This post first appeared as Steve Wunker's piece for LinkedIn
Here’s an experienced consultant’s tip on how to unstick a meeting where people have gotten frozen into their positions. You need to do three things, in a particular order:
1. Ensure that people agree on the need to come to a decision. Sometimes that’s obvious, but in other instances “do nothing” might be a superficially-appealing way to smooth over dissent. You might perform some basic math showing how the status quo is unsustainable, or list out potential costs of delay, or assess when a decision has to be made in order to avoid bad consequences. Sometimes, doing nothing is indeed the best course of action, but too often it’s chosen because it’s easy and ruffles the fewest feathers. Slay that beast.
2. List out all the options. Make sure you include bad ones, too, because the point is to be comprehensive and not judgmental. If everything is on the table, then people can’t dispute whether something should or shouldn’t be included.
3. Last, for each option, list out “What You Need to Believe” for the option to be attractive. Get down to core assumptions that are related to discoverable facts. Some assumptions are so obvious that they can be either validated or invalidated by the group immediately – that’s good! Others will require research – that’s good too, because the research can be dispassionately objective.
Now you’ve transformed the discussion from arguing positions into prioritizing facts to be researched. That’s a different, much more objective debate to have. Plus, you’ve established the basis for resolving disagreements as the facts come in. You’ve resolved both whether to make a decision and how that decision will be made.
by Steve Wunker