Tuesday, September 16, 2014

How to "Get all the Liars in One Room"

At a previous employer, I had several project managers reporting to me. One of them had done Project Management for decades and was well seasoned. He knew a lot and I learned a lot from him.

One day he had an issue on his project: there were several people who had a different viewpoint on a big project issue. Everyone had a different story about how they got there and what needed to be done to address it. This issue was big enough that we all knew about it at my level. He came to me and told me what he was going to do. He said that the best way to solve issues when you have conflicting viewpoints is to "Get all the liars in one room!"  In other words, he was going to pull together everyone into one meeting so that everything could be aired and come to a consensus.

Sometimes this seems like a simple way to solve things; it seems like a straightforward answer: just get everyone in a meeting. But, sometimes this just isn't for the faint of heart. It can be very difficult with various passionate viewpoints to get everyone to work together to a consensus. A few pointers:
  1. Let everyone know the goal: to come to a consensus on how to address the issue at hand
  2. Let everyone know that we're not here to point fingers at people (i.e. to blame people). We will only discuss how we got here if it helps to determine a solution
  3. Use the G.R.O.W. technique: Identify the goal, the Reality (where we are), Options (let everyone air their suggestions to resolve it and the pros and cons of their proposal), and What Will We do! (i.e. let's all decide on a solution we can all live with, maybe not all agree with, but all of us can concur on the solution.
  4. You may also like to get input from people in advance, especially those who can't make the meeting, who are not invited, or those that are more quiet (less likely to chime in when there are strong personalities in the room)
  5. If there are people who have strong personalities who are re-stating their points and monopolizing the conversation, restate the ground rules and mention that we want to hear all viewpoints.
  6. If possible, share the notes real-time in a way that is shared with all those involved in the meeting: share a screen where you record the main bullet points, or use a white board.
What suggestions do you have for using a meeting to gain consensus on a team?

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