To support our methods, we use a number of different targeted tools, sometimes several together depending on the organizational challenge at hand. Here is a sampler of these tools and some case examples:
Alignment around a strategy is key to its success. Very often, different members of the leadership team hold different assumptions about the external and internal environment. The differences about underlying assumptions often show up as differences about strategy, but without an understanding of why people disagree. This tool helps organizations surface what lies underneath disagreements about strategy, illuminating the conflicts, and in so doing enables people to work directly with the assumptions, testing and monitoring them as a way of coming to agreement. Similarly, articulating options clarifies agreement among stakeholders about direction and next steps. The result is a tool that captures many voices, makes explicit the degrees and nature of choices, and builds a strong foundation for actionable scenarios.
When business leaders report ongoing conflict across individuals, teams or divisions or within a matrix organization, it is often an indicator that the decision-making process is outmoded, unclear or broken. This tool offers an effective approach to clarifying roles and responsibilities, so that decision paths and accountability are clearer. By focusing on who takes what role with respect to each decision, it creates a shared understanding of how each person contributes to the outcome. And focusing on roles helps people move beyond a personalized view of conflict. The tool has three sequential parts—a diagnosis of the current state of collaboration and key decisions at stake; an interactive analysis with the client that analyzes decision patterns and their impact on collaboration; and a negotiation of shared commitments to new forms of collaboration. Decision Charting clarifies roles and responsibilities and supports action. By putting in place a way to manage collaboration, the organization can move forward faster and more efficiently.
Leaders looking at execution against specific goals, especially in new initiatives, sometimes can’t anticipate the sequence of needed steps because they have never taken them before. As implied in the word, a Backcast works backward from a desired goal. It identifies obstacles, along with ways to overcome them. A good Backcast—which clearly shows probable obstacles and concrete ways to overcome them— provides a textured, realistic view of the future. The output is a clear map of the obstacles to reaching a strategic, tactical or organizational goal; a practical, workable action plan that shows which groups and people are responsible for which intermediate objections, what needs to be done, by whom and by when; and a picture of the future that engages people with a credible and positive view of what can be accomplished. By clarifying sequence and practical detail, the narrative developed through a Backcast gets an organization moving toward a concrete goal.
Leaders often need a way to resolve the gridlock of disagreement that can paralyze high-level decision-making in organizations. CFAR’s Interests Analysis tool is especially helpful when a team or different groups are sharply divided across a number of strategic issues, and when long-standing disagreements have created entrenched, seemingly intractable positions. This tool systematically uncovers the real source of disagreement between individuals or teams by surfacing deeply held assumptions about the issue being discussed, and restructuring the discussion, making tough issues discussable in new ways, and creating the possibility for all members to feel as though they are on the ‘same side of the table.’ The tool creates new options and enables authentic agreement that supports effective collaboration going forward.
CFAR has worked with hundreds of leaders across many industries to engage diverse stakeholders in shaping and making important decisions in retreat settings. Effecting meetings are part of all of our projects, but we offer a special skill in designing and facilitating retreats—whether the group is made up of a handful of people, or hundreds of individuals with differing levels of knowledge, backgrounds and experience. These events enable groups to grapple with critical questions and decisions (whether strategic or operational in nature) and help leaders quickly translate the decisions from ideas to actions. CFAR consultants are skilled facilitators who balance the substantive content with managing the dynamics of the groups. Our approach includes a robust process that increases the likelihood of success both at the event and in follow-up work:
It’s hard to implement a strategic initiative. We can benchmark and we can look to what others have done to succeed—but when we import ideas from the outside, they usually fail, because they literally feel ‘foreign’ to the organization. CFAR approaches organizational change by looking for where it’s already changing, where new behaviors are beginning to emerge. This is far more effective than trying to replace an organization’s culture with imported behaviors, which don’t last because they don’t fit—they’re literally “foreign,” and the system will reject them. CFAR helps organizational leaders discover the hidden assets and strengths that are emerging within the organization and in its relationships with customers, suppliers and the wider environment. These assets—which we call “found pilots”—are key to building direction and scoring the early results leaders will need later in a change initiative to engage the enterprise broadly and sustain the gains. In this way we help leaders find the future already alive within their organization, and tap into those energies to build and spread lasting systemic change.
To respond to changing pressures in their internal and external environments, organizations need to adapt. The design of the organization often needs to be reinvented if the enterprise has outgrown its original structure, is suffering from decision paralysis, or needs to accelerate talent development. This is not, however, just ‘restructuring.’ It is about aligning the elements of the organization—structure, process, rewards and interests, skills and organizational purpose—to the business strategy in ways that improve the overall performance of the enterprise while sustaining cultural values. CFAR’s approach to organizational design spells out the steps for assessing the current organization design and constraints, and creating, implementing and evaluating the optimum design for the future.
One of the places where influence is most needed is inside your own organization, but not everyone is a skilled influencer. As a result good ideas don’t get heard and important perspectives can be discarded. CFAR’s approach helps leaders more fully understand their own and other’s individual persuasion styles, and develop effective influence and negotiation skills applicable to a wide range of business settings where influence is key to getting ideas heard and endorsed. Often offered as a workshop, CFAR’s offers skill building and opportunities to practice within the context of real business issues. The workshop includes a mix of interactive lectures, discussions, cases and debrief sessions customized to the client organization. Workshop participants learn how to lead colleagues more effectively, how to ‘manage up,’ how to influence key stakeholder groups, build and expand a strategic sphere of influence, and align their own communication strategy with the particular organizational culture.
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