Finding Common Ground at High Levels

The objective in the previous post in this series was identifying the various players who have some accountability for the problem of conflicting priorities. Identifying them is a necessary first step, but it does not in itself address the issue.

The objective is finding a point of agreement on the specifics. That is, it is easy to find consensus on the broad principles of a mission statement. All organizations can effortlessly align themselves with ideals that are inspiring if not glorious. Where they run into trouble is agreeing on the specific actions and policies through which those ideals translate into action.

Organizational planning often stays at an abstract level. Leaving the details unspecified can be empowering. It allows first line managers and their workgroups to fit the broad principles to their local conditions. The nature of excellent customer service differs when comparing a bank teller with a loans officer. There are some commonalities; there are important differences.

Despite the empowering qualities of this approach, it has a downside.

The downside is that first line managers and their workgroups often lack the authority or the resources to accommodate ideals to their situation. They may have a great understanding of how to fit the principle to their workgroup but be unable to take effective action. The gap between ideals and capacity generates a lot of frustration.

The next step for aligning priorities is bringing together the stakeholders who control the relevant resources and who hold the relevant authority to agree upon a coherent course of action. This action can only have a positive impact if:

  1. The stakeholders recognize that conflicting priorities present a significant strain on managers.
  2. The strain on managers and their workgroups is undermining the organizational mission.
  3. Resolving this strain takes priority over competitive issues among the stake holders.

The last point recognizes organizations as political environments and that such politics are most intense at senior management levels.

A following post will explore the possibilities for progress through that challenge.

Other Posts in this Series

Juggling Priorities

Perpetuating the Problem

Aligning Priorities

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