In your professional context, have you ever been annoyed by subjects that are circling around, that have already been discussed or decided, but come back to the surface again and put back on the table? Have you ever asked yourself, “why are we talking about this again? Is this not something we discussed already?” Let’s move on.

To reduce the number of those annoying situations I recommend applying 3 specific moments-in-time at every cross-road, when choices need to be vetted and decisions need to be made:

1/ Brainstorm: elaborate options, analyze pros and cons, SWOT, whatever methodology you choose. Discuss in groups, exchange ideas. evaluate, etc…

2/ Decide: agree to end the Brainstorm phase and announce it is time to decide. Compile data and analyze, round table, and articulate when a decision has been made!

3/ Execute: then implement what has been decided.

It is key to my perspective to really understand and distinguish these 3 moments-in-time, whatever the subject you are dealing with.

It’s important to clearly separate those 3 phases in your mind and set clear milestones and explanations. “Brainstorm is done, we have all the ideas and points of view, now let’s make the decision on what we will do.” “Decision done – let’s start the implementation. We plan to do this and that”.

This process can be applied regardless of the size and the context:

Whatever the size and type of the change to make, if you’re always coming back to brainstorming and discussions you are running in a circle and not making progress

This cycle could be really long or quite short depending on what you’re doing.

For instance, the 3 step process can be really quick (less than an hour or a day) for small topics and can last several months for larger decisions (like an M&A, a new Organization, a business tool decision). What is important is to clearly distinguish those three steps – and know where you are standing.

Am I standing on the brainstorming phase? Are we making the decision? Or are we implementing?

/!\ Don’t let people jump from a phase to another – keep it under control. Otherwise, It would create a really important disturbance.

Key factors of success to reduce the back and forth between those 3 steps

  • Clarify and be transparent on the approach and set some clear milestones.

  • When brainstorm is running, don’t entrench your position, keep an open mind. Ask the others to be open as well.

  • Don’t let ambiguous positions remain un-clarified and circle around during the workshop and at the decision phase.

  • Ensure key responsibility and accountability of all contributors of each action – assign owners and timelines.

Of course, life is not so simple, but having these steps in mind makes it much easier.

JC

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Written by Jean-Christophe Laurent, jclaurent@penonpartners.com, CEO at Penon Partners

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