Faced with extraordinary challenges, boards of directors are establishing committees and task forces, teams of people responsible for formulating plans to address acute problems the organization faces. Here’s how to organize your task force team to solve problems successfully with maximum stakeholder buy in.
Your task force will benefit with a bit of structure. The structure serves as a framework that helps focus conversations and keeps your task force team moving forward towards a successful outcome. I detail a framework ideal for task force teams in Chapter 2 of Teamwork 9.0.
The framework consists of nine steps that takes your task force team from Step 1, defining problems and goals, to Step 9, assessing the solution’s effectiveness. Here’s a summary of the nine steps:
Step 1: Problem-Goal — Identify the problems and define the goals.
Step 2: Stakeholder Identification — Recruit the committed team.
Step 3: Ideation — Generate ideas for solutions.
Step 4: Emotional Reaction — Select ideas with the most positive response.
Step 5: Logical Analysis — Study and score the ideas.
Step 6: Planning — Select the most promising idea and build an action plan.
Step 7: Promotion — Passionately promote the plan and get approval to proceed.
Step 8: Implementation — Execute the plan and solve the problem!
Step 9: Integration — Confirm the problem is solved for all stakeholders.
The successful task force will carefully dedicate time to each step as they work through the initiative. Inadequate time in a step, or worse skipping a step, will result in poor outcomes at best and a stalled initiative at worst. Here’s an example of what happened when a task force skipped Step 2.
Don’t Forget Step 2!
At a workshop in which I took a group of policy makers through this nine-step framework, one of the attendees came up to me afterwards with excitement in her eyes. “Now I get it,” she said, “now I understand why my task force stalled. We skipped Step 2!” Step 2 is the step in which you consider the perspectives of all stakeholders who are impacted by the problem or will be impacted by the solution.
This policy maker reported that her task force team didn’t dedicate time listening to all the stakeholders who would be impacted. After defining the problem and setting the goals, they skipped Step 2 and went on to Steps 3, 4, 5 and 6. When they got to Step 7 and presented the plans to solve the problem, there was outcry and backlash from various constituents of the community. Why? Because they had not considered everyone connected to the problem in Step 2 and had not incorporated their concerns and perspectives when defining problems and goals. This reaction from the community compelled the task force team to return to Step 1 with a reconstituted team of stakeholders.
Leading Your Unique Team
Every task force team will have a unique set of characteristics. The nature of your organization influences these characteristics as do the personalities of the individuals on your task force team. Teams love to play to their strengths and downplay their weaknesses. For instance, a highly analytical team may love spending time in Step 5, but be reluctant to move on to Step 6.
As the task force leader, you need to recognize the distinct tendencies of your team and when it may spend too much or too little time in each step, so as to ensure spending adequate time and energy in each step while not feeling rushed to jump to the end. The framework helps you do this. It provides you with a vocabulary and enables you to communicate clearly the importance of each step to the overall success of the initiative. Another benefit of this framework is that it gives everyone a chance to participate, not just the most outspoken team members.
How have you led your task force team? In which steps did your team excel? Which steps were skipped? How could the results have been better?