Friday, June 9, 2017

In Praise of the Dissenters



Seven Ways to Fail Big included guidelines that stood out due to its wide-ranging relevance and ease of application.  This was the section entitled “Questions Every Company Should Ask.”  Essentially, this segment offered a standard for how to encourage the devil’s advocates in your office to offer constructive feedback, as well as a means for allowing one’s self to take up this role in a personal or work project, program, or long term strategy.  Both of these applications could prove invaluable in strategic planning. 

First, we’ve all experienced the participants in a group setting who are eager to serve as the voice of dissent.  Given the inherent negativity that often comes with these personality types and the views that they offer, it’s easy to dismiss their assertions.  However, we learn from Carroll and Mui’s article that “Staying the Course” can be an entrée to failure.  The only way to avoid this is by remaining open to new or opposing ideas.  The question then becomes how we harness the voices of dissent, giving them a constructive set of guidelines for offering their feedback which, in the end, could be critical to the success of our endeavors.  As such, what if we were to present this list of questions to those with opposing views?  Not only would it solidify team relationships by giving those with differing perspectives the opportunity to be heard, but the outlet that it provides offers guidance for constructive feedback and criticisms, rather than negativity.  For instance, it could be motivating for those with opposing views to be asked to take time to answer questions such as “is this a realistic strategy for long-term success?” and “have we considered all our options?”  The resulting feedback may become the exact information needed to move forward successfully.

Secondly, for those who are the lead strategy developers, responsible for an overall plan, it is common to buy in to their own ideas and push them forward as aggressively as possible.  In many such instances, they can easily become blind to the potential pitfalls that lie in wait.  When developing strategy, it is critical to pause for analysis and to present dissenting views to all decision makers.  Additionally, they need to consider whether all viable options (and even a few of the seemingly nonviable possibilities) have been entertained.  It’s conceivable that these questions could shift the full strategy, but in many cases it may be enough that they lead to the acknowledgement of and preparation for potential landmines.

Strategies have a far greater chance for success if these questions are addressed early, as well as often throughout the process.  As someone asked to develop strategies around programs and events on a regular basis, these questions will be particularly helpful for me moving forward.

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