Monday, December 03, 2007

John Thain to deepen 'team work' at Merrill Lynch

“Thain plans overhaul of Merrill Lynch management culture to better emulate Goldman Sachs”

Thain, stated that he believed there was insufficient co-operation between senior Merrill executives. “Merrill has a strong culture but they don’t have the same teamwork at the senior level,” Thain said. “It needs a more co-operative team approach.” Goldman Sachs has long operated on a consensus basis style that dates back to its history as a private partnership firm.

Consensus Style: Effective strategic leaders know how to get everyone involved in policy making and build consensus in the process. Within large complex organizations, whether public or private, consensus is the engine that sustains policy decisions. No strategic leader can succeed unless he or she can build such consensus. Thus, the search for consensus among peers, allies, and even competitors becomes a requirement for shared commitment to a national policy, and to corporate, business policy.

Challenges of Decision Making ...

A team leader has two overriding responsibilities: First, the leader is accountable for the effective functioning of the team. The leader monitors team performance and takes action to improve team effectiveness. Teams tend to perform best when responsibilities are shared and leadership tasks are distributed among members. Empowered team members are more likely to take responsibility for team success. Second, the leader is responsible for developing a stable leadership structure. Many decision-making teams tend to be more effective when the framework for leadership is clear. These teams tend to work more efficiently, have fewer interpersonal problems, and produce better outputs. Common observations of the strategic decision making process that contribute to the leadership challenge include:

Diverse Team Membership
Lack of Policy Guidance
Low Team Authority
Internal Politics
Organisation Inertia
Lack of Integration
Gaps and Ambiguities

Given these difficulties, it should be no surprise that team meetings can be a journey into foreign territory for each team member. By adopting a "consensus style" of leadership, some of these problems can be eliminated.

Strategic Teams
A strategic team's goal is to make decisions that best reflect the thinking of its members, thus 'forging' consensus. One can easily confuse what consensus is and isn't. Here are some guidelines (Scholtes 1988)

Consensus is having a shared vision for change and common ground found through understanding and negotiation. The framework for consensus is

* Set an agenda for change.
* Build networks and coalitions.
* Conduct bargaining and negotiations.

Consensus Team Decision Making Model (CTDM) identifies factors that distinguish high-performing teams from less productive ones:

* High Conceptual Level
* Prudent Consensus Approach
* Vigilant Decision Management.

CTDM portrays a thinking, collective group capable of high performance. Within the three pillars, there are 14 success factors critical to excellence in team decision making.

* both process & outcome. Consensus is a process in which everyone has their say.
* agreement, but not necessarily complete agreement.

* authoritarian, perfect, conformist, or bland.
* the team leader imposing decisions & team members complying.
* a perfect team agreement representing first priorities of all team members.
* a unanimous decision.
* majority vote.
* "groupthink,"
* a bland, watered-down proposal having no substance, and entailing no risks.

A consensus decision is one that all team members can support.(Brilhart and Galanes 1989). Effective consensus falls somewhere on a continuum between perfect agreement and total discord.(Priem 1990).

Strategic decision-making teams must operate at the proper conceptual level. This means employing multiple frames of reference and "staying out of the weeds." They search for consensus among themselves, within their organizations, among interested groups, and with the public. Finally, strategic teams avoid consuming limited resources or prolonging action, thereby missing strategic opportunities.

* What is the success factor?
* Why is it critical to strategic teams?
* How do high-performing teams exercise the factor?
* How do less productive teams fail to apply the factor?
* What methods help strategic teams improve?

How you make decisions at the strategic level is just as important as the decision itself. The best decision in the world is nothing without a powerful consensus for action. The most perfect consensus in the world is useless unless it has produced a decision that is good for the organization. At the front end of the entire consensus team decision making process is something called "inputs." People who enter into a consensus decision making must come armed with critical and creative thinking skills that will allow them to efficiently and effectively function at the strategic level.

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