Sunday, November 18, 2012

Consensus Challenges: Knowing When to Labor & When to Let Go

This is the continuation of a blog series started June 7 in which I'm addressing a number of issues in consensus. Today's topic is Knowing When to Labor & When to Let Go.

When do you know enough to act? [posted June 7]
II. Closing the deal [posted June 10]
III. Wordsmithing in plenary [posted June 16]
IV. Redirecting competition [posted June 23]
V. Bridging disparate views [posted July 5]
VI. Harvesting partial product [posted July 20]
VII. When to be formal [posted July 29]
VIII. Harnessing brainstorms [posted Aug 10]
IX. Coping with blocking energy [posted Aug 19]
X. Defining respect [posted Sept 3]
XI. Balancing voices [posted Sept 18 & Sept 30]

XII. Knowing when to accelerate and when to brake [Posted Oct 27]
XIII. Knowing when to labor and when to let go
XIV. Accountability

• • •
Sometimes work on an issue gets stalled and it's not clear whether to stay the course or lay it down. Today's examination is about how to discern which course seems wiser.

Here are questions you might reasonably ask, in the hopes that the answers will cut through the fog. While there's a great deal of subjective assessment in answering these questions, they're still better than relying on tea leaves, chicken entrails, or ouija boards.

A. How Close to the Finish Line Are You? 
If the end is in sight, the answer favors laboring on—both because you already have a lot invested in achieving the progress to date, and because not so much remains. If you've lost momentum near the starting gate, however, then the answer favors laying it down.

B. How Entrenched Are the People Who Aren't Budging?
The stuckness you're experiencing on this issue translates into individuals holding firmly to positions. If the people holding those positions see them as hard wired to core beliefs, it may be the very devil to get movement. If, however, the positions are more a representation of unresolved irritation with people on the over side of the aisle, then there's more reason to hope that laboring might yet be productive.

C. How Urgent Is Forward Progress?
Sometimes there's a deadline looming or an opportunity available in a defined window and it's unacceptably costly to delay. If that obtains, the answer favors more laboring. 

D. What Is the Cost of No Action Relative to the Cost of Pushing?
This question is related to the prior one, yet different in that you're estimating what the group may have to pay (in dollars, time, and energy) with either choice and than comparing price tags.

E. What New Approach Might You Try That Would Inject Hope of Breaking the Logjam?
If you're leaning toward laboring, it will help morale if you have an idea or two about how to get at the issue through a fresh approach. Do you have one?

F. Is There Any New Information Available That Might Shed New Light?
Whenever a group decides it's ready to start developing proposals there's the implication that you know enough to make a decision. While that may be an accurate assessment, the truth is that you never know everything. Maybe a search for additional information will provide an insight that can break open the stalemate.

G. Is There the Time and Psychic Energy Needed to Labor Successfully?
The decision to continue laboring is not made in a vacuum—it commits the life force of real people. Is there enough gas in the tank to get you to finish line? If not, maybe laying it down is a better strategic choice.

H. What Is the Fatigue Factor in the Group; How Badly Do They Need a Break?
How drained is the group as a consequence of the work to date not having been enough to resolve the issue? If the group is exhausted, it's not likely that they'll greet a decision to stay the course with enthusiasm.

I. How Many Concerns Need to Be Resolved in Order to Pass a Proposal?
This is another angle on Point A. When looked at through this lens though, you're conducting a census of how many questions remain to be resolved—essentially, the more the scarier. It's much more daunting to be facing four different concerns than four people with the same concern.


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