Leadership, Resources

There are too Many People Leading Your Organization

I am coming to really like Patrick Lencioni‘s work. I recently read his latest book and am eager to try applying the principles and strategies to my own family. Now, he has again written something quite stimulating in his POV newsletter. (sign up here) This time he argues that no Executive/leadership team/board, whoever really makes the decisions for the organization should have more than 8 members. Here’s why: Because groups larger than this almost always struggle to effectively use the two kinds of communication that are required of any organization. Chris Argyris, a professor at Harvard, came up with the idea years ago that people need to engage in both ‘advocacy’ and ‘inquiry’ in order to communicate effectively. Advocacy amounts to stating an opinion or an idea, while inquiry is the act of asking questions or seeking clarity about someone else’s opinion or idea. Frankly, one part advocacy and two parts inquiry is a mix I like to see on teams. However, when there are too many people at the table, inquiry drops off dramatically, mostly because people realize that they’re not going to get many opportunities to speak so they weigh in with their opinion while they have the chance. Like a member of congress or the United Nations, they aren’t going to waste their precious time at the pulpit exploring the merits of a colleague’s proposal. Where is the glory in that? But when the team is smaller, two things happen. First, trust can be exponentially stronger. That is simply a matter of physics. Second, team members know that they’ll have plenty of time to make their ideas heard, even if they do more inquiry than advocacy. This leads to significantly better and faster decisions. That’s worth repeating. Better AND faster. Those large teams I referred to before often take three times longer to arrive at decisions that prove to be much poorer, often the result of a grope for consensus. The full article should be posted here soon. One church in which I was involved approached this challenge by assigning from among their team of elders an Action Team of three members who had full authority and trust from the rest of the team to act when urgency required. This allowed them to be both rapidly responsive and carefully strategic as necessary. I don’t know if I’ve ever been on a highly effective leadership team, but the times when I’ve seen teams bog down convince me that what Pat is saying here is probably very accurate.