I have had a couple people write me with topics they would like to see addressed on Management Craft. Two people shared their frustration with their organization's culture of inclusion. This mirrors issues that I have dealt with at a couple of my client companies (so much so that many of my clients might read this and think I am thinking of them).
Sometimes we are too inclusive. Too nice. We let everyone get involved in every decision to the point that decisions are either impossible or take forever.
Inclusion is not right for every situation - or all phases of every situation.
Group decision making does not always lead to better decisions.
There are times to collaborate and participate and times to divide and conquer. Too much inclusion and participation can look like this:
- Decisions take forever and flip flop
- Meetings drag on, little is resolved
- It's hard to get stuff done
- People don't advocate for new approaches because it will be too much of a hassle to work through the process
- People belong to a bunch of teams and spend lots of time in meetings
- There is little accountability for ownership
- Mutual trust is lower than desired
What's the solution? The work environment needs to be tuned up. Participation and inclusion are good things - but not all the time or in every situation. Cultural change occurs with a consistent campaign of communication, demonstration, and reinforcement. Some beliefs might be best supported with education of best practices and daily techniques for acting in concert with beliefs. If all managers, senior managers, and administrative support teams act in concert with these beliefs, things will begin to adjust.
- Time is precious - we all need to respect time and strive for efficiency in getting things done.
- Saying “no” is sometimes the right, best, and most caring response. And it’s expected.
- We need to reduce, not add, to the hassle factor of getting the job done.
- Inclusion is good sometimes, divide and conquer is right other times.
- Everyone has a unique job with particular tasks and projects they ought to own and lead.
- It is not a good use of my time to be involved in every decision and project.
Take the time to openly discuss when it's best to divide and conquer and when the work would be significantly enhanced with participation and collaboration. People may resist stepping away from some tasks - but it's the right thing to do and the more you talk about the value of divide and conquer, the more it will become a viable part of the culture.
Manager ought not involve everyone in everything - that's reckless. Determine the best use of people's time and use both inclusion and focus to deliver results.
I ran a department once that was terribly behind on their projects when I took it over. We needed focus, but they were used to deliberating together over every small thing. I had to put a stop to about half of the inclusion and improve focus with more divide and conquer. I talked to the team, we discussed what was happening, acknowledged that giving up some participation might feel weird but that it was the right thing to do. From then on we would discuss which tasks and projects were collaborative and which needed individual focus. Slowly, the team got used to the mix and we started meeting our deadlines and improved our results. The key was open conversation about what's working and how our value to be inclusive was great, but should not be applied to everything.
Is your culture too nice? Too inclusive? If so, and if you are a manager, you should be a part of the solution. It's great work to do and will help your company's culture grow.