Forbes.com Article: Shared Expectations Deepens Connections by Marvin Chambers
This an article published by Forbes.com. The article outlines process to facilitate cooperation & alignment teams and departments to deliver results.
Most of us have once been a part of cross-organizational team that didn’t quite gel as expected. Picture it: The team had the necessary competence and capability. The goals, objectives and measures of success were outlined. The roles and responsibilities of team members were clearly communicated. The deliveries and time frames for execution were clearly defined. Yet, the stated outcomes were not achieved. Something was not quite right.
The Missing Ingredient: True Alignment
Often there is strong vertical alignment: Everyone understands what needs to be done as it relates to their expertise, discipline and function. There is a high level of commitment, value and appreciation for the work with which each party is intimately familiar.
There is far less horizontal alignment. Often this leads to contrasting perceptions of the obligations of the various parties. The result is interpersonal friction between the parties — or worse, all-out lack of trust. The character and intent of the parties in other disciplines and functions working on the endeavor can even be called into question.
The Shared Expectations Process
The shared expectations process is designed to drive alignment around the strategies, behaviors, outcomes and tactics required to drive organization success. The process design calls for the key parties who work together to meet and gain alignment on joint goals and objectives, measures of success and desired deliverables and outcomes. This is pretty typical protocol within organizations.
However, the typical protocol lacks a critical element essential for gaining and sustaining alignment and effective execution. The psychological contract is often not established. The parties fail to achieve alignment on one another’s beliefs of what is expected in the relationship. The beliefs between the parties are assumed or limited to tangible deliverables. The different parties fail to get agreement on how they will work with another, resolve differences, check for continuous alignment or hold one another accountable. Lack of clarity around assumptions leads to miscommunication, mistrust, lack of accountability, lackluster cooperation, perceived or real mistreatment of stakeholders and poor integration of work efforts.
Shared expectations provide a mechanism to proactively deal with the messy stuff related to human dynamics and create a system of accountability that enables our best selves to shine in challenging situations.
The core tenets and ground rules around execution of the process are:
• Candid, honest communication: It is critical that transparency and clarity reign supreme. Integrity promotes trust.
• All parties are equally valued: All participants understand the significance of the other parties and are clear on the value of their contributions.
• The moose must be put on the table: The taboo things must be respectfully addressed in the room. The after-meeting and sidebar conversations need to happen in the room and be addressed.
• Active listening is essential: Everyone involved agrees to listen to others’ points of view, acknowledge their perspectives and demonstrate an understanding of where the other parties are coming from —even if they disagree.
• Come with a mindset of joint ownership: The mentality is that all parties support one another’s success. Everyone has a role to play and works with the understanding that success and blame are shared.
The Process Is Sorely Needed Today
We live in what is referred to as a disruptive economy. Technological advancements, emerging markets, aging populations, growing stakeholder demands and the accelerated flow of information and data have thrust us into a world of rapid and continuous change.
This disruption can feel like utter chaos to employees. Faced with the rapid onslaught of changes in people, processes, systems, culture and leadership, employees may not be confident in their ability to perform their roles, make good decisions or effectively navigate changes. The lack of confidence and comfort often leads to fear: fear of failure, fear of losing status, fear of certainty, fear of losing autonomy, fear of losing employment.
The natural reaction is to fight, flight or freeze. This reaction often leads to an increase in the frequency and intensity of behaviors that are counterproductive to long-term organization success:
• Functional/team silos.
• Lack of collaboration and cooperation.
• Reactionary management of situations.
• Too many excuses.
• Communication breakdowns.
• Lack of ownership for outcomes.
• “Blame game” running amok.
The shared expectation process helps to offset these challenges by facilitating cross-organizational teamwork, creating a system for accountability and fostering a culture of trust and transparency.
How To Implement
The process is remarkably simple. Once individual and/or team goals and objectives are established, it is all about bringing the parties together and asking one very simple question: “What do I need from each of the other parties in order to be successful?”
Once the needs and expectations are communicated, the other parties can ask questions to understand the requests. Once agreement is reached, it is important to formally document the expectations of each party. It is important to revisit the memorialized expectations on a periodic basis (at least once per quarter) to confirm the relevance of the agreements and to asses each party’s level of effectiveness around delivering their commitments.
The shared expectations process is valuable because it helps organizations connect with their humanity. It provides a vehicle for continuous feedback and course correction. It personalizes the experience through the individualized nature of the asks and expectations. It builds community by challenging all parties to see things from the perspectives of the other parties involved. The process fosters speed of execution by eliminating the hierarchy and bureaucracy, getting all the right players involved together and dealing with challenges in a transparent fashion.
At the end of the day, success lies in our human connections.
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