for the quick solution. There would be none.
Day three was a day of reckoning. We pushed to find the raison d'être for the organization. When none came, we moved fast and suggested the organization execute a planned dissolution with a noble ending.
We knew this was a potential outcome, but no one wanted to say it. By placing it on the table in all its ugliness we pushed the team to truly consider whether there co
As leaders, we were questioned why we had not paused to solve a few obvious problems presented earlier. Some were frustrated that we had moved ahead without dealing with them.
Why didn’t we stop? We knew something they didn’t. The problems were symptoms of a struggling enterprise that did not have a reason to exist. We knew if we solved the bigger questions, these smaller concerns would be solved. If we only focused on the small issues the ongoing big would never be solved. Once the big issue was solved everything else had context and place.
We moved fast, we moved deliberately and in the process raised the sights of the organization beyond where they were, toward where they want to be.
Late in Day Three we broke through. Ideas for a new future started coming. At first they came slowly, but then there was clarity.
COMING SOON! Part Two Slow Decisions