When we try to move a group of folks from misalignment to alignment, we have two primary tools at our disposal – documents and meetings. And, I’ve come to realize that the optimal way to use these tools is to start with the document before attempting to bring people together with a meeting. The optimal process looks something like this.
3 reflections –
1. Starting with the document/memo ensures none of the context setting is left to chance. The document lays out the problem we’re trying to solve and what we need to believe to build a solution that works (i.e. our hypothesis).
2. A good document sets the stage for productive conflict. There is no avoiding conflict – instead, it is important to view the energy that conflict generates as healthy and channel the energy toward creating the best possible solution. Then, document the progress again, meet if necessary, and repeat until all major open questions are resolved.
3. Bringing a group together without doing the work of creating a good document and, on the flip side, keeping the group discussion asynchronous for too long tend to replace the misalignment with mistrust. And, needless to say, it is much harder to recover from mistrust.