“One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. ‘Which road do I take?’ she asked. ‘Where do you want to go?’ was his response. ‘I do not know,’ Alice answered. ‘Then,’ said the cat, ‘it does not matter.’”

As you start thinking through how to make decisions involving competing stakeholder perspectives, most first guess how much time they can get from needed people, before figuring out how to fill that time.  The cat and I suggest flipping this approach and beginning by answering “Why are we coming together in the first place?”

Being able to state the purpose clearly, along with specific goals requiring a collaborative solution, makes identifying the people and information for lasting success clearer.  These naturally feed the facilitation process design and duration time requirements.

Whether designing a corporate Digital Strategy, an implementation plan or standing up a new committee in your local school, there is a natural path down which successful efforts progress.

To help you answer the “why” question, leaders need to identify two points – you are “Here” (i.e. Where are we starting from?) and “There” (i.e. Where do we need to get to?).  Answering within your context provides necessary information to kick-off planning.

The natural milestones for success’ path are well marked, making self-diagnosis possible using the following series of maturity statements.  Read through these declarations from 0 to 5, answering “as a team we…”

  1. We lack a shared understanding of our potential risks & rewards.
  2. We interpret consistent definitions for our risks & rewards.
  3. We appreciate our vision and priorities to address risks & rewards individually or as a set.
  4. We acknowledge the plans to achieve our vision and address risks & rewards, which are integrated.
  5. We recognize assigned accountabilities and expected outcomes for delivering our plan.
  6. We conscientiously update our plan and identify new risks & rewards using agreed practices.

At some point on this list, your confidence began to lag, marking your “Here.”  During an initial call with your facilitator, they will find this context useful, along with your hypothesis as to why you are where you are.

A well planned and executed collaborative session should target 2-4 steps of maturity beyond your current assessment.  Your clarity of motivation, willingness to prepare, the ability to focus the group, and engage the “system” (i.e. content and perspectives) are critical influencers of what separates 2 and 4-steps.  These qualities inform trade-off decisions when considering the time necessary to effect desired shifts in mindset, new behaviors building, and re-aligning your team.

Next time you face making intertwined decisions about the design of strategies or their implementation, take a chance and flip your approach.  Get to the why and what before deciding when and how long.  This will help you when a collaborative process is your best path to making the right decision for your organisation.