D is for Debate, Decide And Deliver

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Several years ago I worked with Alison who led a fast moving team that produced excellent results. This was surprising, because the team worked within an organisation known for its stodginess.

Alison put the team’s success down to knowing when to debate, decide and deliver. She explained this in the following way.

We begin by clarifying what we can and can’t debate. There are some things, for example, that are not up for debate.

We focus on the topic we can debate, discuss it and then decide the way forwards. The next step is to deliver. So we get on and produce the goods.

Some teams get mixed up because they keep going back to the debate stage.

Imagine that you are applying this approach to your own team. You may be leading that team or be a team member. Let’s explore how you can use this model to produce excellent results.

The Debate Stage

Good leaders give people clear guidelines about the freedom they have to operate within the 3Ds. People then know whether they are focusing on debating, deciding or delivering. Poor teams get the three parts mixed up.

Bearing this in mind, you may want to say something along the following lines to your people.

Looking at the year ahead, there are some areas that we can debate and some that we can’t.

We can’t debate the organisational targets we must deliver. These include targets regarding profitability, product quality and the morale of our people. We need to deliver this scorecard.

What we can debate is how, within parameters, we use our strengths to achieve these targets. We can also debate the other stimulating projects we can do that will help the organisation to achieve success.

Bearing this in mind, let’s settle on the things we can and can’t debate. We can then go forward and explore the first topic we can debate.

If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. Describe the specific things that the team can and can’t debate in a realistic way. People can debate anything, of course, but whether or not this is fruitful is quite another matter.

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The Decide Stage

Different leaders use different approaches to, when appropriate, involving their people in contributing to making decisions. One approach is to follow the decision making model of focusing on clarity, creativity and concrete results.

They take people through the following process in their own way. Here are some of the points it can be useful to explain to people when pursuing this approach.

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Let’s start by establishing clarity. The challenge we want to tackle, put in positive terms is:

How to …

We obviously need to clarify the real ‘What’ before we moving on to the ‘How’. Bearing this in mind, it can be useful to focus on:

The real results we want to achieve are:

To …

To …

To …

Before going further, it is important to clarify the things we can and can’t control in the situation. We can then build on what we can control and manage what we can’t.

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Choices, Consequences
and Creative Solutions

Bearing in mind the results we want to achieve, let’s explore the possible options we have for moving forward.

Let’s start by exploring all the possible choices. We can look at the consequences of each option – the pluses and minuses – and then rate the attractiveness of each option.

Finally we can explore any other possible creative solutions. Is it possible, for example, to combine any of the options or think of any other imaginative solutions?

So let’s outline all the possible options. We will then commit to our chosen way going forwards.

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 Concrete Results

It’s now time to focus on how we can deliver concrete results. Which is the route, or the combination of routes, that we want to commit to going forwards?

What are the pluses and minuses of pursuing this route? How can we build on the pluses and manage the minuses?

We need to make clear working contracts about the results we must each deliver and by when. What are the working contracts we need to make within the team? What are the contracts we need to make with other stakeholders?

How can we encourage ourselves on the journey? How can we get some quick successes? How can we proactively inform our stakeholders about the progress we are making towards achieving the results? How can we do whatever is required to deliver success?

Finally, let’s double-check we have the same picture. Can we each play back what we believe must be delivered by who and by when?

We will meet again in one week. Everybody can then report back on their progress and plans for delivering success.

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If you wish, try tackling the exercise on this theme. This invites you to describe how you can, when appropriate, involve people in the process of discussion and making decisions.

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The Deliver Stage

Good leaders ensure that their people deliver. If appropriate, you can invite people to present on the following themes.

The Picture of Success – The
specific results we aim to deliver are:




The Progress – The specific things we have delivered
towards achieving these results in the past ____ are:




The Plans – The specific things we plan to deliver
towards achieving these results in the next ____ are:




Different leaders have different ways of involving their people. People need to know the mission, however, and have a sense of ownership in making their part of it happen. They are then more likely to put their hearts into delivering the goods.

If you wish, try tackling the final exercise on this theme. This invites you to describe the specific things the team can do to deliver success.

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